Switzerland’s Best Fairytale Christmas Markets

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Frosty air nips at your cheeks and breath clouds form as you exhale. You catch the scent of mulled wine, ginger, cinnamon, and intense vanilla.

All around you are bright Christmas lights, matching the childlike sparkle in people’s eyes.

There’s something magical about Christmas markets. Maybe it’s the glow of the decorations. Or the food and souvenirs you can buy, such as Christmas wreaths and Advent calendars. Or perhaps it’s just the wine and winter wonderland vibe.

Whatever it is, these markets really get people into the Christmas spirit.

There are numerous Christmas markets in Heidiland, but these are the best ones to soak up Swiss culture.

Basel—Perfect for families

Basel Switzerland's Christmas market

Voted among Europe’s ten best Christmas markets and winner of the European Best Christmas Markets in 2021, Basel arguably boasts Switzerland’s most beautiful and largest Christmas market.

In northwestern Switzerland, within spitting distance of the German border, you’ll find a huge selection of handicrafts and foods in the 155 Santa-adorned wooden chalets/market stalls.

Think grilled sausages and traditional Swiss meals, such as Raclette, a semi-hard, thickly sliced cheese that’s melted and usually poured over boiled potatoes. And if you’ve got a sweet tooth, you’ll love the homemade waffles or Basler Läckerli, a sugar glaze biscuit made of honey, hazelnuts, almonds, and Kirsch.

Visiting Basel’s Christmas market means walking through the well-preserved, pedestrian-only Old Town, all aglow with golden lights creating a fairytale atmosphere. Additionally, nearly 100 massive fir trees line the narrow streets as if leading the way.

For heavenly views of Greater Basel and the Old Town’s bright Christmas lights, climb St. Martin’s belfry tower.

The Christmas market occurs not only on the Barfi, as locals endearingly call the jewelry shop- and bistro-surrounded square. It also happens on the Münsterplatz, a flat open place with a formerly Catholic cathedral, built centuries ago in Romanesque styles with Gothic windows.

How to get to Basel

You can book a flight to Basel and ride the bus or tram to Barfüsserplatz. Or fly to Zurich and ride the train from Zurich to Basel before jumping on a tram.

Bern—Ideal for history buffs

Bern Christmas market in Switzerland

Keen to combine culture with shopping sprees?

Then Bern’s Xmas market is for you.

Switzerland’s hillside capital, between the Jura and the Alps, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For good reason. Set against a backdrop of the Bernese Alps, the Old Town, with its sandstone buildings, 15th-century arcades, and 16th-century fountains, continue to impress visitors.

While Bern underwent restoration in the 18th century, the historical town has retained its medieval charm.

The narrow antique alleyways surrounding Minster Square create a unique setting and cozy Christmas vibe. All items are innovatively designed with love and excellent skill, from local crafts and artistic wares to jewelry and games.

How to get to Bern

Book a flight to Zurich, ride the train from Zurich to Bern, and then hop on a tram.

Gruyères—For craftsmanship and cheese lovers

cute town of Gruyere in Switzerland during December

Set on the Pre-Alps’ foothills in western Switzerland, where locals speak French, Gruyères is another medieval town frozen in time by pre-historic architecture.

What’s the intoxicating twist at this Christmas market?

In the intimate setting of this city named after its local cheese, 40 craftsmen sell handmade items that make for surprising presents. You can saunter along the cobbled streets to the sound of folk ditties, soak up the slower pace of life and tuck into creamy, salty Gruyères cheese, famous for its nutty flavor.

Needless to say, the streets are radiant with sparkling lights, creating another fairy tale locale with the scents of cheese.

How to get to Gruyères

You can fly to Zurich or, even better, Geneva. Then it’s only 1.5 hours to Gruyeres.

Lucerne—For couples and families

Lucern Switzerland's Christmas market lights

In the Advent season, Lucerne in central Switzerland transforms into a romantic city of bright lights.

The best place to experience the cheerful Christmas vibe is at Franziskanerplatz, a square with a Franciscan, Gothic monastery built in the 13th century. Adorned with alpine houses, Santa hats, and figurines, the artisan stalls sell anything from Christmas cups with chapel bridge designs to mugs and winter caps.

From mulled wine and punch to candies like the chatzestreckerli, a Lucerne specialty with honey and almonds—the Christmas market in Lucerne caters to every creature comfort visitors may require.

Plus, Santa showing up in person creates a jolly vibe. Kids love the carousel, where brass ensembles and choirs warble in the background.

Lovey-dovey couples stroll along the brightly lit, mountain-framed Lake of Lucerne. The famous Chapel Bridge, a footbridge spanning the river Reuss, is a popular place to pop the question. In a nutshell, Lucerne and its Christmas market is a romantic getaway you’ll want to take.

How to get to Lucerne

You can slow travel on a train or bus across Europe if you have the time. Or take the easy route and fly into Zurich or Geneva before hopping on a train to Lucerne.

Whichever Christmas market you choose, you can expect tasty food, unique craftsmanship, and awe-inspiring décor. You are bound to get into the Christmas spirit.

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