As the winter chill settles over Locarno, the city reveals a distinct charm, with twinkling fairy lights illuminating the grandeur of its lakeside setting.
The renowned Christmas markets lend the Swiss city an air of cheerfulness, as stalls teeming with traditional crafts, mouth-watering delicacies and warming beverages spring to life.
In this guide, I share what to expect at Locarno Christmas Market in 2023, detailing the market’s dates, opening times and locations and highlighting top stalls and local delights.
Christmas in Locarno is a time when the city embraces a profound sense of warmth and joviality, accentuated by the twinkling lights that bedeck the streets.
The chilly air brims with an almost tangible excitement and the scent of seasonal treats, adding a distinct flavour to the festive period in this corner of Switzerland. The highlight of this period is the Locarno on Ice festival and the Christmas market.
Locarno Christmas Market 2023
Nestled in the heart of Locarno, the Christmas market gives an insight into the Swiss winter spirit. Artisan stalls, meticulously arranged, display an array of traditional crafts that bear the stamp of local culture.
Savour the tastes of Switzerland with cheese specialities, homemade gingerbread and warming mugs of spiced mulled wine and hot chocolate.
Dates and Location
Locarno Christmas Market dates: Likely dates: 7th to 24th December 2023.
Location: Piazza Grande, Locarno.
Opening times: 10am to 7pm with Locarno on Ice closing at 11pm.
Christmas Day: Closed.
Admission: Free, no tickets required.
Christmas lights: Yes, throughout the city centre and along the promenade.
Ice skating: Yes. Locarno on Ice at Piazza Grande from 23rd November 2023 to 7th January 2024. Book online.
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: Nestled on Lake Maggiore’s shores amid snow-capped peaks. Combining Swiss charm with Italian flair.
Specialities: Raclette on crisp winter nights, buttery zopf bread, Ticinese amaretti, pizzoccheri noodles, Ticinese wines.
Where to stay: Hotel City Locarno – great value hotel, 4-minutes from the Christmas market.
Hotels near Locarno Christmas Market
When looking for a place to stay during your visit to Locarno’s Christmas market, the area surrounding Piazza Grande is ideal.
This central location places you in the heart of the city’s festive activities while keeping the rest of Locarno’s attractions within easy reach.
A great choice for accommodation is Hotel City Locarno, consistently earning high praise from guests for its prime location near the market, not to mention its comfortable rooms and excellent service.
Location of Locarno Christmas Market
Christmas in Locarno
To help you plan an optimal festive itinerary, I’ve curated this Switzerland Christmas markets 2023 guide. Have a look and let me know what you think.
Christmas Specialties in Locarno
- Raclette: An indulgent Swiss speciality, Raclette is a semi-hard cheese that is melted and scraped onto potatoes, pickles and onions. A winter favourite, it’s ideal for cold nights and comforts your Christmas table.
- Zopf: You will enjoy this Swiss bread specialty traditionally prepared for Sunday breakfast but also savoured during Christmas. It’s a rich, buttery bread that’s braided and baked until golden. Pair it with your favourite jams or honey for a simple yet delicious treat.
- Vegetable rösti: Originally a breakfast dish for farmers in the canton of Bern, rösti has become a national favourite. This Swiss-style potato pancake is typically served as a side dish but can be enjoyed on its own by vegetarians. The crispy exterior and soft interior make it an irresistible treat.
- Nusstorte: The Engadiner Nusstorte, or Swiss nut tart, originates from the Engadine valley in the canton of Graubünden. This sweet treat is a local specialty enjoyed during festive occasions, made primarily from shortcrust pastry, cream, sugar and chopped walnuts.
- Fondue: Synonymous with Swiss gastronomy, Fondue is an ensemble of melted cheese served in a communal pot. Christmas isn’t complete without sharing a fondue with loved ones, dipping pieces of bread into the creamy, rich mixture.
- Lebkuchen: This traditional Swiss-German gingerbread cookie is a staple during Christmas. It varies in taste – from spicy to sweet – and is usually decorated with almonds and glazed with sugar.
- Polenta and braised chard: A popular vegetarian dish in the canton of Ticino, where Locarno is located, Polenta is made from cornmeal and is often served with braised chard.
Food at the Christmas Market
- Glühwein: As you wander through the festive stalls, you’ll encounter the warming scent of glühwein or mulled wine. Traditionally prepared with red wine, gently spiced and sweetened, it’s served hot to fend off the winter chill.
- Bratwurst: A common sight at Swiss Christmas markets, Bratwurst is a variety of German sausage made from pork, beef, or veal. The hearty, grilled sausages are usually served in a bun with mustard, offering a quick and satisfying snack as you explore the market.
- Chestnuts: The roasted chestnuts’ aroma wafts through the Locarno Christmas Market air. A seasonal favourite, these are roasted over open coals and served hot, making for a sweet, filling snack during your festive stroll.
- Ticinese amaretti: A sweet, delightful treat you should try is the Ticinese amaretti. These soft, almond-based cookies from the Ticino region have a subtle bitter note that beautifully complements their sweetness.
