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What the Heck is Fasnacht? What it is and Why You Should Go

Who would have thought little Basel would have a carnival that’s ranked in the top 50 festivals of Europe? Fasnacht is a carnival like no other. There’s a lot of burning (in a wooden town I might add), parading (once at 4am and once with crazy masks), and fun!

Fasnacht is a local festival in Switzerland; it’s Basel’s version of Carnival! It’s such a beautiful tradition that you CANNOT miss if you’re in Switzerland during this time. If you’re in Switzerland the Monday after Ash Wednesday, this is a non-negotiable! It’s a lively and wonderful time of the year, and it’s a tradition that’s been going on every year since 1529. Stay in Basel for a few days – after experiencing Fasnacht, there’s plenty more to do in Basel.

Fasnacht 2021 Information

Fasnacht looks a little different this year! Instead of the parades you usually see, there’s a small walking tour that you can follow to see some iconic parts of fasnacht, including some parade floats, the waagis, and so much more! More information and the map of stops can be found here. Given the current situation, this is an incredible way to see Basel’s fasnacht.


Chienbäse in Leistal

A pre-fasnacht event is Chienbäse. Massive pinewood bundles are lit on fire and paraded around the city. While intentionally lighting giant fires and sending them through a city primarily made up of wood may sound dangerous, these guys have it all under control (and there are fire brigades around just in case).

This event is held in Liestal every year on the night before Morgestraich (more on that later). The huge procession of men holding flaming bundles of pinewood is impressive. It’s a little scary, super hot, and AWESOME.

Dress in clothes you don’t care for, as embers will likely shower down on you! It’s not as dangerous as it sounds (I promise), and it’s such an interesting tradition that you won’t find elsewhere.

Morgestraich: My favourite part of Fasnacht

At 4am, all of the lights in Basel city go out. It’s dark and cold, but then, these beautiful lanterns start parading around town while music is played! The lanterns are each made by a clique (and there are over 150!), and the people who belong to the cliques dress up and accompany their lanterns. The lanterns usually have some cynical or satirical political jokes/statements painted on them, and they are so beautiful! So much work goes into these beautiful statements – they spend the entire year preparing for this night. The costumes and lanterns are all handmade and they are incredible works of art.

You could probably spend all night watching the lanterns and cliques go by. It’s honestly such a sight to see! Once you’ve had your fill, head home and rest up, as there’s another parade at 2 pm! The next parade is a lively one, so you’ll need some rest.

The Big Parade!

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This was is one of my favourite parts of Fasnacht. At 2 pm, the cliques come back out with big floats, piccolos, and drums, and parade throughout the city. They throw loads of confetti into the crowd. But confetti isn’t the only thing they throw –  There are sodas, schnapps, candies, oranges, mimosas (the flower- I wish it was the drink!), condoms, water bottles, and pretty much everything you could think of being thrown/handed out of these floats.

It’s lively, energetic, and so so lovely to be around! There’s a built-up energy that explodes during this parade.

The Next Days after Fasnacht

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There’s loads going on the next few days… children’s parades, parties in the street, and lots of confetti still on the ground. It’s still a GREAT time to be in Basel, as there are more chances to see the floats/lanterns/cliques.

Even when Fasnacht ends, no one’s ready for it! It’s such an incredible few days that you really shouldn’t miss!

What is Fasnacht? More Information

The beautiful culture museum in Basel is my favourite! What people don’t know is that there’s also a Fasnacht museum attached to it, which explains the history of the amazing tradition and all of the incredible work that goes into every aspect of it. I highly recommend checking it out before experiencing this amazing festival.


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