Switzerland has always been one of the most popular winter destinations in Europe, and this is especially true during the Christmas period.
Almost every city square and shopping street is decorated with baubles and Christmas lights from late November, highlighting the incredible beauty of Swiss cities.
I’m fortunate to have travelled several times through Switzerland, often in winter, and in this guide, I share the best Christmas markets in Switzerland in 2023.
Christmas Markets in Switzerland 2023
Each Swiss city typically hosts at least one Christmas market, and many even have several within their borders, making picking the best one both challenging and subjective.
Personally, I’m partial to Switzerland’s larger cities, drawn by their vibrant atmospheres and wide variety of cultural and entertainment options. Beyond just the markets, these areas have plenty of activities that make a visit worthwhile.
That said, the smaller towns and villages across Switzerland have their own appeal. They give you a more serene, peaceful experience, adding a different, yet equally enjoyable, dimension to your time away.
Ultimately, the best destination varies from person to person, depending on individual preferences.
You might enjoy a broad cultural experience, want to focus primarily on Christmas festivities, or simply look for a quiet spot to unwind with Swiss hot chocolate and a good book. Each location has something valuable to offer.
Zurich’s Christmas and Advent events can be found throughout the city, commencing in late November and continuing until New Year’s Eve, creating a festive atmosphere for all to enjoy.
The Christkindlimarkt takes place within the bustling confines of Zurich’s central train station, drawing in visitors from across the city but also those passing through.
The traditional Christmas market in Niederdorf is Zurich’s oldest, referred to as the Village Christmas Market.
As you stroll down Mühlegasse, you’ll come across more Christmas stalls with the aromas of cinnamon and mulled wine wafting through the air.
At Hirschenplatz, you’ll find stalls selling gifts and local food specialties waiting to be discovered.
Additionally, the area around Grossmünster is renowned for its fondue stands and classic Swiss raclette, perfect for warming up in the crisp winter air.
Get more information on dates, times and things to see in Zurich with my Zurich Christmas Market guide, updated for 2023.
If you would like to stay in a central location, book one of my recommended hotels near Zurich Christmas Market.
Basel is often considered Switzerland’s cultural and Christmas epicentre. The Basel market is spread across two main squares in the Old Town, while the entire city is adorned with Christmas decorations and twinkling lights that create a magical atmosphere.
The two Christmas markets are in Basel’s Old Town, one in the picturesque Barfüsserplatz and the other in the historic Münsterplatz.
Centred on Münsterplatz is the city’s stunning Christmas tree, adorned with exquisite ornaments crafted by the renowned local designer Johann Wanner.
As you explore the festive streets, keep an eye out for local food specialties. These include the traditional Basel Läckerli, a gingerbread-like treat, Swiss raclette, waffles, and the warming glühwein, perfect for savouring during those chilly winter evenings.
The Bern Christmas Market is a festive celebration encompassing three main markets, three smaller markets and several events scattered throughout the city.
For a taste of tradition, make your way to the Waisenhausplatz, known for its classic charm.
If you would prefer a more intimate atmosphere, consider visiting the market set in front of the iconic Bern Minster.
This market at Bern Cathedral is one of the most beloved and picturesque Swiss markets. As one of the most significant festive events in the city, it has an inviting warmth and cosiness that is hard to resist.
For a unique, upscale, designer village-style experience, the Berner Sternenmarkt is the ideal destination.
Another must-visit market in Bern is Chalet Alpenland. This lovely venue is the perfect setting to savour a light meal, indulge in a rich hot chocolate, or enjoy a cup of handcrafted mulled wine.
All of the produce originates from the city of Bern and its surrounding region, providing an authentic taste of local Swiss culture.
For full details including dates, locations and opening times, read my Bern Christmas Market guide for festive Advent markets in Bern.
Christmas in Geneva is a wonderful experience that I think can be defined as magical. At least, that’s how I felt about my visit.
Suppose you’re lucky enough to arrive after snow. In that case, you’ll see the city transformed into a winter wonderland adorned with festive decorations, light displays, and a Christmas tree as the market’s stunning centrepiece.
One standout aspect of the market is the extensive variety of traditional Swiss food and drink at the stalls. This gastronomic selection makes the market, creating a distinctly Swiss atmosphere, setting it apart from the neighbouring German markets.
While exploring the market, set aside time for a memorable ride on the Grande Roue, a Ferris wheel that provides stunning views of the Old Town and Lake Geneva.
Younger visitors will love the opportunity to take pony rides and a spin on the charming, vintage-style carousel, creating lasting memories of their festive holiday in Geneva.
Read my full guide to Geneva Christmas Market that gives an overview of what you can expect when visiting Geneva in winter, including dates, opening times and how to make the most of your visit.
For more Christmas travel inspiration for 2023, read about the best Christmas markets in Europe, which can help you decide where to go. Get an overview of each destination, local specialties, dates and locations.
More Swiss Christmas Markets
Switzerland has many other Christmas markets beyond the top picks mentioned, each with unique specialties and experiences. Here are a few more markets to consider.
- Lugano Christmas Market: Located in the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland, Lugano’s market puts a Mediterranean twist on the traditional market with local crafts, gourmet food, and a festive atmosphere.
- St Gallen Christmas Market: Situated in the historic Old Town, St Gallen’s market is known for its stunning illuminations and unique gift ideas, delicious culinary treats and a cosy ambience. It’s known as the City of Stars during Advent due to the 700 stars illuminated across the city and at the Weihnachtsmarkt.
