Basel is Switzerland’s cultural and Christmas capital. Basel Christmas Market takes place across two main squares in the Old Town, but the rest of the city is also decorated with Christmas decorations and pretty lights.
Basel is a wonderful destination for a short winter break, with the highlight being the incredible Swiss specialties. Read on for everything you need to know to plan your visit, including confirmed 2023 dates.
Basel Christmas Market 2023
There are two main Christmas markets in Basel’s old town, one is in Barfüsserplatz and the other is in Münsterplatz.
Barfüsserplatz is the central hub of the city, a bustling square that is surrounded by narrow laneways with shops and places to eat.
This is where you’ll find most of the 180 Christmas chalets in Basel, spreading past the square into Kaufhausgasse towards Freie Strasse.
Münsterplatz is located in front of Basel Cathedral and is one of the oldest squares in Basel. It has been used for festivals, parades, royal events and markets since medieval times.
Basel’s most beautiful Christmas tree stands on Münsterplatz, with ornaments by the well-known decorator Johann Wanner.
The trees lining the square are decorated with Christmas lights adding to the festive atmosphere.
Dates and Location
Basel Christmas Market dates: 23rd November to 23rd December 2023.
Location: Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz in Altstadt Grossbasel (the Old Town in Basel).
Opening times: 11am to 8:30pm.
Final day: 11am to 6pm.
Christmas Day: Closed.
Christmas lights: Yes, but no switch on date.
Ice skating: Yes.
Vegetarian: Yes, plenty of options.
Vegan: Yes, but limited.
Gluten free: Yes, but limited.
Pet-friendly: Yes, dogs are allowed on a lead.
Reason to visit: Basel is home to the prettiest and largest Christmas market in Switzerland.
Recommended tour: Walking tour of Old Town Basel.
Specialities: Traditional Basel Läckerli (a type of gingerbread), Swiss raclette, waffles and of course glühwein (at the Christmas Pyramid).
Travel tips: From the 2nd to 20th December you can climb St Martin’s Tower (CHF 5.00) for incredible views across the illuminated Old Town.
Where to stay: Art House is an excellent hotel near the Christmas market.
Hotels near Basel Christmas Market
While Basel might not be the most popular city break destination in Switzerland, there are still plenty of nice hotels to choose from.
Art House is a boutique hotel 3 minutes from Barfüsserplatz. It’s one of the most sustainable hotels in Basel as they use renewable energy as their source of electricity, they avoid single-use plastics, they are active in reducing food waste and they support various local community initiatives.
Alternatively, Motel One is an excellent budget hotel located directly in front of the Christmas market.
If neither of these suits you, I’ve put together a guide to hotels near Basel Christmas Market to help you select the best place to stay for your trip.
Each of these suggested places to stay are within walking distance of the Christmas markets, many of the city’s sights and places to eat out.
Location of Basel Christmas Market
City and Christmas Tours
Exploring Basel through a city tour is a great way to engage with the city’s rich heritage and culture. Basel has a beautiful old town with vibrant facades and remarkable architecture.
This city tour of Basel is highly recommended, allowing you to glimpse many of the city’s highlights for a reasonable cost, led by a local guide. This tour proves especially beneficial for those visiting Basel for the first time.
On a city tour, you’ll encounter the city’s most popular landmarks and attractions, including the historic Old Town, the stunning Tinguely Fountain and the towering Basel Minster.
Alternatively, you might consider taking this self-guided food tour as a way to understand the local culture through their cuisine.
Christmas in Basel
Basel is the cultural capital of Switzerland and home to 40 museums, the highest concentration anywhere in Switzerland.
Visiting museums is one of the best things to do in winter, especially when the weather is poor, which, let’s face it, is more often than not in winter.
Alongside the historic Old Town is some of the most interesting modern architecture in the region, all of which can be discovered on a city tour or by exploring by tram.
There is much more to see all around Switzerland. If you’re thinking about visiting other Swiss cities this winter, read my guide to the best Christmas markets in Switzerland for dates and locations.
Christmas Specialties in Basel
- Raclette: Melted cheese is the star of this dish. It involves a large wheel of raclette cheese, partially melted and then scraped onto boiled potatoes, pickles and onions. Eating raclette is a communal and sociable affair, and its rich, hearty flavours make it a comforting choice during the chilly winter months.
- Swiss Lebkuchen: Think of this as Switzerland’s take on gingerbread. Lebkuchen is typically spiced with a mix of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Rather than the icing-sugar-coated variety, it’s more often glazed with a sweet syrup, providing a glossy finish. Vegetarians can safely indulge, as Lebkuchen is usually free from animal products.
- Birnenweggen: On your Christmas table, you might find this sweet treat filled with a delicate mixture of pear, fig and walnut. The name translates to ‘pear way’ or ‘pear path’, hinting at the experience that lies within its flaky pastry exterior. As it’s fruit-based, Birnenweggen can be enjoyed by vegetarians.
- Zürcher Eintopf: From the canton of Zurich comes this hearty one-pot dish. It consists of a variety of winter vegetables, barley and diced beef cooked together in a delicious broth. For a vegetarian version, you could substitute the beef with hearty root vegetables or mushrooms for a comforting and warming dish.
- Swiss Christmas cookies: Known locally as Weihnachtsguetzli, these include Brunsli (chocolate almond cookies), Zimtsterne (cinnamon stars) and Mailänderli (shortbread-like cookies). These bite-sized treats are made in many Swiss homes during the Christmas period and are often baked in a variety of shapes. These are generally vegetarian-friendly, but it’s always a good idea to check the ingredients.
