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Switzerland's Best Christmas Markets

What to do in Switzerland during the Winter Holidays


Switzerland always seems to come to mind when you think of winter and cold weather celebration like Christmas and Christmas markets. The backdrop of snowy mountains is perfect. Below you'll find our picks for the biggest and best of Swiss Christmas Markets and other odd and fascinating Winter celebrations in Switzerland.

1. Basel Chrismas Market

basel chrismas market, switzerland christmas markets
Basel Marktplatz with Christmas illuminations © Erwin Zbinden, provided by Basel Tourismus

Basel, sitting on the Rhine river and sharing a border with France and Germany, is said to be home to Switzerland's largest Christmas market, wedged tightly into the Barfüsserplatz. Basel also offers the longest illuminated Christmas street in Europe. You'll find over 140 stalls with artisinal works from Swiss craftspeople on display in the brightly decorated old town.

The Johann Wanner Christmas House at Spalenberg 14 is famous for its range of Christmas ornaments; the Queen of England buys hers there and so does the White House, they tell me.

The 2009 Basel Christmas Market is in session from 26 November to 23 December, and stalls in action between 11am and 8pm.

More on Basel | Basel Hotels (book direct) | Basel Guildhall Restaurants

2. Zurich Christmas Markets

Basel might have the biggest open air Christmas Market, but Zurich has not only the largest covered Christmas Market but there are four markets in all.

Zürich's oldest Christmas market is in the old center and runs from December 8 - 23 in 2009.

The Christmas Market on Bahnhofstrasse is convenient for those who have taken a hotel near the rail station and Europe's largest covered Christmas market with 160 stalls is found in the rail station’s main hall. It runs from Nov. 27 to Christmas eve.

Plus: on December 17, see Zurich's traditional festival of floating lights, Lichterschwimmen, in which children release hundreds of miniature candle boats down the River Limmat.

More: Zurich | Zurich Hotels (book direct)

3. Bern Christmas Markets

Bern's main Christmas Market is set amidst the old 15-17 century houses of Bern's historic center on Waisenhausplatz. You'll also find plenty of arts and crafts in a second Christmas Market along the Münsterplatz by the cathedral. A steaming Glühwein will take the shopper's chill away.

The Berne Christmas Market on Waisenhausplatz is open until the 29 December, later than most. Here are the Bern Christmas Market opening times.

More: Bern (Berne) | Bern Hotels (book direct)

4. St. Gallen Christmas Markets

One of my favorite smaller cities in Switzerland is St. Gallen, near the Bodensee or Lake Constance. There will be Christmas markets in the St. Gallen Old Town and in the Waaghaus. A 20 meter+ pine tree will be flown in by helicopter and illuminated in front of the towers of the Baroque cathedral. Dates: 28th November - 24th December 2009.

More: St Gallen | St. Gallen Hotels (book direct) | Lake Constance

5. Christmas in the castle Gruyères

From Saturday, Nov 21, 2009 - Sunday, Jan 10, 2010, the Castle opens its doors to an exceptional Christmas exhibition: over a 150 Peruvian Nativity Scenes will be on display. Find out more about the special Christmas event at the Castle web site.

6. Switzerland's highest Christmas Market--Mt. Pilatus

Switzerland's highest Christmas Market? Well, that'd be way up at almost 7000 feet (2133 meters) on Mt. Pilatus in Central Switzerland near Zurich. Over 50 Artisans exhibit in the thin air, and only for a few days near the end of November (2009 dates: November 20 - 22.

You can take the world's steepest cogwheel railway to get there.

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