While it’s understandable to lament the end of sunshine and the arrival of jacket weather, there’s plenty to look forward to even as the shadows lengthen.
Summer officially ended in Switzerland on September 23rd, but things have been cooling down for a while now.
Hiking, wandern or bushwalking: whatever you call it, it’s better in autumn. The cooler weather means it’s not that easy to break a sweat, while there’s also less of a chance of sunburn.
There’s an estimated 60,000 kilometres of hiking trails across Switzerland, with tracks in excellent conditions in all language regions – and indeed in pretty much every canton (Basel’s urban hiking options and walking along the Rhine are still best in autumn).
Many of the best hikes are only a short drive away from the major cities, with some accessible by public transport.
Hiking around a blue lagoon. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
Seasonal food has always been popular in Switzerland. Thanks to a range of ‘buy local’ campaigns which encourage consumers to be more aware of their food miles, the popularity of seasonal food has only increased in recent years.
From Bärlauch (wild garlic) to Spargel (white asparagus), the end of summer means autumn menus can spring into action. Some consider autumn to be Switzerland’s best season for food – and it’s not hard to see why.
Roasted chestnut stalls are being wheeled out across the country, while dishes like pumpkin ravioli and mushroom ragout are sure signs that autumn is here.
White asparagus blooming in autumn. SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP
From Bern to Lucerne, the markets alone are worth visiting – making autumn the season for culinary delights.
Autumn also allows you to get away with other things you might not attempt for the rest of the year – like waking up to drink Glühwein (mulled wine). On the fourth Monday in November in Bern, check out the Zibelemarit (onion market) where the regions onion growers sell their wares.
The market starts at 5am, where you can join the locals as they drink Glühwein and sample a range of onion-based delicacies.
Enjoying the weather – and the view
Summer might be warmer, but autumn holds the distinction of being the clearest season of the year – with blue skies and crisp air offsetting the drop in temperature.
There are few countries in the world with better views than Switzerland, so why not head out at a time of year when you’ve got your best chance of seeing them?
With the backdrop of the autumn leaves – as well as the possibility of wildlife like an Alpine ibex or chamois making an appearance – the autumn is the perfect time to test out everything you learned in that amateur photography course and impress/annoy your friends on Instagram.
Festivals – and cows, lots of cows
The Swiss love a good festival and they have the tendency to hold them all year ‘round. Some of the best on the calendar however take place in autumn, as the country’s various regions celebrate the harvest in their own unique and sometimes bizarre style.
One of our favourites takes place in mountain villages all across the country – the return of the cows. As the cows make their way down from the paddocks where they have spent the summer, locals adorn them in with special headwear made from flowers and large cowbells.
Residents gather in the villages and towns, drinking local wine and eating cheese to celebrate the return of these true heroes.
Photo: Caroline Bishop
Cheese holds a special place in Swiss hearts and autumn is the time when the locals will show gratitude to the cows that produce it.
Another one of our favourites is the truffle hunt, which takes place in Bonvillars on the last weekend in October. The village holds a truffle market showcasing specialities from across the region, while restaurants will serve a variety of seasonal truffle dishes.
The more adventurous visitors can join the locals on a truffle hunt before returning to prepare their findings at a cooking workshop.
For a complete rundown on Swiss autumn festivals, check out this list.
How’s the serenity?
The problem with summer is, of course, that everyone likes summer. Summer’s warmth can be fleeting, guilting everyone into leaving the house, heading outside – and into your way.
An autumn dip in Lake Geneva. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
Autumn offers many of the same activities – swimming, running or even just finding a place to perch – but fortunately with fewer people to wade through in order to get there.
With the year coming to a close – but not yet over – autumn is the perfect time to reflect on the year as it slips through your fingers, but while also having enough time to chase down your New Year’s resolutions before Christmas comes around.