The Festival International de Ballons, or International Hot Air Balloon Festival, is the largest hot air ballooning event in Switzerland. It is held every year in the village of Château-d’Oex. The festival is known for its picturesque location in a valley of the Swiss Alps.
The Festival International de Ballons is held each January over 9 days and features the daily launch of dozens of hot air balloons. The festival also includes air shows, flying competitions, mini balloon demonstrations, and a big night glow event. In addition to the balloon events, the festival also offers on-site family-friendly workshops, helicopter rides, balloon flights, exhibitors, and other entertainment.
There are two unique features of this hot air ballooning festival. First, it is one of the few hot air balloon festivals that takes place during the winter. Second, it is one of the only festivals where you can see hot air balloons fly over snow-capped mountains.
We love hot air balloon events, so we were excited that we were able to attend the International Hot Air Balloon Festival in Château-d’Oex in 2020. We’ll tell you all about our own experience and share everything you need to know to attend this balloon festival yourself!
This information is updated each year and we will update it with the 2023 festival details once the full program is released later this year. However, the information here will give you a good idea of what takes place at the festival each year and how you can plan your trip if you wish to attend.
Table of Contents:
Information on Attending the Festival International de Ballons
Below we’ll cover all the logistical information related to attending the balloon festival in Switzerland, including getting there, parking, booking lodging, booking balloon flights, and finding the best balloon viewing spots.
When is the 2023 Festival International de Ballons event?
The Festival International de Ballons in Switzerland is an annual event, taking place each winter. It normally takes place at the end of January and lasts for about 9 days. The dates of the festival change each year so be sure to check the official website.
The 2023 Festival International de Baloons event (the 43rd edition) is scheduled to take place from January 21 to January 29.
The 2021 and 2022 Festival International de Ballons events were both cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The last festival was held in 2020.
Note: The festival is often referred to by other names, especially in English. The English version on the festival website is International Hot Air Balloon Festival which is what we also use in the article. But we have seen it denoted as “Balloon Week”, Festival of Balloons, and Château-d’Oex International Balloon Festival.
Where is the Festival International de Ballons event?
All the events of the Festival International de Ballons take place within the village of Château-d’Oex. The small village is located in southwestern Switzerland within the Pays-d’Enhaut region.
The main daily events, including the morning and afternoon ascensions, airshows, helicopter rides, and passenger balloon flights, take place in a small grassy field located along the Route de Saanen in Château-d’Oex. This is also where the ticket and information booth, exhibitors, and food vendors are located. The field is located next to the Landi store and the TI-Bar and Snowgarden.
Chateaux d’Oex is located about a 16 mile / 25 km drive from Gruyères and a 31 mile / 50 km drive from Montreux. It is about a 87 mile / 140 km drive from Geneva.
If you need a general address for your GPS unit, you can input Route de Saanen 2, 1660 Château-d’Oex, Switzerland46°28’14.5″ N, 7°07’39.1″ E
There are a couple of public parking lots in the village that are used for the event. You should follow event signs and volunteer staff instruction to park once you get in the village.
It should be noted that the Night Glow event is normally set up along the ridge to the north side of the village. Visitors can then view it from most areas of the village. The two most popular spots to view the Night Glow are from standing within the large sports field (Terrain de Football) and standing on the hill next to the village’s Protestant church (often referred to as Le Temple).
There are also usually other smaller events during the festival which take place elsewhere in the village such as in the town hall, local cinema (CinEden), and L’Espace Ballon (hot air balloon museum). All events are generally held within locations that are within walking distance of one another.
Getting to Chateaux d’Oex?
If you are traveling from outside of the region, you can get to the area by train, plane, bus, or car. You can directly reach the village of Chateaux d’Oex by car or train.
The nearest international airport is Geneva Airport (Genève Aéroport). This is the closest major airport to the hot air balloon festival.
You can then travel from Geneva to Chateaux d’Oex by train, taxi, or by car. By train, it takes about 2.5 hours by train to get from the airport to Chateaux d’Oex. By car, it takes about 1.5 to 2 hours.
If you are in Europe, traveling by train may be a good option as you can get directly to Chateaux d’Oex by train. The main local line that runs through this region is the Montreux-Oberland Bernois (MOB) railway.
You can check train schedules and purchase tickets on the Trainline website.
If you have a train pass, you can also travel across Switzerland with a Eurail Pass (non-European resident travelers) or Interrail Pass (European resident travelers). You get a train pass for just Switzerland or a global pass for over 30 countries.
During the 2022 festival, each holder of a train ticket, valid on the MOB and TPF railway lines to Château-d’Œx, can have a free game of bowling at the Bowling du Parc in Château-d’Œx (open every day from 2 p.m.)
The only regular bus service to Chateaux d’Oex is between the village and Col des Mosses via Carpostal Suisse. So for most routes, you will need to take a train rather than a bus.
But you can get around Switzerland by bus and then get a train to the village. You can check bus (and train) connections on the Trainline website.
Chateaux d’Oex is located about a 16 mile / 25 km drive from Gruyères, a 31 mile / 50 km drive from Montreux, and a 49 mile / 79 km drive from Lausanne. It is about a 88 mile / 144 km drive from Geneva, 56 mile / 89 km drive from Bern, and a 181 mile / 291 km drive from Lyon, France.
Note that if you are coming from Geneva, you can head north via the A1 around the lake or south around the lake. It is a shorter distance if you take the southern route, but is usually much faster to take the northern route via the A1.
Just be aware that if you are driving in Switzerland on the motorways, you need to have a Swiss motorway sticker, or vignette, on display on the car window. The sticker needs to be renewed each year. You can find out more and where to buy this online here. Most rental cars should already have the sticker in the car, but always check to make sure you have a valid sticker before leaving the rental agency.
How Much is Admission to the Château-d’Oex Balloon Festival?
The cost of admission to the festival depends on the day you visit:
- CHF 15 per day for Saturdays and Sundays
- CHF 5 for Wednesday (children’s day)
- CHF 25 for admission throughout the festival (comes with a souvenir pin)
- Admission is free for children under age 16
- The Night Glow is free for the public to watch
The admission tickets and pins are sold at the ticket booth at the entrance to the festival.
You should keep your festival tickets as they also get you freebies and discounts at local attractions, including free entrance to the local hot air balloon museum L’Espace Ballon.
NOTE: In 2022, all visitors must also have a valid COVID-19 pass and photo identity card for all those age 16 and older to enter the festival.
What are the Main Events at the Château-d’Oex Balloon Festival?
The major events during the festival are the daily mass ascents, but there are a number of other events planned each day as well.
Mass Ascensions – This is when dozens of balloons launch in the same period of time, generally over a 1 hour period. You can watch the balloons being set up, inflated, and launched from the field. This takes place in the morning around 10:30 am on weekend mornings. However, weather or other delays often causes these to take place a bit later than expected.
