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SWISS TRADITIONS

Ten brilliant ways to celebrate Swiss National Day

Brunch on a country farm, seeing the sun rise on the stunning Mount Titlis or a tour of the Swiss parliament in Bern. These are just some of the best ways to enjoy Swiss National Day.

Ten brilliant ways to celebrate Swiss National Day
A boat sails on Lake Lucerne near the Rutli meadow, considered the birthplace of Switzerland. File photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP
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. 
 
 
2. On a farm 
 
Photo: Brunch.ch
 
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.
 
3. Zurich
 
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.
 

4. Bern

 
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.
 
5. Crans-Montana
 
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.
 
7. Lausanne
 
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. 
 
8. Basel
 
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.
 
 

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SWISS TRADITIONS

EXPLAINED: What is new about Switzerland’s Fête des Vendages in Neuchâtel

The traditional Harvest Festival in Neuchâtel is reaching its 95th edition this year, starting Friday, September 23rd and ending on the night of Sunday 25th. Here's what you need to know about it.

EXPLAINED: What is new about Switzerland's Fête des Vendages in Neuchâtel

The Harvest festival in Neuchâtel celebrates vines and wine, bringing together more than 250 stands (and more than 300,000 people) between Friday and Sunday evenings in the city. It’s one of the most traditional festivals in Switzerland, taking place for almost 100 years during the last weekend of September.

The festivity days have plenty of events, but the most famous ones are the procession and the flower Corso, which take place on Sunday afternoons and can attract more than 100,000 spectators. On Friday, the costumed groups start the festival with the big procession of the Guggenmusik.

Besides the wine and local food stands, other attractions are the amusement park grounds and the Miss & Mister Neuchâtel Festival contest.

The harvest festivals date hundreds of years, but the current form has been taking place in Neuchâtel since 1925.

What’s new this year?

This year, the festival comes with a modern novelty: participants may buy a CHF 10 bracelet that can be charged with cash to keep transactions easy and contactless.

Additionally, the festival has an environmental facet, adopting reusable glasses. People will pay a CHF 2 deposit per glass which will be paid back to them on the bracelet once the glasses are returned.

You can return the glasses to all stands that sell drinks (except for the long drinks and absinthe glasses, which should be returned to stands that use them) – only the person who bought the cup can return them, so your friend cannot collect your deposit for you, for example. “This method limits the theft of glasses and facilitates logistical and safety management”, the organisers said.

How do I get there?

It’s easy to reach the venue using public transport – and those who buy the official bracelet get free access to public transport in zones 10, 11, 14, 15 and 30. The best way to reach it is by taking an SBB train to the Canton of Neuchâtel.

Public transport is also the best way to reach the area, as the Neuchâtel City Center is closed to road traffic during the Harvest Festival. Still, if you travel by car, the usual road signs will direct you to the car parks available.

How do I buy the tickets?

You can buy tickets online or in the ticket office at the event.

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