Switzerland is the epitome of beauty and wholesome adventure. It’s the heart of the alpine world, home to some of the most impressive snow-capped mountains, quaint villages, emerald-green rolling farmlands, and historic cities.

While the country has remained neutral when it comes to politics, it has always been a traveler’s paradise, whether you visit when snow carpets the country or when lush pastures paint the landscape green.

But Switzerland isn’t only known for its incredible natural beauty and historic wonder – it is also a center for culture and music, hosting some of the most exciting European festivals. These festivals range from winter celebrations of snow to balloon festivals and musical extravaganzas, and everything in between.

In this article, I’ve curated a list of eleven of the best festivals in Switzerland in chronological order, from the height of cultural excitement to the most lively music festivals.

Festivals in Switzerland

First, up, a quick notice: you may be surprised to see sights you weren’t expecting to be celebrated in this European country. Or maybe you are? So, without further ado, let’s unpack eleven of the best cultural and music festivals to travel to Switzerland for.

World Snow Festival

snow sculpture from World Snow Festival, Switzerland
Snow is the playground…
Photo: Grindelwald.swiss
  • When: January
  • Where: Grindelwald

The first image that comes to mind when I think of Switzerland is the Alps. Snow-covered, dotted with traditional swiss chalets and all the tasty food and drinks that go with it. The World Snow Festival is a celebration of all things snow. 

Celebrated once a year in mid-January, when the snowfall is typically at its heaviest, World Snow Festival is held in the alpine town of Grindelwald. During the festival, teams of international artists from across the globe gather in the town to design and create ice sculptures from massive three-meter-high blocks of snow. In the past, giant castles, polar bears, and abstract art pieces have been constructed here.

The festival runs for five days, during which the streets of Grindelwald are decorated with temporary ice decorations and scattered with food and drink stalls selling traditional Swiss food.

Attendees take on the cold temperatures and come to watch the creation process, and admire the finished products while sipping on hot gluhwein (mulled wine) and tasty swiss raclette cheese. The artists at this festival in Switzerland typically work on their sculptures from 8 am to 5 pm, after which they are beautifully illuminated after sunset.

Where to Stay: 

To make your World Snow Festival experience even cozier, rent out Chalet Eigerlight in the heart of Grindelwald. Designed with updated interiors inspired by the traditional swiss chalet, this two-bedroom self-catering accommodation has sprawling views of the alps and farmlands.

International Balloon Festival

Colorful hot air balloons in the International Balloon Festival of Switzerland
It’s not just Cappadocia!
Photo: Festival International de Ballons
  • When: January
  • Where: Chateau d’Oex

Each January, an International Balloon Festival arrives at the small alpine village of Chateau-d’Oex in Switzerland. The festival turns the grey winter sky into a sea scattered with colorful hot air balloons.

This quaint chalet-filled town (known as the alpine capital of ballooning) was chosen because it was where the Breitling Orbiter set off for its first world tour in 1999. Visit the Chateau-d’Oex Hot Air Balloon Museum to learn about this extraordinary trip.

The event is held over nine days, during which ballooning teams from over 20 different countries gather to raise their favorite balloons. Of course, thousands of attendees come to watch as over 70 of these unique flying instruments take to the sky, filling it with color.

The International Balloon Festival has been running for over forty years. You can access the entire festival area, film viewings, and exhibitions with an entrance ticket. Tickets cost $5 for an afternoon of $25 for the full nine days. A balloon flight costs between $330 and $90, depending on the day of the week.

During the event window, you can visit the nightglow show, watch a sporting competition, enjoy a hot air balloon ride over the spectacular mountains, or even sign your children up for a special ‘kids’ day.’ Since the Swiss festival is held in an alpine ski resort, there are also a bunch of skiing, snowboarding, lodge events, and food vendors to explore.

Where to Stay: 

When you visit for the Balloon Festival, rent out this new stylish apartment overflowing with natural light. The home perfectly blends a contemporary modern style with traditional chalet interiors, creating a cozy space for up to five guests to enjoy.

Basel Fasnacht

People wearing costumes and playing instruments in Basel Fasnacht Switzeland
Cool… or creepy, not sure!
Photo: Basel Tourismus
  • When: March
  • Where: Basel

Known as one of the most interesting local European festivals to attend (and a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage event), Basel Fasnacht is Switzerland’s largest carnival, where visitors can experience rich Swiss tradition with a festive vibe. During this colorful extravaganza, all of the best neighborhoods of Basel to stay in are flooded with color and confetti. 