Inflations – In addition to the mass ascensions, you can watch hot air balloons inflate and launch at other times throughout the festival. The balloons inflate and take off each morning of the festival and often a second time again in the afternoon. This includes both regular pilot flights and passenger flights. Special shape balloons are often featured.
Air Shows – The air shows generally include acrobatic airplane shows, mini balloon inflations, airships, parachutists, and/or paragliders. An air show generally takes place each weekend afternoon of the festival.
Night Glow – Taking place in the evening, pilots inflate their hot air balloons and keep them tethered to the ground. Then once dark, the pilots will periodically ignite their propane burners so that the balloons light up and glow to music. The show also includes paragliders, choreographed night skiing, fireworks, and other aerial displays. If you want to attend a Night Glow, be sure to check the schedule as there is just one Night Glow event each year. This is the highlight of the festival for many locals and visitors.
Ballooning Competitions – There are scheduled pilots’ ballooning competitions where balloon pilots compete on flying tasks designed to test their dexterity, speed, and accuracy. These usually all take place on the same day.
Balloon Flights & Helicopter Flights – There is an opportunity for the public to go up in a hot air balloon (vols en ballons) each morning and afternoon of the fiesta, weather permitting. Those interested in a balloon flight can book them in advance or once at the festival. There is a fee for all flights. Flights are CHF 390 per adult (age 16+) and CHF 195 per child. There are height and age requirements for children.
Helicopter Flights – Short helicopter flights (baptêmes en hélicoptère) are also offered to the public during several days of the festival. No advance reservation is necessary for the helicopter flights. There is a fee for all flights which is CHF 60 per adult (age 16+) and CHF 50 per child in 2022.
Tethered Balloon Flights (Vols Captifs) – Children age 5 to 12 can also enjoy tethered balloon flights (vols captifs). The short flights allow a child to go up in a balloon that is monitored and kept tethered to the ground. These are available on weekends and on Children’s Day for a limited amount of hours. These cost CHF 10 per child in 2022.
Other Events & Activities – There are also other attractions or events scheduled each year that take place around the main balloon events, such as exhibitions, children’s workshops, films, flight simulators, treasure hunts, CERN workshops, and family events. There are also children’s rides, information booths, and food vendors within the festival area. Some activities are free and some have a fee. L’Espace Ballon, the local balloon museum, is also open throughout the event and free to visit with a festival ticket.
Note that these events take place on different days of the fiesta, so check the latest online schedule to see when each is being offered. Most events take place on weekends, with fewer events taking place on weekdays.
How many days should I attend the Festival International de Ballons?
We would recommend coming to the festival for at least 2 or 3 days. We’d also strongly recommend planning to attend over one of the weekends, as many of the festival’s events are scheduled on Saturdays and Sundays.
While you may only be interested in seeing only one or two events, almost all events are weather dependent and may be canceled. So if you allow extra time, you will have a much better chance of seeing the hot air balloons launch even if you encounter some bad weather
For example, we spent about 6 days at the event in 2020, and several of the balloon events had to be canceled due to bad weather. We got very lucky with calm weather the first weekend, and then snow, rain, and wind canceled most of the weekday and second weekend balloon events. But during our visit, we were still able to see several launches, do a morning passenger flight, see an Air Show, and see the Night Glow event.
If you come for a few days and get to see the balloons go up the first day, there are plenty of things you can do in Chateau d’Oex and the Pay-d’Enhaut region. You can also visit popular towns and cities like Gruyères, Gstaad, and Montreux, which all make good day trips from Chateau d’Oex.
What are the Best Days to attend the Balloon Fiesta?
I would check the official festival schedule and base your visits around the events you most want to see. The most popular events at the Château-d’Oex Balloon Festival are the mass ascensions and the Night Glow.
The Children’s Day afternoon event is also a popular time for those with families. Check the schedule for other special events.
The most crowded event is definitely the Night Glow, as it attracts a lot of locals as well as all the visitors in the area. So expect crowds on that evening and you may want to go out early to find a spot to watch. The festival was also busy on good weather weekend days when balloons were launching, but the crowds were always manageable.
The Festival International de Ballons is not nearly as crowded as other hot air balloon festivals that we have attended. The festival generally receives a total of 20,000 to 40,000 spectators over the 9 day event, depending on the year.
How do I get to the Château-d’Oex Balloon Festival?
The event takes place in the Swiss village of Château-d’Oex. The main ways to get to the village are by car or train. If you are staying in the village you can walk. Taking a taxi, bus, or cycling may be possible for some.
Chateaux d’Oex is located about a 25 km (16 mile) drive from Gruyères, a 50 km (31 mile) drive from Montreux, a 79 km (49 mile) drive from Lausanne, and about a 144 km (88 mile) drive from Geneva.
There are two or three public parking lots in the village that are used for the event. You should follow event signs to park once you get in the village or ask event staff.
In prior years, the parking was free. But it looks like for the 2022 festival, parking costs CHF 1 per hour from Monday to Saturday between midnight and 7 p.m. The two main public parking lots are located at the football pitch and Coop supermarket.
It is about a 5 to 10 minute walk from the parking lots to the festival entrance.
You can take a train to Château-d’Oex and the train station is located near the town center. A number of nearby towns and cities have good regular train connections with Château-d’Oex, including Montreux, Gstaad, and Zweissman.
MOB is the main service in this area, but the TPF also usually extends service to Château-d’Oex during the balloon festival from Bulle. There are also usually extra MOB trains offered on the weekends of the balloon festival.
The train station is about an 8 minute walk to the festival entrance. You can check on train schedules and purchase tickets on the Trainline website.
Normally, during the festival, each holder of a valid train ticket on the MOB or TPF railway lines to Château-d’Oex benefits from certain discounts. In 2020, this was a free game at the Château-d’Oex Bowling Alley as well as a 50% discount at the Musée du Pays-d’Enhaut.
The only regular bus service to Chateaux d’Oex is between the town and Col des Mosses via Carpostal Suisse. So from most locations, you will want to take a train rather than a bus. Buses stop at the train station.
Taxi or Rideshare
If you are not traveling too far, you should be able to arrange a taxi to Château-d’Oex. I would arrange your trip in advance to be sure you are able to get a ride. It will depend on where you are coming from, but local taxi companies include Jacky Voyages and Taxi Ballon (Telephone: 026 924 56 56).
Given that there are a limited amount of taxi services in the region, it is a good idea to arrange a way back in advance.
To our knowledge, there are no rideshare options available in this area.
If you are staying in Château-d’Oex, you can simply walk to the event. There are several hotels, B&B’s, and apartments in Château-d’Oex. The village is not very large and if staying here, you will be within walking distance of the festival.
