Basel Tattoo: What you need to know about Switzerland’s biggest military music festival

Basel Tattoo kicks off today, running until 20 July in the north-western Swiss city. But what is it? And why do Scottish bagpipers show up every year?

Basel Tattoo: What you need to know about Switzerland’s biggest military music festival
Photo: Basel Tattoo
What is it? 
Basel Tattoo is a show and parade bringing together military music bands from around the world.
How did it start? 
Organizers had the idea for the event after a Basel-based military band performed several times at the Edinburgh Tattoo, the world’s most famous event of its kind. The first edition of Basel Tattoo was held in 2006, attracting an impressive 38,000 people to the courtyard of a military barracks in Kleinbasel.  
So it’s a big deal? 
It is now. These days it’s sponsored by the Swiss federal defense department and over the years has become bigger and bolder, attracting more than one million spectators over all its shows. More than 60,000 tickets have been sold to this year's shows so far.
What happens during the Tattoo? 
The daily two-hour show includes around 1,000 participants from all over the world. This year’s event features the Hellenic Navy Band from Greece, dancers and acrobats from China, a police motorcycle acrobatic troupe from Germany and a Dutch orchestra. And of course, given its Scottish links, spectators will also enjoy music from ‘bagrock’ band the Red Hot Chilli Pipers, the International Highland Dancers and The Massed Pipes and Drums, a marching band formed of 200 players from around the world, an annual highlight of the show. Add to that an appearance from America’s Got Talent contestant Johnny Manuel and you can’t say Basel Tattoo doesn’t offer something for everyone. 
Photo: Basel Tattoo
What else goes on? 
Each year the Tattoo also stages a parade through the streets of Basel, featuring the international marching bands who are part of The Massed Pipes and Drums, along with other groups. This year’s parade takes place on Saturday 13 July from 2pm and includes pipers and drummers from New Zealand, Australia, Germany, the UK, South Africa, Canada and several other countries, as well as local groups from Basel and elsewhere in Switzerland.
Worth a visit? 
Absolutely, though you’ll be one of a large crowd – some 120,000 spectators are expected to turn out for the parade. After all, Basel residents are quite partial to a spot of marching – each year there are several parades as part of the Fasnacht festival, when people even drag themselves out of bed at 4am for a night-time parade. 
Anything else going on? 
Kids will love paying a visit to the military barracks on 20 July for the Children’s Day, when they can meet some of the pipers and dancers, ask questions and try out musical instruments. Best of all, it’s free.
How do I buy tickets for the show?
Find out more about the event and buy your tickets here.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Triennial festival kicks off in Zurich

More than two million people are expected to turn out in Zurich this weekend for Züri Fäscht, a popular festival held only once every three years around Zurich’s lake and Limmat river.

Triennial festival kicks off in Zurich
A fireworks display is held every evening of the three days. Photo: Züri Fäscht
Musical performances, fairground rides, food and drink stands and market stalls form the basis of the festival, which is rounded off on each of the three nights (Friday to Sunday) by a spectacular 30-minute fireworks display over the lake.
In a first for the festival, which dates from 1951, this year’s fireworks displays will be followed by a new attraction, the projection of 3D images in the sky above the lake by 150 drones. 
According to the festival organisers, the drones will be powered by renewable energy – unlike the planes that will take part in aerial displays during the festival, a bone of contention among critics of the event.
Crowds turn out for the festival in 2016. Photo: Züri Fäscht
The first Zurich festival was held in 1951 to celebrate 600 years since the canton of Zurich joined the Swiss Confederation. Since 1976 it has been held every three years, but only took the name Züri Fäscht in the 1990s.
Swiss railway operator will lay on extra trains to Zurich, while the ZVV tram service will operate 24 hours a day during the weekend. 
Visitors coming into the city from Zurich-Wollishofen can also benefit from a free ride on the Red Arrow train, a historic vehicle presented as an example of Swiss workmanship at the Swiss National Exhibition in 1939. The train is nicknamed the ‘Churchill’, because former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill travelled through Switzerland on it in 1946.
The Churchill will operate as a free shuttle every hour between Zurich main station and Wollishofen from around 9am to 6pm.
Good weather is forecast in Zurich for Friday and most of Saturday, until storms arrive on Saturday night, bringing rain for much of Sunday, according to MeteoSuisse.