- Pizzoccheri: This hearty dish originates from the Lombardy region in Italy but is also popular in Ticino. Pizzoccheri is short, flat tagliatelle noodles made from buckwheat flour, typically cooked with potatoes, cheese, and greens. A savoury, comforting dish, it’s an ideal food to enjoy on a cold winter’s day at the market.
- Pretzels: Originating from Germany, pretzels have found their place in Swiss Christmas markets. These twisted, baked bread products are typically sprinkled with coarse salt. You might enjoy them plain or with various fillings for a quick, delicious snack.
- Risotto: Another crowd-pleaser at the Christmas market in Locarno is risotto, often prepared with local ingredients. Creamy, rich, and warming, it’s an ideal dish to savour during the festive season.
What to Buy
- Swiss Chocolate: Indulge your sweet tooth or treat your loved ones to premium Swiss chocolate. With an array of flavours, from classic milk to exotic infusions, it’s a luxurious gift representing Switzerland’s famed chocolate-making tradition.
- Handmade Ornaments: Numerous stalls at the Locarno Christmas Market display a wide variety of handmade ornaments. Crafted with care and attention to detail, these trinkets add a personal touch to any Christmas tree.
- Ticinese Wine: Locarno is situated in the Swiss canton of Ticino, an area known for its exceptional wines. Choose from a selection of local Merlot, Chardonnay, or Pinot Noir to surprise the wine connoisseurs in your life.
- Handcrafted Wooden Toys: Reminiscent of a bygone era, handcrafted wooden toys are an enduring classic. These charming, durable creations will bring joy to children and collectors alike.
- Lace and Embroidery: A testament to the region’s rich textile tradition, you can find intricate lace and embroidery products. These can range from handkerchiefs to tablecloths, each piece a unique display of craftsmanship.
- Swiss Cheese: A trip to a Swiss market would be incomplete without encountering a selection of the country’s renowned cheeses. You can assemble a delightful, gourmet gift with varieties like Gruyère, Emmental, or the local Ticino cheese.
- Swiss Watches: A more luxurious option, Swiss watches are world-renowned for their precision and craftsmanship. A range of styles and brands are often available, making it possible to find a timepiece to suit any preference.
For more useful information and tips to navigate your visit to Locarno, I recommend exploring My Switzerland, a dedicated resource that makes discovering the city an effortless experience.
Sustainable Christmas Tips
Many of us are increasingly concerned about climate change and sustainability. Here are a few tips on how we can travel more responsibly in Locarno at Christmas.
- Use Public Transport or Walk: Locarno’s efficient public transportation network is a green alternative to private vehicles. Opt for trains, buses, or the funicular when travelling around, or simply stroll through the compact city centre.
- Support Renewable Energy: Select a hotel that prioritises sustainable practices.
- Reduce Food Waste: At Locarno’s Christmas market, consider sharing food portions to try a variety of local specialties without contributing to food waste. Finish everything on your plate and only buy what you’re certain to consume.
- Promote Ethical Consumption: Purchase locally produced crafts and foods at the market. By doing so, you support local artisans and producers, contributing to a more sustainable regional economy.
- Choose a Sustainable Diet: Embrace the abundant vegetarian options at the market, such as pizzoccheri made without traditional meats. Even a small shift towards more plant-based eating contributes to more sustainable food consumption.
- Rent a Bicycle: For longer distances, consider renting a bicycle. Locarno has several rental points, providing a fun and eco-friendly way to explore beyond the city centre, even in winter.
- Carry a Reusable Water Bottle: The tap water in Switzerland is of excellent quality. Carry a reusable water bottle to reduce plastic waste and stay hydrated throughout your Christmas market adventure.
The Locarno Christmas Market starts on 7th December to 24th December 2023.
Locarno’s Christmas market is located at Piazza Grande, Locarno.
The market usually opens in the early afternoon and continues late into the evening. It’s best to check the official website closer to the date for specific times, but in general, it’s open from 11am to 7pm with Locarno on Ice closing at 11pm.
Despite its alpine location, Locarno has a mild climate. In December, temperatures typically range between 1 and 7 degrees Celsius.
While the climate in Locarno is relatively mild, it’s recommended to dress in warm layers due to the evening chill and occasional rain. Comfortable shoes are a must for exploring the cobblestone streets.
Yes, Locarno is a charming destination to visit in winter. Apart from the festive Christmas market, the city offers a range of winter activities, cultural landmarks and a stunning backdrop of snow-covered mountains.
Among the local specialties to sample at the market are raclette, Ticinese amaretti, zopf bread and the region’s acclaimed wines.
Hotel City Locarno is a highly-rated option conveniently located near Piazza Grande, the site of the Christmas Market. It’s known for its comfortable rooms and excellent service.
Locarno’s unique blend of Swiss and Italian cultures is an exceptional winter destination. Its Christmas market, the warmth of local hospitality and the striking natural beauty provide an appealing backdrop for a winter visit.
If you would like to leave a review of Locarno Xmas Market, comment below.
Recommendations are independently chosen based on personal travel experiences and extensive research. This post contains affiliate links to hotels and tours in Locarno, Switzerland. This means I get a small commission from any bookings at no extra cost to you.