Basel Fasnacht happens over a long weekend in March. Locals dress in vibrant costumes wearing a traditional mask known as a ‘Larve’ and parade through the city. As an expression of creativity and happiness, the entire city celebrates its common heritage and culture together.

The events start at 4 am when locals wait for the town clock to announce the start of the festivities. So, you’ll have to rise before the sun if you want to spectate all the action! 

If you happen to be visiting the city during the festival, you’re in for a real treat. Attendees can watch as groups of locals parade through the streets, live music performances occupy each corner, and light shows illuminate the gorgeous city when nighttime falls. There are even comedy shows, exhibitions, and concerts held during this festival in Switzerland.

The carnival is such a spectacle that the entire city shuts down over the weekend to party – wearing traditional outfits and wacky costumes and engaging in traditional Swiss activities.

Where to Stay: 

Hotel Marthof Basel is a gorgeous accommodation set in a historic building, located in Old Town Grossbasel. The rooms are spacious, with high ceilings and fitted with stylish interiors. Guests can also use a terrace, a restaurant, and a fitness center.

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    • When: April
    • Where: Zurich

    One of Switzerland’s most famous traditional festivals, Sechselauten, is all about the spring equinox. Held on the third of April, when the snow is beginning to melt, Sechselauten is a festival celebrated to welcome spring, making it one of the unmissable things to do in Zurich.

    The festival’s name roughly translates to ‘The 6 o’clock ringing of the bells,’ which is a traditional practice to bring in the warm weather. Celebrated since medieval times in the 16th century, this is one of the most exciting and unique Swiss events to spectate.

    Not only does the festival celebrate the beginning of spring, but it also marks the extension of working hours from 5p.m to 6p.m. To mark the occasion, the bells on the Grossmunster (one of the most impressive churches in Switzerland) chime at 6 pm on the Monday after the Spring equinox.

    The most impressive Sechselauten festival in Switzerland happens in Zurich and it’s worth coming to stay in the city for that reason. Food stalls are set up, and children’s events are organized, making this an excellent affair for the whole family.

    The most significant event of the festival is the burning of the Boogg, a giant snowman ragdoll made from straw, meant to symbolize winter.

    Where to Stay: 

    Set in the heart of Zurichberg, just a short walk from the center, this stunning flat is one of a kind. The Pastorini is curated with interior designer decorations and includes a terrace, a workspace, and a spacious living area.

    Interlaken Classics Music Festival

    Orchestra playing classical music in Interlaken.
    Where magic happens, no doubt…
    Photo: Interlaken Classics
    • When: April
    • Where: Interlaken

    The sound of classical music is synonymous with Switzerland and is made even more impressive by the stunning natural backdrops that the country provides. Set in the alpine setting of Interlaken, a ski resort town near Grindelwald, attendees are invited to visit these beautiful mountains and immerse themselves in classical music for an entire month.

    Known simply as Interlaken Classics, the event’s first edition was launched in 1999 to celebrate and promote the music genre.

    Standing out from the crowd of other festivals, Interlaken Classics emphasizes attracting fresh and young talent to the music scene. The slogan ‘meet the classic stars of tomorrow, today’ speaks to this maxim, inviting young and old classical fans to get involved.

    The event takes place at various locations across the holiday town, attracting classical musicians and performers from across the globe. The main participants are well-known youth orchestras and the instrumental genius conductors that accompany them. 

    Visitors can purchase tickets for the various concerts online and in advance, and students can benefit from a half-price ticket discount. Paired with exquisite mountain landscapes, this classical music festival in Switzerland is a wonderful event for the whole family to attend.

    Where to Stay: 

    For some of the best views of Interlaken, this self-catering vacation rental is set on the river overlooking the city and Alps. It has a spacious terrace and garden along the banks of the river, as well as a full kitchen and living area.

    Zermatt Unplugged

    People gathered in front of a stage with musicians performing in Zermatt Unplugged, Switzerland
    Unplugged Zermatt is a unique winter music festival in Switzerland.
    Photo: Zermatt Unplugged
    • When: April
    • Where: Zermatt

    The setting of this festival might just be its biggest asset. Set at the base of the Matterhorn in Zermatt, Unplugged Zermatt is a music concert at the base of one of the most iconic alpine resorts in the world.

