There are hundreds of Christmas markets around Europe and everyone has their favorite. We try to visit a different one each year, giving us an excuse to visit a new city and see something new. Honestly, many markets have the same stands selling the same Made in China junk. But some have local crafts, special food, musical events, activities for children, and seasonal displays which are worth seeking out. Here are some of the Christmas markets we’ve enjoyed over the years, all within a day trip distance of Zurich.
Note: Some markets run only one weekend during December. So make sure check info online for whichever Christmas market you choose.
We are so happy Zurich added this market last year, full of lots of yummy food stalls. It’s like a street food festival dressed up for Christmas. In 2016, they added a lovely carousel and expanded the ice rink so it’s much more inviting and fun for kids. They have special events and activities almost every day as outlined in their program, including music, story telling, clown, ice skating shows, etc.
Open 24 Nov to 23 Dec 2016, daily 11:00 to 22:00 (till 20:00 on Sundays). wienachtsdorf.ch
The Christmas market at Einsiedeln has a fantastic setting on the plaza just below the famous Monastery. You’ll see many of the same vendors as elsewhere, no surprise. I’d recommend timing your visit with one of the musical concerts, which really add to the experience. The daily program is listed on their website.
Open 26 Nov to 4 Dec, 11:00 to 19:30, till 21:00 on Friday and Saturdays. See website for details.
Our favorite treat at this market is the Berliner donuts shaped like Grittibänz.
If you are already in Einsiedeln, then you might visit the Diorama Bethlehem is advertized as the “largest nativity scene in the world” with “over 450 wood-carved figures wearing oriental costumes in a realistic reproduction of the environs of Bethlehem.” It’s just one room, with an enormous diorama depicting various aspects of the Christmas story with an accompanying commentary (in English). I think it’s a bit expensive (5.50CHF/adult, 2.50CHF/child), but my kids and I kinda liked it. You will only spend 15 minutes or so inside. You might also visit the nearby Lebkuchen museum.
Diorama Bethlehem, Benzigerstrasse 23, CH-8840 Einsiedeln, Switzerland
Christmas is a perfect pair for the impossibly adorable Alsace region of France. It all looks like it came straight out of a fairy tale. We did a little market tour of the area, visiting several towns including Selestat, Riquewihr, Ribeauville, Eguisheim, and Colmar. We found Riquewihr the most charming of the small towns. Colmar is a much bigger town, still very beautiful, but a little more busy and less quaint than the others. Colmar also has many more market stalls, an indoor craft market and children’s area with small rides. Selestat was our least favorite, more industrial and busy, not as cute. In all the towns, we saw different products than in the Swiss Christmas markets, many with an Alsace flair. We also lots of cheap junk too; you can’t escape it.
Please note that accommodations book out early in this area as it is a destination Christmas market for many.
Colmar Christmas Market is open 26 Nov to 23 Dec 2016. www.noel-colmar.com (the website seems to be temporarily down)
This market has gotten so big that you have to park in overflow lots outside town and take a shuttle. The town is very attractive and photo-worthy, especially the old wooden bridge over the river leading into town. It has a children’s section with a few little rides. But IMHO, the market is a little small and not particularly special to warrant the annoyance of the crowds and shuttle.
Open 1 Dec to 4 Dec 2016. See website for details.
Basel Christmas Market is concentrated in the picturesque old town. They have a lot of good traditional food stands, like fried apples, latkes, pretzels, fire roasted salmon. They have a children’s market, with rides, displays and activities for kids.
Open 24 Nov to 23 Dec 2016, daily 11:00 to 20:30. www.basel.com
Stein am Rhein
This tiny town on the German border is nice to visit anytime of year. During Christmas, it has a few market stalls and lots of nice Christmas decorations. We particularly liked the open fire and hot cider. For the kids, they had a little fairy tale trail, aka Märliweg, that took you all through town to read parts of the Red Rose White Rose fairy tale with pictures in various store windows. It was a nice way to explore and see little corners of the town we might not have seen otherwise. In 2016, the story is Puss in Boots. www.maerlistadt.ch
The Märliweg is up all of December 2016.