Ten Swiss Christmas markets you must visit this year
Christmas markets are big business in Switzerland, with most major cities setting up festive stalls towards the end of November.
Shoppers can beat a path through the crowds along Montreux’s lakeside, get into the festive spirit at Zurich main train station, browse the stalls outside Basel’s cathedral and sip mulled wine in Bern’s Münsterplatz.
These big and bountiful markets are rightly well-known. But there are plenty of others that are well worth a visit too. So this year, try something different and pay a visit to one of these Christmas markets instead (or as well – nobody’s counting how much glühwein you glug...)
1. Interlaken, December 17th to 26th
Photo: Ice Magic
Interlaken’s Christmas market takes place alongside its festive centrepiece, the huge ‘Ice Magic’ complex which sets up in the town centre for the third year in a row. Browse the stalls before taking to the ice for a spot of skating on its five different rinks linked by runways. You can even try your hand at Bavarian curling on a dedicated three-lane covered rink. Ice Magic remains open until February.
2. Yverdon-les-Bains, December 2nd to 24th
Set in and around the town’s medieval castle is a traditional Christmas market that’s less frantic than some others. Kids will love the ice skating rink, while adults can quaff local beer and pick up artisan gifts and regional produce on the stalls.
3. Morges, December 2nd to 11th
With 160 stalls packed into the wooden hall near Morges rail station, this is the biggest covered Christmas market in French-speaking Switzerland. Most of its artisan products are made in the area, so it’s just the place for picking up authentic Swiss-French stocking fillers.
4. Lausanne, November 24th to December 31st
Photo: The Local
Christmas in Lausanne is always a bit alternative thanks to its annual festival of lights, which sees light installations set up around town. So far, so festive – except they rarely have a Christmassy feel. Last year’s festival included a giant face sporting some pretty bizarre expressions stuck to department store Globus, ghostly figures floating over Place de la Palud and giant pencils over Rue Centrale.
Lausanne’s festivities also include several collections of Christmas stalls dotted about town, a small ice-rink and hugely popular outdoor bars serving vin chaud and local brews.
5. St Ursanne, December 3rd to 4th
This pretty medieval village in the Jura is lovely to visit at this time of year when its small Christmas market brings added atmosphere. Stylish stalls line the cobbled streets and a 100-year-old carousel is a delight for kids.
6. Murten, December 9th to 11th
Resembling a mini version of Bern’s Old Town, Murten – or Morat in French – is well worth a visit for its beautiful medieval old centre, and there’s no better time than when its Christmas market takes over for three days in December.
7. Einsiedeln, November 26th to December 4th
Photo: Christof Sonderegger/Swiss Image
It’s only a small town, but Einsiedeln in the canton of Schwyz has possibly the most spectacular setting for a Christmas market of any in Switzerland – in the main square in front of the Benedictine Einsiedeln Abbey.
The town makes the most of this by staging a large market of 130 stalls that’s become known as one of the best in the country. As an added bonus, visit the town’s small museum devoted to gingerbread, an Einsiedeln speciality also sold on the stalls.
8. Winterthur, November 25th to December 23rd
Winterthur’s Christmas market is celebrating its 20th birthday this year with an extra special programme. Shop for handmade candles, jewellery and gingerbread at the 100 wooden chalets set up in Neumarkt, enjoy the line-up of live music and don’t miss the Santa Claus parade on November 27th.
9. Bremgarten, December 1st to 4th
It may only be on for a few days but Bremgarten’s large Christmas market attracts visitors from far and wide. As well as a whopping 320 stalls, there’s traditional music, carriage rides and children’s entertainment including storytelling, a treasure hunt and a carousel.
10. Stein am Rhine, December 1st to 31st
Photo: Jan Geerk/Swiss Image
The stunning medieval Old Town of Stein am Rhine, near the German border, is taken over by Christmas festivities every December with stalls, beautiful lights and plenty of child-friendly entertainment. This year’s festival takes the theme ‘Puss in Boots’ – every Saturday and Sunday there’s a free guided tour of the town led by the booted feline himself.