Geneva is a beautiful city to visit any time of year, but it takes on a particularly festive and charming atmosphere during winter. One of the highlights is a visit to Geneva Christmas Market (Noël au Jardin), which is a wonderful opportunity to experience local traditions and culture and do some holiday shopping.
This guide provides an overview of what you can expect when visiting Geneva in winter, including Christmas market dates for 2023, opening times and how to make the most of your trip.
Christmas in Geneva can easily be described as magical. The whole city is decorated with festive decorations, stunning lights and a huge Christmas tree.
Geneva Christmas Market 2023
At the Christmas market in Geneva, you can find a variety of handcrafted gifts and traditional treats, as well as enjoy live music and other entertainment.
One of the highlights of the market is the variety of traditional Swiss food and drinks available. It gives the market a distinctly Swiss vibe that is very different from the nearby German markets.
Be sure to save time to take a ride on the Grande Roue (Ferris wheel) while the kids can enjoy pony rides and the vintage-style carousel.
Dates and Location
Geneva Christmas Market dates: Likely dates: 23rd November to 24th December 2023.
Location: The Jardin Anglais, Genève, Switzerland. In front of Geneva’s famous flower clock.
Opening times: 11:30am to 10pm. Opens at 11am on Saturdays and closes at 8pm on Sundays.
Christmas Day: Closed.
Admission: Free, no tickets required.
Santa: Yes, Pere Noel will be available for a photo session most likely on the 16th December from 1pm to 3pm.
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.
Parking: Please take public transport to help limit congestion.
Reason to visit: The Fondue Chalet is a highlight and the beautiful lakeside location.
Recommended tour: Take a unique tour of a glacier followed by a stop at lakeside Montreux and nearby villages.
Specialities: Swiss raclette, hot fondue, apple strudel, chocolate baubles, unique waffles, cinnamon buns, panettone, steamed buns, arepa, chimney cake, Belgian-style fries, Greek loukoumades and hot roasted chestnuts.
Where to stay: citizenM Geneva is a highly-rated hotel, 7-minutes from the Christmas markets.
Hotels near Geneva Christmas Market
Geneva has some interesting neighbourhoods like Plainpalais, with its street art and indie shops and Eaux-Vives, an upscale neighbourhood known for its wide boulevards, beautiful parks and high-end shopping.
You might also enjoy staying in the central Paquis neighbourhood, which is home to the famous Jet d’Eau, a massive water fountain that’s a must-see for any visitor to Geneva.
But if you’re interested in historic attractions and want to stay in a hotel near the Christmas market, then I suggest staying in the Old Town, which is packed with cultural attractions, beautiful squares and cobblestone streets.
For this reason, I suggest staying at citizenM Geneva as it’s in a great location in the Old Town, not far from the Jardin Anglais where the Christmas market is held.
Location of Geneva Christmas Market
City and Christmas Tours
A city tour of Geneva is an excellent way to discover the city’s profound history and culture. With its enchanting old town, vibrant facades and awe-inspiring architecture, Geneva is a city that justifies a visit, even in the midst of winter.
On a city tour, you’ll pay a visit to the city’s most symbolic landmarks and attractions, incorporating the historical Old Town, the striking Jet d’Eau and the imposing St. Pierre Cathedral.
You can organise a city tour at the tourist office in Geneva, but for something unique, I recommend this tour of a glacier near Geneva. The views are incredible!
As an alternative, you might like this food tour which is all about Swiss chocolate. Not to be missed when in Switzerland!
Come check out my comprehensive guide to the best Christmas markets in Switzerland, where you’ll find festive atmosphere, unique gifts, and delicious treats!
Christmas in Geneva
Christmas Specialties in Geneva
Christmas Roast: The traditional Christmas roast is often a highlight of the Swiss Christmas meal. It is usually a roast beef or goose, seasoned with winter spices and cooked until juicy and tender. A vegetarian version could be a nut roast featuring a combination of various nuts and lentils, accompanied by all the trimmings.
Pain d’épices: Think of pain d’épices as the Swiss cousin to gingerbread. This spiced bread, often sweetened with honey, blends the flavours of Christmas into each bite. Spices such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg mingle with the honey and give this bread its distinctive flavour.
Bûche de Noël: Bûche de Noël is a classic Swiss dessert served during Christmas. It’s a sponge cake, rolled to look like a yule log, filled with cream and covered in chocolate ganache. Vegetarian options for this are widely available, and it is a sweet treat that will put the perfect ending to your Christmas meal.
Swiss Chocolate Truffles: Homemade Swiss chocolate truffles make their appearance during the Christmas season. As Switzerland is renowned for its chocolate, these silky smooth, melt-in-your-mouth confections embody the spirit of indulgence during the holidays.
Cougnou: Cougnou, or ‘Bread of Jesus’, is a bread tradition unique to the region of Wallonia but also celebrated in parts of Switzerland. The sweet bread is shaped like baby Jesus and is usually eaten for breakfast or served as a dessert. This bread can easily be made vegetarian and is a unique addition to your Christmas meal.
Swiss Christmas Cookies: Lastly, no Swiss Christmas would be complete without a variety of homemade Christmas cookies. Among the popular choices are Mailänderli (buttery lemon biscuits), Zimtsterne (cinnamon stars) and Brunsli (chocolate almond cookies). All these cookies can be made vegetarian and add a touch of festive cheer to the end of a meal.
