Swiss National Day

July 31, 2012 by

Festivals & Events, Free Things to Do

Festivities in Villars Sur Ollon on Swiss National Day in Switzerland. Photo courtesy of Wouter Hagens via Wikimedia.

Festivities in Villars Sur Ollon on Swiss National Day in Switzerland. Photo courtesy of Wouter Hagens via Wikimedia.

Some of the most exciting public gatherings in Switzerland are held in honor of Swiss National Day on August 1st. If you find yourself in the country at the appropriate time of year, brace yourself for some massive partying.

Swiss citizens gather together to eat, drink, be merry, set off fireworks, light bonfires and generally have a good time (particularly in Zurich and Geneva). The celebrations commemorate the date in the late 13th century when three Alpine cantons combined to form what we know of as modern Switzerland. That said, locals have been lighting bonfires in annual summer celebrations since time immemorial. Legend has it that the tradition originated in the practice of setting warning bonfires ablaze on mountain peaks to warn off invading barbarian hoards.

National Day festivities are best combined with the biggest open-air techno rave in Europe, (the annual Street Parade that is held in Zurich every August). Both events offer an excellent chance to get to know the locals and let your hair down.

At the former, citizens don the decorative symbols of their respective cantons, barbecue sausages with their friends and family and children parade through the streets with paper lanterns.

If you’re celebrating in Zurich, you’ll want to gravitate to the banks of the city’s namesake lake, where crowds gather to enjoy the considerable ambiance.

Another popular setting is located less than an hour outside of Zurich by public transit at Rhine Falls, the largest waterfall in Europe.

- John Reality

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