Monday, August 07, 2017

Badenfahrt, Switzerland's Biggest Party: August 18-27

Baden, located 27 kilometers west of Zurich, is usually a quiet spa town. But every ten years, it hosts a ten-day festival that draws a million visitors. In terms of comparative population size, imagine 475 million people descending on New York City for an event. (A number greater than the entire population of the United States.)

Why is the Badenfahrt festival so popular? The name, meaning, “Baden goes,” comes from the Middle Ages when the spas at Baden were a popular escape for dignitaries. During the Reformation, many Protestant Zurichers found themselves fleeing to Baden for the kind of elusive fun that only Catholics could have back then. But the real party began in 1847, when Switzerland’s first train route opened. The “Spanischbrötli-Bahn,” which went from Zurich to Baden, made it easy for Protestant Zurichers to come to “crazy” Catholic Baden to eat sweet pastries (like Spanischbrötli, for which the train was named), sing, and let loose at the thermal spas.

Swiss people tend to relax most when given an organized reason to do so. The first Badenfahrt festival in 1923 proved this to be true. Today the festival features parades, fireworks, carnival rides, several entertainment stages, and that oh-so-Swiss trust that allows a million people into an unfenced festival area knowing that they’ll all buy the festival pass anyway. Besides, how can you rope off an entire city?

The Badenfahrt festival features hundreds of creatively themed food structures representing everything that Swiss industriousness is capable of. Forget a simple food tent; at Badenfahrt, the Swiss prove that the Greeks aren’t the only ones to build Greek temples. The Swiss build them too, along with sand beaches, the Eiffel Tower, and Japanese Gardens. Give the Swiss some scaffolding, and they’ll give you the Taj Mahal—even if its only purpose is to serve sausage for ten days.

Aside from Zurich’s Street Parade, Badenfahrt is the festival to witness the Swiss as you never have before—shrieking at 3 a.m., throwing beer bottles into the street, and dancing to rap music. To experience Badenfahrt is to experience the Swiss at their most fun-loving and free. Until of course, the clock strikes midnight on the tenth day of the festival and street sweepers arrive on the twelfth ring to start cleaning up the mess, making the entire experience feel like a figment of your imagination.


The big, once-every-ten-years festival takes place in Baden from August 18-27, 2017.

Spanischbrötli pastries, a specialty from Baden that dates back to at least 1780, are a featured food at the festival, but you can try the sweet buttery combination of hazelnut and carrot almost anytime at the Moser’s bakery in Baden.
Moser’s Backparadies
Schlossbergplatz 2
5400 Baden
+41 (0)56 222 42 55

For more information:

Read The Frau’s article in The Independent about Badenfahrt.

Listen to the podcast featuring The Frau discussing all things Baden.

Read 99.9 Ways to Travel Switzerland Like a Local for 98.9 more tips like this one. 

The Frau's latest book is now available in Black & White. It's Swiss quality at an American price.


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