Christmas and Christmas Markets in Switzerland

by Pepe Strub, updated November 2022

It is this time of the year again and Christmas is quickly approaching. That is a good reason to update our visitors about the Advent and the fabulous Swiss Christmas markets.

Traditional Christmas in Switzerland starts on Dec. 6 with “Samichlaus” (Swiss German for St. Nick) and his black-clad assistant, Schmutzli. These days Samichlaus is a good man which visits families. Samichlaus reads from his huge book of sins — co-authored by the parents — and moralizes the kids in a soft way. The kids then ask for forgiveness by reciting a poem or playing an instrument. After this and assurances to get better, Samichlaus gives the kids a bag with tangerines, nuts, gingerbread, chocolates and other treats.

Christmas is celebrated on Dec. 24 (Holy Night) and Dec. 25 (Christmas). It is the most important holiday for the Swiss which are 90% Christian. It is the time of the year when family members travel to see and visit with their loved ones. Christmas trees are usually decorated on Dec. 23 or in the morning of Dec. 24 and are still often decorated with real candles and all sorts of other Christmas decorations. Presents are generally opened when candles are lit. Trees stay up until Jan. 6 – the 3 Kings Day.

In Switzerland we have some of the best Christmas Markets in Europe. Among the most famous and beautiful markets are the ones in Basel, Lucerne and Berne. These 3 cities are all within 1 hour by train from each other, so one can easily visit them in 2 days. Another renown Christmas market is in Montreux. And also Zurich, Lausanne or Geneva as well as many smaller villages all around Switzerland have markets which are well worth a visit.

Christmas Market Montreux
Montreux’ traditional Christmas Market is streched along the lakeside promenade with more than 150 richly decorated chalets and a gourmet area. On top of Montreux’ house mountain Rochers-de-Naye Santa Claus can be visited at his house – a must for families with smaller kids. At the legendary Chillon Castle a Middle Ages market with events and handicraft workshops awaits visitors on December weekends.

Christmas Market Basel
Basel has a beautiful Old Town and a lot of history, architecture and culture in general. The city is greatly influenced by its neighbors and sort of the meeting point of the 3-country corner shared by Switzerland, Germany and France. Starting in November travelers can visit 2 markets which are just minutes from each other. Stalls are located on Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz. You will also find craft shops and candle making and traditional Christmas related food is sold as well.

Christmas Market Lucerne
The Christmas Market in Lucerne features about 70 market stands with artists presenting their skills and products. During the Advent, the Franziskanerplatz is transformed into a small town with decorated timber houses. The Christmas Market creates a special ambiance in Lucerne during December and visitor come from far. There is also a Christmas carousel for children and seasonal music with brass ensembles and choirs. Spicy fragrances and wine punch add to the “flavor” and invite to stroll and browse.

Christmas Market Berne
The traditional Christmas Market at Waisenhausplatz in Berne is bordered with a fir fence. Being in the Old Town of Berne during Christmas is already special, visiting the Christmas market is even better. A wide assortment of quality Christmas articles are offered. There is also plenty of booth with snacks and food. Close by you will find the Cathedral of Berne where a 2nd market offers mainly crafts and other handmade goods.

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