Growing up in Texas, I always looked forward to the cool, crisp air of fall after the scorching summer months. It meant cozy meals like stews and chili. Switzerland may not have the same long, sultry summers, but its autumn is invigorating, and the season’s flavors are pronounced. For many people, including me, fall in Switzerland is the best time for food travel, a true feast for the senses. Autumn is the perfect time to embark on a delicious journey filled with picturesque traditions.

The Zurich Film Festival and other cultural events kick off the fall season in the Zurich region. Baseler Herbstmesse (Basel’s Autumn Fair) celebrates the season with one of Europe’s oldest autumn festivals. Herbstmesse in Lucerne provides one more reason to visit this beautiful city. In the countryside, cows wear flower bonnets to parade down from summer pastures. Festivals are decorated with seasonal bunting and come alive with local traditions and games.

Savoring a Swiss autumn

September and October are splendid months in Switzerland. The cities bask in the gentle autumn sun, and restaurants showcase regional treats like wine, cheese, and game dishes. To me, the real charm of Switzerland combines the joy of harvest celebrations with breathtaking views. Here are some delightful ways to immerse yourself in Switzerland’s autumnal spirit, all centered around its delicious food.

Late autumn in Ticino brings a soft cloud cover to villages and hillsides transformed for the season.

Swiss autumn fairs: a time for gathering

La désalpe, or Alpabzug as it’s called in German, is the name given to the return of Swiss cows from high pastures to their valley homes. Although the weather may turn dreary, Swiss cows arrive in the valleys with fanfare, and the occasion is a happy one. Autumn fairs offer simple, tasty meals and for visitors, a chance to join the locals for food, wine and music.

Switzerland is a marvelous year-round destination, but for many, autumn is THE season. Over the space of a few weeks, lush green hillsides gradually turn into vibrant tapestries of yellow, russet, and scarlet. Chestnut roasters replace gelato stalls on city corners. Everywhere, the aroma of grilled sausages signals the arrival of sweater weather.

Cows down in Seewis…well done!
Friends celebrating the season at a Swiss Autumn fair

It’s harvest season!

Switzerland celebrates all kinds of harvests, from truffles to walnuts, to chestnuts to pumpkins. You can find these festivals not only in Switzerland but also in neighboring Italy, France, Germany, and Austria. From mid-September through November, there are numerous opportunities to try local foods with a taste of autumn.

The Swiss cantons sponsor a variety of autumn programs. For example, The Valais of the Senses centers around local specialties. The Foire de Valais in Martigny has been showcasing food, wine and agriculture (and cow fights in the Roman amphitheater) for more than half a century. Severy in French-speaking Switzerland salutes the walnut, and Castagnatas, or chestnut festivals, are held throughout Ticino in October. The Chestnut Festival in Ascona is one of the most popular events, and a personal favorite.

Food souvenirs at Swiss autumn festivals include chestnut beer and balsamic vinegar with rare Mund saffron

Wine country adventures

Every corner of Switzerland boasts its own vineyards and wine regions, celebrated with tastings, vineyard walks and delicious regional menus. The grape harvest season is a time of bustling activity as vineyards prepare to harvest at the peak of grape sugar ripeness. Steep alpine valleys beckon, creating dreamlike landscapes during early twilight.

Spectacular color comes to the lower reaches of Swiss mountains, in a season spanning several weeks. Days or weekends center around wine, with food on the side, and some events pairing wine and food in equal measure. Many places host artistic and musical events, from Alphorn concerts to sculpture classes.

Ascona’s Chestnut Festival is a great time to savor Ticino’s great Merlot (have you tried white Merlot?). On the northern side of the Alps, “At the heart of the harvest” invites wine lovers to experience the thrill of the season and sample the best wines from diverse Swiss regions.

Harvest time in a Valais vineyard

Fall menus in Switzerland: “Wild” and seasonal

Game (Wild in German) is on menus all over the country in autumn. Chase down your inner hunter-gatherer with rabbit, venison and boar, or partridge and quail. Alternatively, enjoy comforting risotto in Ticino, and cheesy raclette and fondue just about everywhere. Side dishes and vegetarian menus include fresh chanterelles, poached apples and pears, caramelized chestnuts and often, fresh spaetzle.

Desserts are gloriously seasonal with berries and walnuts. After dinner, Swiss digestives, produced from a range of stone fruits and nuts, come out. Abricotine from French-speaking Valais also is just right for a cool-weather Raclette evening and Nocino is a great after-dinner choice in Italian-speaking Ticino.

Pork stew with risotto at Osteria Manciana in Scudellate, Mendrisio in Ticino.

Say “cheese”!

Cheese festivals, known as Chästelets mark the time for farmers to distribute the cheese from the past year, and take orders for the next season. For visitors, the festivals provide a unique opportunity to breath in the crisp mountain air, taste amazing cheeses, and watch local farmers ring in the season with their giant cow bells.

Swiss dairy farmers make a grand entrance, massive cow bells clanging.
At an annual Chästelet (cheese festival), date-stamped rounds await customers who put in their orders a year in advance.

If you go

If you are planning to experience Switzerland in the fall, here are a few hints to enhance your trip:

  • Looking for a sunny place to spend an autumn weekend, or want to find the event with the best weather? Make sure to check the dates and times for seasonal events on
  • Don’t forget to pack your camera, to capture the stunning beauty of Switzerland in the fall!

In Switzerland, autumn is a season of culinary and cultural delights that will leave you with unforgettable memories. Whether exploring harvest festivals, indulging in Swiss wines, or savoring autumn hearty dishes, fall in Switzerland is a feast for the senses that every well-traveled food enthusiast should experience.

Do you know Switzerland in autumn?

