Charming Swiss Christmas Markets
German, French, and Italian Flavors
Where can you go to enjoy dozens of delightful Christmas traditions in one tiny country? To Switzerland, of course.
Each major city—Bern, Zurich, Geneva, Lucerne, Lugano, Montreux, and Basel—hosts multiple Christmas markets along busy streets and cobblestone lanes. They typically last the entire month of December. They often include traditional crafts such as candle dipping for the children to try. Artisan baked goods, handcrafted gifts, dried meats, gourmet cheeses, Christmas decor, and lots of glühwein.
But just as fun, with numerous surprises, are the smaller Christmas markets hosted by Swiss villages. Some only last a day or two, while others last a couple of weeks. Local musicians add to festive atmosphere.
Tiny chalets, adorned with twinkling lights and seasonal décor, transport you into the magical world of Swiss Christmas traditions. It's amazing that a country the size of Switzerland can host over 130 Christmas markets. Each one reflects the personality and beliefs of the local residents and is worth a visit. If you travel around, you will taste distinct regional flavors: pain d'epices, pannetone, lebkuchen, and anisbrotli.
The Swiss look forward to the Christmas markets each year—a chance to celebrate the season with friends, family, and co-workers.
Christmas markets are popular throughout Europe during the holidays. And a Christmas market tour which includes markets along with other festivities and sightseeing is a great way to experience the local culture, food, and traditions of Europe.
One of the reasons Switzerland is such a popular destination for a Christmas market tour, is that visitors can experience the holidays in each of the three cultural regions of Switzerland—German, French, and Italian—all in one week, and also enjoy the scenic beauty of the snow-covered Swiss Alps at the same time.
Traditional Foods and Handcrafted Artwork
Holiday foods are a cherished part of the season. Roasted chestnuts, glühwein, crepes, fresh pastries, pain d’épices, and bubbling hot raclette are available to enjoy as you peruse the gifts for sale in the decorated Christmas chalets. Hand-knit hats and scarves, classic handcrafted wooden toys, artisan candles and soaps, and a plethora of intricate Christmas ornaments are available. Street musicians as well as performing groups accompany your stroll through the marketplace. The gospel music from the Living Christmas Tree in Zurich is always a hit.
Many of the markets set aside some space to have a large creche exhibit of the Holy Family as part of the celebration. They are handmade and deeply rich in meaning. Be sure to stop and view the Nativity scene as each one reveals insight into local beliefs and customs.
Top Christmas Markets in Switzerland
Basel: Basel has two Christmas markets—one in the Münsterplatz, which has special appeal to families, and the larger market just a block away in Barfüsserplatz, which is considered to be the most beautiful market in Switzerland.
Montreux: Switzerland's largest Christmas market with 160 stalls is set on the promenade on the shores of Lac Léman. A highlight is the arrival of Santa each evening at dusk as his fireworks-spewing sleigh arcs across the sky.
Zurich: Switzerland's largest indoor Chirstmas market is held in the Zurich HB train station with a 50-foot tall tree adorned with thousands of Swarovksi crystals. Other markets and stalls spring up in Zurich's old town. One that's especially popular is at Werdmuhleplatz, with it's living Christmas tree, just off Bahnhofstrasse.
Bern: The smaller craft-oriented market in Münsterplatz is the more scenic of Bern's two lively markets. The larger market in Waisenhausplatz offers a wide variety of food, clothing, and artisan products.
Lucerne: The market at Fraziskanerplatz is a lively place every evening with music, food, and dozens of stalls. There's also a smaller market in the shopping mall below the train station.
Lugano: With it's lakefront setting and palm trees, Lugano will take you by surprise. Great chance to explore the Italian-style traditions and distinctive flavors. With the new Gotthard Base Tunnel, getting to Switzerland's Italian-speaking region is easier and faster than ever. Don't miss it.