Why does the Swiss Federal Council go on holiday together every year?

Why does the Swiss Federal Council go on holiday together every year?

When talking about the cut-throat world of politics, we don’t usually expect political rivals to be very close or friendly to each other. However, in Switzerland, the Federal Council breaks the mould by taking a traditional holiday together during the summer.

What is the Federal Council Holiday (Bundesratsreisli)?

The Federal Council Holiday (Bundesratsreisli) is an annual tradition for the Swiss government. Every summer, members of the executive Federal Council, the Federal Chancellor and the two Vice-Chancellors spend two days together on a special holiday visiting Swiss historical sites, cities and landmarks.

The holiday has been held every year since 1957 and typically involves fun activities, team building and speeches. Since 1961, it has been a tradition to spend part of the trip in the home canton of whoever is president at the time.

Why do political opponents holiday together in Switzerland?

Unlike the National Council and Council of States in Switzerland, the executive Federal Council is meant to “govern in consensus”. This means that, despite having councillors from four different political parties, the seven-member group must work together to resolve the issues the country faces.

This makes a holiday and bonding experience beneficial as it showcases how the group works together socially as well as politically. It also gives the public the opportunity to meet with the heads of state in a more relaxed atmosphere, as they spend most of the trip dressed in holiday clothes and are generally free to mingle among the public.

The trip also gives the current president, who usually plans the holiday, the opportunity to highlight some of the "key themes" for their term. This typically means certain destinations and themed activities are used to showcase what the president wants to do during their time in office.

Where are the Swiss Federal Council visiting in 2023?

In 2023, it was the turn of President Alain Berset to plan the holiday, which meant a trip to Canton Fribourg. The vacation is notable as it was the first time that the two new Federal Councillors, Albert Rösti and Elisabeth Baume-Schneider, joined them on holiday.

The trip started with a hike and visit to the Schwarzsee, then a quick boat ride to the stunning town of Murten / Morat, where they discovered how EPF Lausanne was digitising paintings of the famous battle that occurred near the town - a famous Swiss victory against the Burgundians in 1476.

Speaking to reporters, Berset said that the purpose of the trip was for the federal government to better connect with citizens, and for ministers to meet "without stress for once". With the famously hatted Federal Councillor due to resign at the end of this year, he added that many of the people he spoke to on the trip said that they "understood" why he was leaving.

On day two of the trip, the government learnt about glassblowing and visited a music museum in the French-speaking part of canton, before ending the vacation in the city of Fribourg. At multiple points, the residents of the region were able to mingle, joke, discuss and debate with the heads of state, in a scene likely unusual for nationals of other countries.

Federal holiday one of the quirkier aspects of Swiss politics

Despite only being a couple of days every year, the Federal Council's mini-trip tends to produce some of the quirkier moments in Swiss politics. One can only conclude that, even for the most powerful people in the country, it is important to have some rest and relaxation, even if it is with your work colleagues.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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