Badenfahrt 2017: Swiss spa town hosts party of the decade

The Local’s guide to this once-a-decade city festival.

Badenfahrt 2017: Swiss spa town hosts party of the decade
Photo: Zurich Tourism
Badenfahrt is a huge ten-day festival held only once every ten years. This year’s is held from August 18th to 27th.
In Baden, a spa town in canton Aargau on the river Limmat, some 25km from Zurich. Normally a calm place with a population of around 19,000, at festival time its streets swell with around a million visitors over the ten days.
Photo: Badenfahrt
Baden’s mineral hot springs have been well-known since they were discovered by the Romans. In the Middle Ages the town became fashionable as a cure-resort, its thermal waters attracting Swiss and foreign dignitaries, noblemen, artists and well-heeled holidaymakers from nearby Zurich. 
During the time of protestant reformer Ulrich Zwingli – who pushed Zurich into adopting the Reformation in 1525 – Zurich residents saw Catholic Baden as a place to let their hair down and have fun. Unlike in puritanical Zurich, Baden was looser with its morals, allowing, for instance, men and women to bathe in the same pool. In its heyday Baden had two public baths and 30 private baths, which were known not only for their curative waters but as places to eat, drink and be merry.
Zurich and Baden were connected by rail in 1847 when Switzerland’s first ever train line opened, making a Badenfahrt – literally, a trip to Baden – even easier. People flocked to the town to bathe in its restorative waters and have a jolly good time. 
In 1923 Baden capitalized on its reputation as a party town to throw a festival, which organizers named Badenfahrt after the historically popular trip. Since then the festival has been held every ten years (with a smaller version in between, every five), taking over the city with parades, theatre, music and revelry. 
In 2017 the Swiss federal culture office placed the Badenfahrt on its list of living traditions in Switzerland.
Photo: Badenfahrt
What’s happening this year?
This year’s Badenfahrt takes the theme ‘Versus’ and aims to celebrate the city’s contrasts and contradictions, for example the modern industrial city versus the historic Old  Town.
Events are spread over a vast area centred around the Limmat river and divided into six zones, each with a different character. Three main stages will host music, dance, theatre, plus there's a fairground, workshops and events for kids and much more. A main spectacle, Universus, will be held most nights in the Kurpark, and promises to be a fantastical light, music and sound show attracting 800 spectators a night.
Central to the festival are the 100 food bars, each individually designed and operated by an association. Much effort and money goes into creating elaborate, colourful and fantastical places to scoff festival fare.
Photo: Badenfahrt
If you want to take your own Badenfahrt by visiting this year’s festival, a one-day ticket costs 15 francs, or it’s 45 francs for the whole ten days. The price includes free public transport within the city and surrounding area. 
For more details (in German) visit


Basel Tattoo: What you need to know about Switzerland’s biggest military music festival

Basel Tattoo kicks off today, running until 20 July in the north-western Swiss city. But what is it? And why do Scottish bagpipers show up every year?

Basel Tattoo: What you need to know about Switzerland’s biggest military music festival
Photo: Basel Tattoo
What is it? 
Basel Tattoo is a show and parade bringing together military music bands from around the world.
How did it start? 
Organizers had the idea for the event after a Basel-based military band performed several times at the Edinburgh Tattoo, the world’s most famous event of its kind. The first edition of Basel Tattoo was held in 2006, attracting an impressive 38,000 people to the courtyard of a military barracks in Kleinbasel.  
So it’s a big deal? 
It is now. These days it’s sponsored by the Swiss federal defense department and over the years has become bigger and bolder, attracting more than one million spectators over all its shows. More than 60,000 tickets have been sold to this year's shows so far.
What happens during the Tattoo? 
The daily two-hour show includes around 1,000 participants from all over the world. This year’s event features the Hellenic Navy Band from Greece, dancers and acrobats from China, a police motorcycle acrobatic troupe from Germany and a Dutch orchestra. And of course, given its Scottish links, spectators will also enjoy music from ‘bagrock’ band the Red Hot Chilli Pipers, the International Highland Dancers and The Massed Pipes and Drums, a marching band formed of 200 players from around the world, an annual highlight of the show. Add to that an appearance from America’s Got Talent contestant Johnny Manuel and you can’t say Basel Tattoo doesn’t offer something for everyone. 
Photo: Basel Tattoo
What else goes on? 
Each year the Tattoo also stages a parade through the streets of Basel, featuring the international marching bands who are part of The Massed Pipes and Drums, along with other groups. This year’s parade takes place on Saturday 13 July from 2pm and includes pipers and drummers from New Zealand, Australia, Germany, the UK, South Africa, Canada and several other countries, as well as local groups from Basel and elsewhere in Switzerland.
Worth a visit? 
Absolutely, though you’ll be one of a large crowd – some 120,000 spectators are expected to turn out for the parade. After all, Basel residents are quite partial to a spot of marching – each year there are several parades as part of the Fasnacht festival, when people even drag themselves out of bed at 4am for a night-time parade. 
Anything else going on? 
Kids will love paying a visit to the military barracks on 20 July for the Children’s Day, when they can meet some of the pipers and dancers, ask questions and try out musical instruments. Best of all, it’s free.
How do I buy tickets for the show?
Find out more about the event and buy your tickets here.