Switzerland is a barbecue nation. Even if the weather is often unstable in summer, the Swiss don’t let their beloved barbecue party go to waste. Whether on your own balcony or outdoors, barbecuing is the Swiss people’s biggest pleasure in summer.

Swiss people love to grill and through bbq parties
Swiss people love to grill and through bbq parties

When the nights get longer and warmer again, the Swiss get ready to grill. The Swiss German word for “to grill” is grilli√§r√§” and is slightly different from the¬†High German word “grillen”.

On terraces and balconies, on the lake promenade or in the woods you will see people having their bbq. The summers are short, so you have to make the most out of every nice evening. But what do the Swiss prefer to grill? Meat, sausage, cheese or vegetables? And what do you need for the perfect barbecue party?

The Cervelat is the Swiss national sausage

Swiss love their sausages, especially Cervelat. It is no surprise then that at every bbq you will find most people putting a cervelat on the grill. The Cervelat is THE Swiss national sausage and has different names depending on the region: in French-speaking Switzerland it is called Cervelas, in Zurich phonetically Servela, in Basel it is called Klöpfer and in St. Gallen they call it Stumpen.

Swiss people's favorite is the cervelat. It is the Swiss national sausage so to speak
Swiss people’s favorite is the cervelat. It is the Swiss national sausage so to speak

A real Cervelat contains pork and beef pork, bacon and rind as well as ice, salt, pickling salt and a spice mixture of pepper, mace and garlic. It does not contain offal. All ingredients are crushed, then filled into a beef gut and smoked.

The Cervelat crisis

Until 2006, the Cervelat was filled into particularly thin intestines from the Brazilian zebra cattle. When in 2006 the EU and thus also Switzerland banned the import of these casings for fear of BSE, there was a shortage of Brazilian casings and a “Cervelat crisis”, which caused great turmoil throughout Switzerland. Some Swiss even feared the extinction of their national sausage. Meanwhile, most of the demand is met with natural casings from Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.

The name Cervelat comes from the Italian cervellata, from Latin cerebellum, the diminutive form of cerebrum, “brain”. Today, however, no brain is used to make the cervelate.

The Cervelat is, by the way, especially popular in German-speaking Switzerland. Along with the veal bratwurst. In Ticino, people prefer to grill the traditional Luganighetta. The Romands are not big sausage lovers. They prefer to throw skewers on the grill or also like lamb or fish.

Vegetarians also like to barbecue

BBQs are not just for meat lovers. If you are a vegetarian, you will find plenty of options. Especially popular is the so called Halloumi cheese, a semi-solid cheese made from the milk of cows, sheep or goats. You can buy it at every big supermarket. Of course, potatoes and various vegetables should not be missing. The best way to prepare them is to put them on a skewer, this also looks very decorative.

Decorations create a good mood and the garbage bag keeps things tidy

Important at a barbecue party is the good mood and the cosy atmosphere. The latter can easily be created by hanging a few chains of lights or lanterns. The lanterns have a long tradition in Switzerland and are used especially on 1 August, the Swiss national day.

If you organize a big bbq, don't forget about the decoration
If you organize a big bbq, don’t forget about the decoration

Also torches provide a campfire feeling and are extremely popular. Additionally you need comfortable cushions or chairs and benches as well as enough plates, cutlery and cups. Don’t forget your garbage bags! When the Swiss grill, they are very eager that the garbage is always disposed immediately. Nothing annoys the Swiss more than rubbish lying around on public barbecue sites.

Grill party is ideal for families

Since a barbecue party usually takes place outdoors, it is ideal for families with children. While the adults chat comfortably, the children can play on the meadow or in the forest. The best way to enjoy a bbq party is to meet in the late afternoon already and prepare the food together. Especially if you don’t know many of the people, cooking together is a good way to break the ice.

Everyone contributes, no one comes empty handed

In Switzerland it is normal for everyone who is invited to a barbecue to bring something to the party. Either something to eat or something to drink. If you appear empty-handed, Swiss people will perceive you as extremely rude. Whatsapp groups are very helpful for the perfect organization. In this way everyone can tell what they will bring and everyone is informed. Thus it can be avoided that there is 20 litres of beer at the party but no meat for the grill.

Grilling on the balcony

Especially those who live in the city will not have a garden to barbecue in. But most likely you will have a balcony. But is it allowed to grill on the balcony in Switzerland at all?

When grilling on our balcony, make sure you don't disturb the neighbors
When grilling on our balcony, make sure you don’t disturb the neighbors

No general BBQ ban in Switzerland

Grilling on your balcony is a delicate subject. Landlords and neighbors don’t always agree. The problem with grilling on the balcony is the biting smoke and the music that is too loud. Swiss are very particular about noise and it often happens that neighbors call the police, if the grill party gets too wild. However, grilling on balconies is not forbidden in Switzerland. It is possible though that landlords may impose restrictions, such as time limits. If you don’t not stick to the house rules, you run the risk of receiving a warning or – if one continues to resist – a notice from the landlord. So use your common sense and be respectful. If you are planning a big barbecue party with lots of people, it is advisable to inform your neighbors in advance and even invite them to the party. This is the safest way to avoid complaints.

Order comes first – especially after the party

After the barbecue there is often chaos on the balcony: dirty dishes, food leftovers and full ashtrays on the table. This is not a pretty sight for the neighbors and attracts even vermin over time. That’s why you, as the host, should clean up everything after barbecuing, separate the garbage properly, clean the grill and rinse the dishes. And if all the guests help, the work is done quickly.

Practice your Swiss German while grilling

Grill parties are the perfect occasion to meet new people and chat. Maybe you’ll even get to know a few Swiss people. Wouldn’t it be great if you could exchange a few words in Swiss German with them? If you sign up for our online course today, there will be plenty of time to learn the most important Swiss-German words before the next barbecue party.

Schweizerdeutsch Englisch
Grill to grill
Holzcholä charcoal
af√ľr√§ to light
Gluät Glut
Ch√ľbelsack garbage bag
Biilage side dishes
W√ľrscht sausages
Bsteck cutlery
vercholät carbonized
Härdöpfel potato
Spiessli skewer




How to grill in Switzerland: Everything for the perfect bbq
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