No one can forget a Christmas in Basel. From the brilliant Christmas market to the lights and treats of specialty boutiques and chocolate shops, the city itself becomes a sparkling ornament to adorn the year’s brightest season. It’s all your favorite holiday traditions, new and old, in one of Europe’s most picturesque Christmas destinations.
A Sparkling Christmas Market
The Basler Weihnachtsmarkt is the largest Christmas market in Switzerland, and the city boasts the longest illuminated Christmas street in Europe. This year the market runs from 24 November to 23 December at Barfüsserplatz (the city’s famous centre), Claraplatz in Kleinbasel, and for the first time at Münsterplatz in front of the historic cathedral. It’s a kaleidoscope of colors, flavors, and crisp holiday scents, offering something spectacular to look forward to every day of the week: a Robi-Spiel-Aktionen playground for children, around 170 stalls displaying the finest artisan wares and crafts, and of course holiday pick-me-ups like Glühwein (spiced mulled wine), Christmas cookies, and famous fondue.
A celebration both inside and out, day and night, rain or shine, just walk down any street in the city centre to find yet another hub of activity with its own unique stalls and atmosphere. The Münsterplatz this year will be home to a gorgeous Christmas tree decorated by Johann Wanner of Basel’s famous Johann Wanner Christmas House. It is the largest manufacturer of handmade Christmas decorations in the world, serving customers such as the Queen of England and the White House. Wanner keeps the Christmas cheer going year-round at his magical shop on Spalenberg.
Christmas shopping? You won’t have to wonder what to buy for anyone on your list. Whether you’re looking for something specific or just need a little inspiration, there are stalls for everything you can imagine: handmade jewelry, luxury soaps, handcrafted toys, colorful scarves and sweaters, candles, glassware, and much, much more. You can even pick up your own tree to trim at home from the tree lot at Münsterplatz.
And then there’s the cuisine. All that you find at the Basler Weihnachtsmarkt is gourmet. Visitors look forward each year to sweet Magenbrot and gebrannte Mandeln (roasted almonds) from outstanding local bakeries like Jonasch. Then there are fresh hot waffles and crêpes with a variety of fillings like hazelnutty Nutella, or cozy options like Bailey’s Irish Cream or Cognac; bite-sized Danish popovers and chocolate-covered fruits; spicy frosted gingerbread unlike any other; and a unique Swiss specialty called Biber filled with marzipan. Many stands also offer all kinds of traditional Swiss Christmas cookies: chocolate Brünsli and cinnamony Zimtsterne, for starters. After tasting these, you’ll want to make them part of your holiday baking tradition every year.
The Weihnachtsmarkt is a fail-proof dinner option too: you can dine on sausages and fresh local bread, a chäschëchli (cheese quiche), traditional Swiss fondue, or Raclette, another seasonal favorite of potatoes smothered with melted cheese and topped with a special mix of seasonings. For a lighter snack, try fried Kartoffelpuffer (potato pancackes with applesauce) or a variety of soft pretzels.
Keeping Warm with Christmas Fun
If you get cold browsing the stalls at Barfüsserplatz, you can stop to warm your hands around a cup of Glühwein, and your hearts around an old-fashioned puppet show at the Basel Puppet Theatre. They have entertainment for children in the afternoons and evening performances for adults. And there’s plenty more to do in Basel this winter to keep warm while you soak up the season: a Basel City Run, Samichlaus Tag (Santa Claus Day), Santa Clauses on motorcycles, and guided tours through the city. Step inside the foyer of Basel Theatre for their 3D ‘advent calendar,’ where each evening from 1 to 23 December visitors can enjoy a poetic or musical surprise. Do you have a special Christmas wish? Write it in the Basel Wish Book at City Hall, open from the beginning of Advent to the 12th day of Christmas.
The city’s tourism website hosts a comprehensive page devoted to Christmas in Basel, with a special pop-up online brochure about the Weihnachtsmarkt and all its trimmings. The tourism center also offers a Christmas package with the hotel of your choice, breakfast, a gift certificate for the Johann Wanner Christmas House, a complimentary cup of Glühwein, and more.
Home for the Holidays
From the city’s official lighting at dusk on 24 November, to the last day of the market on the eve of Christmas eve and all throughout the 12 Days of Extraordinary Christmas, a holiday season in Basel will always hang above your memory like a favourite photo above the hearth. Whether you’re passing through, relocating, or celebrating yet another year in beautiful Switzerland, let Basel be your home for the holidays.