- Zürcher Geschnetzeltes: It’s a mouthful to pronounce but worth it for the taste. This Zurich specialty includes thin strips of veal cooked in a creamy white wine and mushroom sauce. Typically served with Rösti (Swiss-style grated and fried potatoes), it makes for a warming and filling Christmas meal.
Next, let’s move on to the traditional Christmas market foods.
- Basler Läckerli: Strolling around the Basel Christmas Market, you’ll likely encounter this traditional Swiss gingerbread biscuit. Crafted with honey, nuts, candied peel and Kirsch, a cherry brandy, Basler Läckerli is a delicious Christmas treat. Enjoy it freshly made from a market stall.
- Glühwein: While not unique to Switzerland, Glühwein, or mulled wine, is a Christmas market staple. Red wine is simmered with an array of spices such as cloves, star anise and cinnamon, then sweetened with sugar and served warm. Sip this comforting drink as you explore the charming market stalls, its steamy warmth serving as the perfect counter to the wintry chill.
- Raclette Sandwich: Expect to find market stalls serving up a portable and snackable version of the traditional raclette. Melted raclette cheese is scraped onto a warm baguette and garnished with pickles or onions, providing a quick, comforting snack as you wander the markets.
- Maroni: Feel the warmth seep into your fingers as you clutch a bag of hot, roasted chestnuts, locally known as maroni. Vendors roast these right at their stalls, filling the air with their unique, earthy aroma. Enjoy them as a naturally sweet, warming and vegetarian-friendly snack.
- Chocolate Fondue: In Basel, you might discover stalls serving a classic Swiss dish with a festive twist. Fresh fruit and marshmallows are offered up for dipping into a pot of rich, molten Swiss chocolate, providing a decadent treat that’s hard to resist.
- Chäschüechli: Originating from the Swiss canton of Aargau, these savoury cheese tartlets are a delicious find. Made with puff pastry and a rich cheese filling, Chäschüechli make for a satisfying snack, their flaky crust and gooey centre a pleasant contrast of textures.
- Bratwurst and Bürli: Bratwurst, a type of German sausage, is a popular international Christmas market food you’ll find at Basel. Usually served in a crusty roll known as a Bürli, it makes a hearty, handheld snack ideal for consuming as you explore the market stalls.
- Apfelküchlein: Enjoy the sweet, fruity taste of these Swiss apple fritters. Thin apple slices are coated in batter and deep-fried to create a sweet and slightly tart treat that goes perfectly with a dusting of icing sugar or a drizzle of caramel sauce.
What to Buy
- Swiss Watches: Basel’s reputation as a hub of Swiss horology extends to its Christmas markets. Browse stalls stocked with Swiss timepieces, ranging from functional, affordable models to luxury items.
- Handcrafted Decorations: Many stalls in the Basel Christmas Market showcase a variety of artisan-crafted Christmas ornaments. These can include hand-painted baubles, intricate wooden nativity scenes and even delicate glass snowflakes, each reflecting the skilled craftsmanship of local artisans.
- Basler Läckerli: Packaged in decorative tins or beautifully wrapped boxes, Basler Läckerli, a Basel-specific gingerbread biscuit, makes a delightful edible gift for those who appreciate a sweet treat.
- Swiss Chocolate: Swiss chocolate needs no introduction. As you peruse the market stalls, you’ll find a variety of chocolates – from renowned brands to locally-made artisanal creations. Consider choosing some unique flavours or a beautifully presented selection box as a special gift.
- Swiss Cheese: Speciality cheeses, including Gruyère, Emmental and local artisanal varieties, are available at many stalls. Often, they’re attractively packaged for gift-giving.
- Textile Goods: Basel has a rich history in the textile industry. You’ll find stalls selling a range of textile goods, such as high-quality Swiss linens, embroidered tea towels, or handmade scarves.
- Locally Made Ceramics: Look out for the exquisite Swiss ceramics on offer. Ranging from practical items like mugs and plates to more ornamental pieces, these ceramics blend Swiss craftsmanship with artistic creativity.
- Traditional Swiss Toys: For the younger ones, traditional Swiss toys like wooden puzzles, cuckoo clocks and carved animals can be found. Not only are they fun, but they also serve as a piece of Swiss cultural heritage.
- Handcrafted Jewellery: Many artisans sell their handmade jewellery at the Christmas markets. Pieces may range from those featuring traditional Swiss motifs to more modern designs, giving you a wide selection to choose from for that perfect Christmas gift.
Sustainable Travel Tips
When visiting the Christmas markets, keeping sustainability in mind is important. These tips and ideas are a great place to start.
- Shop mindfully. Only purchase what you really need.
- Walk, cycle and use public transport to get around.
- Stay in a sustainable hotel powered by renewable energy.
- Avoid using plastic or buying items made or packaged with plastic.
- Try to eat locally sourced organic food where possible.
- Limit your consumption of meat and dairy.
- Be open to diverse cultures and experiences.
- Explore more than just the main tourist areas.
- Support the arts and attend local events.
- Visit fewer places but stay longer at each destination.
Basel’s two Christmas markets are located in the Old Town on Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz.
The Basel Christmas Market starts on the 23rd November 2023.
Basel Christmas Market dates in 2023 are from 23rd November to 23rd December.
If you have any questions or comments about visiting the Basel Xmas market in 2023 (known as Weihnachtsmarkt in Switzerland) or would like to know more about visiting Basel in winter, please comment below.
The latest information for travellers visiting Basel is published by Switzerland Tourism.
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