Starting in late November, Switzerland begins to bustle and twinkle with over a hundred Christmas Markets. They magically appear in large cities and in small alpine villages, often with their own focus and personality which reveals the distinctive local culture and regional differences found throughout Switzerland.
Touring Christmas Markets in Switzerland means you’ll be treated to holiday magic in German, French, and Italian cantons. As you wander through these festive settings, you’re sure to uncover the treasured traditions, favorite foods, and authentic artisans that make each region sparkle.
Switzerland’s oldest Christmas Market, also its largest, with 180 stalls, starts in Barfüsserplatz—“barefoot plaza” after the shoeless Franciscan monks who founded the monastery here. A short walk up to the Münsterplatz brings you to Basel’s red sandstone medieval cathedral with both Romanesque and Gothic elements. This square hosts both a traditional Christmas Market and a charming children’s market with hands-on activities like candle dipping and roasting “snake bread” (schlangenbrot) over an open fire. Before the sun sets, descend the stairs behind the Munster where you can ride the traditional reaction ferry across the Rhine.
The flowers and palms on Montreux’s lakeshore promenade give way to Christmas trees and over 160 market stalls in French-speaking largest Christmas Market in Switzerland. A massive illuminated Ferris wheel dominates the night sky. Full-size two-story restaurants pop up to make this market the place to eat, drink, and socialize. Each night Santa flies overhead and serenades the throng. The snow-capped mountains along the west shore of the Lake Geneva create a stunning sunset photo.
Really five markets, but since Zurich is so compact and made uber-accessible with trams, you can visit them all in the same evening. Start in the Zurich HB train station with the Christkindlimarkt—Europe’s largest indoor Christmas market—where 7000 Swarovski crystals brighten the 50-foot centerpiece tree. Before you leave, try the raclette (melted raclette cheese with tiny Swiss potatoes). And stop by Sprüngli for their chocolate truffles. Just two blocks away, in Werdmühleplatz, local choirs fill a singing Christmas tree each evening with stalls surrounding them. All of December.
The best of the large markets spreads out in front of the Opera House on Sechseläutenplatz, and includes an ice rink. Zurich’s oldest Christmas market is held in stalls strong along narrow streets and walkways in the Niederdorf quarter. The City Christmas Market, set up between the Jelmoli and Globus department stores, invites visitors to enjoy both the small stalls and the retail abundance of Zurich’s Bahnhofstrasse shopping area. All of December.
Franziskanerplatz is a peaceful and enclosed setting, away from the busy streets and tourist crowds in Luzern. About 70 stalls spill onto both sides of the Franciscan church. A stroll across the Chapel Bridge before dinner allows you to enjoy the lights in every direction. A giant illuminated advent calendar, holiday entertainment, and a nativity scene make it an appealing visit for families. All of December.
The main Christmas Market is on Waisenhausplatz (Orphanage Square), in the heart of Bern, and just a five-minute walk from the train station. This market is marked by big vendors and impressive selections, so you’re sure to find something to interest you. The smaller market is in Münsterplatz, in front of Switzerland’s largest church tower. This is an artisan market where everything for sale is hand made by the person in the stall, where you’ll often see them at work. Abundance of live musicians playing Christmas songs, including a talented Heilsarmee (Salvation Army) brass band. With its covered arcades you’ll have no problem walking from the train station to both markets without ever getting wet. All of December.
Home to Switzerland’s finest baroque building—the Benedictine Einsiedeln Abbey—this town is “all in” at Christmastime, with 130 stalls gracing Monastery square, the most scenic setting for any Swiss Christmas Market. What could be more Christmassy than a town with a gingerbread museum and the world’s largest nativity scene, with over 450 figures depicting the birth of Jesus. Be sure to taste a grittbänz (a man made of rich bread dough). One of the bakers deep fries the dough and fills it with raspberry jam. Lasts one week.
Little Frauenfeld in canton Thurgau outpunches its weight in the arena of destination Christmas Markets. Radiating from the towering St. Nicolas church, stalls fill narrow streets in all directions. The real fun kicks in with the Advent Parade with camels, wise men, and a darling children’s choir. In adjacent stalls are donkeys and sheep. Nativity scenes are in almost every shop window and hung overhead in sherrenschnitten (silhouette) style. Handmade items from local artisans line the street. The evening light show on the buildings is memorable. Market is only three days.
With the opening of the Gotthard Base Tunnel, Lugano is now closer than ever to Zurich. So when it’s cold or raining up north, a day trip to the sun-drenched slopes and palm-lined lakes of Ticino is easy. Lugano’s market is set under the Italianate facades of the Piazza della Riforma and presided over by a giant Christmas tree. Market closes early each day. Plan ahead to get your panettone, amaretti, and gelato. And don’t forget some delicious salami, prosciutto, and local cheeses. All of December.
Stein am Rhein
Picturesque Stein am Rhein is just an hour and 500 years from Zurich. It’s famous for the painted facades and timbered houses in it’s well-preserved Old Town. The charm oozes from every shop window, and especially at Christmas. For three days in mid-December the town’s already-charming Christmas market is joined by a medieval-themed market in the St. George’s monastery with costumed performers, and stall vendors specializing in traditional handicrafts and work of the Middle Ages—blacksmithing, firestarting, archery, and candle making, Medieval is one weekend, traditional is one week.
Stretching from the Market Square to the Waaghaus, are 70 stalls, with some indoor options. But the undisputed highlights are the hundreds of large illuminated stars overhead and the romantic facades of the spacious old town cobblestone streets. Don’t miss the tree in the Abbey district (over 27 meters tall, is the tallest Christmas tree in Switzerland), decorated with 18,000 lights. Set aside time to visit the abbey 10am-5pm. Market closes 7pm. Get your restaurant reservations early to guarantee a meal.
Thank you for taking the time to read about the top Christmas markets in Switzerland. We hope you book a trip in during December to see any of these beautiful markets, let us know if you have any questions, we are happy to help!