Must-see Christmas markets

Written by
Emily Rose Mawson
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Switzerland does Christmas to a T – wooden huts cram into its cities, where the scent of mulled wine and roasting chestnuts fills the air. But it’s also worth straying away from the city centres to find Christmas markets with a difference. Here are some of our favourites …

Hip Christmas

Showcasing the young designers of hip Zurich West, Heiliger Bimbam is a funky alternative to traditional markets. Find vintage-inspired clothing, locally designed jewellery and bags, retro homeware, books and cupcakes at around 100 stalls. It takes place at the MAAG-Halle, where it’s possible to shop until midnight. This is a thoroughly modern Christmas market, but happily one tradition remains – copious mulled wine. Heiliger Bimbam runs from 15th to 18th and 22nd to 23rd December; montagsmarkt.ch

Zurich's Singing Christmas Tree draws visitors from far and wide
©Zurich Tourism

Rocking around the Christmas tree

Follow the dulcet tones emerging from the Christmas market on Werdmühleplatz in Zurich and you’ll find it: this most lovely yet bizarre of festive events – The Singing Christmas Tree. Adult and junior choirs from across the region, arranged on a Christmas tree-shaped bandstand and dressed like Santa's little helpers, perform all sorts of music – including Christmas pop and carols – to a crowd huddled over steaming mugs of mulled wine. Daily concerts from 24th November to 23rd December; zuerich.com

Wiehnachtsdorf in Zurich is said to be a "meeting place for all of Switzerland"
©Wiehnachtsdorf

Festive fun for everyone

Once you’ve seen one Christmas market, you’ve kind of seen them all. But not so at Zurich’s Christmas Village (Wiehnachtsdorf) on Sechseläutenplatz. A mind-boggling explosion of colour and fairy lights, the market comprises food and gift stalls, which focus on sustainable and upcycled wares, as well as clowns, an ice rink and a beautiful carousel in front of the Opera House. Wiehnachtsdorf runs from 24th November to 23rd December and a full programme is available online; wienachtsdorf.ch

Meilen Christmas Market boasts unusual handicrafts
©Maertverein Meilen

A local affair

Held on the first Sunday of Advent in the sleepy streets of Meilen on Lake Zurich, this quaint Christmas market is an antidote to its commercialised counterparts. Across its 200 stalls there are ceramics and jewellery, wooden toys and unusual Christmas gifts, as well as an array of crepes, mulled wine and warm apple punch concocted and sold by local associations. Shops stay open for the afternoon and offer discounts to market visitors. This year’s market is on Sunday 27th November; maertvereinmeilen.ch

Saas-Fee is a magical setting for a Christmas market
©Saas-Fee Tourism

Christmas in the mountains

In a setting that will make even the most Scrooge-inclined feel festive – think a curtain of snowy peaks against a twinkling sky – Saas-Fee’s Christmas market packs a punch. Short but sweet, the programme runs from 16th to 17th December. There is plenty to entertain kids, from candle dipping and gingerbread decorating to a Chinese lanterns parade. Also available are accommodation packages and reduced-fare ski passes. More information at saas-fee.ch

The medieval facades of Stein am Rhein provide a Christmassy backdrop
©Märlistadt

Puss in Boots

Travel back in time at Stein am Rhein’s ‘Märlistadt’ (fairy-tale town). With its medieval facades clad in twinkling lights and wreaths, this higgledy-piggledy old town is an atmospheric setting for the Christmas market huts selling handicrafts. There is also the ‘Märliweg’, a trail leading to spots depicting fairytale scenes. This year’s fairytale is ‘Puss in Boots’ by the Brothers Grimm, and tours are available on Saturdays and Sundays with the cat himself. All main activities take place across the 2nd, 3rd and 4th weekends of advent. Further information at tourismus.steinamrhein.com

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