International Woodcarving Symposium Brienz

International Woodcarving Symposium Brienz

Jul 02, 2024Jul 06, 2024
Cholplatz, 3855 Brienz,
Canton Bern
Entrance free

There can't be a more picturesque setting for a woodcarving competition than on the shore of Lake Brienz, in the Swiss canton of Bern. Come and watch the wood transform into art, and enjoy the evening programme of free music and entertainment.

The International Woodcarving Symposium Brienz

Now into its 12th year, the International Woodcarving Symposium in Brienz attracts some of the best woodcarvers from around the world. The organisers select only 20 of the very best applicants to take part, trying to ensure an interesting mix of styles and themes.

The sculptors start to arrive on Tuesday, and begin work on their sculpture in the fresh air by the quayside that afternoon. For the first two days, they are allowed to use chainsaws and other large equipment to roughly shape their work. However, from Thursday, only hammers and chisels are permitted. If you come and stay for a day or two, you can watch the sculptures take shape as they work on them. On Saturday is a prize-giving ceremony, but of course we consider everyone taking part a winner!

Woodcarving in Brienz

There is a long tradition of woodcarving in Brienz, so the symposium couldn't be better located. Woodcarvings dating back to 506 have been found in Switzerland, and the Bernese Oberland was the centre of this craft for many centuries. Following the start of the Unspunnen festivals in 1805, a community celebration of local crafts and traditions, woodworking in the region became more refined and was sought-after across the whole country.

A woodcarving school was founded in the town in 1854, and it remains to this day the only woodworking school left in Switzerland! There is also a Museum of Woodcarving, to help promote the craft and to keep some of the masterpieces in the area.

The museum is open every day during the festival, from 10.30am to 5pm, for a small entrance fee. It houses a treasure-trove of wooden objects, from sculptures to automata and music boxes. The special exhibition for 2024 is of intricate models of Swiss chalets, historically a popular items for tourists to take back home with them.

cholplatz with the evening entertainment unerway

Supporting programme of events

The artists work on their pieces throughout the day, but relax with the rest of town in the evening. Each evening has a different free entertainment programme, from folk tales to rock bands to choirs. Food is also available from 9am until midnight every day, including plenty of regional melted cheese delicacies.

While most of the sculptures get sold over the course of the festival to visitors who can't bear to say goodbye to a piece, some get donated to the town. They have taken these and created a sculpture trail along Lake Brienz. What better way to make the most of the summer sunshine than a walk around one of the prettiest lakes in Switzerland with extra art thrown in?

Visiting the International Woodcarving Symposium Brienz

The International Woodcarving Symposium Brienz is completely free, and no tickets or reservations are needed. You can find out more about the programme of events and which sculptors are taking part on the International Woodcarving Symposium Brienz website.

Brienz is very small and everything is within walking distance. It is recommended that you arrive by public transport. The train station is a 5-minute walk from the quayside, and is easily reached from Interlaken, Bern and Lucerne. Indeed, the 30-minute train journey along the lake from Interlaken is worth a visit in itself! There is also a ferry across the lake from Interlaken. It takes a little longer than the train, but is a very romantic way to travel.

town of brienz from the lake