- Montreux Christmas Market: Set along the shores of Lake Geneva, Montreux’s market has over 160 decorated chalets, a Ferris wheel, and Santa’s workshop, making it a fun experience for visitors of all ages.
- Lucerne Christmas Market: The picturesque city of Lucerne hosts several festive markets, including the traditional market at Franziskanerplatz and the more modern Design & Handmade Market, where you’ll find a variety of crafts, food, and entertainment.
- Rapperswil Christmas Market: This market in the medieval town of Rapperswil features over 200 stalls, a nativity scene, and a unique floating Christmas tree on Lake Zurich, creating a magical atmosphere.
- Lausanne Christmas Market: The Bô Noël market in Lausanne is a romantic festive experience in Switzerland, complete with traditional wooden chalets, artisan crafts, and delicious local cuisine. Don’t miss the chance to explore the market’s themed villages and skate on the ice rink at Place de l’Europe.
- Lauterbrunnen: While Lauterbrunnen itself does not host a market, I mention it because it’s such a stunning natural landscape. Base yourself in the the nearby town of Interlaken, and from there, you can take a day trip to Lauterbrunnen.
- Interlaken Christmas Market: Set in the heart of the Swiss Alps, Interlaken is a festive destination surrounded by stunning mountain scenery. You can explore over 60 wooden chalets featuring local crafts, gifts, and culinary delights while enjoying various entertainment options, including live music and children’s activities. The twinkling lights and impressive ice sculptures on display further add to the market’s atmosphere.
- Locarno Christmas Market: Locarno on Ice is a popular winter event that combines a traditional market with a beautiful ice-skating rink. Of course, you can also shop for gifts, indulge in local delicacies, and enjoy the festive atmosphere. But in this case, you’ll be surrounded by the picturesque Lake Maggiore and snow-capped mountains.
- Zermatt Christmas Market: Zermatt is famous for the iconic Matterhorn. The town holds an opening ceremony for lighting its Christmas Tree in its car-free village centre. This will take place on the 3rd December 2023 from 4:30pm to 6pm in the village centre. Some resorts in Zermatt hold mini Christmas markets, where you’ll find a variety of local crafts and Christmas snacks set against the breathtaking alpine landscape. But people generally visit for winter activities and cosy cabins.
- Bremgarten Christmas Market: Bremgarten is illuminated with twinkling lights, instilling a sense of warmth despite the winter chill. This Christchindlimärt or Weihnachtsmarkt, is in its 28th year.
Switzerland is a remarkable country with an interesting history, fascinating customs and delicious cuisine. Regardless of which city you choose to explore, you will surely find one to suit your preferences and travel style.
Sustainable Winter Travel
Experience a sustainable Christmas in Switzerland by implementing some of these simple measures to create a positive impact on both the environment and local communities:
Shop mindfully: When shopping in Switzerland, pay attention to your buying habits. Purchase items that not only are useful to you but also reflect the traditions and skills of local artisans. This can mean preferencing handcrafted decorations over mass-produced ones.
Walk, cycle, and use public transport: Public transportation in Switzerland is both reliable and convenient. When in cities like Bern or Geneva, take trams, buses, or trains to get from one point to another. This choice not only makes your travels easier but also contributes to lowering your carbon footprint.
Stay in a sustainable hotel: When deciding where to stay, book a hotel committed to sustainability. Many Swiss hotels, found in both cities and idyllic locations like towns around Lake Geneva, use renewable energy sources such as hydropower.
Avoid plastic: The issue of plastic waste is global. When visiting markets, especially eco-conscious ones in Geneva, carry reusable bags, bottles, and food containers. This helps reduce the demand for single-use plastic items that contribute to waste and pollution.
Eat locally sourced organic food: Food is an integral part of any cultural experience. Switzerland prides itself on offering a wide range of locally sourced and organic produce. Whenever possible, aim to eat food that originates from local Swiss farms and suppliers. This includes indulging in Swiss cheese, freshly baked bread, or seasonal fruits.
Limit meat and dairy consumption: Swiss cities like Basel and Zurich are becoming increasingly conscious of the need for plant-based and vegetarian diets. Many Christmas stalls, shops and local eateries now offer alternatives. Cutting down on meat and dairy can have a positive environmental impact, making your trip more eco-friendly.
Be open to diverse cultures and experiences: Switzerland is home to a rich blend of cultures, languages, and traditions. Use your time in the country to learn about the local customs, try out a few phrases in different Swiss languages, and appreciate the diversity that enriches the Swiss community.
Explore outside main tourist areas: While big cities have a lot to offer, don’t neglect smaller towns and villages. These less frequented spots also hold festive markets and Advent events. By exploring these areas, you not only get a different experience but also contribute to the local economy, spreading the benefits of tourism.
Support the arts and attend local events: Swiss cities like Bern and Geneva have vibrant arts scenes. You can support local culture by attending concerts, theatrical performances, or art exhibitions.
Avoid flying: Finally, if you can, avoid flying into or within Switzerland. The country has an extensive rail network that not only connects it to various European cities but also offers some of the most scenic routes you’ll find anywhere, such as routes through the Swiss Alps. It’s an eco-friendly travel option that’s easy on the eyes as well. I’ve travelled by train in Switzerland several times now and it’s one of the best ways to get around.
Recommendations are independently chosen based on personal travel experiences and extensive research.