When we attended the festival, we parked at our accommodation and then walked to the event each day. We have stayed at the Hotel Roc et Neige, which is the one of the closest lodging options to the balloon field, and it was about a 5 minute walk away from the field. We have also stayed at the B&B Rosaly and it is about a 10 minute walk away.
Note that the main part of the village and the church do sit on hills, so those with mobility difficulties may want to leave a bit of extra time.
For those who enjoy camping and caravanning, there is a private campsite in Château-d’Oex called Camping le Berceau. It is closed most of the winter; however, it normally opens for holidays and for the Château-d’Oex International Balloon Festival.
The campsite accepts bookings for campers with caravans, motorhomes, or tents, and it offers electrical hookups. Given it is winter, we would not recommend tent camping this time of year! You can book in advance to secure a spot.
The Camping le Berceau campsite is about a 15 minute walk to the main festival area. So it is really convenient for those wanting to camp and then walk to the festival.
Parking Tips for the Festival International de Ballons
If you are planning to drive here, we recommend leaving early and allowing extra time to get to the event and park. The roads are going to be busier than usual before, during, and after the festival events.
Parking signs in the village help direct you to where to park. Volunteers are around to help you park and park in the correct places.
Parking is first come, first serve. If the main parking lots fill, the parking volunteers will direct you to other spots to park.
In prior years, the parking for the event was free with an event ticket. But it looks like for the 2022 festival, it wil cost CHF 1 per hour from Monday to Saturday between midnight and 7 p.m. The two main public parking lots are located at the football pitch and Coop supermarket. So make sure to bring money to cover the parking charge.
Note that some parking areas next to the field are for staff, VIP guests, pilots, etc. So be sure to check signs before parking so you park in the right area.
The walk from the parking areas to the entrance of the event is generally between 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how close you are able to park.
How early should I arrive for the Château-d’Oex Balloon Festival?
The festival is the biggest annual event in the Pays-d’Enhaut region so the roads will be busier than usual. So we recommend if you are arriving from outside Château-d’Oex, that you leave plenty of time to park and get to the event so you don’t miss anything.
The weekends and the Friday evening of the Night Glow are the busiest times of the festival. I would recommend arriving at least 30 minutes before morning balloon launches and mass ascensions, and at least 1 hour before the Night Glow.
If you book a balloon flight during the festival, you should receive information for when to arrive and where to go. I’d recommend arriving early to make sure you have plenty of time to check-in and don’t miss your flight.
Are there upgraded experiences available?
The things that you can see and do at the festival are pretty much the same for all visitors and are included in the festival entrance price. If you are looking for something special, we’d recommend booking a hot air balloon flight or helicopter flight during the event.
But those who want to support the event and the local balloon museum can get some perks by becoming members of Les Amis due Ballon club.
The Amis du Ballon is a club where supporters of the event have special access to a VIP area and get free access throughout the festival. Depending on the level of your contribution, you may also get a free balloon flight, Champagne, and access to throw a private event at the Espace Ballon.
Accessibility at the Festival International de Ballons?
The event space is a mix of grassy areas and paved areas. Part of the terrain can be wet, muddy, or snow covered depending on the weather. Visitors are likely to encounter both flat and uneven surfaces, and some of the vendors and rides require going up a small hill.
When we were there, the grassy hill was pretty muddy from melted snow and lots of visitors. So those who have difficulty on grass, snow, or dirt terrains should consider traveling with a companion.
Note that the main part of the village and the church do sit on hills, so those in wheelchairs and those with mobility difficulties should take care, especially if sidewalks or roads have snow or ice on them.
Although there is no disabled parking next to the field, those with mobility issues can be dropped off next to the entrance to the festival.
There is a wheelchair-accessible toilet on-site at the festival.
Those with concerns about accessibility may want to contact the festival staff in advance with any questions.
Are dogs allowed at the Festival International de Ballons?
Yes, dogs are welcome at the festival if they are kept on a leash. Other pets are also allowed as long as properly restrained. Pet owners need to attend and clean up after their pets.
Pet owners should be aware though that the festival is often crowded and there will be loud noises from the balloons, helicopters, and other attractions which can scare and cause stress to animals.
What items are prohibited at the event?
Visitors are asked not to bring outside food, drink, or glass bottles into the event.
Are food and drinks available at the balloon festival?
There were several food vendors selling food and drinks during the event. There were baguette sandwiches, burgers, wraps, sausages, fondue, pizza, kebabs, Chinese food, and snacks. Beverage options included coffee, soda, bottled water, wine, and beer.
The TI-Bar is located next to the field where the balloons launch and is open in the winter, and serves light meals and snacks such as salads, soups, and fondue, as well as wine, beer, and coffee. You can sit inside or on the restaurant’s terrace. The terrace is a nice place to enjoy a light meal and watch the balloons, although you will want to arrive early to get a seat here.
So at the festival you have options to get food from outdoor vendor stalls, from inside the hall, or from the TI-Bar. The hours each is open varies, but most are open for lunch and snacks during the festival events.
Note that some of the vendors only accept cash, so good to have some Swiss francs on you. But most will accept credit cards.
What about toilets at the festival?
There were free public toilets available at the event. There were a set of outdoor portable toilets as well as indoor toilets located in the main building. Both had running water and flushing toilets.
Where to stay during the Château-d’Oex Balloon Festival?
We definitely recommend booking your lodging once you know when you want to attend the festival. There are a limited amount of accommodation options in Château-d’Oex and the best rooms can book up in advance. Nearby towns and villages you might consider include Rougemont, Rossinière, and Gstaad.
Where you stay is going to be partially determined by how you plan to get to and from the festival as some villages are only accessible by car and others allow you to easily travel by train.
Château-d’Oex and surrounding villages offer a number of simple and mid-range accommodations, including hotels, chambre d’hôtes (equivalent to bed-and-breakfast in English), apartments, and a youth hostel. If you are looking for luxury accommodation, I’d check out the options in Gstaad as it has a number of 4 and 5 star hotels and resorts.
If you want to stay in a larger town with more amenities, you might consider staying in Montreux. The town is located on the scenic shore of Lake Geneva and offers a number of attractions, restaurants, and shops. It has good train links to Château-d’Oex so you can easily get to and from the festival each day.
If you are planning to ski or snowboard in the area, you might consider a place where you can just walk to the slopes. Rougemont, Les Mosses, or Gstaad may be good towns to consider as each have a ski center.
If your main goal is to be close to the event, we can definitely recommend staying in Château-d’Oex. We were able to just walk to and from the event each day which was very convenient.
If you want to stay in Château-d’Oex, we would definitely recommend booking well in advance, especially if you plan to stay over a weekend. We booked over a month in advance, and the room choices were pretty limited. We had to book two separate single hotel rooms for the first two nights of the first weekend of the festival as we could not find any double rooms available in town.
