Party Guide & Tips For Bars, Clubs & Cities
There’s good nightlife and a strong party scene in Switzerland, from the Alps in the winter to the cities in the summer.
To really know how to cut loose, here’s all you need to know about partying in Switzerland!
1.) The Drinking Age Is 16. That’s for beer and wine. For hard liquor it’s 18. Every American teenager is jealous of every teenager in Switzerland.
2.) Bars Close As Late As 5 a.m. Most bar close between 2 or 3 in the morning, but a few of them stay open later, until 4 or even 5 in the morning. Those places don’t get cranking until after midnight, and they are not all dance clubs. The lively Irish bar, Paddy Reilly’s in Basel, for example, is open until 5 on weekends.
3.) You Can Drink in Public. In the streets, along the rivers and lakes. There’s no open-container law in Switzerland. You can walk into a store or even a bar and get drinks to go, as long as they are not in a bottle. Bars will give you plastic cups, so if you’re in a place and have the sudden urge to leave, you don’t have to finish your drink there or wait on someone else in your party to get on the move.
4.) Switzerland Has Its Own Beers. (And Whiskey, Too.) And they are good. There are regional breweries in Switzerland and they brew lagers and pilsners. The beers are light in color and flavor, with a taste between that of a light beers and a heavy lager. The whiskey? Well this is not Scotland but it’s certainly strong and tasty.
5.) Switzerland Has Its Own Wine. And Wine Countries. There are vineyards just outside of Zurich and a mini Napa Valley among villages outside of Lausanne. Like the beers, Swiss wines are regional and somewhat light, and are also quite good. IN fact, Swiss wines are like Swiss women.
6.) Most People Drink Beers in the Bars. It’s not that Swiss people don’t drink vodka or other drinks, it’s just that they drink beer when they are out in the bars. That’s because beers are much cheaper in bars – 7-10CHF as opposed to 12-15 for mixed drinks. This also means that in a crowded bar, getting a beer is pretty quick no matter how packed the place is because the bartenders are not taking up a lot of time mixing up several ingredients for a cocktail or fancy martini (American girls, take note).
7.) There Are No American-Style Happy Hours in Switzerland. Americans looking to party in a new place instinctively head out looking for happening Happy Hour bars and restaurant/bars. They won’t find such a thing in Switzerland. Or in most European cities, for that matter. After-work Happy Hours are mainly an American thing. Instead, you’ll see people sitting out at cafes, carrying on casual conversations. Join them; it’s not whoop-it-up wild, but you can sometimes find fun in these quaint places.
8.) There Are Good Party Festivals in Switzerland. The biggest of them all is the Zurich Street Parade, a moving techno party with world-class DJs on floats going through Old Town. Hundreds of thousands of people attend this annual event, which in 2012 is Aug. 11. But that’s not all, for just a 20-minute train ride from Zurich in Winterthur is Albanifest, a three-day music and food festival with bands on stages all over town that literally goes non-stop on Saturday and Sunday. It’s held the last weekend of June. And in July there’s the oddly-named Blue Balls Festival in Lucerne. It’s a music festival by the water; past performers have included Billy Idol.
9.) Swiss Cities Rock The Hardest on Weekends. For the most part, the action in the cities happens on Friday and Saturday nights. It’s not that you can’t find lively bars on other nights, but there difference in the number of people out on even a Thursday to a Friday is remarkable.
10.) Sundays Are Slow in Switzerland. The exceptions are the Apres bars at ski resorts and along the water in Old Town Zurich in the summer.
11.) Tip On Food, Not Drinks. Here’s a bonus tip and it’s about tipping. In Switzerland, you tip (15% is a good tip) for food, but not bartenders when they serve you a drink.