When it comes to celebrating Christmas, Switzerland, with its snow-capped mountains, charming villages, and festive markets, is a winter wonderland like no other. Despite its small size, this idyllic country offers a variety of unique experiences you wouldn't want to miss.
Weather During Christmas
The best way to witness Christmas is to choose an alpine location to improve your chances of witnessing a real white Christmas in Switzerland! If you're looking at higher elevations, the better, since they are more likely to experience snow than lowland areas.
Snow in Switzerland in December used to be a guarantee, but that's not the case anymore. Although fresh snow is not always possible, average high temperatures are still low (about 4°C / 39°F).
Christmas in the Swiss Alps
The mountains are the spot for you if a lot of snow is what you envision your perfect Christmas in Switzerland to be like. If you're searching for a truly snowy Christmas, Switzerland is the place to go. The Swiss Alps during Christmas have a storybook appeal that can't help but get you in the holiday spirit.
Because of their high altitude, the Swiss alpine destinations are sure to have snow over the Christmas season. Among these, you can visit the towns of St. Moritz, Zermatt, and Davos/Klosters, where you can enjoy fantastic skiing as well as fantastic après-ski activities.
Experience the Christmas Traditions in a Swiss Village
Switzerland has many possibilities if you want to have the classic experience of staying in a real-life Christmas village. This is where you can truly feel the spirit of the season with its twinkling fairy lights, snow-covered rooftops, and plenty of decorations.
Swiss communities, although smaller than their larger neighbours, still celebrate Christmas in grand style, and it's frequently in these places that you'll experience the true spirit of the season.
You may take in the ambience without the hectic pre-Christmas activity that you frequently encounter in larger towns when inhabitants assemble in the village square for Christmas celebrations or make their way to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.
For instance, the night sky is illuminated by a canopy of stars in the charming mediaeval town of Stein am Rhein. The Rhine Bridge and Hohenklingen Castle are illuminated with sparkling lights. You will have a manger scene, market stalls offering handicrafts and snacks, a merry-go-round, and carol singers bring life to the town centre.
Once you experience Switzerland in Christmas celebration mode and are fascinated by the beauty of the holiday season, you won't soon forget by making one of these locations your favourite place to be!
15 Places to Spend Christmas in Switzerland
Zurich is Switzerland's largest city, which turns into a twinkling cityscape during the Christmas season. The city centre is adorned with over a million lights, creating an enchanting atmosphere. You can enjoy the Christmas markets, notably the one in the Old Town (Altstadt). The Christmas market at Zurich Hauptbahnhof, with its towering Christmas tree decorated with Swarovski crystals, is a must-see! Don't forget to indulge in some traditional Swiss fondue and raclette.
Located on the shores of Lake Geneva, Montreux hosts one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in Switzerland. The city is easily accessible by train from Geneva and Zurich.
The largest Christmas market in Switzerland is located in Montreux! Now, Imagine a waterside promenade with 156 chalet-style booths, each one smelling of mulled wine and fondue cheese while displaying handcrafted items. That's exactly what you're in for when you come to Montreux. Combine that with a fortified castle featuring real historical tales being acted out, complete with flame throwers and mediaeval music performances, and you're in for a mediaeval fiesta! One of the nicest sites to visit in Switzerland and the epitome of mediaeval magic is Chillon Castle.
Lying in the shadow of the Matterhorn, Zermatt is a car-free mountain village, offering a magical Christmas experience with the mountain peaks as its backdrop. This means that the air is crisp without the pollution and the Christmas season is an absolutely perfect time to reach here. To reach Zermatt, take a train from Visp or Brig, accessible from major Swiss cities.
Once you're in Zermatt, the best way to enjoy yourself is skiing on the Swiss Alps or taking a cable car up to the Gornergrat for a panoramic view of the surrounding peaks. On Christmas Eve, don't miss the open-air Christmas carol concert in the village church square!
If you want to have a true historic Christmas experience, this is where you should visit. Lucerne with its mediaeval architecture and bridges, with the backdrop of the beautiful Lake, the town is like a Christmas card come to life!
The major Lucerne Christmas market, or Lozärner Wiehnachtsmärt as it is known locally, is held in the Old Town's square in front of the Franciscan Church. The market has a variety to choose from. Beginning with a variety of foods and beverages as well as handcrafted Christmas items made of materials including glass, linen, ceramics, wood, and metal, you can shop for Christmas gifts and souvenirs till you drop!
