It's that time of year when the Swiss head to the hills to scoff sausages and cheese, politicians take to fields to give rousing speeches and supermarkets go red-and-white crazy. Swiss National Day, August 1st, is a great time to be in Switzerland, with special events and activities taking place across the country. Here are some of the best places to be.
1. Rütli Meadow
For many Swiss, this field in central Switzerland is the place to be on National Day. It's here where, in 1291, the three founding cantons of Switzerland – Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden – came together to swear the oath of the Swiss Confederation. These days politicians and patriots return to the spot on national day to make speeches and mark the event. This year’s official speaker is the Swiss chancellor Walter Thurnherr. If you haven’t already got tickets, it’s too late – however the whole thing is broadcast on Swiss television, so there’s no need to miss out entirely.
A boat sails on Lake Lucerne on June 5, 2015 near the Rütli meadow (seen in the background), considered as the birthplace of Switzerland. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP.
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2. On a farm
Heading into the countryside for brunch on a farm has been a National Day tradition for more than 20 years. Some 350 farms around the country open their doors on the morning of August 1st to pre-registered visitors who come to enjoy a copious buffet brunch of locally sourced and farm-grown food including meats, cheeses, homebaked bread and cakes. Though hugely popular, you might still be able to find an available brunch – visit brunch.ch for details.
Zurich’s celebrations kick off at 10.20am with a parade led by the city’s mayor and members of the federal parliament, accompanied by local musicians, flag wavers, alphorn players and others dressed in typically Swiss attire. After speeches and music, festivities will continue throughout the afternoon across the city. More details here.
Visit the Swiss parliament on National Day. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
The capital is a great place to be on National Day. Start the day with brunch on the Münsterplatz whilst being serenaded by alphorn players and yodellers, before taking a peek inside the parliament building, which opens its doors to the public for the day. Children will be entertained by lantern making and face painting, before showing off their creations in a parade at 9pm. Later, head up the Gurten mountain to scoff a sausage in front of the bonfire and enjoy the fireworks. More details here.
The upmarket ski resort is celebrating National Day with a series of ‘water and fire’ shows – fireworks displays set over the water of lake Grenon. Short displays are being held throughout the day from 4pm, culminating in a longer special show at 10.15pm. More details here.
6. Rhine Falls
Photo: Christof Sonderegger/Rhine Falls
Ok, it's the day before, but if you can get there, seeing the fireworks over Europe’s biggest waterfall tonight, July 31st, is bound to be a treat. Free to attend. More details here.
Start your day with an August 1st picnic in the park on the esplanade at Montbenon. More details here. Follow that up with a a ceremony and children's parade in the evening. The fireworks display (don't light your own! There is a ban on individuals lighting fireworks because of the heatwave and the threat of wildfires) on Lake Geneva is not to be missed and can also be viewed from a lake cruise.
National Day festivities by the Rhine. Photo: Basel Tourism
August 1st in Basel may be mainly spent in bed sleeping off the effects of the night before, since the city’s annual festivities traditionally take place the day before, July 31st. Food stalls and music stages line both sides of the Rhine from 5pm, while a large fireworks display illuminates the night sky at 11pm. The party goes on until around 2am. More details here.
9. Any Swiss village
National Day events aren’t only held in the big cities. Many villages across the country hold their own festivities with food stalls, music, street parties and fireworks. Go to a street party in Zermatt, have brunch in Gstaad, see fireworks in Leukerbad... today, Switzerland is your oyster. Find events listed here.
10. Mount Titlis
Beautiful Mount Titlis. Photo: photogearch/Depositphotos
It’ll be an early start, but seeing the sun rise over the mountains above 3,000m on National Day promises to be a special experience. Mount Titlis in Engelberg is opening its cableway before sunrise and inviting visitors to ascend to the summit to watch the sun come up. If you can stomach a 4am start, sign up for the special package, which includes the cable car trip, a walking tour to the summit and enjoy a coffee and croissant breakfast (NB: the buffet breakfast in the Panorama restaurant is sold out). More details here.