The Swiss Alpabfahrt Cow Parade
Autumn in Switzerland begins with Alpabfahrt (Swiss cow parade), the annual tradition of 350,000 cows coming down the mountains. Swiss cows, having spent a long summer high up in the mountains, come down to the valleys for the cold winter months. Farmers and their cows come down from the mountains to great celebrations. The cows have floral crowns and their biggest fanciest bells around their necks. A friend of mine said Urnäsch has the absolute best cow parade, so we booked a hotel right in the heart of the parade. Urnäsch is a little over an hour from Zürich.
Book a hotel in a town with a cute cow parade
Eat: Our hotel had the most amazing cheese spätzle I have ever eaten. Eat at the end of the parade route in Urnäsch, near the Alpabfahrt train station which is full of beer gardens, apple fritters, bratwurst, raclette, and Appenzeller cheese spätzle.
Play: Take a 15 minute bus (or a 15 minute car ride) to Santis and take the gondola to the top. Also, the Alpabfahrt has pony rides for 1 franc and a pig race.
Cow watching: Check this website for all the Alpabfahrt festivals.
Transportation: We drove an hour and a half from Zürich to Urnäsch. The train takes an hour and a half as well from Zürich HB to Urnäsch.
The Alpabfahrt Cow Parade
This parade has been on my Swiss bucket list since we moved here two years ago. Cows with floral head bouquets and farmers walking them down from the mountains is a festival in many mountain towns. Here is a list of the many towns that celebrate Alpabfahrt in Switzerland. We went to the tiny Appenzell town of Urnäsch to see our very first cow parade.
Where We Stayed
We drove just over an hour from Zürich to Urnäsch and stayed at the cutest little place. The husband and wife were also the chef and host of the hotel. Roger, the chef, also served the farmers with customary drinks as they passed his hotel with their cattle. Isn’t that so sweet?
We were traveling with a family of four with two girls the same age as ours. The owners organized our three rooms all on one floor at the top of their restaurant. We had two rooms for the adults and one room with four beds all in a row for the girls to have a sleepover. It was so sweet. Our rooms looked directly over the parade route with a fantastic view of the parade.
The rooms were a good size, with a little table in each room, a sink, and a TV. There was one bathroom we all shared which worked out fine as there were bathrooms on each floor. All our meals were eaten at the hotel. We agreed that we ate more Appenzell cheese this weekend than ever before. And it was absolutely delicious. The hotel has a coffee shop next door, a Coop a few minutes walk, a delicious bakery one block down the street, and the train station is also about a block away. The only downside to this hotel was the significant cigarette smell.
Have you been to an Alpabfahrt festival in Switzerland? I would love to go to another one next year. If you have any suggestions I’d love to hear them!