As you browse the market stalls, the mouth-watering aromas of sausages, roasted chestnuts, and homemade gingerbread will make you want to stop by and have a taste. After your delectable delicacy, enjoy a hot cup of hot chocolate or mulled wine. The Christmas markets in Lucerne typically run from about December 3 until December 20.
Although the opulent spa town has a long history of breaking new ground, during Christmas, tradition reigns supreme!
After twice hosting the Winter Olympics, St. Moritz boasts one of the most joyous atmospheres in all of Switzerland and is skilled at planning large-scale gatherings. The festivities in St. Moritz begin with a Christmas Market that includes Santa Claus, musical performances, and candle-making classes. Along with the opening of the Glatschin Ice Rink, numerous additional rinks throughout the city, such as Ludain's, a gastro-village, and a fair with a Christmas theme also take place.
Don't forget to hop onto the famous Bernina Express across the Alps to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Tirano, which is a good addition to visit when you're celebrating Christmas.
The Rhine Gorge and various spectacular viaducts can be seen from the train as it travels between St. Moritz and the Oberalp Pass.
Basel is known for its vibrant art scene which becomes even more captivating during Christmas.
Since Switzerland is also famous for its Christmas markets, head to the Basel Christmas Market which is located in the historic city centre. With more than 180 wooden huts set up in the centre of the city's Old Town, Basel's Christmas market is the oldest in Switzerland and is often recognized as the best in the country. One of Johann Wanner's magnificently ornamented Christmas trees is usually towering over them.
If you're craving some Christmas food, visit Läckerli Huus, a famous bakery that sells traditional Swiss gingerbread. If you're an Art enthusiast, Basel is a lovely place to explore the city's numerous museums and galleries, including the Fondation Beyeler and Kunstmuseum Basel.
If you're looking for a fairytale-esque Christmas, the capital city of Switzerland, Bern, offers just that experience with its mediaeval old town and picturesque setting. As you stroll through the Bern Christmas Market, located on Waisenhausplatz, you can find local crafts, food, and drinks that showcase the beauty of the Swiss.
The charming streets of the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site are not to be missed as well and make sure to visit the Bern Cathedral and Federal Palace, which are decorated with the grandeur and pomp of the season. A speciality here is the cheese, so grab a few plates of the town's traditional Swiss cheese fondue!
Resting cosily between Lausanne and Montreux is the town of Vevey on the north shore of Lake Geneva, only 20 minutes by vehicle from Montreux, It is well known for the famous comic legend Charlie Chaplin, who spent his final years in this beautiful town, but during the festive season, Vevey has an intriguing method of celebrating English Christmas.
While other Swiss towns entice you with decorative markets, music, concerts, food, and traditional arts and crafts, Vevey has Europe's longest tunnel of light. This makes up for a bright Christmas in the town during the holiday season since it is along the lake. The 50-metre-long tunnel is made up of 25 arches that support 1,150 fairy light garlands that contain about 28,750 glittering star lamps. You can enter the tunnel and wander around, admiring the lights and clicking Instagrammable pictures!
Nestled in the Bernese Alps, Grindelwald is a lovely town that offers you a picturesque and cosy Christmas experience.
It is considered one of the most magical Christmas villages in Switzerland and its location among the stunning snowy peaks and meadows of the Bernese Oberland adds to the touch of mysticism. In addition to having stunning views of the Eiger's well-known stony north face, enjoy the stunning alpine scenery, go skiing or snowboarding, or take a scenic hike. Don't miss the Christmas market in the village centre, which offers local handicrafts and culinary delights. You can also consider taking a cogwheel train up to Jungfraujoch, the "Top of Europe," for breathtaking views! From almost 3,500 metres above sea level, you will be in awe of the vistas across the Aletsch Glacier. You can also take a lift 100 metres up to the impressive Sphinx vantage point.
Lugano is located in the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland, combining Swiss charm with a Mediterranean flair. It is situated in a gorgeous setting along the beaches of Lake Lugano, with spectacular mountain ranges serving as a backdrop.
