The Swiss love festivals. Be it music, cinema, dance, comedy, comics or theatre, nowhere are there more festivals in proportion to the population. The most popular ones are open-air music festivals, to which thousands flock in the summer for one or several days of concerts. 

The large open-air stage of Paléo Festival Nyon, with thousands of festivalgoers
One of the biggest music festivals in Switzerland is Paléo Festival Nyon. Over the course of 6 days, around 230,000 festivalgoers take in the music. © Paléo / Pierre Descombes


Open-air festivals in Switzerland cover almost all musical genres, from one-day to multi-day events, and usually attract younger audiences. Although most of the headliners come from abroad, Swiss bands and local musicians are also very popular. While the big festivals attract the general public, many smaller ones focus on specific musical genres or individual musicians, with music ranging from traditional to modern.

The three largest open-air festivals in Switzerland with over 100,000 festivalgoers are Paléo Festival Nyon, Openair Frauenfeld and OpenAir St. Gallen. In Nyon, the audience is treated to a broad spectrum of musical entertainment and circus performers. While Frauenfeld captivates fans as Europe's largest hip-hop festival, St Gallen offers a colourful mix geared instead towards rock. The Montreux Jazz Festival has been bringing together the big names in jazz, rock and blues every July since 1967. Music lovers from all over the world come to the shores of Lake Geneva for two weeks of concerts. Deep Purple helped the festival gain its legendary prestige by immortalising it in their hit song Smoke on the Water. On the shores of Lake Lucerne, in turn, the world's best classical-music soloists and orchestras have come together every summer since 1938 at the Lucerne Festival.


Switzerland has a multitude of film festivals, ranging from animated films and documentaries to auteur cinema and shorts. The largest festival is the international Locarno Film Festival, founded in 1946, which crowns its top film with a Golden Leopard award. Among Europe's most prestigious festivals, it is dedicated to auteur films. The open-air screenings every evening in the vibrant and picturesque Piazza Grande form the heart of the festival, which draws around 160,000 film lovers for 11 days each year. The Zurich Film Festival, which was launched in 2005, also enjoys an international reputation and has already welcomed several Hollywood stars. It awards the Golden Eye and drew in over 100,000 film aficionados during 11 days in 2019. Film lovers also make pilgrimages to Nyon for the Visions du Réel festival, to the Solothurn Film Festival and to Neuchâtel for its International Fantastic Film Festival.

Theatre, dance and performance

Other organisers mix different forms of expression within a single event. These include Zurich's Theaterspektakel (theatre, dance, music, performance), the Festival de la Bâtie in Geneva (theatre, dance, music), and the international Belluard Bollwerk festival in Fribourg (dance, theatre, music, video, performance). There are also festivals focused on dance (Steps, Berner Tanztage), theatre (Schweizer Theatertreffen), comedy (Montreux's and Arosa's comedy festivals), and comic strips (Lausanne's BDFIL and Lucerne's Fumetto).