It's Christmas market season! Glug a Glühwein at these wonderful Swiss markets this year
The Local's guide to the best Christmas markets to visit this year.
There's nothing more festive than strolling through a Christmas market, stopping for a Glühwein/vin chaud here and there, picking up handmade gifts and scoffing local treats such as Berner Honiglebkuchen and Basel Läckerli.
Switzerland has a Christmas market in practically every city and town – in the bigger cities such as Zurich and Bern they are month-long events, while other smaller towns may stage a market for a weekend or a few days. Many are classic affairs, while some like to do things a little differently.
Here's our pick of the best Christmas markets to visit this year.
Lausanne, November 23rd 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. Past illuminations have included a giant face sporting some pretty bizarre expressions, colour-changing octopuses hanging under Flon bridge, giant pencils over Rue Centrale and ghostly figures floating over Place de la Palud. The city's ever-expanding Christmas market is grouped into several different locations about town, with the biggest being in St François square.
Basel, November 23rd-December 23rd
Photo: Basel Tourism
Claiming to be the largest in Switzerland, Basel's Christmas market takes place in two main locations in the city centre – Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz. Overlooked by the magnificent cathedral and boasting a huge Christmas tree, the latter is the most atmospheric. In total, 180 stalls offer handmade goods and gifts, as well as local edible treats including Basel Läckerli. Münsterplatz also has a ‘fairytale forest’ where kids can make candles, decorate gingerbread and bake cookies while you partake of another Glühwein.
Montreux, November 23rd-December 24th
Photo: Montreux Noel
It's another whopper, this one. Though the crowds may make it too hectic for some, Montreux Noël has to be experienced at least once during your time in Switzerland. As well as 160 stalls strung along the lakeside promenade, there's live music, plenty of food and drink in the Lumberjack Village and a Elf Village with workshops for kids. New this year is a light show projected onto the facade of the Fairmont le Montreux Palace hotel and a market of second-hand goods from Dec 6th-10th.
St Gallen, November 30th-December 23rd
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.
Einsiedeln, December 2nd-10th
It’s a short one this year, but still worth the trip, because the small town of 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.
Yverdon-les-Bains, December 2nd-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.
Stein am Rhine, December 6th-31st
Photo: Jan Geerk/Swiss Tourism
The 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. A highlight is the medieval market (Dec 15th-17th only), which makes the most of the town's atmospheric architecture with sword-fighting knights, a blacksmith forging iron and a dressmaker's shop where you can try on medieval robes.
Bremgarten, December 7th-10th
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.
Murten, December 8th-10th
Photo: Murten Tourism
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. It may be short in duration, but with 150 stalls it's brimming with gift ideas.
Gruyères, December 8th-10th
A wonderfully atmospheric setting for a Christmas market is the medieval village of Gruyères, whose main cobbled square will be taken over by festive chalets for one weekend only. There's also a St Nicholas parade, children's enertainment and a concert in the church.
Rapperswil, December 15th-23rd
Another beautiful medieval town with an imposing castle, this place on Lake Zurich is an atmospheric spot for a Christmas market, now one of Switzerland's biggest, with 250 stalls taking over the small town.
Interlaken, December 16th-26th
Photo: Interlaken Tourism
Browing this Christmas market comes with the added bonus of being able to try your hand at ice skating on the giant Ice Magic complex, a series of five ice rinks linked by runways. You can also book a curling lane and take ice skating lessons.
Which Christmas markets will you be visiting this year? Tag us in your photos on Instagram @TheLocalSwitzerland