Witches Descent is an unusual race, held in Blatten, around 90 minutes drive south from Zürich. The legend is that there was once a witch who lived on the Belalp and nowadays, participants dress up and ski down the slopes with their broomsticks.
For those who don't fancy the outfit, the area offers a variety of snowy trails, mainly aimed at the intermediate skier. Luxury hotels are in short supply within the ski resort, but for a weekend, we're sure you can rough it. Alternatively, why not stay in luxury at the Park Hyatt Zurich and just take a day trip to see a host of witches hurtling down the mountain-side?
On the third Monday of April, Zürich celebrates the Burning of the Böögg festival, celebrating the end of Winter. The Böögg, which comes from the word bogey (like bogeyman) takes the shape of a snowman, stuffed with explosives. The festival celebrates the medieval start of the summer working season, when hours were regulated and some daylight hours were left for enjoyment after the end of work at 6 pm. The 13th April is set for 2015, so pray for a quick explosion of the head as this traditionally signifies a warm sunny summer, whereas a slow burn suggests a cold and rainy season. A number of allied activities take place, including processions and feasts.
Zürich itself is a pretty city, surrounded by mountains and with the clear waters of the lake providing a cool break from the summer sun. Stay at the Park Hyatt for design-inspired interiors and perfect service.
The first of August each year commemorates the formation of Switzerland, when three alpine cantons signed a confederation agreement in 1291. A public holiday throughout the country (most public holidays are canton-specific) the Swiss celebrate with parades, flying the flag, firework displays and rifle shooting competitions. From the illuminated 25 m Rhine falls near Schaffhausen, to the large parade through Zurich or the activities at Rütli Meadow above Lake Lucerne, where the original treaty was signed, this is a colourful time to enjoy the sun and celebrate the Confederation of Switzerland. Our pick? Book a room at Les Trois Rois in Basel for the perfect view of a spectacular fireworks display.
Note that if you are visiting Switzerland at this time, shops and restaurants may not be open (similarly to normal Sundays) so plan accordingly.
Fasnacht is the largest carnival in Switzerland and is said to be the only Protestant carnival in the world. It takes place each year in February or March (the exact date is the week after Ash Wednesday, so it starts on 23rd February in 2015). The event lasts for 72 hours, starting at 4 am on the Monday (many bars and restaurants in the old town are open throughout). With around 18000 carnival participants, Fasnacht offers a real feast for the senses - colourful parades of costumed Fasnächtler circle the city (one route clockwise, one route anti-clockwise) throwing confetti and handing out sweets. Brass bands add to the atmosphere and there are plenty of opportunities to taste the local delicacies.
In Basel, the only luxury option is Les Trois Rois. However, if your budget doesn't run to this, the Pullman is a solid choice.
Held on the second of May, the wine festival in the Montreux Riviera showcases the wines made locally. A number of local hotels offer discounts for those attending the festival (our pick would be the Relais and Chateau Grand Hotel du Lac Vevey) or you can travel in by train.
Fixed price tastings mean you can try a large number of wines, including those from the vineyard in Lavaux, a UNESCO World Heritage site. For gourmandes, the 80 CHF package includes a small bottle of Pot Vaudois 1822 wine, lunch with local specialties (such as Vaud sausage, spit-roast beef and Rougemont cheese) and a commemorative glass. Eating and drinking aren't the only activities during the festival - also on offer is a helicopter flight to see the vineyards from above (great value at just 50 CHF per adult) or a fun and educational opportunity to try bottling the old-fashioned way.
As in Germany, Christmas markets are a big deal in Switzerland. The largest is in Basel, where multiple sites offer Raclette, Glühwein and locally made trinkets and Christmas decorations. Alternatively, head to Montreux and visit the market on the banks of Lake Geneva, surrounded by beautiful mountain views.
The capital Bern and Zürich both offer Weihnachtsmärkte, the latter accompanied by the sound of advent concerts. Lucerne also has a different flavour in December, with 70 stands featuring artists demonstrating their skills and plenty of gifts available for all. The markets are different to those in Germany, and well worth a visit.