Food at the Christmas Market
Raclette: You can hardly visit a Swiss Christmas market without indulging in some raclette. Traditionally, a wheel of raclette cheese is melted and then scraped onto boiled potatoes and pickles. Walking around the Christmas market, you’ll notice the heavenly scent of melting cheese in the air, guiding you towards the raclette stalls.
Vin Chaud: A cup of Vin Chaud is a warming treat when it’s cold outside, especially when walking around the Noël au Jardin. This is the Swiss version of mulled wine, typically made from red wine, steeped with spices and citrus fruits and served warm.
Roasted Chestnuts: As you walk through the market, a bag of roasted chestnuts will keep your hands warm and your stomach satisfied. Roasted over an open fire, these chestnuts have a sweet, nutty flavour that encapsulates the spirit of Christmas.
Tartiflette: Tartiflette, a comforting dish from the nearby Savoie region in France, is common at the Geneva Christmas markets. This hearty dish combines potatoes, reblochon cheese, onions and lardons into a rich and warming meal perfect for cold winter nights. For a vegetarian version, simply omit the lardons.
Grittibänz: Grittibänz, a sweet bread shaped like a little man, is a traditional Swiss Christmas market treat. Typically enjoyed by children, these delightful pastries are sometimes decorated with raisins or icing to bring the figure to life.
Waffles and Crêpes: Waffle and crepe stalls are common at the Christmas market in Geneva. Whether you prefer a simple dusting of sugar or a hearty helping of Nutella, these freshly-made treats are always a crowd-pleaser.
Sausage and Bread: The simple combination of a grilled Swiss sausage served with a piece of crusty bread is a staple street food in Geneva.
International Christmas Foods: Apart from these local Swiss delights, you’ll also find a range of international Christmas foods at the Christmas market. These might include German pretzels, British mince pies, Scandinavian glogg and Italian panettone, ensuring there is something for everyone to enjoy.
What to Buy
Swiss Chocolates: You’ll be spoiled for choice with the variety of Swiss chocolates available at the Christmas market. These decadent treats are handcrafted by local chocolatiers, ranging from classic truffles to flavoured bars, making for a delightful gift or a personal indulgence.
Carved Wooden Ornaments: Skilfully carved wooden ornaments are a standout feature at many of the market stalls. Many depict typical Swiss scenes or symbols like the Matterhorn or St. Bernard dogs. These handcrafted pieces can be a charming addition to any Christmas tree.
Cuckoo Clocks: While traditionally associated with the Black Forest region in Germany, cuckoo clocks are also common at Geneva’s Christmas market. These intricately designed timepieces can make for an exceptional gift, with each clock offering a unique blend of artistry and craftsmanship.
Swiss Watches: Geneva is renowned for its luxury watchmaking industry, and the Christmas market is one place to explore this craft. While you may not find high-end luxury brands, you will discover a variety of Swiss-made watches that exemplify the country’s reputation for precision and quality. Head to Geneva’s famous shopping streets if you want a luxury Swiss watch.
Cheese: From Gruyère to Emmental, Swiss cheese is world-renowned. At the Christmas market, you can find a wide range of Swiss cheeses, perfect for creating a festive cheese board or as a savoury gift for the gourmand in your life.
Local Art: The Christmas market provides a platform for local artists to showcase their work. From paintings capturing beautiful Swiss landscapes to unique jewellery crafted from local materials, you’re likely to find a one-of-a-kind piece that carries the essence of Geneva.
Christmas Decorations: Traditional Christmas decorations, such as wreaths, candles, and hand-blown glass ornaments, abound at the market. Whether you’re looking to add to your own collection or looking for a gift, these festive items add a touch of Swiss charm to any home.
Craft Spirits: Geneva and the surrounding region are known for their distilleries. At the Christmas market, you can find a selection of local spirits, including absinthe and various fruit brandies. These make for an interesting gift or a unique addition to your holiday cocktail repertoire.
Fondue Sets: A traditional Swiss fondue set with forks can make for an interactive and fun gift. With one of these sets, you can recreate the cosy Swiss dining experience right at home.
The Geneva tourist office has a helpful website for visitors to the city, offering information on things to do, places to stay, and events happening in and around Geneva. The website also provides practical information on getting around the city and tips on local customs and etiquette.
Sustainable Christmas Tips
Many of us are increasingly concerned about climate change and sustainability. Here are some ideas for how we can be more sustainable in Geneva this Christmas:
- Use renewable energy sources to power holiday lights and decorations.
- Invest in energy-efficient appliances and electronics, such as LED lights, which use less energy and last longer than traditional bulbs.
- Plan holiday meals carefully to reduce food waste. This could involve shopping with a list, using up leftover ingredients and composting scraps.
- Consider limiting consumerism by reusing or upcycling decorations or opting for experiences over material gifts.
- Choose a sustainable diet by incorporating plant-based dishes and locally grown, in-season produce into holiday meals.
- Consider using sustainable forms of transport, such as public transportation or cycling, to reduce the carbon footprint of holiday travel.
By incorporating these sustainable practices, we can have a lower-impact holiday celebration.
Please share your Christmas sustainability tips in the comments.
Geneva Christmas Market starts on the 23rd November and ends on 24th December 2023.
The Christmas markets in Geneva are held at the Jardin Anglais in front of Geneva’s famous flower clock.
The Christmas markets are open from 11:30am to 10pm. Opens at 11am on Saturdays and closes at 8pm on Sundays.
If you want to leave a review of Geneva Xmas Market, please comment below.
Recommendations are independently chosen based on personal travel experiences and extensive research. This post contains affiliate links to hotels and tours in Geneva, Switzerland. This means I get a small commission from any bookings at no extra cost to you.
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