Some recommendations for where to stay in Château-d’Oex:
- Hotel Roc et Neige – This 3-star hotel offers basic rooms with private bathrooms, an included continental breakfast buffet, a bar, a sauna, and free parking. We’ve stayed here and it was very convenient for the balloon festival. The hotel is about a 5 minute walk from the balloon festival field.
- Ermitage Maison d’Hôtes (Ermitage Country Inn) – This bed-and-breakfast offers 10 guestrooms with private bathrooms, breakfast, parking, and an on-site restaurant and bar. This inn is the closest accommodation to the balloon festival, located just across the road, and is about a 1 minute walk away.
- B&B Rosaly – The rustically-furnished historical B&B offers a variety of comfortably furnished rooms, many with balconies, and an included continental breakfast. Some rooms have private bathrooms and some have shared bathrooms. Located near the train station and grocery store. We’ve stayed here as well. It is about a 10 minute walk from the festival field.
- B&B Berceau (Les Chambres d’Hôtes du Berceau) – This traditional chalet on a farm offers rooms with private bathrooms, free parking, included homemade breakfast, and a sauna. It is about a 15 minute walk away from the festival.
- Hotel de Ville – This 3-star hotel is located in the village center, and offers comfortable rooms with private bathrooms, included breakfast, and an on-site restaurant and bar. Located near the train station so ideal for train travelers. It is about an 8 minute walk from the festival field.
- Jugendherberge Château-d’Oex – This is a simple youth hostel that is geared towards school groups, sports groups, and families. Offers various types of shared room with shared common room, kitchen, and parking. It is about a 8 minute walk from the festival field.
- Local Apartments – There are several apartments and chalet-style homes available for stays in Château-d’Oex. These are perfect for those looking for a self-catering stay and want a bit more privacy. Just be sure to note the distance from the festival as some may be outside the village and require a long walk or car ride to get to the festival.
Some recommendations for elsewhere in the region (within 30 minute drive or train ride):
- Hotel de Commune in Rougemont – This 3-star hotel offers simply furnished rooms with private bathrooms, free parking, and an on-site restaurant. Hotel is a 7.5 km / 4.6 mile drive away from the festival area or you can take the MOB train to Château-d’Oex.
- Hotel de Rougemont & Spa in Rougemont – This 4-star Alpine chalet-style hotel features comfortable well-appointed guest rooms with private bathrooms and modern amenities, lounge bar, on-site restaurant, fitness room, indoor pool, ski storage, free parking, and spa. A 5-minute ski shuttle ride from Vidmanette Ski Lift. It is a 7.5 km / 4.6 mile drive or you can take the MOB train to Château-d’Oex.
- Hotel du Chamois in L’Etivaz – This hotel is set in a rustically-furnished 19th-century chalet and offers simple rooms, free parking, and included breakfast. Some rooms have private bathrooms and some have shared ones. You can drive (7.5 km / 4.6 miles) or take the local bus (Postbus) to reach Château-d’Oex from L’Etivaz.
- Hotel Restaurant Elite in Rossinière – This hotel offers guestrooms (most have private bathrooms, some have balconies), included breakfast, on-site restaurant, and free parking. This is a great village to consider if you are looking for a quiet and peaceful stay. It is about a 4.9 km / 3 mile drive or you can take the MOB train to Château-d’Oex.
- Gstaad Palace in Gstaad – This beautiful 5-star luxury hotel sits on a hill overlooking the ski resort town of Gstadd. It offers modern guestrooms with luxury amenities, 5 restaurants, bars, a spa and health club, swimming pool, gym, activity rooms, tennis courts, and more. If you have a larger budget and are looking for a luxury hotel in the area, this is definitely one to consider. It is about a 17 km / 11 mile drive away from the festival, or you can take the MOB train.
Some recommendations for where to stay in Montreux (we recommend that train travelers stay within walking distance of Montreux Gare to catch MOB train):
- La Rouvenaz – This 3-star hotel is located next to Lake Geneva and offers spacious rooms and suites with private bathrooms and an on-site bar and restaurant. Continental breakfast is available for an additional fee and parking is available nearby. It is a 5 minute walk away from the main train station, Montreux Gare.
- Hotel Eurotel – This 4-star hotel is located on the banks for Lake Geneva and offers comfortable spacious rooms, an on-site bar and restaurant, 24-hour front desk, a spa, sun terrace, and a fitness center. Most rooms have a balcony overlooking the lake. Breakfast available. You can park in the hotel’s private parking garage on site for a fee. It is a 4 minute walk from train station.
- Grand Hotel Suisse Majestic – This 4-star Belle-Epoque luxury hotel sits next to Lake Geneva and offers comfortable well-appointed rooms, an on-site bar and restaurant, and a fitness room with sauna. Breakfast buffet available. No on-site parking, but guests can park in nearby parking garage for a fee. Only 1 minute walk to train station.
- Fairmont La Montreux Palace – This elegant historical 5-star luxury hotel sits on the shores of Lak Geneva and offers well-appointed guest rooms, several on-site restaurants and bars, 24-hour front desk, 24-hour room service, spa, fitness center, and 2 swimming pools. Breakfast, valet parking, and airport shuttle available for an additional fee. It is about a 6 minute walk away from the train station.
Camping during the Festival International de Ballons?
The closest campsite to the hot balloon festival is the Camping le Berceau located in Château-d’Oex. The campsite accepts bookings for campers with caravans, motorhomes, or tents. It offers electrical hookups for most spaces.
The campsite is closed most of the winter, but it opens for holidays and the Château-d’Oex International Balloon Festival. You can book in advance to secure a spot.
The Camping le Berceau campsite is about a 15 minute walk to the main festival area. So it is really convenient for those wanting to camp and then walk to the festival.
There are other campsites in the area; however, most are closed at this time of the year. If you are looking for a campsite for use during the festival, we’d definitely recommend staying at this one.
How do I know if the Balloon Festival is going to be canceled due to weather?
Hot air balloons are highly weather dependent and it is not safe for them to fly if there are poor conditions related to wind, rain, visibility, etc. If there is a bad storm or a really bad weather forecast, the organizers will often cancel the event hours in advance or even a day in advance. So you will want to check for updates before you head to the event.
However, in some cases, when if it is more unclear whether the balloons will be able to launch, you may not learn about cancelations or delays until the event is about to start or may even after it was scheduled to start.
The best place to get live updates online in our experience is from the event’s official Twitter account, where they tweet whether the balloons will be able to launch or not each day in French. You should also be able to get updates from the local radio or from staff at your lodging.
We’ve been to several hot air balloon events now, and the weather is always the most frustrating and unpredictable factor. Cancellations due to weather happen each year and the number of cancellations and delays vary each year so they are fairly impossible to predict in advance.
