Fun All Year-Round: Sports and Leisure Activities in Switzerland
At a Glance:
- Skiing is one of the nation’s favorite winter sport and even though the country is known for its luxurious and therefore costly ski resorts, there are many budget-friendly ski destinations, too.
- Although Schwingen — the traditional Swiss form of wrestling — has lost popularity in the past, it is now becoming more popular.
- If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, Interlaken is the place to go, offering a wide range of adventurous activities.
With almost 70% of people between 15 and 74 years doing sport, the Swiss are very active. Switzerland is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and its nature is a playground in summer and winter alike. Besides sports, the country’s scenic nature is also the stage for countless leisure activities.
What Winter in Switzerland Has to Offer
Hitting the Slopes
With its location in the Alps and countless unique ski regions Switzerland is the perfect destination for winter sports buffs. Skiing and snowboarding are both very popular in Switzerland. There are countless ski regions in the country and there’s definitely something for every taste and budget. Switzerland’s most luxurious ski resorts include Gstaad, Verbier, St. Moriz, and Zermatt. For a smaller budget, there are also several ski resorts such as Andermatt, located in shouting distance to famous Zermatt, Flims-Laax-Falera, the biggest winter resort in Grisons, or Arolla in the French-speaking region of the country. A good thing to know is that in a lot of ski resorts children under the age of six or eight ski for free.
But skiing and snowboarding are not the only sporting opportunities during winter in Switzerland. Snowshoeing is also a great way of exploring Switzerland’s winter wonderland. There are many scenic trails leading through forests, wide snowfields, and along impressive peaks. It usually requires no previous experience and there are trails for all levels throughout the country.
Another leisure activity for the cold winter months is sledding. There are many sled runs in Switzerland and it’s very popular with young and old alike. This winter experience is suitable for every level, as there are longer and more difficult runs as well as shorter, less steep runs. You can find an overview on the endless sled runs in Switzerland on MySwitzerland.
Ice, Ice, Baby — Ice Hockey, Ice Skating, and More
Ice hockey is probably as popular as football in Switzerland and the number of spectators is around the same for both sports. The highest league is the National League A. There is also a National League B as well as several amateur leagues. The annual Spengler Cup held in Davos is one of the world’s oldest invitational ice hockey tournaments and Switzerland’s second biggest sports event. Every year between Christmas and New Year’s six teams compete for the Spengler trophy.
During the winter months, and especially before Christmas, ice skating is another popular activity. Ice rinks can be found in almost every town. Europe’s biggest ice rink is at the Dolder hotel in Zurich. Its location in the forest and near the Zurich Zoo attracts tourists and locals alike. Switzerland also has several natural ice rinks, since it is a country of lakes. The Lake Jura is probably the most famous natural ice skating rink in the country. But if you’re lucky, you might get to enjoy skating on one of the most impressive natural ice skating rinks: the Lake Oeschinen in the Bernese Alps. This natural spectacle doesn’t happen often, though: the last time the lake froze sufficiently was in 2015 and before that in 1996.
Another interesting activity is igloo building in the mountains. This is possible everywhere where there’s enough snow. With the help of an experienced leader, you get to build your own igloo from scratch and with your own hands. And if you like, you can also stay overnight in this unusual accommodation. In Adelboden near Berne, there even is an annual igloo building festival where igloo fans build a whole igloo village together.
Don’t Miss Out on Switzerland’s Summer Activities
Hiking — The Nation’s Most Favorite Pastime
Switzerland has over 65,000 km of marked hiking trails and it is therefore no exaggeration to call it a hiker’s paradise. The trails are clearly marked and looked after by 1,500 volunteers. What is more, hiking is not restricted to one season: there are many hikes waiting to be discovered in summer and winter alike. Find further information on hiking in Switzerland and different routes on MySwitzerland and join in on Switzerland’s most popular pastime.
Football — The Ball Keeps Rolling
Football is very popular in Europe and Switzerland is no exception. Even though Switzerland hasn’t won an international cup yet, the national football team is always represented in the major international tournaments. There are two national leagues and several regional leagues in Switzerland. The most successful Swiss teams include the FC Basel and the Zurich Grasshoppers. Football is not only a popular spectator sports but also played by the nation: There are countless amateur clubs and women’s football is quite popular, too.
A Day at the Zoo
If you’re in the mood for something calmer, a visit to the zoo is the perfect way to enjoy a sunny day. There are several zoos and wildlife parks in Switzerland. The Zurich Zoo is home to over 380 species and the animals live in different areas designed to mimic their natural habitat such as the Masoala Rainforest or the Kaeng Krachang Elephant Park. The Basel Zoo, though smaller than its Zurich counterpart, is home to over 600 species. Other popular zoos in Switzerland are the Knies Children’s Zoo, the Plättli Zoo (website in German only), or the Bear Park in Bern. The zoos are usually opened year-round.
Switzerland’s Festival Summer
Summer time means festival time! The Swiss love their festivals and therefore, there’s an abundance of them throughout the year but especially in summer. Whatever music you prefer, there is a festival for every taste. The Montreux Jazz Festival is one of the most famous Jazz festivals in the world and held every July at the shore of Lake Geneva. For classical music lovers, the Lucerne Festival and the Verbier Festival need to be marked in the calendar. The biggest outdoor music festival is the Paléo Festival in Nyon at the end of July with more than 250 concerts. Other music festivals that attract a large number of people every year are the Openair Frauenfeld, Europe’s biggest hip-hop festival, the Moon and Stars festival with its unique location in the heart of Locarno, as well as the Züri Fäscht, held every three years.
Schwingen — A More Traditional Type of Wrestling
Schwingen is the Swiss form of wrestling. It is considered to be the Swiss national sport, especially in the German-speaking part of the country. Schwingen is a very traditional sport but in recent years its popularity has seen an upsurge. It is fought between two competitors and even though it might seem similar to wrestling, it has its own rules, grips, and throws. There are many regional and cantonal outdoors festivals which are held between early spring and fall. The best wrestlers are called die Bösen (i.e. the wicked ones). The biggest festival is the Eidgenössisches Schwing- und Älplerfest where the winner receives a Muni (a bull). Schwingen has always been a sport dominated by men, but recently, women’s Schwingen popularity has increased as well.
Not for the Faint-Hearted — Adventure Sports
Interlaken is known to be the top destination for adventure sports enthusiasts. Thanks to excellent flying conditions and nearly year-round good weather, the town has become the number one place for adventure sports. In Interlaken, you can have it all: paragliding, skydiving, river rafting, or glacier trekking on Europe’s longest glacier, the Aletschgletscher, the list of adventurous activities in Interlaken is long. And besides the adrenaline rush, you will have the opportunity to enjoy the unique panorama of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau mountains. You can find out even more about local adventure activities on Interlaken’s official website.
But Interlaken is not the only place to get your adrenaline going. At the Verzasca Dam in the canton of Ticino, you have the possibility follow in the footsteps of Pierce Brosnan, better known as James Bond. His legendary bungee jump in “Goldeneye” broke a world record with a height of 220 m. And now it’s your turn!
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