When it comes to festivals, Switzerland has more than its fair share. Throughout the year, this picture-postcard alpine nation is bustling with festivals for cheese, festivals for wine, festivals for art and even festivals for the processing of flax (the traditional festival of Brachete in the village of Zaziwil,
if you’re interested)! There are also sports competitions, cultural events, seasonal celebrations…the list is endless! In the coming months, these are just a few of the events taking place in or near Zurich:
Youthful Shootings At the Knabenschiessen
William Tell may have shot an apple off his son’s head once upon a time, but in the first two weeks of September, 4000 12 to 17 year old boys and girls will take aim at a less dangerous target: the coveted title of Marksman King or Queen of the year.
One of the biggest events of the autumn, the Knabenschiessen takes place at the Albisquetli shooting range, on the edge of Zurich. The contest is the modern day continuation of a seventeenth century custom, when boys were required to practice their shooting during the summer holidays (Knabenschiessen literally means ‘boy shoot’). Nowadays, the Knabenschessen has moved beyond being boys-only club and regularly include a large percentage of girls among the competitors; bows and arrows are also outdated and the contest has moved on to using the modern rifle (which incidentally, many of the contestants will use similar rifles later on when they enter Switzerland’s citizen army). In a way, the contest is also an embodiment of Swiss values, as the children are taught from young the importance of civic responsibility even as they learn to defend themselves.
For visitors who would prefer not to watch the competition, there’s also an entertaining carnival nearby. Common consensus has it that the fair is the biggest in Switzerland; which translates into acres of ferris wheels, colourful rides, bumper cars and many other entertainments to distract you from the cracks of rifle fire.
Elegant Bar Hopping & Freestyle Stunts
Zurich natives are known for their quiet style and there’s no better way to appreciate it than to take part in the Long Night of Hotel Bars event. Rather like a British pub-crawl, but infinitely classier, guests purchase a Hotel Bar Pass from the Tourism Service at the Main Train Station, which gives them free access to the bars at nine participating 4 or 5 star hotels. There’s an exclusive limousine shuttle to take guests from hotel to hotel and at each stop, there’s tasty hors d’ouevres, great music, a wide variety of drinks (including non-alcoholic ones!) and even lucky draw contests. This is a great way to take a first step into Zurich nightlife
A bit more lively is the Freestyle.ch event, when 3 days are dedicated to spectacular contests, stunts and general frenzy as some of the world’s best snowboarders, skateboarders, in-line skaters and bikers show over 50,000 spectators what they’re made of. Under blazing spotlights, these extreme athletes compete on a huge snow covered ramp, executing every leap, twist and flip imaginable — definitely not a show for the faint of heart and breathtaking to watch.
Wine and Whisky on Lakeside Steamers
In the month of November, Zurich again celebrates the many delights of a good beverage, as the Expovinapays tribute to the best in wine, and the Whiskyship Festival does likewise with whisky.
Expovina takes place on 12 steamer ships anchored off the Burkliplatz dock on the pretty River Maur. Aboard these ships are over 4,000 wines from countries as far flung as Australia and Argentina; as an accompaniment, numerous specialty restaurants in the city offer tantalizing hor d’ouvres as part of the experience. There are also the tasting courses for those desiring more savoir faire, and the traditional wine raffle, so you might even be able to take a bottle home! Officially, the expo is for the wine merchants and connoisseurs, but the event also attracts a lot of attention from casual visitors, who are welcome — all 80,000 of them! This being Zurich, it would be best to dress neatly and conservatively — and also to eat something substantial before visiting, in order to enjoy the many samples!
A little later on in the month, enthusiasts from around the Continent gather to appreciate the finer points of the world’s best blends, single malts, double malts and other things whisky-related. Also held about ships docked at the Burkliplatz dock (if a formula works, why change it?), though on about half the number of ships as for the Expovina, the Whiskyship festival also offers tastings, tidbits and teachings, as well as the additional attraction of a ship-board casino and even a golf course, for those who just can’t stay away from practicing their swing. There’s also a fair bit of attention paid to the delights of cigars as well, though the whisky gets the lion’s share of attention. All in all, over 800 whiskies and over 300 types of cigars will be available for tasting and sale.
There are many other events happening in — and around — Zurich, especially as the year strides on into the Christmas season, one of Switzerland’s most festive periods. These are just a few of the bigger events taking place in the coming months, but visitors to the city need only glance through the events page of any major newspaper to realize that there are many, many other exciting and colourful events taking place, beckoning the curious.
Note: Details of these events may change without notice. Be sure to contact the organizers for more information before making your plans.