In 2020, the balloons were only able to fly on 3 of the 9 days of the festival due to strong winds and bad weather. However, we were lucky as the festival started out great (they flew the first weekend with good weather) and we happened to be around for all the events that did take place.
But if you go to the Balloon Festival with this knowledge and are flexible to return another day, then you can make the most of the situation. We went and did other things on the days that the festival was canceled.
If you have flexibility, I would check the weather forecast and try to plan to go on the days that are predicted to be sunny with low wind and clear skies if you can. However, just be prepared for the possibility of cancellations and try to have a flexible schedule if you can.
What happens if a balloon launch is canceled?
If the balloons are not able to launch due to the weather, the other scheduled events may still be taking place. Normally, any indoor events will still take place as scheduled.
If you had booked a hot air balloon ride, you will be given an opportunity to reschedule for an alternative time or date if one is available.
Can I ride in a hot air balloon during the Balloon Festival?
Yes! You can join a balloon flight as a passenger during the International Hot Air Balloon Festival in Château-d’Oex. The passenger balloons take off from the same field as the other balloons during the festival’s mass ascents and launches. You will see them advertised in French as vols en ballons (balloon flights) or baptême de l’air (baptism of the air).
Passenger balloon flights generally take place twice a day, both in the morning and in the afternoon. These often depart around 9:30 am and 2:00 pm (14:00). The number of passenger flights each day are dependent on the weather and demand.
You can pre-book your balloon flights in advance (recommended) before the festival, or you can do it once you arrive at the festival. The price of a balloon flight (as of the 2020 event) is CHF 390 per adult (age 16 or older) and CHF 195 per child under age 16.
Children must be at least 8 years of age and meet certain height requirements to fly aboard one of the balloons. Pregnant women are not allowed on the flights. People with medical issues or disabilities should contact the organization in advance to see if they can safely take a flight.
For those with children under age 8, we recommend considering one of the tethered balloon flights. These are generally available for the weekends and Children’s Day and are available for children between age 5 and 12. They cost CHF 10 per child.
If you have any concerns or special requirements in regards to taking a balloon flight, you should contact the organization directly before booking.
The route of the balloon flight and what you can see will be determined by the wind direction, weather, and visibility. But once you get up in the balloon, you should be able to see the villages of the Pays-d’Enhaut region, valleys, the mountain peaks of the Alps, lakes, and glaciers. If you have good visibility, you can see Lake Geneva and Mont Blanc to the west and the Bernese Oberland with the Eiger and Jungfrau to the west.
The length of a balloon flight will depend partially on the weather and landing conditions, but the average flight is about 90 minutes. The total time from arrival to return to the field generally takes about 3 hours.
You can book flights in advance, but you do not pay until the day of your flight. So just be ready to make payment at the festival before your flight.
If you are not visiting during the festival, you may still be able to arrange a hot air balloon flight from Château-d’Oex with SkyEvent SA (also known as Ballons Château-d’Oex). Flights are available year round. You can learn more and book those here.
Can I see the balloons from outside the launch field?
Yes, during and after the mass ascensions and balloon launches, you’ll likely be able to see the balloons from most parts of Château-d’Oex. We could see them from our accommodation and from various viewpoints around the village. You may also be able to see them from nearby villages.
If you want to see the balloons outside of Château-d’Oex, it is going to depend on the direction of the wind and the power of the wind, as this will determine where they go and how far. Villages where you are most likely to be able to see the balloons are Rossinière, Moulins, l’Etivaz, and Rougemont.
It is often hard to predict which way the balloons will go before an event, as it can change even during the course of a launch and wind directions can be different at various altitudes. When we rode in one of the hot air balloons, our balloon drifted west over Moulins, Rossinière, and the local lake (Lac de Vernex) before landing. But later that week, we were in Rougemont to the east of Château-d’Oex having lunch, and unexpectantly saw several balloons drift by from there.
If you want to see the balloons up close, the best place to see them is from next to the festival field. There you’ll get to see them set up, inflated, and launched. Events that don’t include a balloon launch are generally only visible from within the festival area.
The Night Glow event is normally set up along the ridge to the north side of the village. Visitors can then view it from most areas of Château-d’Oex. The two most popular spots to view the Night Glow are from standing within the large sports field (Terrain de Football) and standing on the hill next to the village’s Protestant church (often referred to as Le Temple Hill).
What if I don’t speak French?
Language is always a bit of a confusing issue for visitors to Switzerland as the country has four national languages, and the primary language varies by region.
The hot balloon festival is held in western Switzerland in a French speaking part of the country. So, the primary language of the event is French and most locals and visitors are French speaking. However, many Swiss people also speak German as it is the largest national language of Switzerland, so you’ll find plenty of people who can speak German as well.
But if you are reading this post, your first language is probably English and you may be wondering if the festival is easy to navigate if you don’t speak French or speak limited French.
I will say that it does of course help to speak French at the event, but you can get by without speaking much French. Most of the event staff understand at least a little English and some speak it well; however, we did also encounter staff and vendors who spoke no English.
So we’d definitely recommend learning some basic French words and phrases to be able to do basic things like buy a ticket, order food, ask about parking, find a toilet, etc. Given that most things are pretty universally understood, you can often get your point across with some polite pointing, smiling, and a few French phrases thrown in.
Most of the written information about the event is distributed in French, but you’ll also find the schedule and list of events available in both English and German. During the event, most of the announcements made over the event’s speaker system at the event were only made in French.
Laurence is fairly fluent in French, so this made it much easier for us. But you can certainly get around and enjoy the event with limited French.
How do I Find Out More Information?
The best place to find out more information about the event is to check out the official webpage for the International Hot Air Balloon Festival which provides the full event program, information on getting there, and information about booking balloon flights during the event.
The festival information is provided on the local tourism board’s website which also contains lots of information for traveling around the Pays d’Enhaut region.
You can also contact the Association Festival International de Ballons directly, and you can find their contact information here.
If you are looking for a guidebook for your trip, few mention the Pay d’Enhaut region but they can be helpful for planning the rest of your time in Switzerland. You can check out guidebook options here. If you are looking for a good driving map, we recommend the latest map by Michelin.
If you have a general question about the festival or traveling to this part of Switzerland, feel free to leave us a comment at the end of this article and we are happy to try to help!
Our Experience Attending the Château-d’Oex International Hot Air Balloon Festival
If you follow this blog, you probably know that Laurence and I have attended a number of hot air balloon festivals around the world. The first hot air balloon festival I attended was the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in 2014. I’ve been in love with hot air balloons ever since!
Laurence and I try to attend a hot air ballooning event each year. We’ve attended some of the largest balloon events in the world, including the Albuquerque Balloon Festival in New Mexico, the Bristol Balloon Festival in England, and the Grand Est Mondial Balloon Festival in France.
