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Christmas Markets and Snow

Wellington, New...
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Christmas Markets and Snow

I'm thinking well ahead I know but I'm dreaming of bringing my family of 2 adults and 3 children all the way over to Europe from New Zealand next year to experience a winter Christmas. We will probably spend actual Christmas in London but I really want to try and fit in seeing some of European Christmas markets so that would have to be pre-Christmas about 16-23 December. Another dream if for my children to experience snow at the same time. So I'm just wondering whether there are any Swiss towns/cities with Christmas markets that would have snow on the ground at that time of year? I know snow is never guaranteed but what town/cities would be most likely to have it? Many thanks :)

Martigny...
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1. Re: Christmas Markets and Snow

Unfortunately snow is, as you say!, never guaranteed and in a "normal" winter here we rarely have it on the ground in the towns and cities (and sometimes not even in the ski resorts) around Christmas. Nonetheless Christmas markets are wonderful things and there are a lot in Switzerland. Basel, Zürich, Bern, Montreux all have large markets. Luzern has a smaller one. For several years I made a habit of visiting Christmas markets in France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland and one of the most interesting thing I learned was how much the markets reflect the local culture. This might seem obvious, but it wasn't to me until I was able to compare them.

The most wonderful market I visited, in a beautiful setting, was at Salzburg in Austria. and normally the further east you go in winter the more your chance of snow so you might want to bear this in mind. The markets in Alsace - Strasbourg and Colmar - were lovely. Rothernburg op der Tauber in Germany was enchanting. Here in Switzerland my favourites are bern and Montreux. One German, one "Romand". Both great markets.

Ski season starts around 1st december here and if you went to a ski resort that is high - Zermatt, Verbier, Saas Fee, Klosters, St Moritz area etc - you will have a good chance of being in the snow and doing a little skiing if you have time to spend. Rates for hotels are lower inthe resorts until the Sat before Christmas so that is something to take into account when planning your trip.

Finally I have to say that England is the last place I would want to be over Christmas unless I was visiting family or friends... everything, transport included, shuts down for several days and you cannot get anywhere nor see anything. It isn't like that here. The buses, railways etc just keep on working no matter what!!

Wellington, New...
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2. Re: Christmas Markets and Snow

Hambaghale, thanks so much for your very helpful reply! I have seen your posts elsewhere in the Swiss forums and you are obviously a great help to many people.

Gosh, it's going to be so hard to choose with such a huge choice in markets! That's interesting that you recommend Salzburg because someone else pointed out to me that, if we went there, we could then do a day trip up into the surrounding mountains where we'd be able to experience snow. If I had to separate the Christmas market and snow experience, I had considered going up to a ski resort to get the guaranteed snow. However we will not be skiiing and would only be there for a couple of nights and I presumed it would be peak ski season meaning the rates were at their peak. So that's very helpful to know when the season changes thanks.

Yes, I totally get your point about England at Christmas because I know some of our public holidays hark from our colonial days (e.g Boxing Day). It's just that I figured the actual day of Christmas would be easier to be in an English-speaking country so that, if we are stuck in our hotel room due to everthing being closed, at least the TV will be in English! However, it would be a nuisance about the others days. I must look into that further....

Martigny...
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3. Re: Christmas Markets and Snow

Yes - better check it out. Post a question on the English Forums.. it is my impression that ALL train etc services shut down from some time on Christmas Day until the 27th, and then again at New Years. Buses too. And Museums etc close as well...

here it is different. While museums will close on the 25th for the rest of the time they are open. And ALL our transportation network runs on a normal schedule. Shops will be closed on 25th and also in some cantons on 26th however. Lots of hotels here have cable channels like CNN, BBC World etc but watching news reports for hours on end is deadly!! And yes - time around Christmas is high season in the ski resorts and hotels want a week or more booking BUT it is not high season around the lakes and if you choose your place carefully you could go up to a ski resort for Christmas Day and EVERYTHING in the ski resorts is open and functioning that day including shops, supermarkets, museums (if they have them) etc. What better than to have lunch surrounded by snow and skiers and then come down to a lakeside town for a wonderful dinner at your hotel in the evening? something to think about... Luzern, Montreux would be great choices for this. Even Lausanne, Spiez and Thun.

London
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4. Re: Christmas Markets and Snow

As a London dweller on the Swiss forum (who always spend Christmas day in the Swiss mountain) I can elucidate....

London is not an ideal place on Christmas day. No transportation and everything shut. That said, the shops and transport explode into action again on Boxing day with the sales. So London on Christmas day is utterly deserted, and then packed the next day. If the weathers OK, you can walk in the parks... but that's it. And the food will be a sterile 'hotel restaurant special'. But it's one day only,

Incidentally, transportation is one day only also. New Year is actually the only time that the London Underground runs all night.....

Edited: 09 May 2013, 17:24
Anchorage, Alaska
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5. Re: Christmas Markets and Snow

Wow! That is some change from the late 70's and the 80's when I lived in London!

I would think about heading for a Christmas market close to pretty well guaranteed snow. For example, you could fly to Geneva, train to Montreux (just an hour or so from the airport and several trains every hour), enjoy some time there and then take the train to one of the high villages such as Verbier or Zermatt so you can get to snow. Zermatt has snow year round on the mountains surrounding the village and you can use the ski lifts out of the village to get up to the snow level if it isn't down to the village yet.

