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 in June 2023

From the iconic Art Basel to street food festivals, and jazz music to carousels, here are all the events you shouldn’t miss this June in Switzerland.

10 unmissable events in Switzerland in June 2023

Street Food Festival Locarno

Taste your way around the Street Food Festival Locarno from  Friday, June 2nd, until Sunday, June 4th. The festival will feature 50 food stalls offering freshly prepared delicacies from 30 countries, as well as a number of bars where you’ll be able to enjoy gin and beer tasting to your heart’s content. The best part? Sample portions will be available at every food stall.

Gustemm er Verzasca

While on the topic of food, Ticino will hold the next edition of Güstemm er Verzasca on Saturday, June 3rd, in Gerra Verzasca. The food and wine event, which is organised by the Gruppo Giovani Valle Verzasca and the Fondazione Verzasca, combines leisurely walks through the valley with locally produced foods and beverages.

An adult ticket will set you back 60 francs, while tickets for children aged 7 – 16 years cost 35 francs apiece. Children younger than 7 years of age can attend for free.

Luna Park Lausanne

Every year, Lausanne’s Bellerive area welcomes children and their parents for a few weeks of festival fun as it plays host to the travelling Luna Park, Switzerland’s largest amusement park. Before the park heads to Payerne, it delights visitors in Lausanne with a rollercoaster, various rides, carnival games and a number of food stands.

The event runs until June 11th 2023 and entry is free (rides excluded).

Wine Festival

Between June 2nd and 3rd, the Casa del Vino Weinfestival in Zurich invites wine connoisseurs and casual enthusiasts to taste a colourful bouquet of top wines while getting to know more about the winemakers behind the fancy beverage labels. While there, the pizzaiolo also recommends pairing a Ripasso from Veneto with a wood-fired pizza prepped with ‘tanto amore’.

The event is free and no prior booking is necessary. Buon appetite.

Niesen Stairway Run

This year, the Niesen Stairway Run is celebrating its 20th anniversary and while you can no longer register for the individual run, you can still partake in the relay race on June 9th. The run will see runners climb up 11,674 steps to the Red Bull X-Alps 2023 Turnpoint Niesen in the Bernese Oberland, also known as the Swiss Pyramide.

Note that though the run is a modest 3.4 kilometres long, you will be climbing an impressive 1,669 metres of altitude but fear not, the spectacular view is well worth the (arduous) journey.

Tour de Suisse

If you’re not looking to break a sweat yourself but are in the mood for a sporting event nonetheless, you can join other spectators at 14 host cities across Switzerland for this year’s Tour de Suisse, which takes place from June 11th to 20th. For the first time in the Tour de Suisse Women’s brief history, the race will be held at the highest level – UCI Women’s World Tour.

You can also follow the tour’s route online from the comfort of your sofa.

Art Basel

From June 15th -18th Basel’s leading art fair will be showcasing art of the 20th and 21st centuries across 200 selected galleries from around the globe. Prior to attending the event, which also exhibits in Miami Beach and Hong Kong, you will need to secure a ticket (from 35 francs).

If you’re not in the Basel area this June, you can also join the event online on the same dates.

Zurich Pride Festival

Zurich’s annual Pride Festival will be held once again in the city’s Kasernenareal and the Zeughaushof on June 16th and 17th. The festival sites can be reached from Zurich’s main station on foot in just under ten minutes and entry to the event is free – but there’s another perk.

Festivalgoers attending the event on the second day can use the Regenbogenhaus – packed with mirrors and changing rooms – from 12 pm to 2 pm as their very own styling room. The building will later transform into an oasis of calm between 2 pm and 5 pm for those in need of some downtime after a day’s celebration.

International Trucker & Country Festival

Between June 23rd and June 25h, the resort town of Interlaken is overrun by would-be cowboys and girls as it rings in its annual International Trucker & Country Festival chock-full of music and entertainment for the 28th time. Daily tickets can be purchased on the festival’s website for 35 francs, or if you’re not quite ready to get out of your cowboy boots, a 3-day festival pass will cost you 139 francs.

Montreux Jazz Festival

Switzerland’s iconic jazz festival returns to Montreux from June 30th through to July 15th with acts such as Seal, Sam Smith, and Juliette Armanet. The programme of the festival’s free stages, which will feature more than 400 concerts, DJ sets, and activities, will be revealed on June 1st.

During the festival, a box office, located at the entrance hall of the Music and Convention Center (2M2C), floor B4, will be open every day from 4 pm until the end of the concerts.