Reconnect with your inner child this Christmas at these top 7 Swiss destinations and enjoy the magic of the festive season like never before.
As we grow up, the excitement of Christmas seems to abandon us, but there are still a few places in Switzerland where we can relive the magical days of our childhoods. From tasty homemade treats and hot chocolate, to spellbinding street lights and snowed villages, our picks will surely make you feel like a child again.
7. ST. MORITZ
A visit to the Christmas market laid out in the pedestrian area (Fussgängerzone) of St. Moritz is a must with stands full of traditional products, regional treats and gorgeous Christmas gifts. Those looking for adrenaline pumping events only have to head to the Eisarena Ludains (Via Ludains 5, 7500 St Moritz, +41 (0) 81 833 50 30) to catch one of the many ice hockey games that are hosted throughout December.
Insider tip: For a unique Christmas experience, visit the Olympia Bob Run (Plazza Gunter Sachs, Postfach 283, 7500 St Moritz, +41 (0) 81 830 02 00) between the 21st and the 25th of December and enjoy a ride on both a historic and a contemporary bobsleigh down the legendary natural-ice run.
6. ST. GALLEN
Home of the tallest Christmas tree in Switzerland, St Gallen is the perfect place to enjoy quiet Christmas holidays. Its old town with 16th and 18th century houses is car-free and the snow covered streets are filled with a soothing atmosphere during the festive season that captivates both the heart and the soul. This is particularly true when one stands in front of the 20-metre-high Christmas tree flown in by helicopter and illuminated by more than 5,000 lights in front of the impressive Abbey of St Gallen (Klosterhof 6A, 9000 St. Gallen, +41 (0) 71 227 33 81) while carols are sung and free glühwein served to beat the cold. Can you think of anything more Christmassy?
Insider tip: For Christmas 2016, the city organizes a special Christmas tour through the Old Town and the Abbey District where participants can learn more about the festive season and enjoy a hot drink and Christmas biscuits afterwards. The meeting point is St.Gallen-Bodensee Tourismus, Bankgasse 9.
Although it may not be first choice that comes to mind when one thinks of an idyllic winter wonderland, Zurich has many things to offer to visitors coming here for Christmas. For starters, there is the most expensive and largest indoor Christmas market in Europe. Located in the main hall of Zurich Central Station, it remains open from November 24 until Christmas Eve and you can find 160 stalls full of local treats like the delicious homemade doughnuts ‘ringli’ or traditional drinks like hot chocolate, `Hüppen’ and ‘Glühwein’. But the one feature that catches everyone’s eyes is without a doubt the large Christmas tree decorated with 10,000 Swarovski crystals. However, the spirit of Christmas is not reduced to the train station. The unique singing tree at Werdmühleplatz gets everyone in a good mood thanks to the young choirs belting out carols and traditional songs.
Insider tip: For a most romantic experience, head to Stadthausquai on December 22 and witness the traditional ‘Lichterschwimmem’, the launch of 800 floating candles into the River Limmat at 6pm. We recommend you to arrive early as it can get quite crowded. More information available from Zürich Tourismus (+41 (0) 44 215 40 40)
If there is a place in Switzerland where the spirit of Christmas pervades every street, that’s Berne. The Old Town’s Wausenhausplatz is transformed until December 24 into one of the most enchanting markets with the backdrop of elegant 15th to 17th century houses. The stalls not only sell arts and crafts but also host creative workshops where you can make your own candles; an activity highly recommended if you are travelling with children. There is a second market along the Münsterplatz and Christmas concerts are held throughout the city in theatres, concert halls, churches and parks.
Insider tip: The Bundesplatz (Parliament Square) will be transformed one more year into a 700 sq.m. artificial ice rink from December 21 until February 19 and is set to become the scenery of unforgettable memories. It will be open from 11am to 10pm during the week and from 10am to 10pm during the weekend. Entry is free!
This one is a special treat for skiers and snowboarders out there looking for an uncrowded village to spend the days prior to Christmas with families and friends whilst enjoying a genuine quiet Swiss stay. The streets of Zermatt are gorgeously illuminated for the holidays and covered in snow, turning the alpine town into a picture perfect Christmas postcard that makes these days extra special. If you would like to attend mass whilst you are here, we highly recommend the Christmas Eve service held at the English Church. On Boxing Day, German hordes and other European tourist flock into the village; marking the end of Christmas and kicking off the excitement for New Year’s.
Insider tip: Christmas always calls for traditional meals gathered by loved ones and if you are looking for a romantic, family friendly restaurant to enjoy regional delicacies and fondue and mesmerizing views of the Matterhorn we recommend you Chez Vrony(Findeln, 3920 Zermatt, +41 (0) 27 967 25 52).
2. LAKE MAGGIORE
Lake Maggiore boasts a unique Christmas spirit thanks to its location and Italian influence. During this time of the year, towns located by the shore are lit up with festive lights that make the waters glimmer beautifully offering a mesmerizing view for those taking the boat trip available in Locarno or hiring a private boat. Living Nativity scenes performed in the streets and squares help both visitors and locals find a moment of recollection away from the commercial frenzy of the holidays and remind them of the true meaning of Christmas. Yet Christmas markets and fashionable boutiques are always at hand if you must buy a last minute present.
Insider tip: While Arona is the most popular town in the region and has a wider variety of amenities, the medieval village of Orta San Giulio, located just 20 minutes away, offers both quietness and romantic sceneries perfect for couples wishing to escape the crowds or looking for a more spiritual experience.
This lakeside city is the place to visit in 2016; especially if you are travelling with young children. From the end of November until Christmas Eve, the shores of Lake Geneva are lit up with 150 chalets forming the Montreux Christmas Market and the nearby Lumberjack Village will host stands showcasing traditions from France, Germany, Hungary, Japan and China that are set to mesmerise children and adults alike. There is even going to be a Santa Claus parade full of colours and joyous songs! And if that were not enough, the nearby town of Caux, will host one more year the enchanting Christmas Village where children can visit Santa’s workshop, Santa’s Post Office and the delightful elves’ village. Even Santa’s House will open its doors one more year atop the Rochers de Naye.
Insider tip: In December, Château de Chillon (Av. De Chillon 21, 1820 Veytaux/Montreux, +41 (0) 21 966 89 10) will offer during the weekends a magical Christmas experience as it transforms into a medieval town taking children and adults alike back in time through Christmas tales, magic tricks, medieval dances and a fairy market. Tickets cost 15CHF for adults and 6CHF for children between 6-16 years old. There’s the chance to buy a family ticket (2 adults and children) for 35CHF.