We first starting thinking about attending the Château-d’Oex International Festival of Balloons in summer 2019 while attending the Grand Est Mondial Air Ballons event in France which is the largest gathering of hot air balloons in Europe. While we were there, we met some aviation enthusiasts who highly recommended the Swiss festival for the great scenery.
France, Switzerland’s neighbor, was, of course, the birthplace of hot air balloons when the Montgolfier brothers created and flew the first hot air balloons. Switzerland’s main claim to ballooning history fame is that the first balloon to fly around the world non-stop launched from Château-d’Oex.
The first balloon that circumnavigated the world was called the Breitling Orbiter 3 and it was co-piloted by Swiss pilot Bertrand Piccard and British pilot Brian Jones. The journey started in Château-d’Oex on March 1, 1990 and ended in Egypt almost 20 days later. Bertrand Piccard continues to fly and was at the 2020 festival we attended with a balloon bearing the Breitling Orbiter name.
Swiss pilots have also won the Gordon Bennett Cup eight times so far. The Gordon Bennet Race is a long-running gas balloon competition that is considered the most prestigious award in balloon racing. The winning team each year gets to choose the location of the starting point of the subsequent race in their home country, meaning the race has been hosted in Switzerland several times.
One of the village’s most famous expat residents British actor David Niven would help to promote the balloon festival and ballooning in Château-d’Oex. Niven, who played Phileas Fogg in the 1956 version of Around the World in 80 Days, was living here when the festival was first organized in 1979. The trophy for the long-distance competition at the festival is called the David Niven Cup in his honor.
The hot air balloon festival has been hosted annually in Château-d’Oex since 1979, and is the most popular annual event in the village. It is unique for being held in the winter when most hot balloon festivals are held in the summer or autumn months.
In planning our trip, we wanted to make sure that we would be around for at least all the weekend events as the main events of the festival take place on the two weekends. We also wanted to be around for the Night Glow event. We figured that 6 nights would give us plenty of time and chances to see the events of the balloon festival.
We stayed in Château-d’Oex for 3 nights (from Friday to Sunday) on the first weekend of the festival and then for 3 more nights (from Friday to Sunday) on the second weekend. We spent the other 4 nights in between near Lauterbrunnen in the Alps for skiing and winter activities.
We knew that bad weather would likely cancel some of the events (it did indeed), but we figured with 6 nights in Château-d’Oex we were pretty guaranteed to see some balloons (we did!). We also used this time to explore Château-d’Oex, the other villages of the Pays-d’Enhaut region, Gstaad, and the town of Gruyères.
We booked our accommodation about a month in advance and stayed in a hotel (this one) for the first weekend and a B&B (this one) for the second weekend which were both within a short walking distance of the festival field. If you want to stay in Château-d’Oex, we would definitely recommend booking well in advance or you’ll likely find room choices are limited.
We flew into Geneva Airport and then drove to Château-d’Oex the night before the festival was to begin. Then we were able to just get up, have a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, and then walk over to the festival.
One of the great things about the event is that you don’t have to get up very early to see the balloons here. We are used to having to get up super early to see hot air balloons launch in the morning at other festivals. But because it is held in winter, nothing starts before 9:30 am during the festival so there is no need to wake up early.
We didn’t park, but parking is available in a couple of different areas within the village. Some is on pavement and some is in grassy areas. There was a sign or two and there were also staff directing people as well.
Traffic was never that bad, but do expect it to be slower getting into and out of Château-d’Oex, especially on the weekends. Be sure to leave extra time if you are driving so you have time to park, pay for your ticket, and everything.
The busiest event is definitely the Night Glow, so you want to leave extra time if coming for that event.
There is one main public entrance to the festival. You’ll find the Information Booth here where you can purchase your tickets and get an event brochure with a schedule of events. You can also book balloon flights here. You may be asked by security to open any purses or bags you are carrying.
The event itself is mostly set outdoors. The balloons are set up on a small grassy field that is enclosed. The rest of the outdoors area is set up on a mix of a flat paved area in front of the main building and on the grassy hill next to the balloon launching field. You’ll find a number of food vendors and children’s rides outside, and this is also where you can do the tethered balloon flights and helicopter rides.
There is also a building that has an indoor area that has more food vendors, exhibitors, workshops, and a large seating area. We liked that there was a lot of indoor seating, which is not that common at balloon festivals. This is particularly welcome during a winter event. The indoor area is a good place to sit down, get warm, and eat lunch.
Given the size of the event, we found there to be a wide variety of food options. Most vendors accepted debit and credit cards but at least two vendors were accepting cash only when we attended. So it is a good idea to have local cash (Swiss francs) on you.
For all the mass ascensions, balloon launches, and passenger flights, the hot air balloons are set up and take off from a small grassy field, which is fenced off from the public area. The field is usually covered in snow during the time of the festival. To watch the balloons, visitors can stand anywhere near the field perimeter or they can cross the road to watch from the hill next to the village church.
This balloon event is fairly small, which makes it quite cozy and easy to navigate.
Views of the Hot Air Balloons from the Public Viewing Areas
Similar to all the hot balloon festivals we’ve attended in Europe, visitors can’t get super close to or walk around the balloons due to safety regulations. Only the pilots, balloon crews, press, and paying balloon passengers are allowed in the launch area.
The balloon field is relatively small though so the balloons are not far from the fence and you can get good views of the balloons being set up and launched from the fence perimeter. You can stand next to the fencing in the lower part of the festival area near the entrance or walk to a more elevated viewpoint along the hill in the upper part of the festival area.
If you want to sit down, you might consider ordering a drink and snack and sitting on the terrace of the TI-Bar for a great view of the balloons being set up and launched.
If you are looking for a more distant viewpoint, you can head to the village’s Protestant church, often referred to as The Temple. The church is perched on a hill and from one side of the hill you can get a good viewpoint of the balloons on the field. The church is located outside of the main festival area, but it is generally roped off for balloon festival ticket holders during balloon launches. It is about a 5 minute walk from the launch field.
If you want to ensure you get a good place to view the balloons, I’d just be sure to come early before the event takes place to get a good viewing spot.
We had access to the field during as media, but we wanted to share some photos here to give you an idea of what the views are like from the public viewing areas.
Mass Ascensions at the Château-d’Oex International Balloon Festival
Mass ascensions are our favorite event at balloon festivals as you get to watch a number of balloons launch over a relatively short period of time. At the Château-d’Oex International Balloon Festival, dozens of balloons launch over about a 1 hour or so period in the morning.
You can watch the balloons being set up, inflated, and launched from the field. This typically takes place in the morning around 10:30 am on Saturdays and Sundays during the festival.
Each year, there are usually between 60 and 70 hot air balloons registered at the festival. However, not all of them fly each day of the event. The best time to see as many as possible is to go to one of the weekend mass ascensions.
