Your guide to magical Christmas markets of the Swiss Rivera and beyond
The snowflakes have started to blanket the picturesque landscapes of western Switzerland just in time for the start of the Christmas market season! A warm mug of mulled wine in hand, the scent of chestnuts roasting on an open fire (It's not just a song lyric here), and the twinkling lights of Christmas markets create a festive atmosphere that captures the hearts of locals and visitors alike. Be thankful you are here and get ready to take a magical journey through the Christmas markets of Montreux, Lausanne, and Bern.
Nestled along the shores of Lake Geneva, Montreux is renowned for its breathtaking natural beauty, its shoreline promenade flanked by belle epoque palace hotels, its summertime UNESCO-honored Jazz Festival, and, during the Christmas season, its world-famous Montreux Christmas Market. The highlight of this market is undoubtedly the location. Still, the the Vin Chaud, or hot spiced wine, served in charming souvenir mugs, runs in second place. Insider tip: when you order a Vin Chaud, you'll pay a small deposit for the mug. You can either return it to reclaim your deposit or keep the beautiful mug as a souvenir, making it a delightful way to remember your visit. (Note that this year's mug is a special 20th anniversary mug!)
For a truly unique experience, venture to Santa's residence, in Rochers de Naye, an integral part of the Montreux Christmas market. At 2,042 meters, Santa Claus's house is only reachable by the Santa Claus Train, a small cogwheel train that departs from Montreux. As the vintage train climbs the mountain, you'll enjoy breathtaking views of snow-covered landscapes and Lake Geneva. Upon arrival, you'll step into a magical world of Christmas. Santa's cozy mountain dwelling awaits, where you will meet Santa Claus, share your Christmas wishes, and take memorable photos to cherish for years to come. This extraordinary journey to Santa's residence is an unforgettable part of the Montreux Christmas market experience, bringing the magic of Christmas to new heights for all ages.
Christmas at Château de Chillon is an enchanting event that is also part of Montreux Noël. Nestled within the historic fortress walls of Chateau de Chillon, this truly unique Christmas event adds a layer of medieval magic to your experience. Within the castle, the charm of centuries-old architecture mingles with the magic of the season. Here, visitors can immerse themselves in the festivities as they prepare for the Christmas party alongside the fortress's inhabitants. Delve into the castle's rich history while participating in dances and workshops led by artisans of yesteryear, offering insights into the skills and traditions of bygone eras.
Lausanne comes alive with the spirit of the season at their Bô Noël market. This annual tradition captivates visitors and locals alike. In its 9th edition, the market returns to the heart of the city, now known as Place des Pionnières, focusing on ethical and sustainable offerings. This delightful market offers a treasure trove of unique finds, from clothing and decorative items to cosmetics and vegan food, making it the perfect place to discover thoughtful gifts for your loved ones.
For families, a magical carousel in the shape of a giant fir tree awaits, introducing the little ones to the sparkling magic of Christmas. Thrill-seekers can experience unforgettable slides on the 20-meter-long toboggan run, offering free access and the promise of exciting adventures. Moreover, visitors can embark on a cozy carriage ride pulled by draft horses, providing an enchanting way to enjoy an aperitif or savor a delicious fondue.
Bô Noël also features other attractions, such as the Grand Marché de Saint-François, adorned with a monumental 15-meter-high tree and giant ornaments, and the iconic Big Wheel at Place du Château.
Venture to the Swiss capital of Bern, and you'll find three wonderful Christmas markets all in the city center. While it may be on the other side of the Röstigraben, Bern deserves a place on your holiday itinerary as a veritable three-in-one destination!
The Sternenmarkt, or Star Market, is the most recent addition to Bern's plentiful market options and has quickly become a local favorite. Located in a park with a meandering village-style layout, this market is best visited at night, when the massive trees throughout the park are lit with twinkling lights. When visiting this trendy market, be sure to sample the latest twist on Swiss traditions– White Gluwein. For dinner, choose from the fondue hut in the village center or one of the hip food trucks up on the hill.
Just a short stroll away, the Waisenhausplatz Christmas Market welcomes visitors with a lively and festive atmosphere. This market is a long-standing hub of activity. As you wander through its enchanting rows of stalls, you'll be surrounded by the timeless beauty of medieval architecture and cobblestone streets adorned with festive lights. The market exudes a sense of traditional charm and is the perfect place to holiday shop. Don't forget to warm up with a cup of hot Glühwein in a commemorative mug and sample the candy-coated almonds and mouthwatering butter caramel. You can even make your own caramel treats with this simple recipe.
For those seeking a more contemporary and creative twist on the holiday spirit, the Münster market at Münsterplattform offers a modern and vibrant experience. Here, you'll encounter captivating art installations, modern design, and a bustling atmosphere. This market appeals to those with an eye for innovation and art, featuring original, handmade gifts by local artisans, international culinary delights, and live music performances that create a dynamic and exciting holiday atmosphere.
Lastly, in the center of the city between all three markets, you will find an outdoor ice arena at the Federal Palace, providing the perfect opportunity to lace up your skates (no need to bring your own) and glide gracefully with the breathtaking backdrop of the spectacular capitol building.
Western Switzerland offers a captivating blend of tradition and creativity during the Christmas season, making it an especially magical time for students of Swiss Education Group's hospitality schools – Swiss Hotel Management School, César Ritz Colleges Switzerland, Culinary Arts Academy Switzerland, and HIM. From the enchanting Montreux Christmas Market and Santa's Village to the modern festivities of Lausanne’s Bô Noël, and the historic allure of Bern, each destination has its own unique way of celebrating the magic of Christmas. So, grab a Vin Chaud, savor the roasted chestnuts, and immerse yourself in the wonder of these delightful Christmas markets as you, alongside your friends and family, create cherished memories in this picturesque region of Switzerland.