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Seven Swiss music festivals you need to see this summer

Switzerland is home to a growing crop of great summer music festivals. Here is our guide to the best of the best.

Seven Swiss music festivals you need to see this summer
Billie Eilish will be performing at the Zurich Openair in August. Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images North America/AFP

Montreux Jazz Festival

June 28th–July 13th

This is Switzerland’s most famous musical festival and one of the world’s best-known events. Headliners this year include folk legend Joan Baez and pop queen Janet Jackson while the usual diverse program features everyone from Slash (of Guns N’ Roses fame) to jazz singer Bobby McFerrin and the amazing Bon Iver. And if the high ticket prices are a turn off, the streets of Montreux are full of free music during the festival making a visit to the town worthwhile even if you aren’t visiting one of the venues.

Openair Frauenfeld

July 11th–13th

Often described as the biggest hip hop festival in Europe, the 2019 Frauenfeld music festival features Cardi B and Travis Scott. This is also Switzerland’s largest outdoor musical festival with around 150,000 attendees.

Gurtenfestival, Bern

July 17th–20th

The Gurtenfestival is Bern’s biggest and features international big names alongside the hottest acts in the Swiss music scene. This year the legendary (and elusive) Lauryn Hill and US duo Twenty One Pilots as well as Swiss stars Patent Ochsner and Lo & Leduc.

Blue Balls Festival, Lucerne

July 19th–27th

A long-running member of the Swiss summer music scene, Lucerne’s Blue Balls festival features music, art and photography exhibitions and discussion panels. Among the musical highlights this year are blues legend Keb Mo, high energy Australian ensemble The Cat Empire and German soul and R&B star Xavier Naidoo.

Paléo Festival, Nyon

July 23th–July 28th

The Paléo Festival on the shores of Lake Geneva has a lot of heart, which can always be said in these days of hyper-commercial summer music festivals. Heading up the bill in 2019 are UK indie legends The Cure, US singer Lana del Rey and French songstress Charlotte Gainsbourg. It’s not just about music though. Kids up to the age of 12 get in free and there are all sorts of activities on offer for them. There is also street theatre for young and old alike and a strong focus on supporting charitable causes.

St Gallen Open Air 

July 27th–July 30th

St Gallen’s open air is the grand old dame of Swiss music festivals. Now in its 41st year, the event sees over 100,000 people descending on the eastern Swiss city. Over the years, anyone who is anyone has played here – from the Beastie Boys to B.B. King. At the top of the bill this year are German punk legends Die Ärzte and UK Indie rock band Florence and the Machine.

Zurich Openair

August 21st–24th

Held near Zurich Airport, this star-studded festival focuses on electronica and rock music. The big names this year include dance group Swedish House Mafia, UK duo Chemical Brothers, US rapper Macklemore and none other than US singer-songwriter Billie Eilish.

Read also: Summer travel – 26 things to do in Switzerland's 26 cantons

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MUSIC

Seven great summer music festivals in Switzerland

Switzerland is host to a multitude of music festivals in summer: here are some of the very best.

Seven great summer music festivals in Switzerland
The Frauenfeld Openair festival in July will feature Eminem. Photo: Swiss Tourism

Montreux Jazz Festival

June 29th to July 14th

No list of Swiss music festivals would be complete without a mention of this iconic event. This year, Australian composer and singer Nick Cave will be one of the top attractions, while other big names include Iggy Pop and Brazilian singer Seu Jorge, who will be singing the songs of David Bowie. There is also plenty of free music on offer in the streets of the lakeside town during the festival for those terrified by the high ticket prices.

National Yodelling Festival, Basel

June 26th to June 28th

What better way to enjoy some extreme tourism than visiting a Swiss yodelling festival? This huge event which attracts upwards of 150,000 visitors is held in a different location every year. It includes not just yodelling but also activities such as flag twirling, which is one of oldest sports in Switzerland and alphorn playing. Oh, and there are plenty of traditional Swiss costumes, of course.

Gstaad Menuhin Festival, Gstaad

July 13th to September 1st

The Gstaad Menuhin Festival features some of the world’s finest classic musical performers on over 60 stages. This year, the event is dedicated to the idea of ‘The Alps’, and includes, for example, a performance of compositions composed by while on holiday on the shores of Lake Thun.

Photo: Raphael Faux

Irish Openair Toggenburg, Rietbad, St Gallen

September 7th to September 8th

The tenth edition of this festival in the beautiful Toggenburg region features a range of great Irish music from traditional to more punk-inspired bands with a really party atmosphere.

Paléo Festival Nyon

July 17th to July 22nd

The massively popular Paléo Festival on the shores of Lake Geneva will this year feature acts including Depeche Mode, The Killers, Gorillaz and Lenny Kravitz. It’s not just about music though. Kids up to the age of 12 get in free and there are all sorts of activities on offer for them. There is also street theatre for young and old alike and a strong focus on supporting charitable causes. A Swiss must.

Openair Frauenfeld 2018

July 5th to July 7th

Eminem is performing at the 2018 Frauenfeld Openair. Photo: Getty Images North America/AFP

Describing itself as the biggest hip hop festival in Europe, the 2018 edition of this event can boast names including rap legend Eminem along with N.E.R:D and Wiz Khalifa. Unfortunately, all three days of the festival are sold out, so you will need to be resourceful to get tickets.

Open Air Lumnezia, Graubünden

July 19th to July 21st

This festival may be small on big names but is famous for its spectacular setting and wonderful atmosphere. Tickets for this year’s event have already sold out but if you do manage to get your hands on some, this is well worth the trip. Children born in or after 2005 get in for free.