Holidays to Switzerland Travel Podcast episode 42
Podcast Episodes

Episode 42: Swiss Traditions and World Class Sites

March 23, 2022 Last Updated on October 12, 2023

Is it photos of the incredible scenic beauty that have enticed you to visit Switzerland? I’m not surprised.  Everywhere you turn in Switzerland you are rewarded with breathtaking views of mountains, lakes, rivers, glaciers, gorges and lush fields – it really is the most beautiful place on Earth.

But the magnificent scenery certainly isn’t the only thing that Switzerland has going for it.  The country is home to 13 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and some rather unique traditions and customs, both of which we are going to hear about today.

My guest today is Livio Goetz, Director of Switzerland Tourism Australia and New Zealand and Livio has some fascinating facts to share with us today.

After hearing from Livio, you’ll probably be adding some of these UNESCO World Heritage sites to your itinerary. And why not try and experience first-hand some of the Swiss customs and traditions when you visit Switzerland, too?

Just remember to have your camera handy to capture those moments for prosperity!  If you need the perfect shot, you need Switzerland.

I’d like to thank Livio and his colleagues at Switzerland Tourism for sponsoring the podcast.  Take a look at the website for Swiss travel information and inspiration. 

Click the green button below to listen:

[This post may contain compensated links. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.]

Show Notes

In this episode, Livio talks about:

  • His background and his career in the travel industry
  • Swiss customs and traditions including unique events and sports
  • Switzerland’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites
  • His top 3 ‘must do’ experiences for first time visitors to Switzerland

Customs and Traditions mentioned in this episode

The alpine ascent and descent parades when cattle, sheep and goats are relocated between the farms and the higher pastures. The German name for the alpine ascent is Alpabfahrt, whilst the alpine descent is called Alpabzug in German and Désalpe in French.

Fasnacht >> the Swiss version of Carnival which is celebrated to farewell winter. Switzerland’s biggest Fasnacht festivals are held in Basel and Lucerne.

Sechseläuten >> another festival which is held to celebrate the end of winter, Sechseläuten literally means “ringing of the 6 o’clock bells”. The festival is held in Zurich on the 3rd Sunday in April.

Schwingen >> the Swiss sport of Schwingen (wrestling) originated when alpine herdsmen got into a fight. Schwingen is now an elite sport in Switzerland.

Steinstossen >> stone throwing is another traditional Swiss sport. Similar to shot put, but with a stone weighing up to 83 kg (or 187 pounds), competitions are held throughout the country.

Flag throwing >> once a privilege of urban guilds, today flag throwing displays can often be seen at festivals accompanying alpine wrestling tournaments and alphorn blowers. There are around 50 different moves in flag throwing.

Alphorn >> originally used as a method of communication between shepherds and their cattle (and each other), alphorn blowers can now be found throughout Switzerland. You might see them playing in an Old Town, on a mountain summit, or when you attend a folklore festival or Swiss event. Alphorns are long, conical shaped wooden wind instruments.

Yodelling >> also originally used as a method of communicating from Alp to Alp, yodelling is a form of singing comprising repeated changes in pitch. Today’s yodel choirs often perform yodel songs with two, three and four part harmonies, accompanied by an accordion player. Yodellers typically wear colourful costumes, and their singing can be enjoyed at Swiss festivals and events.

Swiss cow in the annual alpine descent parade
Alpine descent in Charmey
Traditional Appenzell costumes
Yodellers in Appenzellerland. Photo © Sonderegger
Alphorn blowers

UNESCO World Heritage Sites mentioned in this episode

Abbey St. Gallen >> the Abbey of St. Gallen is home to Switzerland’s oldest library. Richly decorated in Baroque style, the library houses 170,000 books, manuscripts and archives, as well as the 2,700 year old Egyptian mummy Shepenese.

Rhaetian Railway >> stretching 122 kilometres from Thusis to Tirano, the Albula/Bernina Railway line is one of only two railway lines in the world to be granted UNESCO World Heritage status. Crossing 196 bridges and passing through 55 tunnels and 20 towns en-route, this is one of the most scenic train journeys in the world.

Lavaux vineyards >> 800 hectares of terraced vines cover a sunny hillside beside Lake Geneva. The vineyards are said to receive the benefit of three suns – the reflection from Lake Geneva, the warmth of the soil, and the sun itself – which provide the ideal growing conditions. The Lavaux vineyards are Switzerland’s largest contiguous vineyard area and produce some of the country’s best wines.

La Chaux-de-Fonds >> together with its twin town Le Locle, La Chaux-de-Fonds is a planned city that is built in a grid layout after a fire destroyed the original town in 1794. The town’s prosperity is due to its location as one of Switzerland’s major watchmaking centres. It is situated in the canton of Neuchâtel in the French-speaking part of Switzerland.

Old Town of Bern >> the well-preserved medieval Old Town of Switzerland’s capital city, Bern, is home to beautiful cobbled streets and squares, Renaissance fountains and six kilometres of covered shopping arcades. Founded in 1191, the Old Town is built into a bend in the River Aare and is also home to a beautiful cathedral.

Three Castles of Bellinzona >> featuring bastions, walls, towers and gates, the three fortified castles of Bellinzona dominate the skyline. Castelgrande, the oldest of the three castles, dating back to the 12th Century, features two imposing towers and is also home to an archaeological museum and an art museum. Montebello (13th Century) and Sasso Corbaro (15th Century) are also worth visiting.

Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch >> comprising of the rock massif of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, as well as the Aletsch Glacier, the Jungfrau-Aletsch Region is one of Switzerland’s most visited UNESCO World Heritage sites. The magnificent Aletsch Glacier stretches for 26 kilometres and one of the best vantage points is at Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe.

St. Gallen Abbey Switzerland
St. Gallen Abbey and Old Town
Lavaux vineyards, Montreux Riviera.
Lavaux Vineyards
Bern Old Town
View to Old Town Bern

Useful Resources

The Switzerland Tourism website has further information about the events, festivals and UNESCO World Heritage Sites mentioned in this episode.

For events and festival dates > click here; and for info about the UNESCO World Heritage Sites > click here.

You can read more about Switzerland’s customs and traditions > on this link and book a day trip from Lucerne to see the alpine cow descent > here.

Holidays to Switzerland Resources

You can learn more about some of the places mentioned in this episode, by clicking on the following articles:

You can also listen to other podcast episodes about related topics including:

Basel Fasnacht in episode 39; alpine ascent and descents in episode 18 (Appenzell region), episode 8 (Jungfrau region) and episode 22 (Fribourg region); and learning about alphorn making in episode 37.

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This episode is sponsored by Switzerland Tourism

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