Fêtes de Genève (Geneva Festival)
Geneva’s premier annual festival takes place in late July and early August and attracts thousands of spectators from all over the world. The highlight of the celebrations are the famous musical fireworks which can be heard throughout the city. But as well as these spectacular displays there’s a whole host of parades, live concerts, street entertainment and stalls selling gastronomic specialties from around the globe. The event centres around the waterfront region of the city and lovemobiles and floats take over the lake for the duration of the festival. Most of the entertainment is free, always good news for the budget conscious traveller, and the atmosphere is indescribable.
Street Parade, Zurich
Switzerland’s answer to Berlin’s Love Parade, the Zurich Street Parade takes place for one day only in early August. In existence for the past eight years, the parade is specifically aimed at House and Techno fans but generally people attend for the atmosphere rather than the music. Attracting over half a million people, this is a true testament to just how popular it is. A mere two thousand made it to the first festival so word has obviously spread. The theme of the parade is one based on all things good – love, peace, freedom – and it is an extremely well run and violence free event where young and old and locals and visitors party together throughout the day. And once the parade ends, you have your choice of at least forty different parties which go on into the night.
Onion Festival (Zibelemarit), Berne
If you’re looking for something a little different, then head to the Swiss capital for the fourth Monday in November where they celebrate - the onion. Strange, maybe, but this festival is one of the biggest in Switzerland. From hundreds of stalls selling plaited strings of onions and other wonderful onion creations to the general mayhem which takes over the city, it really is a good time to visit. With a history which dates back to the fifteenth century the festival traditionally began as a celebration to end the fourteen day autumn market but now it’s just an excuse to party until the early hours.
Jazz Festival, Montreux
In existence for thirty-five years, the Montreux Jazz Festival is one of Europe’s leading music festivals. With over fifty artists and musicians performing at ten different venues around the city, the festival attracts over a quarter of a million visitors from around the world during the two weeks in July while it takes place. And as well as jazz musicians, the sounds of various other types of music can also be heard emanating from every corner of the city. So, if jazz isn’t your thing, this still isn’t an excuse. If you do decide to check it out, however, you need to book both tickets and accommodation well in advance or you may find yourself sleeping on a Swiss park bench for a couple of nights.
Celebrating the city’s victory over the renowned Duke of Savoy, this is a festival laden with pomp and ceremony. Taking place on the weekend of, or closest to, December eleventh, the entire city gets involved in the festivities which involve dressing up in period costumes, tours of all the historic buildings in the city, feasting on traditional food and much more. The whole even culminates with a three-hour parade through the town with fire torches. It is absolutely spectacular and will show you the city in a whole new light – literally. As well as this, many buildings which usually remain closed, including the Town Hall, are open to the public during the celebrations. And, while it may not sound like the most exciting festival ever, it is one laden with customs and tradition and is an excellent time to visit Geneva.