You could either stay over night in Zermatt or make it a stop as you move to Zurich for the market there and a flight back to London. It will take about 2 hours to get to Zermatt by train and about 3 hours to then go to Zurich.

Hope this gives you some ideas.

Zuerich
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6. Re: Christmas Markets and Snow

Hi jldev,

I chime in here too... Although I am loath to admit it, most of the christmas markets here in east-CH pale in comparison to those in Austria or Germany (you know this to be the case when half of the vendors in Zurich come from Salzburg or Bavaria). For Xmas markets I would endorse Salzburg or Innsbruck (ack! there goes my Swiss credibility on this Forum!).

Last christmas was a lovely 10C in Zurich, and there wasn't snow below 1200m (hello global warming!)... but my fellow commenters are correct - you can chose to stay somewhere low and easily make a "pilgrimage" up to snow. For snow, to get a guarantee, you need to go high up - but that does not necessarily mean to the Alps.

I have a somewhat different suggestion... depending on your expectations, and given that you have said that skiing is not a priority... Most of the comments here focus on the hyper "touristy" locations in Switzerland, but for Christmas perhaps it might be more interesting to go somewhere "real". The upper Appenzell, upper Jura, or the Obersaxen Val Lumnezia areas will certainly have snow at Christmas. These areas are far less touristy, there are lots of local train/bus networks to get around and there are many smaller country inns or hotels. These areas are more rolling hills with nearby mountains and main activities in these places would be walking, snowshoeing, sledding,... It is a bit less conventional, certainly more authentic, but it might be closer to the romanticized small village european christmas ideal.

Hope it helps.

Wellington, New...
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7. Re: Christmas Markets and Snow

Thanks so much every one for your replies - its so helpful and I really appreciate it!

Canswiss, oh my gosh, if I can re-jig our tentative itinerary and spend actual Christmas in Switzerland, I would totally prefer to go to a "real" mountain destination rather than a "touristy" one. I've been so keen to find out whether there are any little towns or villages, that would be snowy, that are NOT bases for skiiers (and therefore hopefully not so expensive)! An authentic,romanticized small village European christmas is what I'm searching for. Staying in a small country inn or hotel sounds perfect. So therefore, what are the names of some of these little towns/villages that I should be Googling please?

Zuerich
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8. Re: Christmas Markets and Snow

Hi Jdev... Given your criteria I would be looking at the average temperatures: currentresults.com/Weather/Switzerland/tempe…

However …as has been said before you can get to snow within about an hour of just about anywhere in CH, so perhaps the priority would be on the idyllic villages at elevation. Clearly there are MANY of these all across Switzerland. To get you started:

Less touristy beautiful (IMHO) villages with hotels:

Emen (VS), Brin (VS), St.Luc(VS), Zinal (VS), Evolène(VS), Gruyères (FR), Rougemont(VD), Kiental(BE), Zweisimmen (BE), Disentis(GR), Vella (GR), Vals(GR), Ilanz (GR), Berguen (GR), Ardez (GR), Urnaesch(AR), Appenzell(AI), Weissbad(AI),

A bit more touristy:

Gstaad (BE), Kandersteg(BE), Samedan(GR), Pontresina(GR)

..and then there are manor house hotels that are out of the villages but have a unique charm to them that is somehow also in-tune with a European christmas ideal – research La Chaux d’Abel (JU) for example.

There is so much on this topic, but I think this is a good start. I am sure that my fellow TA contributors can also make suggestions here of the “less touristy” nature. If you want specific recommendation feel free to message me. ...and, I know, too much choice, and all of them will be very nice.

Martigny...
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9. Re: Christmas Markets and Snow

CanSwiss has listed some nice places but I do not think you can say that the last three - Gstaad, Samedan and Pontresina are "more touristy" on a very less to not-so-much scale! These three are VERY "touristy" whatever you choose to have that mean. Gstaad is the hang out of the "rich and famous" (Rougemont is a bit of a spill-over from Gstaad for those who prefer a French speaking environment!). Samedan and Pontresina are more or less suburbs of St Moritz and share the wonderful Upper Engadine valley. If I were to choose places there that are less "glitzy" - a term I would certainly apply to Gstaad and possibly also to Pontresina - I would go to Sils. Sils Maria or its smaller neighbour Sils Baseglia. In the general Gstaad area, though not in the canton of Bern, I would choose les Diablerets. This latter might in fact be just what you are looking for, though it is not particularly high (nor is Gstaad for that matter!). It is a very "family" destination, popular with people who live around Lausanne, Montreux, Aigle etc and where they have their chalets. It is small and pretty but still has some good restaurants and a reasonable infratstructure.

The problem with very small places is the lack of a decent choice of hotels. (this indeed is shared by at least one of the large resorts, Verbier!) but perhaps the best thing to do if you are here over Christmas is to rent a chalet or flat in a chalet... and live like the rest of us do!! Almost all the ski resorts have flats and chalets to rent on a short term basis. And this is a great way of feeling temporarily part of the community and experiencing as-close-to-normal Swiss life as a foreign tourist can.

Anchorage, Alaska
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10. Re: Christmas Markets and Snow

My question would be how much Christmas celebration and public decoration is available in the non-skiing villages? My recollection is that they are not so public with the celebration (traditional in Switzerland) and there is a lot less "Christmas" feel that those of us from outside Switzerland would normally think of. Has that changed?