The festivals mentioned in this section, unless otherwise specified, fall on different dates every year. Inquire at the Swiss National Tourist Office or local tourist offices for an updated calendar. For an exhaustive list of events beyond those listed here, check http://events.frommers.com, where you'll find a searchable, up-to-the-minute roster of what's happening in cities all over the world.
Vogel Gryff Festival (The Feast of the Griffin), Basel. The "Wild Man of the Woods" appears on a boat, followed by a mummers' parade. For more information, call tel. 061/268-68-68 or see www.basel.com/en. Mid-January.
Basler Fasnacht, Basel. Called "the wildest of carnivals," with a parade of "cliques" (clubs and associations). For more information, call tel. 061/268-68-68 (www.fasnacht.ch). First Monday after Ash Wednesday.
Hornussen ("Meeting on the Snow"), Maloja. A traditional sport of rural Switzerland. For information, call tel. 081/824-31-81 or see www.MySwitzerland.com/festivals. Mid-March.
Primavera Concertistica, Locarno. April marks the beginning of a festival of music concerts that lasts through October. For information, call tel. 091/791-00-91 or visit www.sbt.ti.ch. Mid-April.
Sechseläuten (Six O'Clock Chimes), Zurich. Members of all the guilds dress in costumes and celebrate the arrival of spring, which is climaxed by the burning of Böögg, a straw figure symbolizing winter. There are also children's parades. The Zurich Tourist Office (tel. 044/215-40-00; www.zuerich.com) shows the parade route on a map. (Böögg is burned at 6pm on Sechseläutenplatz, near Bellevueplatz.) Third Monday of April.
Corpus Christi. Solemn processions in the Roman Catholic regions and towns of Switzerland. End of May.
Fête de Lausanne, Lausanne. Beginning of an international festival, showcasing weeks of music and ballet. For information, call tel. 021/315-22-14 (www.lausanne.ch). End of June.
William Tell Festival, Interlaken. Performances of the famous play by Schiller. For more information, call tel. 033/822-37-32 (www.tellspiele.ch). End of June through early September.
Montreux International Jazz Festival, Montreux. More than jazz, this festival features everything from reggae bands to African tribal chanters. Monster dance fests also break out nightly. The festival concludes with a 12-hour marathon of world music. For more information, call tel. 021/966-44-44 (www.montreuxjazz.com). Lasts 2 weeks and is held in the beginning of July.
Züri Fäscht, Zurich. This summertime citywide festival takes over Zurich with fairground revelry. Held every 3 years in early July; the next one, pending the resolution of security issues and uncertainty about the construction plans for the site where the event traditionally takes place, will occur in 2013.www.zuerifaescht.ch.
Fêtes de Genève, Geneva. Highlights are flower parades, fireworks, and live music all over the city. For more information, call tel. 022/909-70-70 (www.fetes-de-geneve.ch). Early August.
Lucerne Festival, Lucerne. Concerts, theater, art exhibitions, and street musicians. For more information, call tel. 041/226-44-80 (www.lucernefestival.ch). Mid-August through mid-September.
Zurich Street Parade. Visitors flock to Zurich for a daylong techno/dance party and parade that takes over the entire city. You'll either want to book a hotel far in advance, or avoid this at all costs. Visit www.streetparade.ch. Early to mid-August.
Autumn Festival, Lugano. A parade and other festivities mark harvest time. Little girls throw flowers from blossom-covered floats and oxen pull festooned wagons in a colorful procession. For information, call tel. 091/913-32-32 or visit www.lugano-tourism.ch. Early October.
Aelplerchilbi, Kerns and other villages of the Unterwalden Canton. Dairymen and pasture owners join villagers in a traditional festival to mark the end of an alpine summer. For more information, contact the Sarnen Tourismus, Hofstrasse 2 (tel. 041/666-50-40; www.sarnen-tourism.ch). Late September or October.
Zibelemärit, Bern. The famous "onion market" fair. Call tel. 031/328-12-12 or visit http://www.berninfo.com/en for more information. Fourth Monday in November.
Christmas Festivities. Ancient St. Nicholas parades and traditional markets are staged throughout the country to mark the beginning of Christmas observances, with the major one at Fribourg. Mid-December.
L'Escalade, Geneva. A festival commemorating the failure of the duke of Savoy's armies to take Geneva by surprise on the night of December 11, 1602. Brigades on horseback in period costumes, country markets, and folk music are interspersed with Rabelaisian banquets, fife-and-drum parades, and torch-lit marches. Geneva's Old Town provides the best vantage point. Call tel. 022/909-70-11 or visit www.escalade.ch for more information. Three days and nights (nonstop) in early December.