Lugano is breathtakingly lovely at any time of year, but it shines even brighter during the holiday season. Christmas in Lugano lasts longer than two or three days. The city's celebrations begin at the end of November and last through January 6th. Apart from the Christmas Market, which takes over the streets of the city centre, most of the public celebrations are held in the city's two main plazas, the Piazza Manzoni and the Piazza della Reforma, in a manner more in keeping with Mediterranean customs. When in Lugano, don't forget to try their local speciality, risotto and enjoy a slice of panettone.
Switzerland's central alpine area is home to the breathtakingly Gothic mediaeval town of Gruyères.
This town is highly renowned across the world for its famous cheese, superb chocolate, and storybook castle from the 13th century.
Christmas in Gruyères is a magical time when the town's holiday market takes over the cobblestone streets and is surrounded by spectacular lighting. Amidst choirs of carol singers and braziers of roasting chestnuts, local artists display their items at the Gruyères Christmas Market, which is held over two weekends before Christmas. It has a fantastic holiday mood that is unmatched!
If you get the time, make sure to visit the Château de Gruyères. One of the nicest sites to see in Switzerland is the 800-year-old castle with turrets.
If you're keen to learn how their cheese is made, visit La Maison de Gruyere, a cheese factory with hands-on exhibits!
And if you're looking for a sweet tour, visit the Maison Cailler, a chocolate factory, where you can watch chocolatiers at work before treating your taste buds to some of the mouthwatering confections!
The town of Locarno is different from other Swiss towns. How, do you ask? Well,
The city transforms into 'Locarno on Ice' for the duration of the Christmas season when the Piazza Grande, the main square, changes into an ice rink for the seasonal celebrations. Igloo-shaped bars, a stage for live music, and several street food vendors all contribute to the celebratory mood.
A lively Christmas Market with handcraft vendors, and food stands serving hot soup, melted cheese specialties, and seasonal sweets can also be found in Locarno's old town. Make sure to visit the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Sasso to take in the breathtaking views of the lake and alpine mountain landscape from there to see Locarno in all its wintery splendour.
Einsiedeln holds a special place for Christians since a tenth-century Mary-dedicated abbey in the Swiss town draws the religious all year long and has a special significance around Christmas.
But, even if you're of a different faith or not a religious person, this town can be quite fun to be in.
One of the largest Christmas markets in Switzerland is hosted in front of Einsiedeln Abbey, which is a huge one that stands in the middle of the town.
One could hardly visit Einsiedeln without peeking inside the Diorama Bethlehem. This elaborate work of Christmas art features an enormous nativity scene, with around 450 hand-carved figures! The fragile figurines, cover an area of 80 square metres, thus, making it the largest Christmas crib in the World!
If you'd like to try the speciality of the town, make your way to the Goldapfel Gingerbread Bakery and Museum for some yummy gingerbread.
Stein am Rhein
One of the most beautiful Christmas villages in Switzerland is certainly Stein am Rhein, with its historic architecture. Christmas becomes a magical illusion for all ages when you combine it with the town custom of adorning the streets where the Christmas Market, or Maerlistadt, is hosted each year in a different fairytale theme.
Stein am Rhein's magic of Christmas doesn't end there. For three days, a mediaeval market with costumed actors practising crafts from the past comes to life inside the walls of the town's former Benedictine monastery, St Georgen Abbey. You can join the safe by hiring a costume, getting dressed up and joining in the excitement as mediaeval knights duke it out for a damsel's honour or the blacksmith bangs away at his anvil. It's a true, ethereal Christmas trip with food and wine prepared in the manner of the Middle Ages.
If you're looking for a sparkly Christmas, head over to St. Gallen where over 700 stars are stretched above the streets, throughout the holiday season, making the city absolutely glow. They are a striking sight, and together with what is likely the biggest Christmas tree in Switzerland, which is placed in front of the town's cathedral each year, they contribute to an incredible Christmassy ambience!
There are a total of three Christmas markets held in St. Gallen. Santa Claus and his helpers are present at one of the town's most well-liked events. There are three more events—one on Bohl, one at Waaghous, and one in the Marktplatz. You can find Santa Claus and his elves riding through the town in a procession known as the Chlausritt, which is a special occasion for both young and old and adds a special touch to the uniqueness of Christmas in St. Gallen. This is a fun place to enjoy the Christmas magic.
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