    The music event takes place over five days in April, as the weather begins to warm, yet still with a backdrop of the snowy landscape. Over the five days, more than 100 concerts are performed across 18 stages on the mountainside and in the village.

    Hordes of national and international musicians flock to the town, along with around 20 up-and-coming discovery acts, who put on their best performances for the eager crowds. Marius Bear, Bastian Baker, 77 Bombay Street, James Gruntz, and Dabu Fantastic were all ‘discovered’ at the festival when they performed as discovery acts themselves.

    The event first occurred in 2007, with acoustic music at its heart. Founded as a ‘singer-songwriter’ festival (the first of its kind in Europe), this acoustic wonder attracts around 30 thousand visitors to the alpine town each year, making it one of the most anticipated music festivals in the world.

    An Unplugged Pass will give you access to all stages at this music festival in Switzerland for five days, as well as access to after-parties and the Taste Village. The pass will cost you $65 or $40 for locals of Zermatt.

    Where to Stay: 

    Since you’ll be in the heart of the Swiss Alps, you might as well take advantage of the incredible scenery and stay in the traditional Ascot-Loft Zermatt chalet. This spot is just a few steps from the ski lifts, perfect for a little bit of spring skiing.

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    Zuri Fascht (Zurich Festival)

    Bursts of fireworks illuminate the night sky during Zuri Fascht
    New Year’s Eve Flair
    Photo: Zürich Tourismus
    • When: July 
    • Where: Zurich

    Known as Zurich’s largest festival, Zuri Fascht is a three-day event that takes place during the first weekend of July. Set in the midst of summer in the Swiss capital of Zurich, the entire city center gets taken over by festivities and celebrations.

    Visitors can expect tons of food, fireworks displays, and music over the course of the three days when traffic is blocked for pedestrian-only use. Staying in Zurich during this festive weekend includes encountering some sort of celebration.

    In fact, two million visitors, local and foreign, take to the streets along the River Limmat, which is the heart and soul of the festival. The massive event combines concerts, dancing, opera, theatre, art, and food, representing and promoting the city’s cultural diversity, making it an ideal addition to spice up your Zurich itinerary.

    A few highlights include the fireworks displays, which take place as night falls on Friday and Saturday evenings. Most events at this Swiss festival are free to attend, and others can be booked in advance or on arrival, depending on capacity.

    Where to Stay: 

    For Zurich’s biggest festival, treat yourself to a stay in one of the city’s best hotels, Storchen Zurich. Termed a lifestyle boutique hotel, this spot has been offering warm hospitality along Lake Zurich for over 650 years.

    Montreux Jazz Festival

    • When: July
    • Where: Montreux

    Held in the town of Montreux, on the eastern shores of Lake Geneva, the Montreux Jazz Festival is an impressive musical event that has been running since 1967. Although its name suggests otherwise, the musical celebration features everything from jazz and blues to rock and roll and even pop music.

    The festival runs for two weeks and has become an essential event for Montreux’s economy, generating significant tourism for the area. Over the years, some of Jazz’s most outstanding musicians have performed at Montreux, including Ella Fitzgerald, Charlie Mingus, and Dexter Gordon.

    However, this festival also shines a light on new artists who are up-and-coming to the scene. With almost 250 thousand attendees each year, this is one of the greatest stages in Europe for newcomers and people travel across the continent to make a name for themselves.

    When it comes to jazz, the summer festival is second in size only to the Montreal Jazz Festival. It takes place in early July when the weather is balmy and warm. With an impressive event program, the Montreux Jazz festival in Switzerland features many outdoor events, food vendors, and street performers scattering the town.

    Where to Stay: 

    Overlooking Lake Geneve with exceptional views in every direction, this cozy apartment with exceptional views is set in the prestigious National Montreux Residences near the city center. The apartment is sunny and spacious, with a large balcony, one bedroom, and two bathrooms.

    Paleo Festival

    • When: July
    • Where: Nyon

    What started in 1976 as an intimate folk festival in the city of Nyon is now one of the most famous music festivals in the country. The festival takes place over six days and nights in July, where over 250 live sets and concerts take place across seven stages. 

