Images of snowflakes, twinkling lights and carol singers wrapped up in woollen hats and scarves spring to mind when I think of a white Christmas and if you spend the festive season in Switzerland you’re likely to see that and a whole lot more.
With its picture perfect scenery and centuries old traditions, Switzerland is one of the best places to enjoy a white Christmas. There’s a festivity in the air in Switzerland at Christmas time that visitors of all ages will enjoy.
But where exactly is the best place in Switzerland for Christmas?
It all comes down to your interests and you'll find details below on the best Christmas towns and villages to visit in Switzerland.
Christmas in the Swiss Alps
If your ideal Christmas holiday in Switzerland consists of plenty of snow, the mountains are the place for you. The Swiss Alps at Christmas have a fairytale appeal that can't fail to get you in the festive spirit.
Ski bunnies are spoilt for choice with a number of Swiss alpine resorts guaranteed snow over the Christmas season due to their high altitude. These resorts include St. Moritz, Zermatt and Davos/Klosters where you’ll not only find great skiing but great après-ski activities, too.
If you are a skiier or snowboarder, my article on the best resorts for skiing in Switzerland might be helpful - click here to read it.
Alpine resorts don’t only cater for skiers and snow boarders, though. There are plenty of Christmassy activities for non-skiers and for visitors of all ages. Horse-drawn sleighs are a common sight in some resorts and many villages hold Christmas markets.
In Zermatt, St. Peter’s Church has been known to attract up to 800 people to its Christmas service and not to be missed is the Zermatt Christmas market.
Another resort town, Gstaad, receives a special visit each year from Santa Claus who walks with the town’s children from the Posthotel Rössli, the oldest hotel in town, to the chapel.
Grindelwald is a fine example of a Switzerland Christmas village with plenty of fun things to do including sledging and snow-shoeing.
A number of alpine resorts in Switzerland offer special Christmas (and New Year) holiday packages each year. Imagine waking up on Christmas morning in your very own alpine chalet and looking outside to falling snow. That’s a memorable Christmas experience the whole family will enjoy.
Christmas holidays in Switzerland's cities
If the mountains aren’t for you, a Christmas spent in any of Switzerland’s major cities is a great option. Whilst snow isn’t guaranteed, Bern, Geneva, Lucerne, Zurich and Basel all have large Christmas markets which run from around November 24 and they will definitely infect you with Christmas cheer, snow or no snow.
The markets are a great place to not only do your Christmas shopping or buy souvenirs for loved ones back home, but to really immerse yourself in the Swiss Christmas spirit. Locals gather after work to sip mulled wine, eat gingerbread cookies or grilled sausages and chat about the day’s events.
This is also where the Swiss buy their Christmas trees – real pine trees not the plastic versions we are so used to here in Australia. You’ll see many a stall selling trees of all shapes and sizes, as well as branches of holly.
Basel’s Christmas market is Switzerland’s largest (and oldest) with over 180 wooden huts set up in the heart of the city’s Old Town. Towering above them is always one of Johann Wanner’s famously decorated Christmas trees.
More of Wanner’s exquisite Christmas ornaments can be found in the Johann Wanner Christmas House nearby, and these are the perfect souvenir to take home to remind you of your white Christmas in Switzerland.
One fun pre-Christmas activity to try is ice skating. Youngsters and the young-at-heart can pull on the skates at specially built ice rinks in many towns and cities, including Locarno, Lucerne, Lausanne and Chur.
Christmas in Geneva, Switzerland's truly international city, will be celebrated with a Christmas market in the Parc des Bastions in 2018, transforming it into a winter wonderland. As well as stalls selling crafts, there will be a street food village as well as entertainment.
At St. Gallen you can witness Switzerland’s finest Christmas illuminations. An installation of 700 stars sparkles above the squares and streets in the Old Town of St.Gallen creating an enchanting festive atmosphere. To add to the Christmas ambience, a giant Christmas tree stands in front of the Cathedral.
Another Christmas tree worth checking out is the one at Zurich’s main train station. The 50-foot tree is decorated with thousands of sparkling Swarovski crystals.
Zurich also boasts a singing Christmas tree! Standing in tiers amongst a giant tree, choristers entertain onlookers with their rendition of Christmas carols. It’s a favourite event amongst both locals and tourists.
One of the smallest Christmas markets in Switzerland can be found in Ascona on Lake Maggiore. The wooden huts sell regional specialities as well as handicrafts and beautiful gifts, and the twinkling lights reflecting off the shimmering lake, only add to the magical ambience.
There are plenty of choices when it comes to planning your Switzerland Christmas break.
Christmas in a Swiss village
A Christmas experience you shouldn’t miss is a stay in a small Swiss village. Twinkling fairy lights, snow dusted rooftops and decorations aplenty, this is where you’ll enjoy the quintessential Christmas in Switzerland.
Their smaller size doesn’t mean Swiss villages celebrate Christmas any less spectacularly than their larger neighbours and it’s often here that you’ll really feel touched by the Christmas spirit.
As locals gather in the village square for Christmas festivities or make their way to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, you can soak up the atmosphere without the frenzied pre-Christmas activity that you often find in larger cities.
Wherever you choose to spend Christmas in Switzerland, make sure you take the time to enjoy a meal amongst the locals. Savour the local specialities like fondue, raclette and cookies spiced with cinnamon and ginger and wash it all down with a glass of glühwein (mulled wine).
Swiss Christmas food is just one of the reasons you’ll fall #inLOVEwithSWITZERLAND.
Getting to Switzerland
Now you’ve decided that you’re going to visit Switzerland for Christmas, there are plenty of transport options. Zurich and Geneva are the country’s main international airports servicing flights from all over Europe and around the world.
The excellent Swiss Railway System runs frequent services all over the country with bus connections to many smaller villages that aren’t on the railway line. Check timetables and fares here.
Where to stay for your Christmas in Switzerland vacation
There’s a fantastic range of accommodation to stay in Switzerland to suit all budgets. Once you’ve decided on the location of your Switzerland Christmas holiday you can start browsing the many hotels, apartments, chalets and B&Bs on offer.
Christmas is one of the busiest times of year at Swiss ski resorts so make sure you book your accommodation well in advance.
Where would you like to spend your white Christmas in Switzerland?
This article is written in conjunction with Switzerland Tourism but all words and opinions are my own.
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