Late November and the entire December in Switzerland are the time of year when festive spirit vigorously floats on white snowflakes, glittering street lights, and Christmas carols on each corner.
If you desire to spend your winter holiday in Europe, Christmas in Switzerland will make your excitement grow over the rooftop.
Winter delights settled in the alpine scenery and snow-capped mountain are bound to fascinate visitors of all ages. Switzerland during Christmas spreads centuries-old traditions, and it offers fun that will carve memorable memories.
But which place in the country is the best for spending Christmas?
Well, that will your preferences decide. Our task is to help you make a decision, so below you will find our list of the best places for Christmas, Switzerland, and other relative info regarding most people’s favorite winter holiday.
You’ll read about:
- When is Christmas in Switzerland?
- Where should I go to Switzerland at Christmas?
- Traveling around Switzerland in Christmas time
- Weather in Switzerland in December
1. When is Christmas in Switzerland? + Most asked questions
Christmas in Switzerland has many similarities with its neighbors Germany and Austria. Still, it preserves many customs of its own that make it a unique experience.
It is a public holiday, celebrated on December 25th. The Swiss have a day off, and schools and most businesses will be closed.
As Christmas 2021 falls on Saturday, there is a high chance that some businesses may decide to follow Saturday opening hours.
Note: Due to some Covid-19 restrictions, investigate in advance will the hotels and restaurants you are planning to visit work as usual.
How do they celebrate Christmas in Switzerland?
Just like in most European countries, in Switzerland people follow the tradition of counting the days until Christmas Eve. They pay respect to this custom with a Christmas calendar, also known as Advent calendar, which counts 24 days – from 1st to 24th December.
In smaller towns and villages, 24 people decorate one of their windows in a holiday theme. Most of them are families, schools, and local businesses. They pick a day and express their creativity through various designs with the motives of angels, candles, stars, animals, etc.
They don’t open the window until the set time. When the time comes, people gather in front of the house to witness the opening and the exposure of colorful designs. These openings are most frequently followed by the singing of Christmas carols, snacks, and hot drinks.
One more interesting thing that follows the Christmas tradition in Switzerland is the celebration of the Adventskranz or Advent wreath. It represents a circular wreath designed with fir branches and 4 big candles tied on it.
The wreath’s main purpose is to count the last four weeks before Christmas Eve. The first candle is lit on Sunday – four weeks before Christmas Eve, and each of the 3 left will be lit on the following Sundays.
In late November, cute parades of beetroot lanterns appear all over the country. They are called Räbeliechtli. Children carve them with their teachers at schools or with parents at home and then go out on the street to show their designs while singing Christmas carols throughout the villages.
What is Santa Claus called in Switzerland?
In Switzerland, Santa Claus (based on the historic figure of Saint Nicholas) is known as Samichlaus. He doesn’t visit on December 24th like in many countries in the world – he visits Switzerland on December 6th. He brings a specific gift – a big bag filled with chocolates, peanuts, and mandarins for the entire family.
He works with his helper Schmutzli who wears black clothes and has a blackened face. In Switzerland, Samichlaus is invited in advance, therefore he politely knocks on people’s doors and enters with gifts.
His arrival announces the official start of the Christmas season. Samichlaus doesn’t come from the faraway North Pole – he comes from a nearby forest in a company of a donkey.
He gives a yearly report to both children and adults, but for the adults, it comes in a bit of funny and silly way so everyone laughs a lot during this encounter.
Related: Learn about holidays in Switzerland.
How do you say Merry Christmas in Switzerland?
As you know, there are 4 official languages in Switzerland, so we will state how to say Merry Christmas on each of them:
- In Swiss German, it is ‘Schöni Wiehnachte’
- In French, it is ‘Joyeux Noël’
- In Italian, it is ‘Buon Natale’
- In Romansh, it is ‘Bellas festas da Nadal’
Try to memorize it, the locals will be very pleased if you wish them Merry Christmas in their language. It may be the start of a nice conversation or maybe a new friendship.
2. Traveling through Switzerland in Christmas time
As Swiss beauty seems endless, it is hard to settle for just one place during the most beautiful holiday. This picturesque country on Christmas offers so many sweet corners for spending some of the happiest moments with your family.
