The once-in-a-generation wine festival (Vevey, July–August)
The Fête des Vignerons (Winegrower’s Festival) in Vevey on Lake Geneva is only held five times a century. It is Switzerland’s oldest and largest such festival, and a Unesco-recognised event too. Last held in 1999, it will run from July 18th to August 11th in 2019.
The fête’s origins date back to the 17th century when the Wine Guild held a yearly pageant in Vevey, at the foot of The Lavaux – one of Switzerland’s oldest wine-growing regions.
The 2019 event will be the biggest so far, with the main auditorium seating 20,000 spectators – 4,000 more than in previous editions.
The International Hot Air Balloon Festival (Château-d’Oex, January/February)
Every year in January, Château-d’Oex in the Vaudois Alps hosts the colourful nine-day International Hot Air Balloon Festival.
The unique festival offers aerial displays, a night show, a day dedicated to kids and, of course, balloon rides (costing 390 Swiss francs, or around €320, for adults, and 190 Swiss francs for children up to the age of 16).
This year's event runs from January 26th to February 3rd with Children's Day taking place on January 30th.
The chocolate (Versoix, April)
Switzerland and chocolate go hand in hand and there are so many brands and flavours to choose from. There are also more than 20 chocolate factories that you can visit located around the country.
If you like chocolate, then you might also be interested in Festichoc – the country’s largest festival dedicated to the stuff. Best of all, entry is free.
Bringing together nearly 40 artisan chocolatiers from across Switzerland, the festival is aimed at families and features tastings, exhibitions of chocolate sculptures and an egg hunt.
But watch out because it’s short and sweet, running from April 6th to April 7th at the Espace Lachenal in Versoix (Geneva).
The music (various dates)
Every year, Switzerland hosts a huge variety of music festivals. The Montreaux Jazz Festival (June 28th to July 13th) is definitely the best known and remains an amazing way to see many of the world's top musicians despite high ticket prices and endless complaints that the event is not what it used to be.
But there are plenty of other great Swiss music festivals. Openair Frauenfeld (July 11th to July 13th) is said to be the biggest hip hop festival in Europe and last year’s event had the likes of Eminem and Wiz Khalifa performing. The long-running Openair St Gallen (June 27th to June 30th) is also lots of fun, while the Paléo Festival (July 23rd to July 28th) in Nyon is another heavy hitter; having previously welcomed acts like Depeche Mode, The Killers and Gorillaz.
Meanwhile, if classical music is more your thing, the Gstaad Menuhin Festival (July 18th–September 6th) is a truly amazing experience featuring some of the top names in the world. This year's event is dedicated to Paris and its place as a crossroads between Western and Eastern Europe.
The cars (various dates)
The Geneva International Motor Show is one of the world’s biggest showcases for automotive technology. It features a mixture of production and concept cars, so enthusiasts can get a look at the future of the industry.
More than a century old, the festival's next outing is from March 17th to March 27th. Tickets go on sale in January.
If you are more into racing, then you might be interested to hear that the Swiss E-Prix race, part of the Formula E championships which use only electric cars, will be staged in Bern on June 22nd. This follows a successful outing in Zurich last year (see video above).
If you like planes, trains and automobiles as well as cars, then the Swiss Transport Museum might also be worth checking out. It’s the most visited museum in Switzerland.
The cheese (Lucerne, October)
There are a number of tasty cheese festivals taking place across Switzerland in 2019 with Basel (January 26th), Gruyères (May 5th) and Vacherin (September 21st) all taking a bite of the action.
But the biggest event of the year is probably the Swiss Cheese Festival in Lucerne (pencilled in for October 19th), where hundreds of cheeses in 28 different categories will jostle to become Swiss champions in their class.
The traditional Swiss sport (Zug, August)
Switzerland’s largest traditional sporting event, the Federal Swiss Wrestling and Alpine Festival, is a fantastic celebration of Schwingen/lutte suisse – or Swiss wrestling. It only happens once every three years and the 2019 outing takes place in Zug from August 23rd to August 25th.
The country’s best wrestlers compete in a circular arena filled with sawdust. Half sumo-wrestling, half grappling; competitors must use special belts to trip or throw rivals to the ground. The winner is the first to pin the shoulders of their opponent. The “Schwingerkönig”, or champion, wins the first prize of a live young bull.
This event is about as Swiss as they come and also features a traditional stone throwing (Steinstossen) competition. It is also, however, very popular. The stadium seats 56,000 people but the actual number of visitors to the festival grounds is said to be closer to the 250,000 mark.
Tickets (starting at 50 francs for standing room only) are set to go on sale in April or May but will sell fast. However, entrance to the festival grounds is free so you also can soak in the (sweaty) atmosphere without opening your wallet.
The art, (Basel, June)
Art Basel features the work of over 4,000 artists in a packed program which is open to the public from June 13th to 16th.
One of the biggest art festivals in the world – it now comes in three editions including one in Miami and one in Hong Kong alongside the Swiss original – Art Basel requires very little introduction and can be enjoyed by anyone from experts to laypeople.
The STARMUS Festival (Zurich, June)
The biennial STARMUS festival combines art, science and music with the goal of bringing the science and magic of space exploration to a wider audience.
Previous keynote speakers have included Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins and Neil Armstrong. This year’s line-up already includes 11 Nobel laureates as well as Bill Nye (a.k.a. the Science Guy), British physicist Brian Cox and British astronaut Tim Peake.
The 2019 festival will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing (among other major milestones) and takes place from June 24th to June 29th.
Originally slated to take place in Bern, it is now set to go ahead in Zurich.
The mountain (all-year round)
No list of Swiss attractions and events would be complete without a mention of mountains, and in 2019 one of the hottest tickets is probably the revamped cable car ride from Zermatt in the canton of Valais up to the so-called Matterhorn Glacier paradise.
The 40-minute journey transports you 3,883 metres above sea level to what is the highest cable car station in Europe.
But it's the design of some of these luxurious new cable car cabins that is the real revelation for passengers: four of them feature a see-through floor panel.
At 115 francs for an adult return ticket in one of these deluxe cabins, this experience does not come cheap. But if you are looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience (and a chance to get up to the sort of altitude usually only reserved for mountaineers), this cable car trip is yet another great reason to visit Switzerland in 2019.