Public Holidays in Switzerland | 8 Celebration Days You’ll Love


From Christmas carols to popping champagne as the clock strikes twelve, holidays are a great way to soak in life’s vibrancy with your loved ones. With the snow-capped Alps and delicious sugar-filled treats, it’s no wonder this captivating country has a seemingly unending list of must-visit Swiss cities. 

Unsure how these Swiss detinations celebrate their wide tapestry of public holidays in full throttle?  As a Switzerland enthusiast who has spent a loooot of time in my favorite country, I’ll guide you through the toasts of the canton town and cities to submerge into the fantastic festivities like a true local.

There are a few more holidays but these are the main ones that are also celebrated in most of the 26 Swiss cantons. The date of some bank holidays changes (like Easter, so I have added the dates for 2023).

Swiss Public Holidays to Celebrate in 2023

As this country has 26 distinct districts, known as cantons, the various sub-sections of Switzerland have different determinations of what is an official public  Take a look at a few official public holidays in Switzerland to note:

Let´s start with the bank holidays in Switzerland that take place in spring.

Easter celebration in Switzerland Arzo Travels

Good Friday – 7 April

As a large portion of the Swiss population is Christian, Good Friday is an important religious public holiday this nation celebrates. The Swiss observe this day of remembrance for the sacrifice Jesus Christ made by his crucifixion. 

This traditional holiday is predominantly an understated and respectful occasion, usually celebrated by attending a church service.

Unique Traditions – Good Friday

Good Friday is a solemn day filled with silence and time for reflection on the Lord’s great sacrifice. With many Roman Catholics in Switzerland, fasting on Good Friday is a tradition observed to honor His suffering.

In Romont, which is in the canton of Fribourg, the tradition of “Les Pleureuses” takes place in the streets as a demonstration of repentance. Veiled women walk the streets carrying red cushions adorned with various trademarks of the crucifixion, like a crown of thorns.

  • Shops: Mostly closed.
  • Cantons with Public Holiday Exclusion: Ticino, Valais.

Easter Monday – 10 April

As Easter Monday is a day of celebration due to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, this public holiday is a joyous occasion in a religious context. With easter egg hunts and a lively spirit in the air, this day of celebration is a fun occasion for the whole family to experience.

Unique Traditions – Easter Monday

On this day, “Zwänzgerle” is a game for adults and youths in Switzerland. This tradition entails the act of trying to crack colorfully decorated eggs with a 20-cent coin. Traditionally a challenge between a child and an adult, the coin goes to the individual who first cracks the egg.

  • Shops: Mostly closed.
  • Cantons with Public Holiday Exclusion: Valais.

Ascension Day – 18 May

This holy day commemorates the ascension of Jesus Christ to the heavens above. This date signifies the end of the Easter period, which is why a variety of Swiss church services end by extinguishing the Easter candle.

Unique Traditions – Ascension Day

In Beromünster, you’ll find a beautifully adorned group traveling along an 11-mile (18-kilometer) route on horseback and by foot. The people follow a centuries-fixed path through nearby towns and villages while meditating and pray along the way.

This tradition finds its roots in the 15th century and is still a cause for celebration to this day. Recently, this holy happening is also joined by a festive parade to celebrate this holiday.

  • Shops: Mostly closed.
  • Cantons with Public Holiday Exclusion: None.

Whit Monday – 29 May

Also known as Pentecost Monday, Whit Monday is a day of remembrance of the Holy Spirit upon the dedicated disciples of Christ. Whit Monday is usually a date of joyful spirits and spending quality time with family and friends.

Note: Whit Monday is a movable celebration that depends on the date of Easter.

Unique Traditions – Whit Monday

While there may not be a wide variety of Swiss Whit Monday traditions, this date holds great significance for the Catholic and Christian faiths. Attending a church service on this day is popular, as well as reserving this day to baptize or re-baptize individuals of this religion. Ministers also wear red robes to symbolize the flames in which the Holy Spirit came to Earth.

  • Shops: Mostly closed.
  • Cantons with Public Holiday Exclusion: Valais. 

Swiss National Day – 1 August

The bountiful “Schweizer Bundesfeier” is arguably the most important holiday in the Swiss nation. With national flags and exuberant celebrations and parades, this patriotic holiday devotes its festive merry to the emergence of the nation itself. 

This day commemorates the alliance and coming together of the cantons of Schwyz, Uri, and Unterwalden at the signing of the Federal Charter of 1291. While this iconic date has been a cause for celebration for centuries, the Swiss National Day only became a recognized public holiday in 1993. 

A celebration of independence, Swiss inhabitants express their national pride on this day through an array of merriment and celebrating displays in honor of its emergence. 

Swiss National Day a bank holiday in Switzerland Arzo Travels
Fedor Selivanov /

Swiss National Day, celebration in Lausanne with fireworks Arzo Travels

Unique Traditions – Swiss National Day

Switzerland has an array of diverse cantons, and their differences in tradition, in one way, is how they celebrate the Swiss National Holiday.