One of the great things about the mass ascensions here is that they don’t start until around 10:30 am so you don’t have to worry about getting up super early if you are staying nearby. You’ll want to get there a bit earlier though if you want to see the balloon crews unpacking, setting up, and inflating the balloons.
The field used at Château-d’Oex is often covered in snow and/or ice. So the balloonists usually move their envelopes, baskets, and other materials from the balloon trucks to the field using a hand-pulled sled. We’d never seen that before!
Once the balloons crews get the go ahead that everything is clear, they can start launching. There isn’t a ton of obvious coordination so the balloons sort of took off in clumps. The passenger balloons taking paying customers often leave first.
Because the section of the field (the flat part) used for the balloon is fairly small, not all the balloons can set up at the same time. So after the first balloons launch, you will see new ones arriving and being set up.
If all goes to plan with the wind conditions, the skies should start to fill up with balloons. The wind will determine the direction of where they go and how fast they drift away from the field. You’ll likely see both regular teardrop shaped balloons as well as special shaped ones launching.
Once they are up in the air, you will start being able to see them in the sky from all over Château-d’Oex.
Helicopter Rides & Tethered Balloon Rides
In addition to hot air balloon rides, you can also take helicopter rides. Children also have the chance to take a tethered hot air balloon flight.
Short helicopter flights were offered in the mornings and early afternoons of the weekends and on the Children’s Day. They were offered for anyone age 2 and above, and if interested, you just get in line. The flights last approximately 6 minutes and cost CHF 60 per adult and CHF 50 per child.
The tethered balloons rides (vols captifs) were also offered on the weekends and on Children’s Day. These are available for children age 5 to 12. These were very popular with families, so we do recommend getting in line when they start. They cost 10 CHF at the 2020 festival.
Note that if you are interested in doing either of these activities, I’d probably head there once the lines open to make sure you get a place. It is also wise to bring cash to pay on-site.
If a hot air balloon flight is out of your budget or they are sold out, a helicopter ride or tethered balloon ride is a less expensive alternative to get up in the air!
Riding in a Balloon during the Château-d’Oex International Balloon Festival
Visitors have the chance to ride in a hot air balloon for any of the morning or afternoon launches. The balloon flights can be booked in advance from the tourism board or from Sky Events, or can be booked at the festival if there are spaces.
Laurence and I generally try to do a hot air balloon ride at every hot air balloon festival that we attend. We were particularly excited about this one because of the scenic mountain landscape.
We weren’t sure if we should try to get a press flight (dependent on space/demand/weather) or just pay and book one to better guarantee a flight. We were told that we were likely to be able to get a press flight the first weekend so we decided to do that.
However, by coincidence, on the first morning of the event we ran into a balloonist we knew. We had paid for balloon flights at the Grand Est Mondial Balloon Festival in France earlier in the year and had flown with Belgian balloon pilot Filip Audenaert, who is the manager of a balloon ride company, Filva Ballonvaarten. We recognized his balloon and went up to say hello.
We mentioned that we were waiting for a press flight confirmation. He said he had a couple of extra spaces left in his balloon if we wanted to just join him. So of course, we said yes.
If you decide to take a flight at the festival, you will need to fill out a short form and be given a form (called a Title of Transport) to keep with you that shows that you have purchased a flight and the details of your flight.
Someone from the festival staff will tell you where you need to wait and someone will later escort you onto the field and introduce you to the pilot once it is time to head over to your balloon. Just be sure to pay attention and not wander off too far. Once the pilot is ready to load the basket and take off, they will want to do this relatively quickly.
Our balloon was bright yellow with a picture of a gnome and called Chouffe. The balloon advertises the Belgian beer La Chouffe, and is the same balloon we had flown in during the French festival the previous year. So it was a familiar balloon.
After a short amount of time watching the final setup preparations, Felip was ready to go and so we were all asked to climb into the balloon basket. There were 10 other passengers in our balloon, so a total of 12 passengers plus Felip the pilot. There were both adults and children in our balloon.
The takeoff was easy and we were quickly up in the air floating above the launch field. The winds took us west, and we drifted over fields and past the small village of Rossinière. Filip brought the balloon down low and rested it lightly on the frozen lake, before heading back up. We then drifted over some local hills and mountains.
Being in a hot air balloon over an alpine area, reminded me of scenes from the 1956 version of Around the World in 80 Days. In that movie, one of the most iconic scenes is of Phileas Fogg, played by David Niven, and his servant in a hot air balloon as they fly over the Alps. At one point, Phineas Fogg’s French servant Jean Passepartout scoops snow from the top of a mountain to keep their Champagne cool.
This is despite the fact that Phileas Fogg never flew in a hot air balloon in Jules Verne’s novel, although Verne did write Five Weeks in a Balloon about a journey across Africa in a hot air balloon. As mentioned earlier, David Niven would later move to Château-d’Oex in 1960 and support the balloon festival.
Our flight lasted about 90 minutes and we eventually landed safely in a field west of Rossinière. After everyone was out of the balloon basket, we all helped the crew get the balloon deflated and packed away which took about 30 minutes.
The pilot let the boys saber the Champagne bottles, and then we all enjoyed a glass of Champagne (or water) to celebrate the flight. The local landowner who owned the field where we landed came over and the balloon crew gave him a bottle of Champagne which is a tradition among balloonists.
After the Champagne, the crew drove us back to the festival and we headed back to enjoy the rest of the day. It was a wonderful flight and a beautiful day for flying!
The Night Glow
The Night Glow is the most popular single event during the Château-d’Oex International Hot Air Balloon Festival. This nighttime event typically takes place after sunset on a Friday evening, and typically includes a balloon glow, music, paragliders, choreographed night skiing, and fireworks.
This is one of the events that takes place outside of the main launch field and the balloons are typically set up along the ridge on the north side of the village. The two most popular spots to watch the Night Glow are from standing within the large football/soccer field (Terrain de Football) and standing on the hill next to the village’s Protestant church (often referred to as Le Temple). You can see the balloons as long as you have a good view of the ridge, so many people also watched from along the street or from balconies and terraces.
The event is free to watch, and draws a lot of people, both locals and visitors. If you plan to watch from the sports field or hill, we recommend going along a bit earlier to find a good place to stand. We headed to the church hill and it was already pretty busy when we got there but we were still able to find a good viewpoint.
The event started with an announcement over a speaker system and countdown, and then the evening balloon glow began. A balloon glow is where pilots tether their balloons to the ground and then periodically ignite the burners to the balloon light up. During the Night Glow, this is choreographed to music. There were about 15 balloons that took part in this during our visit.
In addition to the balloon night glow and music, there was also a lot of other things happening as well. There was a light show where people with torches formed shapes on the hill (planets, stars, and balloons), there were paragliders, and there were fireworks. The total event lasted about 40 minutes in total.
