If you’re new to Switzerland, you absolutely must visit the Désalpe de Saint-Cergue in the fall. It’s one of the most incredible and most Swiss things you could possibly attend all year.
Each spring, the cows of the Saint-Cergue area hike up for the coolness of the mountains, and then each September, they make the trip back down as well-wishers gather to celebrate them. As you can see below, the cows are dressed to the nine with some amazing floral displays and large bells.
You’ll need to take the train to the “St-Cergue” destination on the SBB website. It’ll require a quick train swap in Nyon along the way. (If you haven’t already been to Nyon, it makes a great afternoon stop after spending the day in Saint-Cergue, so buy the point-to-point ticket so you can stopover.)
Once you arrive at the train station in Saint-Cergue, it’ll be fairly obvious where you’re going. The crowds will be lining the streets from early morning (first parade in 2019 was at 8:30am). The festival releases a schedule each year on their website, and the cow parades are noted as “troupeaux”. They are on the cows’ time, though, so they don’t entirely stick to the schedule.
There are also plenty of places to shop throughout the town, and you can buy excellent food from multiple vendors. (Unfortunately I didn’t get a video of it, but I witnessed a cow giving the stink eye to a man cooking hamburgers. It wasn’t pretty.)
The event is super family friendly, and there’s a huge playground area for the kids to spend their extra energy. Just be sure to listen for the incoming bells, and run back to the street as a new herd approaches.
Pro tip: Wear shoes that you don’t mind getting a little dirty. The cows make a bit of a mess throughout the parade.