Autumnal traditional events in Switzerland

Marie-Madeleine & Giuseppe Renauld | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Switzerland hosts several traditions that are still lively in autumn. When the grapevine is being picked up and the cows and goats go down from the high pastures, the Swiss enjoy this time of year and celebrate their traditions.

Autumn fairs (Herbschtmäss)

Basel hosts each year the largest, the best known and the oldest Swiss annual fair. Since 1471, one of the largest European fairs spreads all over the city centre at the end of October. Countless merchants, not only from Switzerland but also from neighbouring France and Germany sell traditional crafted objects and food specialities. Furthermore, you will find many attractions such as the Big Wheel at Münsterplatz. Besides Basel, other Swiss cities host autumn fairs: Lucerne, Solothurn, Lausanne, Geneva, Lugano, Ascona and more.

© Marie-Madeleine & Giuseppe
© Marie-Madeleine & Giuseppe


When speaking about Oktoberfest, most of you will be thinking about Munich, beers the size of your head, pretzels, locals and tourists dressed up in traditional Bavarian costumes. The Oktoberfest is not only celebrated in Germany but in Switzerland as well. Bern, Lucerne, Zurich and Winterthur amongst others have their own Oktoberfest.

Picture © Credits to izhairguns

Alpine and livestock festivals (Désalpe)

Autumn is also the season of the transhumance (Désalpe) from the high pastures down to the villages in the valleys. Called “désalpe”, it is one of the oldest and most popular traditions celebrated in Switzerland and elsewhere in the Alps since the Medieval times. After four months grazing in the high pastures, when the first snows start to fall and the grass becomes scarce, the livestock goes back to the farm down in the valley. The cows and goats, dressed up with flowers and bells and the shepherds wearing traditional costumes they all parade through the streets and villages. It is also often the occasion for cheese and alpine specialities market and musical animation. The Désalpe of Charmey, in the Gruyère region is one of the most important in the Swiss Alps, but the tradition is celebrated in numerous places in Switzerland.

Pictures © Credits to ventdusud

Wine festivals (Fêtes des Vendanges)

Another ancient autumnal Swiss tradition still cheerful is the wine festivals or in French the “fête des vendanges”. During the XIXth century, the grape harvest was celebrated over two to four weeks. Wagons transporting barrels packed with grapes were parading through the villages; barefooted people were pressing grapes inside the barrels. Dances and traditional music were played all night long. Today the festival is shorter, to usually a whole weekend. It is, of course, the occasion to do some Swiss wine testing. Certainly less famous than the neighbouring French competitors, Swiss wines are definitely worth testing. The wine festival in Neuchâtel is also hosting attractions and a flowers procession. It is also celebrated in Praz (Vully), on the banks of Lake Murten. In this village, all streets are decorated with flowers and ornaments and visitors can taste the wines, as well as the famous cake of Vully.

Picture © Credits to Kenny10

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