We’ve declared Switzerland one of our favourite winter holiday destinations! It’s a country that lets you explore using all your senses, and it’s even more charming in winter. Snuggle up in your winter coat, boots and gloves and get ready to explore Switzerland at its best.
Here’s why the festive season in Switzerland is worth the visit…
Where you will find snow
A white Christmas is not guaranteed in the big cities like Zurich and Bern, nor in the lower valleys. If snow is what you’re looking for, the higher you go, the better! Around Christmas-time, all the ski resorts open up and the winter-sport mecca of Switzerland is flooded with travellers from all over the world. Outdoor Interlaken is one of our favourite adventure spots. Here, you can head into the village of Interlaken on days when you just need to give your body a rest. Please note that the village is not high up, so snow-capped rooftops are not guaranteed.
That’s what we go up the mountain for! Take the train to Jungfraujoch and stand 3,454 metres above sea level. Along the way to Jungfrau, you’ll pass the villages of Grindelwald, Wengen and Muerren. All of these towns will be picturesque winter fantasies for those seeking a guaranteed white Christmas.
Top Tip! With the shortened days, be sure to make the most of your daylight. Plan outings between 8:00am and around 4:30pm.
Switzerland has no shortage of Christmas markets and yuletide treats. In the capital city of Bern, you’ll find the unique Christmas Market in Waisenhausplatz. Running from 2-24 December, this market boasts 20 years of tradition. The event is known for showcasing 50 wooden houses, each decorated to suit the trinkets and treats sold inside. After Christmas, it turns into the Altjahresmarkt from 27 December. Another festive treat in Bern is the Münsterplatz Christmas Market. This event hosts many artisans and artists who have been promoting their crafts in front of the cathedral since 1984!
Alternatively, be awestruck by the beauty of the Christmas Market in Zurich. This annual event is hosted at the Sechseläutenplatz, directly in front of the Opera House. Here, you can even put on a pair of skates and admire the idyllic scene from the ice-skating rink.
Cities like Basel, Montreux and Lucerne also have markets that overrun the entire town. Montreux, in particular, is known for its festive cheer. Throughout the yuletide, travellers here can enjoy a covered market bursting with musical entertainment, 160+ artisans and merchants, and all sorts of tasty delights.
On the first Sunday of Advent each year, Brienz comes to life with Christmas cheer and visitors can walk through the Old Town and marvel at the 90 market stalls along the lakefront. In the village of Interlaken, you can enjoy the yuletide markets every day of the Advent!
Cheese, chocolate & Gluhwein
Speaking of culinary delights, the Swiss really know how to warm you up from the inside. To start with, there’s the famous Swiss fondue. What could be better than dipping pieces of freshly-baked bread into a pot of melted cheese? Picture yourself sitting high up in the Swiss Alps, with snow all around you, eating the best cheese you’ve ever tasted. And the cheesy delights don’t stop there! The Swiss also enjoy Raclette – a large block of cheese is melted using a special tool and then scraped onto tasty morsels (e.g. potatoes or meat) on your plate.
Of course, the Swiss are also famous for their chocolate. In fact, they are officially the world’s most prolific chocolate-eating nation. Each resident eats around 8 kg per year! In 1819, the chocolate-making factory of Cailler was founded. Today it is known as Nestlé. Lindt was founded in 1879 and is one of the reasons that Swiss chocolate is so famous.
When you visit Switzerland, be sure to sample some chocolate with a side of their famous mulled wine –Glühwein. This drink dates back all the way to the 2nd Century – it’s so good they’ve kept it going. Glühwein is usually prepared from red wine, which is heated and spiced with cinnamon sticks, cloves, star aniseed, citrus, sugar and vanilla pods. These flavours pair wonderfully with chocolate.
The Swiss see winter as a time of celebration and festivities. This goes way back to the time when farming used to take place during the summer months. They were so busy planting and preparing that there was a sense of relief when it all stopped and the snow fell. Each region in Switzerland celebrates winter in their own way. This includes masked festivals for the banishment of evil spirits and even a festival of whip cracking.
The smaller villages share in the countdown to Christmas with ‘advent windows’. Twenty-four people are each given a certain day. It is then up to them to decorate a window in their shop or home. The window stays covered until they reveal it on their assigned day. Once the window is revealed it stays lit up until Christmas. So, from the 1st till the 24th of December, people gather at the day’s window to watch the unveiling. They share cookies and hot chocolate with their neighbours and enjoy the companionship. This sharing culture is continued throughout Switzerland. Households bake endlessly to hand out their beautifully decorated cookies.
Fun Fact! Other Christmas traditions in Switzerland are slightly different from the rest of the world. Santa Claus comes on the 6th of December. Instead of gifts, he brings a bag full of chocolates, peanuts and mandarins. These are meant to be shared amongst the family. Individual gifts are opened on the 24th of December.
Like we said, Switzerland is one of the best winter destinations ever! We also happen to have a few winter tours you can join to experience the magic! Go on – you know you want to…