Everything you need to know about Eurovision in Switzerland

Switzerland has a smaller Eurovision fanbase compared to countries like the UK, Germany, Spain, or Sweden. But when it comes to actually competing in it – it’s certainly no slouch.

Switzerland's 2021 Eurovision entrant Gjon's Tears celebrates. Photo: KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP
Switzerland's 2021 Eurovision entrant Gjon's Tears celebrates. Photo: KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

Although it doesn’t have the reputation for being a flashy, kitschy place you might associate with the modern Eurovision Song Contest, Switzerland has a special place in Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) history.

In 1956, it hosted the very first ESC in Lugano – and won it, when Swiss singer Lys Assia took home the trophy with her French-language “Refrain.”

Since then, the Alpine nation has competed almost every year – missing out on the contest only four times.

READ ALSO: Lys Assia, Eurovision’s first-ever winner, dies aged 94

In 1988, Switzerland famously won again with another French-language song – Ne partez pas sans moi or “Don’t go without me” – sung by none other than a young Celine Dion at the beginning of her career (the French-Canadian singer was invited to represent the country by Swiss officials). 

The country hasn’t turned in an ESC win since then. What’s more, Switzerland’s performance in the last 20 years has also been largely disappointing – with the Swiss act failing to qualify for Saturday’s Grand Final more than half the time. They’ve instead been eliminated during semi-finals.

That might account a bit for Swiss Eurovision viewership figures that are quite a bit lower than places like the UK, Germany, and Spain – where at least a full 10 percent of the population in all three places watched last year. By contrast, about 330,000 people in Switzerland watched Eurovision in 2022.

That said, those Swiss fans have had a bit more to cheer for in recent years – with Swiss acts once again making a clear impression on both contest judges and the general public in televoting.

In 2019, singer Luca Hänni finished fourth with his English-language dance bop “She Got Me.” After the 2020 contest was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Swiss act Gjon’s Tears finished third with his French-language “Tout l’univers.” 2022’s entry Marius Bear didn’t crack the top ten, but made the Grand Final with his English-language “Boys Do Cry.”

READ ALSO: Marius Bear: Who is Switzerland’s Eurovision entrant for 2022?

Switzerland at Eurovision – a rich linguistic history

As you might expect from a country with four official languages, listening to Switzerland’s Eurovision entries over the years is a real treat for language lovers.

Swiss competitors have sung in English 17 times – with most of those being recent Swiss entries.

Swiss singers have sung in French at Eurovision 24 times, with French-language songs accounting for both of the country’s two Eurovision wins.

Switzerland has also sung in German and Italian at Eurovision eleven times apiece. The vocal group Furbaz has the distinction of performing Switzerland’s only ever Eurovision entry in Romansh, with 1989’s Viver senza tei.

READ ALSO: Why are people in Germany-speaking countries so obsessed with Schlager music?

How might Switzerland do this year?

Remo Forrer from Hemburg in the St. Gallen canton is representing Switzerland at Eurovision this year. At 21, he’s already won The Voice of Switzerland reality singing show.

He describes his English-language song for the contest, “Watergun,” as a power ballad that laments the powerlessness of his generation in the world’s current wars.

Bookmakers give Forrer an outside chance at cracking the top 10, now that he’s qualified to compete in the Grand Final on Saturday May 13th. So while it may not necessarily be a winning song, it signals how Switzerland is once again becoming more competitive on the Eurovision stage.

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10 unmissable events in Switzerland this October

From celebrity spotting at Zurich’s film festival to cheese tasting and embracing Irish culture in Fribourg, here are the top events you shouldn’t miss out on this October in Switzerland.

10 unmissable events in Switzerland this October

Zurich Film Festival

Every autumn, the Zurich Film Festival attracts thousands of movie enthusiasts, film stars and media professionals – and this year, you can be one of them. The event is held from September 28th until October 8th and tickets can be purchased in person at Paradeplatz from 12pm to 7pm (except Sundays). Ticket prices start from 26.20 Swiss francs apiece.