There was not enough snow when we were there for the night skiing to take place, but all the other parts of the event were able to be held.
It was an impressive display and fun to watch! Although we found it very difficult to photograph well with the size of the event, darkness, bursts of light, crowds, and smoke. It was definitely better in person than what we captured through the lens.
This is the highlight of the festival for many people, and many people were celebrating afterward at the local bars and restaurants on the main street.
Espace Ballon Visit & Other Events
In addition to the balloon launch events and flights, there were also smaller events happening throughout the festival. For example, in 2020 there were displays by CERN, airshows, children’s workshops to make mini balloons, a film related to hot air ballooning (The Aeronauts), and an exposition of stamps and postcards related to the balloon festival and the local area.
We also highly recommend visiting L’Espace Ballon. Espace Ballon is the local museum dedicated to the history of ballooning with a particular focus on the contribution of the local region. The museum is located within the former town hall which was built in 1742.
The highlight of the museum is the displays related to the round-the-world trip of Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones. This was the first non-stop around the world balloon flight and it took place in 1999, with the balloon, the Breitling Orbiter 3, launching from Château-d’Oex. You can see a number of artifacts, maps, and multimedia displays related to the historic flight. Best of all, you can watch a video with footage documenting the long flight that lasted over 19 days.
There is a small fee to visit the museum, but normally you can gain free entrance to the museum with your balloon festival ticket. So just keep the ticket to show at the entrance. Most of the information is available in French, English, and German, but there were some exhibits only in French when we visited.
The little museum is definitely worth a visit whether you are visiting Château-d’Oex for the hot air balloon festival or not!
Also, just outside of the museum, be sure to check out the capsule from the first test flight of the Breitling Orbiter’s round-the-world flight in 1997. A peek inside gives you a good idea of the cramped and uncomfortable living conditions that Piccard and Jones endured during the flight. The capsule for Breitling Orbiter 3 is currently on display in the United States.
Festival International de Ballons Tips
Here are some tips for planning your trip and making the most of your time at the Château-d’Oex balloon festival.
- If you want to attend the festival, we’d recommend that you plan in advance how you plan to get there and book your lodging. Many of the hotels and B&Bs are booked full during the festival weekends. We provide lodging recommendations earlier in the article.
- Be sure to leave extra time in your schedule for the best chance to see the balloons. All the balloon events are weather dependent so it’s best to have extra days and a flexible schedule in case some of the events get canceled.
- We recommend a visit to the Espace Balloon while you are here to learn more about hot air ballooning, the Breitling Orbiter 3, and the history of the festival. Keep your festival ticket as this normally gives you free entrance to the museum!
- This is one of the smaller international balloon festivals we have been to, but it can still get busy. So be sure to leave extra time to park, get to the festival field, and find your way to where you need to go so you don’t miss anything. Weekend mass ascension events and the Night Glow show are the busiest times of the festival.
- Be sure to dress for the weather, dress in layers, and be prepared for rain and snow. The weather is generally cold during this time of year, so check the forecast for the temperatures. You’ll want to pack a warm coat, gloves, hat, and thermals. The ground at the festival can be wet, muddy, or covered in snow, so we recommend wearing comfortable, practical waterproof shoes or boots.
- You are going to want to take lots of photos! Pack your camera and all the things you need with it (extra batteries, charger, memory cards, etc.). If taking photos with your smartphone, you may want to bring a portable charger pack.
- In terms of electricity, Switzerland operates on 230 volts / 50 Hz and uses Type C or Type J plugs that fit into recessed wall sockets. If your devices do not have Type C or Type J plugs, you will need to take some plug adapters such as these ones. If you are traveling from a country with 120v voltage (such as the United States or Canada), you will want to make sure to only bring electronics that will support 220v voltage. You can learn more in our travel adapter guide.
- Although the hot air balloon events are the main attractions of the festival, be sure to check the schedule for what else is happening while you are there. There are other events and activities taking place throughout the festival.
- We recommend taking time to explore Château-d’Oex between events. Some places you might want to visit are Espace Ballon, the Musée du Pays-d’Enhaut (museum dedicated to local history and art, with large collection of traditional paper cutting art), the Protestant village church, cheese making demonstrations at La Chalet, the bowling alley, the gravesite of David Niven, and the local hiking trails. Nearby villages are Rossinière, Rougemont, and L’Etivaz which also offer restaurants and attractions. Guided tours are available from the tourism office, but need to be booked in advance.
- If you enjoy winter sports, there are lots of opportunities for downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, and other winter sports in the area. So it is easy to plan a ski trip to Switzerland that also includes time for this wintertime hot air balloon festival. You can see our ski trip packing list for tips on what to pack for a ski trip.
- You may want to plan some day trips if you are going to be in the area for more than a couple of days. You can access many nearby places by car or train. Some places that are easy to explore from Château-d’Oex are Gstaad (upscale ski resort, shopping, winter hiking trails), Gruyères (medieval castle, museums, shopping, cheese-making demonstrations, skiing, leisure park), Gruyère Pays-d’Enhaut Regional Park (nature park with hiking trails), and Montreux (Chillon castle, casino, Freddie Mercury statue, Lake Geneva boat ride, scenic train trips).
- If you plan to visit local attractions or entertainment venues, be sure to check for discounts. Your train ticket or festival ticket may entitle you to certain local discounts. Many Swiss cities and regions also offer discount cards and passes. The Pass d’Enhaut and Gstaad Card are two passes that provide local discounts in the area.
- If you are looking for books to read during your stay, we recommend considering Around the World in 20 Days by balloon pilots Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones and The Moon’s a Balloon by David Niven.
- Unfortunately, most guidebooks to Switzerland don’t cover the small Pays-d’Enhaut region, but you can get local information from the tourism office located in the town center of Château-d’Oex. If you are exploring more of Switzerland and are looking for a guidebook, there are a lot of options out there to help you plan your trip. You can compare guidebooks here.
- If you are looking for a good driving map, we normally use Michelin maps in France and Switzerland. They are updated regularly, and you can find the latest one here.
So that is our guide to attending the International Hot Air Balloon Festival in Château-d’Oex. If you are interested in a wintertime balloon festival, this is one we can highly recommend!
Have you attended the International Hot Air Balloon Festival in Château-d’Oex? Or another hot air balloon event? If so, we’d love to hear about your own experiences and any tips you may have for future attendees.
If you are planning a trip and have any questions about attending the Festival International de Ballons or anything related to visiting this area of Switzerland, just ask us in the Comments section below. We love hearing from you!
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**Disclosure: We were provided with free media access to the event. However, we paid for all our own travel costs. As always, this article contains only our own honest thoughts and opinions. You can read more in our Ethics Code about how we work**