Feiertage: Swiss Public Holidays

Feiertage: Understanding the Swiss public holidays

Today not only marks the last public holiday (Feiertage) in the month of May but also for a few months. with 3 public holidays in the month (all of christian holidays) it can seem like you’ve been in constant planning mode for all the long weekends. For most new arrivals the idea alone of having 4 weeks paid holidays can be a lot to wrap your head around. Then you discover that there are also many public holidays on top of that as well. It can be a little hard to adjust to all the extra days off especially in relation to the shopping hours but we’re here to help you out.

One of the most important things to know its that all cantons set their own holiday calendars and you will even see a difference between neighbouring cantons, sometimes even neighbouring cities in the same canton. As Lucerne is a catholic canton we have more public holidays then most other ones, with 16 legally recognised holidays for the canton and for the city of Lucerne this becomes 17 when St. Leodegar day (October) is included. Not all of these days will mean that you get a day off work though, as some fall on a Saturday etc. It can become confusing to keep a handle on it all, however this website is a great source to use as it covers all the cantons of Switzerland and it will also provide you with all the local school holidays as well.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Your public holiday entitlement will depend on where you work i.e. if you work in Bern but live in Lucerne then you won’t have as much holidays as you will be going by the Bern calendar.
  • Swiss National Day on the 1st August is the only federal holiday in the calendar year and the next public holiday to look forward too.
  • A public holiday is treated as a Sunday in every canton. Therefore Sunday rules apply to everything, with shops and businesses being closed. In particular shops will close earlier the day before at either 16:00 or 17:00 and re-open the day after the public holiday.Local transport will run on a Sunday calendar where appropriate.
  • If you can, then avoid heading to the supermarkets at the train stations on public holidays. The shops in the train station are one of the exceptions to the Feiertage rules, along with bakeries and tourist shops and can be open 7 days a week along with having longer opening hours then normal. However, it will be busy…very busy! You can either chose to head there very early in the morning or expect to be waiting in a queue for a little while. The worst experience that I had was a 45 minute wait in a queue and I wasn’t in a position to put everything back and leave although I was very tempted. Thankfully, this was a mistake I made in the first few weeks after I moved here so I learnt my lesson early on.
  • When there is a long weekend on the horizon and the sun is shining in Ticino or Italy you can expect queues for the Gotthard tunnel. This is especially true during the summer holidays as well as it’s not only Swiss cars heading down. Take the time to do some research before you sit into the car to figure out the best time to go for you, this is a great website giving you up to date traffic news along with webcams.

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