Festa d’Autunno

Whether you are a Ticino resident or have always wanted to learn more about the region, we recommend heading to this year’s Festa d’Autunno (autumn festival) in Ticino’s largest city, Lugano.

The festival, which runs from September 29th until October 1st, invites visitors to discover Ticino’s gastronomy, taste exceptional wines and explore Lugano’s shopping district while being serenaded by folklore music. Additionally, Lugano Region will also offer free guided tours for those interested in discovering the history of its city centre.

Herbstmesse (Lozärner Määs)

While on the topic of autumn fairs, Lucerne’s traditional autumn festival is a must-visit if you’re in the area between September 30th and October 15th. The fair will span from the Bahnhofplatz via Europaplatz to Inseli in Lucerne’s city centre and feature over 100 market stalls selling anything from baked goods to clothing items and hand-crafted gifts.

Balade dans Genève en Tram Historique

Ever wondered what it would be like to explore Geneva from the inside of a tram dating back to the 1920s? Well, now’s your chance. On October 1st, visitors will be able to take part in hourly trips across Geneva on one of the city’s historical trams, which will depart from Lancy Gare and head to Cornavin via Carouge, Plainpalais, Bel Air and Place de Neuve.

Irish Festival, Fribourg

“Ireland is coming to Fribourg,” says the website for the town’s inaugral Irish Festival.

“With sixteen cultural events in seven locations over three days, the inaugural Irish Festival Fribourg/Freiburg has something to offer all ages and interests,” it adds.

The event aims to connect Irish and Swiss culture and offers a range of activities to entertain young and old. From October 6th to 8th, visitors can enjoy whiskey tasting, Irish music, watch a documentary about a Belfast primary school and even join in literary discussions at various locations in Fribourg.

Festival director Clare O’Dea says “The programme offers a weekend of discovery and fun to the people of Fribourg and visitors from near and far.”

Zurich Wine Festival

At the Zurich Wine Festival you can enjoy over 350 wines from around the globe and take part in over 15 master classes on the art of winemaking. The festival will be held at the Papiersaal Sihlcity between October 16th and October 22nd.

Tickets to the wine exhibition cost 25 Swiss francs apiece (and allow you to taste as many wines as you wish), while a master class ticket for your chosen session will set you back 49 Swiss francs.

Lausanne Underground Film & Music Festival (LUFF)

The Lausanne Underground Film & Music Festival, which takes place from October 18th to 22nd, promotes innovative films and musical acts that do not benefit from a wide distribution via traditional channels and is one of Lausanne’s most eccentric events.

Käsefest Bern

Cheesemakers from all over the region of Bern will come together for the Käsefest Bern on October 21st to showcase their cheesy treasures at the city’s Waisenhausplatz. In addition to the cheese market, the event will offer musical entertainment, a cheese chalet, food bars and even cow milking.

Basler Herbstmesse

Switzerland’s oldest and largest amusement fair – the Basler Herbstmesse – takes place from October 28th until November 14th. The Basler Herbstmesse is an integral part of the city’s cultural heritage and draws around one million visitors from Switzerland and overseas each year.

Visitors can enjoy a leisurly stroll from Barfüsserplatz to Messeplatz and from Petersplatz to the city’s cathedral while taking in traditional market stalls, exciting rides and many other nostalgic attractions.

Lausanne Marathon

If you’re looking to keep fit while taking in magnificent scenery, then you may want to join 13,600 joggers in the Lausanne Marathon on Sunday, October 29th at 10am. The 30th Lausanne Marathon will see runners jog between Lausanne and La Tour-de-Peilz, passing along the shores of Lake Geneva and through the UNESCO-listed Lavaux vineyards.

The best part? You can choose which type of marathon you’d like to run, be it a full marathon, semi-marathon, 10 kilometres or Nordic walking.