Christmas around the world has many unique characteristics but when we start thinking about the most magical places to enjoy the festive season, Switzerland is certainly near the very top of our list for a plethora of reasons. Whether you are contemplating the idea of visiting the iconic Swiss Alps for the idyllic “White Christmas” or perhaps heading to one of Switzerland’s main cities, the heart of Europe is definitely a place you should consider for a future festive destination. While the cities of Geneva and Zurich offer a myriad of reasons to enjoy the holiday season, we think that Christmas in Basel is perhaps the best way to enjoy a little yuletide festive fun.
Basel may be Switzerland’s third city in terms of population, but it’s location in close proximity to the French/Swiss border creates a perfect metropolis to enjoy both nation’s festive influence. If you choose to take a day trip from Basel to Colmar to enjoy the epitome of French influence, or perhaps just stay in the immediate vicinity of the city, this area of Switzerland is undoubtedly one of the best spots to enjoy Christmas. Rather than focusing on the possibilities of taking day trips from Basel, we want to focus our attention on why this Swiss city is such a perfect place to celebrate during the month of December.
Basel Christmas Markets
Let’s start with perhaps the most iconic reason and generally why most tourists flock from across the globe not only to Switzerland, but also to many other European nations…Christmas markets! Switzerland has an abundance of awesome Christmas markets but we would argue that Basel is at the very top, not only because of the variety on offer but also because of the opportunities to mingle with locals and enjoy a little Swiss festive cheer.
The two iconic locations in Basel are within short walking distance from each other and are the perfect spot to enjoy both during the day and again at night. While Christmas markets are always fun throughout the afternoon, it’s the evening experience when the festive charm really shines. The markets at Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz play host to over 160 market stalls, each offering unique local handcrafted goods, festive Swiss seasonal produce, and of course, decadent Glühwein and sweet treats.
Local traders and artisans offer their products for sale in small, rustic wooden chalets, creating the perfect ambience especially when the seasonal snow flurries start falling. If you ever dream about an idyllic Winter Wonderland, walking around the Christmas markets in Basel with snow falling is a magical experience.
Basel’s iconic Christmas tree towers over the market at Münsterplatz and is covered in ornaments handcrafted by local decorator, Johann Wanner.
For those of you that cannot get enough at these two Christmas markets, head over to Claraplatz to enjoy more seasonal delicacies and festive atmosphere with locals and visitors alike. While this is a smaller market on the right bank of the Rhine, this is a great opportunity to explore the city and pass by many of the city’s beautifully decorated shop windows en route to Basel’s third Christmas market.
But it is the Basler Weihnachtsmarkt on Barfüsserplatz that is the iconic spot where the majority of visitors will spend their time enjoying the festive spirit and indulging in Swiss specialties such as Raclette (melted cheese), Flammkuchen (thin pizza) from the nearby Alsace region of France, waffles and of course, Glühwein. Purchase one of the souvenir cups and then you can enjoy cheap refills of Glühwein while you experience the heart and soul of Christmas in Basel.
Christmas in Basel
Basel may be home to three amazing markets during the advent period but it’s also home to a variety of other attractions that are not only amazing all year round but also spring to life during the winter months. As mentioned, many of the local boutique and global chain stores will be decorated in a traditional, festive mood and as you explore the city either on foot or via the local tramway network, you will notice that many of the streets are decked with Christmas lights and other decorative displays.
While the pièce de résistance Christmas tree can be found at Münsterplatz, there are several other smaller trees to be found throughout the city, most notably in the public squares such as directly in front of Basel Cathedral. For those visiting Switzerland to enjoy a little retail therapy prior to Christmas to buy some gifts for loved ones back home, Basel is the perfect place to enjoy high-end fine luxury establishments along with a collection of more affordable local stores.
If you are a museum aficionado, Basel is the place to visit. With over 40 public museums to experience, the Christmas season is also a great time to visit given that many of these will host festive events for all the family to enjoy. The true Christmas traditionalists out there will also enjoy heading to a Christmas inspired Swiss theatrical event or perhaps head to one of the historic churches and cathedrals to sample local choirs performing festive hymns.
Another of Basel’s traditions is the Basler Wunschbuch (Basel Wish Book). For the last 20+ years, visitors from across the globe have headed to the courtyard of the Basel Town Hall to sign their name and register their wishes for Weihnachtsmann (Santa Claus) along with hopes for peace, love and health over the next 12 months.
If you are ready to share your inner thoughts and wishes for a better year, Basel is definitely the best place to visit to enjoy a traditional form of communication as opposed to the modern day digital technologies we see.
We have been fortunate to visit Switzerland on multiple occasions and this is definitely one of the best countries to visit during the Christmas season. The city of Basel exemplifies everything there is to love about the Swiss culture during the festive period and with three awesome Christmas markets and a myriad of other yuletide attractions worth visiting, we strongly encourage you all to consider visiting here in the future.
Have you visited Switzerland during the holiday period? If you are interested in visiting another alternative European destination for the Christmas season, check out this post highlighting the best Christmas market breaks in Europe.