    The primary genre showcased is hard rock, with reggae, hip-hop, and some classical music performances added into the mix. On top of the music, hundreds of vendors also sell official apparel, crafts, and food and drinks, allowing visitors to try out a range of cuisines from across the world.

    The event promotes up-and-coming talent and established artists across a range of genres. Attendees from various countries come to enjoy the incredible music and vibrant lights of the festival. The event is made all the more enjoyable by the impressive production and sound quality.

    The Swiss festival is also family-friendly, allowing parents to drop their kids off at a day nursery or enjoy the play area. For those wanting to stay over, there is also a campsite where you can set up a tent without charge.

    Where to Stay: 

    You won’t find a more peaceful spot than this gorgeous studio outside the center of Nyon. Refurbished with stylish interiors, wooden floors, and bright natural light, this is the perfect spot to call home during Paleo Festival.

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    Fete National Suisse (Swiss National Day)

    Bursts of firework in the city of Lausanne during Fete Nacional Suisse
    • When: August
    • Where: Lausanne

    Easily one of the most quintessentially patriotic Swiss celebrations on the list, Fete National Suisse is the country’s national day. Celebrated once a year on the first of August, this traditional festival showcases the local culture and its traditions with a proud display of patriotism.

    While the entire country comes alive on this important day (which is a public holiday), Lausanne is undoubtedly one of the best places to celebrate. Imagine tons of bright decorations hanging from the sky and filling shop and restaurant windows, garden barbeques, and firework displays at nightfall.

    The best way to enjoy the day is to stay with a local family, indulging in traditional Swiss food and drink and socializing with the locals. 

    After a day of celebrating and socializing, the day is closed out with an incredible fireworks display at Rhino Falls – not unlike the USA’s version of the Fourth of July.

    Where to Stay: 

    To celebrate Swiss National Day in style, book a room at the opulent Beau-Rivage Palace on the banks of Lake Geneva. This palace hotel has breathtaking views and offers all the bells and whistles you might expect from a five-star hotel.

    Fete de L’Escalade

    two men fighting with swords during Fete de L’Escalade in Switzerrland
    Sword fight during Fete de L’Escalade
    Photo: Mike Mill2 (WikiCommons)
    • When: December
    • Where: Geneva

    The last Swiss festival on the list, but certainly not the least, Fete de L’Escalade commemorates the failure of the Catholic Duchy of Savoy’s troops, who attempted to seize the town of Geneva in December of 1602. 

    Hundreds of years ago, the protestant forces of Geneva came out in full force and prevented these enemy forces from climbing the city wall, defeating them in an epic battle.

    Wherever you choose to stay in Geneva, you’ll witness lively street parades featuring locals dressed in traditional outfits from the period, carrying torches and drums. They follow each other on foot or horseback, parading through the very streets, which were saved hundreds of years ago.

    Visitors can enjoy folk music performances, grand banquets, and farm markets reminiscent of an earlier age to celebrate the historic event. One of the event’s main features is vegetable soup – which is enjoyed in bulk to remember the boiling soup that was supposedly thrown over the city walls onto the enemy forces.

    Another unique tradition is a massive cauldron filled with chocolate and marzipan, which the oldest and youngest event attendees smash to symbolize victory!

    Where to Stay: 

    This modern apartment in Geneva is an interior designer’s dream. Designed with modern features and minimalistic decorations, the space takes advantage of natural light and local materials in the midst of a historic building from the 1800s.

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    Final Thoughts on Festivals in Switzerland

    There’s no doubt that Switzerland is overflowing with beautiful nature, impressive landscapes, and historic cities. With a friendly local population, tons of outdoor activities, and natural beauty, Switzerland provides the perfect backdrop for some incredible festivals.

    Attending a festival in Switzerland is one of the best ways to experience the local culture, interact with friendly locals, and learn about the country’s history. Depending on what time of year you visit, your trip could coincide with a winter wonderland event or a summer solstice festival.

    If I can recommend any festival, it would be the World Snow Festival in Grindelwald. There is no place as outstanding during winter as the Swiss Alps, and any event celebrating snow’s beauty is worth attending.

    After more travel inspo? I’ve got you covered!
    Looking out over the Swiss Alps in Interlaken, Switzerland.
    How is this real?
    Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

    And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!