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Switzerland comes alive during the winter season, particularly in the weeks running up to Christmas. Beautiful markets spring up across the country, town centres shimmer with fairy lights and even historic buildings join in the festive spirit. Here are 11 things for you to do on your trip to Switzerland, that’ll make this a Christmas to remember.
There are plenty of Christmas markets to choose from across Switzerland. Montreux Noël is perhaps one of the best, and most beautiful markets that you’ll come across in the entire country as the famous Chillon Castle gets into the festive spirit. Basel also hosts a mean market and its light show turns the old town into a true winter wonderland; for good reason is it known as one of Switzerland’s prettiest Christmas events.
During the festive season, any town or city in Switzerland that’s worth its name opens up an ice rink. Some, like Locarno’s beautiful ice rink that takes up its Piazza Grande, are definitely worth visiting. Another option is Zurich’s Christmas Village or the Dolder Ice Complex, Switzerland’s largest artificial ice rink, that’s incredibly popular.
The Swiss don’t need an excuse to enjoy wine. So when winter rolls almost everywhere starts brewing up Glühwein, hot mulled wine. There’s nothing like it to warm you on a frigid day and enjoying a cup, or two, is a must-do on any Christmas vacation.
Visiting one of Switzerland’s bigger cities (like Zurich or Geneva) is always eventful, but if you prefer to keep things calm and a little quieter you should check out one of these towns. Each has its own unique character, particularly during winter, and will offer you a different experience that you can’t find in the cities.
Keeping in the tradition of warding off the winter chill, you should make sure to try a nice pot of molten cheese fondue; Switzerland’s national dish. Winter is the fondue eating season (you will find it during summer but it’s not advised). Best not gorge on this heavy dish before a skiing trip, but it’s the best way to rebuild energy and you can enjoy a glass of white wine in the process.
Want to make your Christmas one to remember? Then you should head to an igloo village. Don’t worry, Santa won’t bring you hypothermia as these comfortable lodges come with a snug sleeping bag, or a luxurious quilted bed if you want to splurge a little.
Whether you are a skier or a snowboarder, or a snowman builder for that matter, you’ll find there’s plenty of snow filled fun to be had in Switzerland, particularly around Christmas time. Hit up some of the most spectacular ski resorts in Europe or go for something a little more low-key.
Every year, St. Gallen outdoes the rest of Switzerland with a gigantic 20 metre Christmas tree that glimmers with the glow of over 5000 fairy lights. The tree sits in front of the Abbey of St. Gallen, one of the most beautiful buildings in the country. You won’t be disappointed by the rest of the town, which has a fully pedestrianized center, the streets of which become a “city of stars” during the Festive season.
If you’re sticking around Switzerland for Christmas Day you should head to central Switzerland. On Christmas Day people take to the streets wearing trychlers (giant cow bells), masks and banging on drums. All this racket carries on for a few days until New Year’s Eve. It’s an old tradition that is supposed to chase all of the evil spirits away for a time.
Switzerland is known as the home of luxury products, so if you are stuck for gift ideas you’ll find plenty of inspiration. Whether you are looking for a smooth, creamy bar of chocolate, a glimmering diamond or an eye-catching timepiece, you’ll find what you’re looking for and more. Otherwise you can always pick up a nice, clunky cow-bell for that special person, because, you know, who doesn’t love cow-bells?
Switzerland is one of the best spots to hike in the world. This doesn’t stop during winter as you can still enjoy a walk on crisp, sunny days as the snow crunches beneath your feet. Great places to go if you want to enjoy a spot of winter walking or snowshoeing are the cantons of Valais and Graubünden, each offer hundreds of kilometres of trails to explore.