Switzerland in December (over Christmas)

Old Sep 10th, 2023, 06:48 PM
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Switzerland in December (over Christmas)

We're in the extremely early stages of planning a Christmas trip to Europe. Our daughter is in grad school in Portugal, so we're going to meet up for about 10-12 days and thinking about Switzerland for the snow, Christmas markets, and skiiing since we haven't been there before. Switzerland is not yet set in stone, just one top option for now.

With very little planning on our part yet (and so as to not bias anything yet), I'm wondering what Swiss travelers' favorite things to do would be for approximately Dec 19-30.

We are well traveled 52 year olds with our 22 yo daughter. Only hard requirements are location with a great Christmas atmosphere and skiing. I'll be doing a lot of other research in parallel to supplement what I learn here (as always). I acknowledge it might even be too late to book a ski trip, so that type of info/advice is also welcome.

TIA

Paul

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Old Sep 11th, 2023, 09:03 AM
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This frequent traveler to Switzerland enjoys winter walking on groomed trails, which one can find at most ski resorts. I also actively seek out Advent concerts, which can be found in some of the most unexpected places across Switzerland. And of course hearty Swiss food and chocolate.

FYI - many hotels in Switzerland - in ski resorts in particular - often require a minimum stay of 7-14 nights over Christmas. Apartments are generally less restrictive.

We've visited Switzerland many times over Christmas and IME markets there are quite different than those in Germany, Austria and France. They're more subdued. Sure, you'll find Christmas markets in the big cities, and while Basel is known for one of the best, we didn't find it nearly as interesting as those we've visited elsewhere.

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Old Sep 11th, 2023, 03:37 PM
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Thank you, melnq8! I think we've shared posts on NZ, Scotland, and Ireland before if I'm not mistaken. I've taken some time off from Fodors, but not traveling fortunately.

Thanks for the heads up about hotels. Indeed we've found an apartment in Zermatt so far, but haven't looked elsewhere yet.

What parts of Switzerland do you like in the winter?

So far I am focusing on something like Geneva-Lausanne-Montreux-Zermatt-Geneva for our ~ 11 nights. Any thoughts about that "loop?"
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Old Sep 11th, 2023, 05:01 PM
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paulg -

We've been visiting Switzerland for about 30 years and prefer to stay off-piste these days. Having said that, Zermatt is a good choice for a first time visit and will be very lively (and expensive) and has a lot on offer. Although I've spent a lot of time in Swiss ski resorts, I don't ski, so can't really address the slopes per se, at least not from a skiers perpective of difficulty, etc.

Switzerland often feels like one big ski resort, so you will be spoiled for choice.

Some areas you might want to take a look at include the ski areas of Arosa-Lenzerheide, Crans Montana (which I've yet to visit), Laax-Flims, St Moritz (which is a lively town at Christmas with plenty of off-piste activites), Davos-Klosters, Gstaad-Sannen, Wengen, Grindelwald, Adelboden, Saas Fee, Leukerbad...you get my drift - more options than time.

I'm not all that familiar with Geneva-Lausanne-Montreux, having only visited once or twice each, so will leave that for others, but as you can see narrowing down the choices is the hardest bit and honestly, I've yet to find a bad choice in Switzerland.
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Old Sep 11th, 2023, 10:23 PM
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Take this with a grain of salt, since it was over 50 years ago, but during a ski trip at Christmas during college, I skied at Zermatt. Electric train to get there, no cars allowed in the town. We took a cable car up as far as you could go (8800 ft above sea level, I think), when you got out, you were literally at the base of the Matterhorn. A Triple X slope, more difficult than I should have been on! Skiing through the clouds. We were so far up that it took four hours to ski down. Halfway down, there was a house turned B&B/restaurant where you could take a break and get something to eat.

Also skied at Villars, where in addition to great skiing, for lunch I had the most delicious cheese omelet I've ever had. And at Roche de Nay (not sure I'm spelling that right), where it was 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
Thanks for bringing back great memories! 😀

Last edited by SusanP; Sep 11th, 2023 at 10:26 PM.
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Old Sep 11th, 2023, 10:50 PM
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Hi paulg,

You say that a Christmas atmosphere is a "hard requirement," but I'm not sure that Switzerland will give you that. That's just not in the Swiss traditions or heritage. Some larger towns and cities have started doing Christmas markets, but I don't think you'll see them in small towns or villages. I just googled "Christmas in Zermatt," and there were a lot of pictures of the town lit up against the snow, but no Christmas decorations. I spent one Christmas in Gstaad, and the only decoration was a fat Santa doll outside one house.

Montreux does have a Christmas Market, actually 3 -- one at the lakeside, one at Chillon, and one up at Caux, I believe. But the merchandise reminded me of a flea market -- accessories for your phone, kitchen items, and clothing as well as decorative objects. And the market food definitely has a French flair -- more crepes & foie gras than sausages.

