Five events to look forward to in Switzerland this winter

Paul Hunt
Paul Hunt - [email protected] • 15 Oct, 2018 Updated Mon 15 Oct 2018 15:22 CEST
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After a long, hot summer, Switzerland has been fortunate with the weather this autumn, with most of the country enjoying a prolonged period of sunshine.


But soon the nights will draw in, the layers will come on and the remaining leaves on the trees will fall off. That is no reason to despair – below are some of the events you can look forward to during the colder months.

Rendez-vous Bundesplatz, Bern, 19 October-24 November 2018

The Swiss parliament building will be illuminated by a sound and light show every evening from 19 October. This is the eighth edition of Rendez-vous Bundesplatz and, each year, animations are designed to fit the building and communicate a theme.

In 2018, the event is celebrating the 75th anniversary of The Little Prince by telling an abridged version of the story written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Performances will run daily until November 24th at 7pm and 8.30pm, with additional performances on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 9.30pm.

Locarno on Ice, Locarno, 22 November 2018-6 January 2019

Every year, at the end of November, an ice rink takes over Locarno’s Piazza Grande. It becomes the central feature of the city’s Christmas festivities until it is taken down at the beginning of January. The rink is accompanied by four transparent igloo bars, a spectator’s stand and a range of chalets serving up culinary specialities.

The event also has an entertainment programme that includes live concerts, ballet performances and a variety of other activities for children and adults.

International Hot Air Balloon Festival, Château-d'Oex, 26 January-3 February 2019

Thanks to a favourable microclimate, Château-d'Oex, situated at 1,000 metres above sea level in Canton Vaud, has become a hub for hot air ballooning. That status is celebrated in January, when enthusiasts from around the world gather for a week of competitions and demonstrations. Spectators have the chance to see hot air balloons of all shapes, colours and sizes drift through the alpine landscape.

Alongside watching the performances, many spectators take the opportunity to ride in a hot air balloon themselves. A highlight of the event is the ‘Night Glow’, which next year takes place on 1 February. About 20 hot air balloons and paraglider pilots team up with firework technicians to light up the night sky in a sound and light show. 2019 will mark the event’s 41st year.

Basel Fastnacht. Photo: SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

Basel Fastnacht. Photo: SEBASTIEN BOZONAFP

Fastnacht, Basel, 11-14 March 2019

It is 4am on a Monday morning. Normally you would be several hours away from waking up to begin the working week but you are instead stood on the streets of Basel with thousands of other people. The lights go out, plunging Basel into total darkness before the city centre is turned into a sea of light by ‘cliques’ of costumed performers carrying hand-painted lanterns and playing pipes and drums.

That is how the Basel Carnival (or ‘Fastnacht’) begins, setting the scene for exactly 72 hours of music, street parades, costumes and confetti. Carnivals take place across the country in February or March but Basel’s is the biggest. The origins of the event are unclear but the oldest document dates back to 1376. In 2017, UNESCO recognised the Basel Fastnacht as ‘intangible heritage’ and noted that it “contributes to social cohesion, promotes tolerance through social criticism and helps safeguard the local dialect.”

Sechseläuten, Zurich, 8 April 2019

As winter turns to spring, the inhabitants of Switzerland’s largest city say ‘good riddance’ to the colder months in style – by burning a giant snowman. Festivities begin with a parade that starts at 3pm on Zurich’s Bahnhofstrasse and makes its way through the city to Sechseläutenplatz. There, at 6pm, a pyre leading to the snowman – locally called ‘the Böögg’ – is lit.

Legend has it that the faster the fire reaches the snowman and makes its head (which is filled with fireworks) explode, the better the summer will be. The festival tradition dates back to the 16th century. In recent years, it has been followed by a large grill whereby people cook sausages on the embers of the pyre and celebrations go on until late into the night.

READ ALSO: Why people in Zurich burn a snowman every April



Paul Hunt 2018/10/15 15:22

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