In Rhine Falls, a truly dazzling display of lights makes its way into the highest waterfall in Europe. Visiting these falling waters is one of the best things to do in Switzerland, and on this iconic day, you’ll receive free admission to enjoy the event. 

At sunset, you’ll experience stunning sequences of fireworks above the waters, also known as “Fire on the Rocks.”

While cantons might have a variety of ways to celebrate, flags, fireworks, and fantastic festivals almost always accompany the Swiss National Holiday celebrations. The cantons of Switzerland see this day as an opportunity to celebrate their diversity by flying their cantonal flags for all to see and appreciate.

If you’re looking to delve into the day’s historical significance, you can make your way to Rütli Meadow (where the alliance signing took place) and experience the reenactment. 

Other popular activities on this day include street markets, bonfires, and parades to immerse yourself in the patriotic pride of the Swiss National Day. You’ll find this, along with a firework display on 31 July, at the Basel festival celebrations that take place on the Rhine River.

French-speaking Geneva also enjoys a spectacle in honor of the day, with celebrations typically taking place on Parc des Bastions. During the day, you can look forward to various games, sports, and workshops, with plenty of food stalls ready to fill you up throughout. Once the dark sets in, enjoy a paper lantern parade, fireworks, and tunes from a special guest DJ.

Zurich, the country’s largest city, celebrates Swiss National Day with a colorful and lively parade on the city streets. From youthful yodeling to the melodic sounds of traditional alphorns, you’ll have a blast catching an in-depth glimpse of what makes Swiss culture so magical.

  • Shops: Mostly closed.
  • Cantons with Public Holiday Exclusion: None.

Christmas Day – 25 December

Whether it’s the toasty glow of gluhwein or the frosty kiss of winter, nothing beats the warm embrace of the enchanting affair of Christmas (or “Weihnachten”) in Switzerland. While Christmas is traditionally a celebration of Jesus’ birth, this festive time of year is a jolly occasion usually seen as a time for giving and spending time with loved ones.

Unique Traditions – Christmas Day

You can expect to find a kaleidoscope of Christmas markets, rainbow-hued lights, and extravagant parades within the cantons of Switzerland in December. If you’re looking to dive headfirst into the holiday cheer, the markets around Christmas time are the perfect chance to experience the magic of the holiday season in Switzerland. 

While Christmas cookies and present giving are a staple of this mirthful day, Switzerland does the daily opening of a December advent calendar a little differently. In various villages (usually smaller settlements), the practice of “Adventsfenster” takes place.

This is where 24 different establishments or homes present a decorated window to the public on an allocated day in December. Each window is under wraps from view until a specified time in the day, which makes every day of his cold month sprinkled with whimsy and wonder.

  • Shops: Mostly closed.
  • Cantons with Public Holiday Exclusion: None.

St. Stephen’s Day –  26 December       

While billions globally celebrate the historically British holiday of Boxing Day, Switzerland celebrates St. Stephen’s Day on this date. This day acknowledges the sacrifice of Saint Stephen, a martyr who died from a stoning after proclaiming his devotion to Christianity after the death of Christ. 

Unique Traditions – St Stephen’s Day

Many see this holiday as the “second day of Christmas,” which allows individuals to spend more time with their loved ones during the festive season. There are also an array of church services to commemorate and pay respect to this specific saint.

  • Shops: Dependent on the canton.
  • Cantons with Public Holiday Exclusion: Jura, Geneva, and Neuchâtel.

New Year’s Eve / New Year’s Day

A special time to celebrate the year through all its ups and downs, New Year’s Eve is a cause for festive merriment all around the globe. Switzerland, however, has a history of celebrating the coming of the new year by protecting the public from malicious spirits and demons.

New Years Eve in Switzerland Arzo Travels
New Year´s Eve Celebrations In Bern

Unique Traditions – New Year’s Eve / New Year’s Day

Many cantons have a fascinating assortment of traditions to witness. Here are a few districts displays to add to your Swiss New Year’s bucket list:

  • Wil – This city has the Sylvester Lantern Parade on this day, where children take to the streets to present a sea of paper lanterns accompanied by jovial tunes and singing. 
  • Schwarzenburg – This Swiss municipality in the canton of Bern has an eerie tradition of new beginnings. The tradition of “Altjahresesu” on this day takes place by banishing an individual dressed as a donkey from a town with a variety of characters.

After the Swiss National Day, I guess this is the most celebrated and loved day in all of Switzerland.

  • Shops: Mostly closed.
  • Cantons with Public Holiday Exclusion: None.


Switzerland is always worth a trip – if you happen to visit at the time of a bank holiday – especially on Swiss National Day and New Year´s Eve – you can experience Switzerland and the Swiss from a different side. Just keep in mind, public holidays also mean that most shops and activities are closed (while restaurants are mostly open).

Switzerland map with public holidays

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