Everything you need to know about the Eidgenössischer Schwingfest in Zug

There is a buzz of excitement and anticipation around Zug, as the city makes its final preparations to host Switzerland's largest sporting event, the Eidgenössische Schwing- and Älplerfest. Over the fourth weekend in August, the lakeside town will welcome ten times its usual population, with more than 330,000 fans expected. But only 56,000 of them are lucky enough to hold a ticket, the rest they are just here for the party.

Up for experiencing your first Eidgenössische? Here are some of the most asked questions answered to help guide you through the weekend festivities. For more specifics to the sport of Schwingen, pop over and read this post.

What is the Eidgenössischer Schwing- and Älplerfest?

I guess you could call the Eidgenössische the Olympics for the Swiss wrestling world, just more "urchig" and "bodenständig" (unspoilt and down to earth). Every three years the best of the best from the Swiss Schwingen world (swiss wrestling) come together to battle it out for the title of Schwingerkönig (Swiss wrestling King). But it is more than just Schwingen. It is a party for the people - with a parade, concerts and not forgetting the stone-throwing competition.

Photo provided by ESAF Zug

Photo provided by ESAF Zug

Where and when is the fest?

Save the date: 23rd August through to the 25th.

The festival opens on Friday with speeches, a parade and concerts, with the actual wrestling competition beginning bright and early Saturday morning. The festival will finish off late Sunday night when the athletes themselves finally can let their hair down too.

Zug is hosting the event for the third time (last time 1961), and all the locations are just a short walk from its main train station. The festivities begin at the Bossard arena and stretches back into the farming land behind the Herti, where over the past three months the world's largest temporary stadium has been built.

How many athletes are participating?

There are 276 Schwinger from not just Switzerland but also overseas who have qualified for this years Schwingfest in Zug. Fifty-eight from the canton of Bern, 85 from central Switzerland, 65 from North-Eastern Switzerland, 30 from Northwest Switzerland, 30 from the french part of Switzerland and eight from overseas.

Who are the favourites to win?

Will it be local Reichmutt, Pirmin, or the current face of Schwingen Wicki Jöel (you've seen him all over Migros) who takes out the coveted title? Other favourites include the understated Giger, Samuel who has no sponsors or internet presence, or Orlik, Armon who grew up in the Heidi village of Maienfeld. However, being the favourite is not always a positive thing, with their matches expected to be difficult from the get-go.

In an Eidgenössische thanks to its 2-day competition and media pressure, it is common for an outsider to take out the title. So don't discount the strong contingency from Bern including Stucki Christian and 2016 Schwingerkönig Glarner, Matthias. Or local heroes such as Birie, Marcel or from just over the Zug border Schuler, Christian.

Where can I get tickets?

Unfortunately, the festival is entirely sold out, with tickets, even for locals tough to acquire. BUT missing out on tickets doesn't mean you have to miss out on all the action. Plenty is going on outside the arena to make a visit to Zug worth it, and best of all it's free.

Watch the matches inside the main arena live with 8000 of your closest friends in the public viewing area set up outside the Bossard Arena. It is also from here along the Allmendstrasse that you will find the Schwinger Allee (street), lined with stalls full of merchandise, food and drink. Up near the main stadium, there are also four large party tents.

Local restaurants and bars will also be showing the action live on their screens as will the Freiruum, and the local cinema, Kino Seehof. There will be a big screen up outside the Arena as well as in the Stierenmarkt.

Don’t forget that the Stone throwing event, held at the Herti Athletics field, is a non-ticketed event and takes places on Saturday.

Photo provided by ESAF Zug

Photo provided by ESAF Zug

What are the highlights?

The festival begins at 11 am on Friday and continues until Sunday at 10 pm (check out the entire programme here) including the following highlights:

  • Head to the Stierenmark from the 9th August to view the prizes in the Gabentempel. Visit the Muni - Kolin the bull - and enjoy a meal and a drink in the Gabenbeiz.

  • Watch out for Little Z as she walks in the parade on Friday at 2 pm. The parade route begins in the old town, hugging the lake before heading towards the Bossardarena and the Schwinger Allee (Allmendstrasse).

  • On both Friday and Saturday nights enjoy the live concerts in one of the four party tents or at the public viewing in front of the Bossard Arena.

  • Saturday at 7:30 am the Athletes are welcomed into the Zug Arena (ticketed), and the National Anthem of Switzerland sung. For those without tickets, watch at the public viewing in front of the Bossard Arena or live on Swiss TV

  • On Saturday 14:00 and 14:30 watch the finals of the 20kg and 40kg stone-throwing competition which is an unticketed event at the Herti Athletics Field.

  • The final of the 83.5kg Unspunnen stone-throwing is on Sunday in the main arena (ticketed). Broadcasted live on TV and at the public viewing.

  • Watch the battle for the title of Schwingerkönig on Sunday at 16.45.

Photo provided by ESAF Zug

Photo provided by ESAF Zug

What should I eat and drink?

Just like at any Swiss festival, there is plenty of sausages to eat and beer to drink. But I am sure there will be some Zug specialities like Kirschtorte (a cake laced with the local cherry schanpps) on sale too. Your best bet is to wander up and down the Schwinger Allee home to all the food stalls.

But why not try an apple cider called Most that is available in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions or a Kaffee Lutz - a weak coffee with a shot of schnapps.

Most is a traditional cider drunk in Switzerland
Support the Schwingfest in Zug

How can I support the Schwingfest?

Well, first of all, come and join in on the fun! And then buy an Abzeichnung (pin). You can pre-purchase them around the city like at Zug Tourism or buy them at the event from local school kids (like The Teen) who will be walking around selling them. They are made of local cherry wood by ZUWEBE, a company who provide jobs for people with disabilities.

How do I get there?

Please, don't come by car.

Zug isn't big, and even us locals have been warned to stick to public transport that weekend. Luckily Zug is well connected with direct trains from Zurich, Luzern and Lugano arriving regularly. There are plenty of buses too, with the ZVB putting on extra services specifically for the Schwingfest.

For those staying in Canton Zug and wanting to visit each of the three days consider the special bus ticket (3 days including late-night tariff) costing 20chf with half-tax and kids aged 6-16 and 27chf full price. Use the sbb.ch website or app to find your best connection.

Anything else good to know

  • Expect big crowds and make sure you keep your little people close to you. Better yet, write your mobile number on their arm and prepare them just in case they get lost.

  • A Schwingfest isn't a dressy occasion - come casually dressed or who not pull on an Edelweiss shirt. Don't have one? Check out Migros, Märithüssli, or at the event, there will be stalls selling them!

  • Not close to Zug, then you can watch the whole event live on Swiss TV or the SRF website.

  • Get into the spirit with this song composed and filmed especially for the event.