Note: Fall in Switzerland, the best time for food travel? originally appeared on Anita’s Feast on 7 September, 2015, updated 12 September, 2023.


  1. Very good advice for fall travel in Switzerland. So many wonderful places to explore! I am hoping to visit a chestnut festival soon, but may have to wait until next year. Many thanks!

  2. I think September and October are good times to travel to a number of places. Weather is often pleasant for touring and crowds have diminished. The harvest bounty in Switzerland would be an added bonus (as are the colours on the hills). It would be fun to take in one of the harvest festivals.

    • You’re right Donna! How to narrow down all the places one can get to in the fall?! It’s a hard thing to do, but thankfully in this season, there is often something wonderful not that far away.

  3. I’m convinced shoulder and off-season are the only way to go, so if we’re talking Switzerland, autumn or spring would be the best matches for me. I’d love to go on a tasting tour to the places you’ve featured in this post. If autumn is Switzerland’s best time for food travel, so much the better!

  4. You had me at Cheesefest! with a cowbell parade. I wouldn’t know whether to photograph everything or eat myself silly. Never thought about Switzerland in Autumn. i’ve got a friend who’s just moved there. … might have to give him a call!

    • Ah, then you know exactly what I’ve tried to convey in the post! Cow bells are certainly atmospheric, but there is no suitcase that could accommodate the ones the farmers clang with at local festivals 🙂

  5. The Lauterbrunnen Valley looks spectacular. Oh you have made me want to return to Switzerland today. I’ve only been briefly for a couple of days on a whistle-stop coach tour. Those colours, the prettiness … the cheese! Yes please 🙂

  6. I’ve been wanting to go to Switzerland for years but someone haven’t made it yet. Now that I live in Florida I really miss the change of seasons and I’m ready to pack now and head to Switzerland based on this post! Can you get around to most of these places on trains or is better to rent a car? That white Merlot will be calling out to me all day!

    • I moved here from SE Asia, and went gaga over having seasons again…it’s been a delight to discover so many great pleasures of a European harvest season! You can get to virtually all of the harvest festivals by public transport (combo of train and Post bus)…really, to any location served by Swiss Post. It can take time, though, and some planning to make it happen.

  7. Europe in the Fall is a perfect time to visit! We were there in October and it was crisp and not crowded. Your trip looked amazing and so are your photos. The only time I was in Switzerland was while I was in college (just a few years ago) and it was in the summertime.

    • Thank you Suzanne! The pics and recommendations are not from a single trip, but they could be. Switzerland is delightfully compact and it is easy to travel here.

  8. What a beautiful post, Anita. Such gorgeous pics that made me want to book a return trip to Switzerland. It is indeed a delightful place to visit any time of year. Having been there once in fall, I concur that it is a lovely time to visit. P.S. I’m shocked that you didn’t mention Swiss Chocolate!

    • Hi Doreen, I’m glad you approve of my choice of Switzerland in autumn. As for chocolate, it’s good year-round! It was left out only because I’ve not seen it given any special prominence in the fall 🙂 .

  9. You have definitely tempted me! My problem is that our Autumn break is quite late, near the end of October, and by then the pretty leaves will be past their best and I suspect the snow will have started in Switzerland. Hmm. Maybe one of these years I can manage a long weekend in September. Your pictures make me want to go there NOW!

    • Hi Rachel and thanks for your comment…actually, you have some time for a show of autumn color in Switzerland. They are starting to change now, but will be putting on the color through October! Higher elevations will of course finish sooner. Ticino, on the southern side of the Alps, is good all the way to mid-November (in recent years, anyway). A colorful alternative closer to you might be the Black Forest, or the region along the Bodensee. Just a thought.

  10. Yes, you have tempted for a fall visit to Switzerland. It sounds like the Swiss know how to do festivals and with so many good reasons to celebrate. My one and only visit to Switzerland was in mid-November, so much different than earlier in the season, but still beautiful and with a special dramatic feel. I can’t imagine that there would be a bad time to visit.

    • Yes, Switzerland is great year-round! For me, though, it gets a special boost in the fall, when the combination of autumn color and foods take center stage. You should definitely return when the Swiss are working their festival magic.

  11. Hi Anita
    Enjoyed reading your article.We are planning a trip to Switzerland next year.Is early September too early for the gorgeous fall colours we are hoping to see?I don’t want to risk going later than that and having to fight bad weather.

    • The seasons seem to be less predictable than in the past. However, some Swiss customs, such as bringing cows down from mountain pastures happen mid-September, on a designated scheduled, and those experiences often come with the beginnings of beautiful fall color as well as changeable weather. I really don’t know exactly when is too early for beautiful color, but if you are flexible, you might want to check in with the Swiss tourism website and see when they start to talk about autumn travel. Whenever you go, have a great trip!

  12. Thanks for such an inspiring post, Anita!
    I usually thought of Switzerland as a nature-based tourism destination, but now I really want to explore the seasonal foods as well. I’m planning to visit this beautiful country in 2018, trying to choose between late spring and early autumn (to have warm days and fewer tourists). Checked some resources like Rough Guides and RoveMe, quite informative but as I really liked your blog I think you could give some great personal advice. It’s going to be three of us, college friends who love nature, maybe visit a museum or two, and ready spend half of our budget on cheese and chocolate (and seasonal treats!).

    • Thank you, Amanda…so happy you enjoy the blog! All of our posts are based on personal experience, with links to the providers when available. I’d suggest that you pop over to those websites for the latest information about activities and events that appeal to you and your group of travelers. Particulars of the experiences we recount may well have changed since we relocated from Switzerland to Portugal, so I think your best bet is to use our posts as a starting point. Good luck with planning your trip!


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