Prior to moving to Switzerland, I had lived in Stockholm, Sweden for 10 years. In Stockholm, shops are open every day of the year. While clothing shops might be closed on some public holidays, you can do your groceries 365 days a year at any grocery store. Many grocery stores are open from 7 in the morning until 10 or 11 in the evening. You can imagine the shock when I moved to Switzerland where things are, let’s say not exactly the same. Swiss shops are generally closed every Sunday!
Generally, one could say: Sundays are resting days in Switzerland, where little happens. That means that shops, malls, and grocery stores in the country are closed on Sundays. There are some areas in some Swiss tourist cities that allow shops to be open on Sunday, but it is very uncommon. The Sunday closure has a religious origin, as the Christian religion considers Sunday a resting day where no work shall be performed.
Sunday morning bakeries
Being a central European country, the Swiss sure love their bread. They love it so much, that a Sunday morning trip to the bakery is a tradition in many families. These bakeries open up early Sunday morning and sell fresh bread and croissants. Around lunchtime, most of these bakeries close again. This allows families to have fresh bread for their Sunday breakfast.
Train stations and airports
Other noteworthy exceptions to the Sunday closure are Swiss train stations and airports. In these places, most shops are open seven days a week, although with slightly reduced opening times.
This allows travelers to still do some necessary shopping on a Sunday. This makes that, especially grocery stores at Swiss train stations are very busy on Sundays as locals pop into these stores to pick up groceries they forgot to get on other days.
Voters continue to say no
Despite many considering the Sunday closure to be old-fashioned, voters in the Swiss direct democracy have on several occasions voted no to extending opening hours. While perhaps considered a tad inconvenient, the Sunday resting day seems to be well engrained in Swiss culture. And for those that do groceries on a Sunday, a train station with a grocery store is often not too far away.
The fact that shops are closed on Sunday, means that many Swiss city centers are less busy compared to other days of the week. With myself living in Luzern, I noticed that the shopping district feels deserted once the shops close and the entire Sunday.
So, what do the Swiss do on Sundays? Many people in Switzerland use Sunday to spend time with family, either at home or in nature. Hiking trails are often much busier on the weekend as many Swiss take the opportunity to explore nature. Another popular activity is Sunday brunch or museum visits.
It is important to note that Swiss shops and grocery stores are also closed on public holidays. On days prior to public holidays, stores in general close earlier than normal.
What do you think about shops being closed on Sunday? Inconvenient, or a good way to encourage resting time for the country?