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clevelandbrown Jun 11th, 2009 05:17 PM

Holiday markets in Switzerland
Before taking a trip, I go to our library and get all the tapes they have relating to where we want to go. I've been intrigued with the idea of holiday markets, but the tapes never give the dates of the markets, and I'm sure they don't list all the markets.

We're interested in going back to Switzerland, and would like to visit a few of these fairs. We're interested in locally produced items we can afford, and something we can bring home and keep (or give as gifts) rather than eat.

Please tell what you know about when and where the markets are.

kmbp Jun 11th, 2009 06:33 PM

Should we understand that you are talking about the Christmas holiday markets? Basel also has an Autumn festival market that takes place in October, I believe. I imagine other cities and towns in Switzerland do too.

A quick Google brought me to this site--

Cicerone Jun 11th, 2009 07:57 PM

Christmas markets generally start running in late November/early December and operate until Christmas Eve. In some places they also operate during the week between Christmas and New Year’s, but that is more the exception than the rule, I believe. They run daily and usually have evening hours, which are extended in the weeks closer to Christmas.

I have to be quite frank and say that Switzerland does not have the best Christmas markets, IMO. I would say Germany and Austria offer better ones; they are larger and offer more varied and interesting items. Or try a place like Colmar in France a very charming village just over the border from the Swiss German part of Switzerland, quite close to Zurich. I lived in Zurich for several years, and Zurich’s Christmas market was really nothing much. Zurich’s is indoors in the cavernous hall of the main train station and does not have any atmosphere I have to say. But the ones in Vienna are quite special, as is Colmar’s; and I know that many German towns, especially those along the Romantic Road, have good ones too. These offer outdoor stalls on old town cobblestone streets hung with lights, and you can sip gluweine while you shop as the snow softly falls. You may find some good ones in other parts of Switzerland (like Basel), but generally I don’t think they compare well to others. While I think Switzerland is really beautiful in winter (I think it is actually more beautiful than in the summer), I would not say it is the best place to go for traditional outdoor street stall Christmas markets. (Which is what I believe you are looking for.)

If you mean other festivals, Switzerland does do things like Fasnacht (which is the Swiss version of Mardi Gras or Carnival, the celebrations prior to Lent) in an interesting way that would be worth seeing. The one in Basel is probably the most interesting. Note that it is generally celebrated a week or so <i>later</i> than Mardi Gras/Carnival is celebrated in most places. For info, go to

There is a very interesting festival held only in Zurich, generally in mid-April called Sechseläuten, which is sort of a spring holiday festival. There are lots of activities associated with this, my favourite is in the evening when they turn off the street lights in parts of the old town and members of the traditional guildhalls dressed in costumes visit each other accompanied by bands. They also have a huge bonfire the next day where they burn a snowman (the Bogg) to see how much longer winter will last.

swandav2000 Jun 11th, 2009 09:56 PM

Hi clevelandbrown,

Yes, it's hard to know exactly what kind of market you are talking about, and it would also be helpful to know where you plan to be. I've found that many towns have their own particular market, some centering on wine or fresh produce, some on handicrafts, etc.

I can tell you that there is a Saturday morning market in Vevey, and sometimes it includes wine. The Friday monring market in Montreux centers on handicrafts/fashion. I found a fresh produce market in the main square in Basel once, but I forget which day it was.

Hope to hear more!


quokka Jun 12th, 2009 03:27 AM

Bern has an arts and crafts market on the platform next to Münster church every first Saturday of the month. These are local/regional artisans who sell their products there and they have really really pretty stuff. Prices are what individually made arts and crafts are worth, though.

clevelandbrown Jun 12th, 2009 02:18 PM

Yes, I was referring to the December holidays. In my part of the US the winds of political correctness are blowing strong, and we are encouraged to say Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas, lest we offend persons in the groups that have their own holidays in the same season.

Passerine Jun 12th, 2009 02:24 PM

I'm not particularly impressed with the Christmas market in Basel, there are better ones in Germany. However, there are plenty of shops with excellent holiday wares in Basel--I'd rather shop in those instead. And we didn't like Bern's at all--but we went on a rainy Saturdau--the market was mobbed, people drinking but not shopping, once we started exploring the less-busy side streets and their shops, we had a much better time.
We visited the Christmas market in Nancy in 2008 and it was pleasant, although not remarkable. But again, the shops had plenty of things we found enticing and the Place Stanislas is beautiful in December.

suze Jun 12th, 2009 04:43 PM

Montreux also hosts a traditional Christmas market. The locals make fun of it, but they do participate in the drinking part of the festivities.

kmbp Jun 12th, 2009 05:39 PM

The tinyurl in my original response links to the listing of Advent and Christmas events in various cities and towns--including markets--with their respective 2009 dates.

swandav2000 Jun 12th, 2009 10:18 PM

Hi again,

Yes, as others have said above, the specific Christian-holiday markets do not compare (imo) to the ones in Germany. The small mountain towns and villages do not have them at all (I spent a Christmas in Gstaad for the ambiance, but all I saw were a few fat plastic Santas), so that means you have to spend more time in the larger cities as mentioned.

I've been to the market in Montreux, and I would also make fun of it. It's more like a flea market, with really no Christmas ornaments or decorations in sight. And the huts are reeeeaaallly cheesy fake-wood plastic pre-fab chalets. I've heard that it's changed a lot since I saw it in 2004 though.

Good luck!


kleeblatt Jun 13th, 2009 12:06 AM

Well, I rather liked Rapperswil Christmas market last year. Booths set up through the beautiful old town. It was quite magical and big enough to fill an afternoon. I couldn't handle more than a long afternoon of shopping at these markets anyway. After awhile, the goods and stalls begin to look the same.

clevelandbrown Jun 13th, 2009 02:35 PM

Which Rapperswil? My map shows one near Bern, and one near Zurich.

kleeblatt Jun 14th, 2009 02:52 AM

Rapperswil near Zürich.

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