In this part, you will read about traveling through:
- Places in the Swiss Alps
- Secluded villages and towns
So, we will make a division based on cities, alpine places and resorts, and secluded villages. Are you ready? Let’s decide what the best place is for your Christmas in Switzerland!
1. Christmas in the Swiss cities
If you prefer architecture and vibrant cities rather than mountains and villages, a Christmas spent in any of Switzerland’s major cities will be a blast.
Christmas markets in Swiss cities
All of them offer large Christmas markets which start working from November 24th. The snow isn’t guaranteed, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be overwhelmed with Christmas vibes that are lurking on each corner.
Christmas markets in Switzerland are perfect places for decent shopping and picking souvenirs for your family and friends, plus you get infected by the holiday atmosphere in no time.
Local people come after work and spend some quality time with their friends while eating Swiss Christmas food and drinking mulled wine.
The Christmas market in the capital of Bern offers endless interesting activities for everyone. You will be blown away by a huge Christmas tree and the alpine chalet that offers traditional food such as raclette and fondue. For enhancing the excitement, there is a great ice rink waiting for you and your impressive pirouettes.
The Christmas market in Basel is the oldest and is considered to be the best Christmas market in Switzerland. It brags more than 180 wooden huts nestled in the center of the Old Town. The Basel market may also be the market with the most vivid Switzerland Christmas decorations.
Some of the most appealing ornaments can be found in the Johann Wanner Christmas House close by, where you can buy beautiful souvenirs for your loved ones.
The Christmas market in Geneva is small, but it is beautifully arranged. It consists of a series of wooden huts that sell Christmas food such as fondue, falafel, international food, hot chocolate, and mulled wine.
Geneva may not have the best and biggest Christmas market, but it is one of the most beautiful cities and a frequent choice for honeymooners.
Within some pine markets, you can find your special Christmas tree, and thousands of handicrafts and lighted garlands while the scent of cinnamon will hunt your senses.
The market is very cute and easy to navigate. Favored among kids is an amazing ice skating rink located in the park.
As you can see, the highlight of most of those markets is the ice skating rink. Children and those who want to please their inner child can have a go at an ice rink in many cities and towns, such as Lucerne, Lausanne, Locarno, and Chur.
Lucerne during christmas
Lucerne begins the Christmas season by turning on the lights and opening the ice rink at the lakeside. The streets get crowded with people who observe and admire the handcrafted gifts made by artisans for the season.
Winter delights in Lucerne are abundant. You can even ski and snowshoe under the stars. If you decide to spend your winter holiday there, you can count on a complete Christmas wonderland adventure.
Zurich during Christmas
Zurich Christmas offers the 50-foot tree that is worth seeing at one of its main train stations. The tree is decorated with myriads of glittering Swarovski crystals.
Four Christmas markets in Zurich offer endless activities. One of them is the largest Christmas market in the whole of Europe and the city’s oldest market in the Old Town.
One more fascinating thing about Zurich markets is a singing Christmas tree! Listening to Christmas carols in front of a gigantic tree is one of the favorite moments for both locals and tourists.
Christmas in Montreux
Montreux, Switzerland for Christmas represents one of the adorable places on Lake Geneva that runs one of the most attractive and biggest Christmas markets in the country. Along the promenade, you will be fascinated with more than 160 stalls on which you can buy many interesting handicrafts and standard dishes.
You will make your kids very happy if you take them to Elves’ Square where is a big Christmas tree and stunning workshops.
For cooking lessons, pottery workshops, and candle-making, you can visit the Chillon Castle, a host of Medieval Magic. You can attend and have a go at any of these activities during three weekends in December.
St. Gallen for Christmas
St. Gallen is one of the top places to spend Christmas in Switzerland, not only because it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but also because its citizens cannot be beasted in making Christmas decorations.
In the Old Town of St. Gallen, you’ll find an installation of 700 stars shimmering above the squares and streets, which creates a charming festive spirit. Plus, you will be mesmerized with one of the tallest Christmas trees in the country placed in front of the St. Gallen’s Cathedral.
How unique is Christmas in St. Gallen portrays the procession of Santa Claus and the elves called the Chlausritt. They ride through the town drawing the attention of spectators, both old and young.
