Switzerland is home to a wide variety of rich cultural practices. Some are well known, while others – like the sports of hornussen and eisstockschiessen – remain more mysterious. We’ve compiled a list of the top 10 Swiss traditions, and the hotels where adventurous travellers can give them a try.
Hotel Landgasthof Kemmeriboden-Bad, Schangnau
Have you ever dreamed of standing on a lush green mountaintop and yodelling to a lonely goatherd? You’d better warm up your vocal chords – three-star-superior Hotel Landgasthof Kemmeriboden-Bad offers workshops where you can learn to yodel in just 90 minutes. Then once you’re done, head to the restaurant – this family-run hotel is famed for its cuisine, and serves up a delicious range of regional specialities.
Hotel Fafleralp (Swiss Lodge), Fafleralp
The two-star Hotel Fafleralp is in a world of its own. Set at an altitude of 1800m, this 100-year-old chalet has its own vineyard, its own mountain guide and its own power plant. It feels miles away from the everyday – making it a fantastic place to try out traditional wooden mask carving. This ancient craft has been practised in the Lötschental valley for centuries, with costumed characters known as Tschäggättä donning the masks and running through the valley after work to scare anyone still out on the streets. At Hotel Fafleralp, you can follow in their footsteps and create your own mask under expert instruction.
Eiger Selfness Hotel, Grindelwald
Often seen at folk festivals, flag waving (also known as fahnenschwingen) is one of the oldest Swiss sports – and anyone can give it a go at the four-star Eiger Selfness Hotel. The hotel offers a short course in flag waving, where professionals will introduce guests to the art of this Swiss tradition, before teaching them a piece of flag-waving choreography. Then once you’ve worked up an appetite, you can partake in the Swiss meal of zvieri (afternoon tea) served at the hotel.
Frutt Lodge & Spa, Melchsee-Frutt
The four-star-superior Frutt Lodge & Spa is just perfect for outdoorsy types. Set on a plateau overlooking an idyllic mountain lake, guests can enjoy hiking, wildlife-watching, and a range of winter sports. This health resort also offers guests a chance to unwind from modern life and go back to a simpler time. Simply head out into the barn and try your hand at milking one of the cows – you can even have a go at making cheese if you like!
Berggasthaus Meglisalp, Weissbad
Set against the legendary hamlet of Meglisalp, which is populated by Alpine herdsmen and dairymen, this historic two-star hotel allows guests to experience traditional agriculture in a completely natural setting. Accommodation includes a rustic yet comfortable converted stable, while the meals feature products harvested directly from the surrounding meadows. Ideal for lovers of lovers of typically Swiss hotels, it’s a wonderful way to gain insight into life high up in the mountains. Just be aware, this family-managed mountain hotel can only be reached on foot!
The three-star Idyllhotel Appenzellerhof has a history of hospitality going back 300 years, and is the ideal choice for friendly service and creature comforts. Just ensure you pack your dancing shoes, because this top hotel often hosts a Swiss stobete (dance) during the summer months. Accompanied by musical entertainment, this lively folk dance is popular with locals and visitors alike. Depending on the time of year, guests can also enjoy various different types of cattle show, welcome in the new year with the Sylvester Chläus, or observe the Landsgemeinde (a unique type of open-air direct democracy, where local citizens gather to elect their government).
Maiensässhotel Guarda Val, Lenzerheide
Ensconced in the hamlet of Sporz, four-star-superior Maiensässhotel Guarda Val incorporates 11 luxury huts and barns that are up to 300 years old. Set among the pasture, each building retains some of its traditional elements, so guests get an authentic feel of Swiss farming life. Every Monday guests can also pay a visit to the farmer Sigron in the neighbourhood and milk a glass of fresh cow’s milk.
Romantik Hotel Bären Dürrenroth, Dürrenroth
What is behind the quirky Swiss sport of hornussen? Involving two teams and a little black object called the hornuss (‘hornet’), it’s been popular since the 19th century – and guests can learn all about it with a workshop at the three-star Romantik Hotel Bären Dürrenroth. The country hotel also features buildings dating back to 1752 (the inn), 1806 (the guesthouse Kreuz) and 1744 (the seminar building) – offering a real sense of the region’s history.
Hotel Arvenbüel, Amden
Situated on a plateau within a 100km network of hiking trails, the three-star chalet-style Hotel Arvenbüel is an excellent option for anyone who really wants to get out and explore Switzerland’s stunning scenery. Guests visiting in the winter months also have the opportunity to learn the sport of eisstockschiessen. Similar to curling, with a long tradition in the Swiss alpine regions, it’s played each year on the hotel’s ice rink.
Hotel Arkanum, Salgesch
Switzerland’s wine culture has a rich history, and the three-star Hotel Arkanum is the ideal place to experience it for yourself. Located in the cute wine village of Salgesch and surrounded by vineyards, this cosy hotel has themed rooms that offer guests a chance to sleep (very comfortably) in a converted wine barrel or wine press. There are also wine tastings, and guests can learn all about the different steps that go into making a good bottle of vino with the hotel’s wine-grower.
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