Geneva, Lausanne, & Montreux are all very near to each other, so if you want to see it, choose one and see the others from there. I'd stay in either Montreux or Vevey, as there are such good markets & activities around.

Have fun as you plan!

s
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Old Sep 12th, 2023, 05:44 PM
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Thanks for the feedback everyone, keep it coming!

Originally Posted by swandav2000

Geneva, Lausanne, & Montreux are all very near to each other, so if you want to see it, choose one and see the others from there. I'd stay in either Montreux or Vevey, as there are such good markets & activities.

s
Good point, I see this as well, all within 1 hr of each other so easily doable as day trips from one location.

Now thinking about 3 hubs of Geneva area, Zermatt, Interlaken.
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Old Sep 13th, 2023, 07:21 AM
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Interlaken....I don't recommend staying there. Go further up to Grindelwald, Murren or Wengen. Lauterbrunnen makes a good base too, but not in the winter - it's in a valley and there will be very little sun, whereas you'll get more sunshine further up. Interlaken isn't in the alps, it's a gateway, but honestly, it's just not that nice a place to stay.
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Old Sep 13th, 2023, 08:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Melnq8
Interlaken....I don't recommend staying there. Go further up to Grindelwald, Murren or Wengen. Lauterbrunnen makes a good base too, but not in the winter - it's in a valley and there will be very little sun, whereas you'll get more sunshine further up. Interlaken isn't in the alps, it's a gateway, but honestly, it's just not that nice a place to stay.
Ok, thanks, will look into those other options. Out of curiosity, why don't you like Interlaken?
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Old Sep 14th, 2023, 07:42 AM
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Out of curiosity, why don't you like Interlaken?

We made the mistake of staying there once years ago before we knew better. It's not particularly pretty - sure, you see the mountains in the distance, but you're not IN them. It has a casino and other tourist trappings and tat that make it feel like it could be anywhere, and doesn't feel particularly Swiss to me. It's a good base if you're interested in the lakes, but not so much for the mountains, which is what I go to Switzerland for.

In recent years it has campaigned to attract Asian and Gulf state tourists, and as a result is home to many Indian and halal restaurants, Arabic speakers and prayer mats in front of hotels. Don't get me wrong, I love Indian food, but personally I got enough of the rest when I lived in the Middle East for seven years. That's not what I go to Switzerland for.

But, that's just me (and most Swiss if you care to look at comments on TA). You do you.

https://worldcrunch.com/culture-soci...uslim-tourists


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Old Sep 14th, 2023, 06:00 PM
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Interesting, thanks!
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Old Sep 15th, 2023, 02:40 PM
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Have you considered Austria instead of Switzerland? You will find the Christmas ambience you are looking for, the skiing is great, and it is a lot less expensive than Switzerland.
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Old Sep 16th, 2023, 07:45 AM
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I would recommend Zermatt or Saas-Fee as snow-sure and beautiful places to ski. You can ski there all year round and there should be snow at that altitude itself. The Christmas video of the group Wham was filmed in Saas-Fee (Last christmas i gave you my hart....)!

Have a great trip!
Martin
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Old Sep 16th, 2023, 01:05 PM
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Originally Posted by lilla
Have you considered Austria instead of Switzerland? You will find the Christmas ambience you are looking for, the skiing is great, and it is a lot less expensive than Switzerland.
We have indeed. But we've been itching to go to Switzerland for a while now. We plan to go to Austria soon without the kids (1 year from empty nest). But thanks for the suggestion.
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Old Sep 16th, 2023, 09:13 PM
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Hubby and I spent two weeks last December visiting the Christmas markets in Switzerland. I must admit we have been to Switzerland five other times and had previously visited the Christmas markets in Austria and Germany. Swandav2000 is correct about the markets in Switzerland. Zermatt had no Christmas markets, but we did attend the tree lighting ceremony at the beginning of December. But, we adore Zermatt and loved sitting on our balcony in the snow drinking wine and viewing the Matterhorn. We also stayed in Montreux. They have a wonderful Christmas market along the lake promenade. At night it is magical. Lausanne has a few Christmas markets, but I was not impressed with any of them. We also visited the Christmas markets in Zurich, Lucerne, Winterthur, St. Gallen, Stein am Rhein and Appenzell. None of them rival the markets in Germany and Austria. We love Switzerland, so we made the best of it and visited other attractions. Go to Switzerland for the beauty of it in winter, not for the Christmas market to give you the Christmas spirit.
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Old Sep 18th, 2023, 10:19 AM
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Originally Posted by BarbAnn
Go to Switzerland for the beauty of it in winter, not for the Christmas market to give you the Christmas spirit.
I like your line of thought, and we are going to do the same. We now have 5 days in Zermatt for 3-4 days of skiing, plus we'll be staying in Montreux for some markets. Thanks for the help!
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