2. Christmas in the Swiss mountains
If you want a Christmas in Switzerland that is full of snow, you should hit the mountains. The Swiss Alps get a dreamy look during the holiday, you’ll instantly fall in love with the white environment embellished with Christmas decorations.
Alpine resorts aren’t only magnetic for skiers and snowboarders, there are plenty of other activities to complete your winter holiday, just like a ride in a horse-drawn sleigh.
The pinnacle of Christmas euphoria among ski resorts must be Zermatt. The St. Peter’s Church gets crammed with people who are fond of Christmas traditions.
Zermatt for Christmas means a lot of fun on snow combined with festive and warm moments with your family.
St Moritz is known for organizing big events, so Christmas in this beautiful resort won’t pass unnoticed. It all starts with Santa Claus’s visit, candle-making workshops, and music concerts. Some ultra-luxurious hotels even offer their ice rinks where you can have a great time and express your skating skills.
If you are heading to the Jungfrau region, we highly recommend Grindelwald, Switzerland for Christmas. It is a beautiful place with infinite options to keep yourself entertained. For example, you can start with sledding and snowshoeing on the glittering and festive trails.
Another example of happy Christmas on snow leads straight to Gstaad, where Santa Claus accompanied by children leaves the oldest hotel in the town and walks to the chapel.
Whatever Swiss town you choose, you’ll certainly have an incredible and unforgettable experience for the entire family. Just imagine sitting next to a fireplace in one of the beautiful wooden chalets while the snow is falling outside! This kind of Christmas will be carved in your memory forever!
3. Christmas in the Swiss towns and villages
Just because they are smaller in size, it doesn’t mean that Christmas in Switzerland villages will be less pompous than in any other bigger neighboring place. The village squares get crowded with local people who create so strong festive spirit, with the same excitement you would experience in major cities.
No matter what cozy village you chose for your Christmas in Switzerland, find some time for tasting local food. The traditional specialties like raclette, fondue, and cookies with cinnamon and ginger, and mulled wine will warm you up and start the Christmas party in your belly.
The Stein am Rhein Christmas magic starts with a canopy of stars’ light under which different fairytale theme takes action every year.
Within the walls of the town’s former Benedictine monastery, St. Georgen Abbey, the real medieval show is happening. The characters in best costumes perform trades of the era for 3 days. This adventure gets complemented with medieval-style food and drinks.
Christmas spent in Einsiedeln has a special meaning as it is a center of a tenth-century abbey dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
In front of the abbey is a vast plaza where is held one of the biggest Christmas markets in Switzerland. In addition to the religious spirit of the place, there is a great winter sports program that includes skiing and tobogganing in the surrounding area.
Another example of fairytale-like Christmas takes action in a fascinating Gothic medieval town Gruyères, located in the central alpine region of Switzerland. It is widely famous for its cheese, high-quality chocolate, and beautiful 13th-century castle.
Christmas in Gruyères cannot be compared to anything else, expect the most special moments on the cobble-stone streets echoing with choirs of carol singers. The locals express their art in numerous wares and the braziers spread the beautiful smell of roasting chestnuts.
The Christmas vibes in this kind of environment will simply impress everyone. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the medieval Château de Gruyères, one of the best places to visit in Switzerland.
4. Weather in Switzerland in December
Christmas in Switzerland 2021 will be cold, with temperatures ranging from -2°C and 4°C.
Back in past, snow in Switzerland in December was guaranteed, and if you are lucky enough, you may experience some snow this year, too.
Almost the entire December will be rainy, about 15 to 22 days, so don’t forget to bring a waterproof jacket if you want to stay dry!
If you want to make sure you have a white Christmas in Switzerland, we recommend you to go to some of the mentioned alpine destinations. Snow at higher altitudes is bound to happen which we cannot guarantee for the lowlands.
With the snow-capped Alps and clear blue glacial lakes, Switzerland is a country that summarizes the festive celebration and atmosphere.
The cities, towns, and villages we mentioned above are some of the best places for Christmas in Switzerland. Whatever destination you chose, Christmas on the Swiss ground is certain to be magical and romantic.
Seasonal events and the excitement of the locals will give you a Christmas you will never forget.