This alpine nation is a must-visit for anyone looking for a true Christmas experience
If you’ve ever dreamt of a white Christmas, Switzerland is the place for you. Imagine historical cities overlooking still, glassy lakes, with endless horizons of snow-covered mountains, bustling town squares strung with fairy lights, and restaurants and cafes serving mulled wine and fondue.
Like much of the Northern Hemisphere, Switzerland transforms over the Christmas period, becoming a story-book destination imbued with the magic of Christmas. But with so much to offer, even the grinches among us will still find something to fall in love with, with this alpine nation offering some of the best luxury, nature, adventure, gastronomic, cultural and shopping experiences in the world.
So whether you want to hit the slopes, enjoy the local cuisine, indulge in some retail therapy, or tour picturesque towns, Switzerland beckons. And for those who are looking for a true Christmas experience, dig out your mittens and scarves and read on to discover our top five experiences that will have you feeling like you’ve stepped into a Christmas carol.
Five magical experiences for a memorable Christmas in Switzerland
Step into a story-book with some of Europe’s best Christmas markets
Traditional christmas markets pop up around Switzerland from November-December each year, with stalls selling food, drink and gifts for the whole family. Not merely a shopping or culinary destination, the Swiss Christmas Markets are an immersive experience and a great way to see the country transformed into a winter wonderland. With many markets to choose from, we recommend heading to Zurich or Basel where you’ll find some of the country’s most iconic markets.
In Zurich, the Weinachtsdorf – or Christmas village – is one of the city’s largest markets, with over 100 stalls set up in front of the iconic Opera House. This sprawling site is just steps from Lake Zurich and features designer stalls mixed in with traditional Swiss fare. For a more romantic experience, head to the old-town, where you can lose yourself for hours in Zurich’s oldest Christmas market.
In the country’s north-west, the Basel Christmas markets are a must-visit. Don’t just take our word for it – these markets have previously been voted the best in Europe, with the entire city turning it on over the festive period. With two sites across Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz, the markets see some of the city’s best sights transformed for Christmas, giving you an ultimate Swiss experience.
Enjoy cultural experiences with a Christmas twist
If you like to immerse yourself in culture on your holidays, look no further than Switzerland’s theatre and performance scene. For those looking for a bit of drama, Basel is the place to be, with Theater Basel opening a window on its Advent calendar each evening at 5pm from December 1st with a surprise performance combining ballet, theatre and opera. Make an evening of it and head to the Palazzo Colombino for an enchanting variety show with a four-course meal, or to the Cirque Noël De Bâle, for the annual Basel Christmas circus.
Indulge in traditional fondue in non-traditional ways
Make your trip a holiday to remember, with a gourmet-orientated vacation that will take you to some of Switzerland’s best sites. Indulge in this iconic meal at altitude, in beautiful chalets in Zurich and Engadin Samnaun Val Müstair. Take a gondola ride up the Grächen Hannigalp, in the canton of Valais, or head towards Neuchatel, where you’ll find Chaumont Mountain. If heights aren’t your thing, get your cheese hit and soak in the sites on a cruise around Lake Zurich, a scenic tram ride through Zurich’s inner city, or an enchanting train ride up and down Arth-Goldau, on Mount Rigi near Lucerne.
See Switzerland illuminated with light shows
The upside of shorter days and longer nights means that Switzerland is transformed into a twinkling utopia of light displays and illuminated installations. Late-night shopping in Zurich becomes a must-do experience, with the “Lucy” Christmas lights illuminating the city from dusk – 10pm nightly. Over at the National Museum, a light show creates a winter wonderland to escape in, while the cities of Baden, Lucern and Murten are fully transformed into immersive, twinkling displays.
For an alpine experience, head into the Swiss mountains for a Christmas festival, with the Lenzerheide Magic Forest combining light art with music performances and a market village to keep everyone entertained.
Activities for the whole family
For those travelling with little ones, rest assured Switzerland has the whole family covered, with many of the light shows, performances and markets offering child-friendly experiences to bring the magic of Christmas to children and teenagers alike. If these aren’t enough, plan a night out at Zurich’s largest ice skating rink for a Christmas-themed disco or a Santa on ice experience. Alternatively, the family can explore the city of Zurich on the iconic Christmas tram, which is a childrens-only experience that features Santa driving a tram and two angels relaying Christmas stories to their little passengers.
With so much to discover, Switzerland promises to transport everyone to the Christmas wonderland of their dreams, with the festive spirit transforming an already iconic destination into one that hardly seems real. Wherever you chose to travel within this beautiful country, get ready to be enchanted by a Christmas experience unlike any other.