Pavlo has been working as a travel writer for more than 8 years, and his work has been featured in CNN Travel, BBC Travel, Time Out and Fodor's, among others. Changing cities and continents is a lifestyle for Pavlo, he has been to more than 40 countries across the globe. He can’t get enough of exploring the world and loves to share this passion through travel writing.
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Switzerland is one of the dreamiest destinations for Christmas markets in Europe. The towns here look straight out of a fairytale, the Alps will take your breath away, and snow is almost guaranteed, while the local food is amazing too. I’ve always had a special spot in my heart for this country in winter and try to regularly come to the Swiss cities each December. It’s about the alluring taste of fondue, a warm cup of mulled wine on the street, and the cozy glistening of the myriad of lights decorating the centuries-old streets. Here are the best Christmas markets in Switzerland to visit for an unparalleled festive atmosphere.
The medieval Altstadt (Old Town) of the German-speaking country’s capital is the perfect setting for Christmas cheer. And Bern, one of the most incredible cities to visit in Switzerland, is an expert in delivering delightful winter moments. There’s not one, but several Christmas markets here. Start with the Kleine Schanze Square-located Sternenmarkt that includes a fondue chalet, children’s playground, more than 80 stalls selling warm drinks and food, as well as a section devoted to local artisans. Then, go to Waisenhausplatz in its medieval setting with nice illumination and even more stalls. And don’t miss the magical Christmas market next to the Gothic Cathedral of Bern that specializes in artisanal souvenirs and sells delicious white mulled wine.
Christmas looks good on Lucerne, already one of Switzerland’s most beautiful destinations. The festive lights dance in the reflections on the gorgeous lake, the 15th-century Spreuerbrücke covered bridge is as picturesque as ever, and the market here is among the best in Switzerland. The happening takes place in the beautiful Franziskanerplatz. The Advent wreath is placed on the Franziskaner fountain, the stalls take over the cobblestone square, and the atmosphere of joy is in the air. Come for the folk performances, handmade Christmas decorations, aromatic mulled wine, and hot chocolate.
A part of the Lake Geneva Riviera, Montreux has sublime views and boasts one of the best Christmas markets in Switzerland. The palm trees and the Belle Epoque architecture create an original backdrop for the festivities – the chalet stalls are placed along the lakeside promenade. You will see the flying Santa Claus, get the magnificent panoramas of the Alps from the Ferris wheel, sample traditional delights like raclette melted cheese and French-style crepes, and browse through more than 100 stalls with souvenirs and handcrafted goods.
Year after year, Basel delivers one of the most magical Christmas markets in Switzerland and in Europe. The fantastic Münsterplatz transforms into a full-fledged festive village with decorated trees, thousands of lights, and hundreds of stalls. See the elaborate Weihnachtspyramide (the traditional German and Swiss pyramid-like wooden structure with Nativity scenes), browse through 130+ chalets, try the local Basel Läckerli (local type of gingerbread), and feast on raclette cheese. Another market can be found at Barfüsserplatz with even more artisanal products and cozy, warm drinks.
Geneva doesn’t need an introduction. The lakeside city is one of the icons of Swiss tourism and a getaway to the marvels of the eponymous body of water and the mountain valleys and peaks that surround it. The 19th-century Jardin Anglais becomes a Christmas hotspot in winter when the lakeside passages are filled with stalls and decorated with holiday illumination. You will have a chance to enjoy the fondue at a designated chalet-like restaurant, have a pint at a Christmas Pub, savor the roasted chestnuts, hit the heights on the Ferris wheel, and dip the gingerbread in the hot chocolate while marveling at the lake sunset.
Although known for being the powerhouse of finance, Zurich doesn’t hold back when it comes to Christmas celebrations. In fact, here you have some of the most varied and cool Christmas markets in Switzerland. The locals are spoiled for choice and every person has his own favorite Weihnachtsmarkt. Your Christmas adventure starts at the sprawling Sechseläutenplatz with the Opera House towering over the hundreds of chalets with top festive delights and souvenirs. Have a cup of glühwein (mulled wine), visit the candle-making workshop, and taste the fondue. Proceed to the Main Station market, which is among Europe’s largest indoor Christmas happenings. The highlight here is an impressively-decorated 10-meter-high Christmas tree. For a smaller, cozier experience, head to the Old Town, visiting the market in the Niederdorf quarter.
Lausanne takes a different approach to the traditional Swiss Christmas market experience. Here it feels more like a contemporary festival. Expect neon lights, a Ferris wheel, a carnival-like parade, electronic music-filled nights, pop-up bars, and an abundance of local wines. That doesn’t mean that all the classic Swiss symbols of Christmas are absent – you still have the charming chalets, gingerbread aromas, and mulled wine on every corner.
Experience Christmas in a typical Swiss small town. Baden is a romantic destination in Limmat Valley northwest of Zurich, famous for the medieval castle ruins, hot springs, and narrow stone streets of the Old Town. It’s in this magical setting that you have several Christmas markets (or villages, as locals call them). The one on Theaterplatz is scenically nestled under the castle and features numerous artisanal stalls and food sellers that sell traditional foods, drinks, and sweets. Another market is organized on Bahnhofplatz.
Celebrate the coming of Christmas with an Italian flair in Lugano, a scenic Swiss-Mediterranean town in the South of the country. Piazza della Riforma becomes an epicenter of festive fun with numerous chalets selling hot wine, a dedicated children’s zone, and a beautiful Christmas tree lighting up. Sure, there will be the obligatory mulled wine, gingerbread, and fondue, but you also can have a try at traditional local Italian-influenced street food staples like polenta (boiled cornmeal), piadina (rustic flatbread wrap with various fillings), and, of course, pizza.
Known for its spellbinding Baroque architecture and the UNESCO-protected Abbey of Saint Gall dating back to the 9th century, St. Gallen is also a place where you find one of the best Christmas markets in Switzerland. The city knows how to put on a show – every winter, around 700 star-shaped lights grace the streets of the old town, creating an enchanting atmosphere of the winter wonder. The market is organized between the Waaghaus and Market Square. You have an additional section with 40+ stalls at Gallusplatz right behind the gorgeous St. Gallen Cathedral.
Idyllic and photogenic, Gruyeres is a true gem of Swiss small towns. Surrounded by the gentle Prealps and bucolic valleys, it’s a quiet and inspiring place. When the snowy season comes, the town wears Christmas decorations with a special charm. The market here is not big, but it’s an enchanting place to visit. True to the canon, you’ll find many artisanal chalets selling various souvenirs and handmade objects. Every weekend, there’s a folk performance creating the right vibe. And you simply can’t leave without trying the trademark local Gruyère cheese.