Christmas in Zurich, tradition and modernity

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Christmas in Zurich, tradition and modernity

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Zurich, the largest city in Switzerland, is also an important economic centre. The multinational companies that have chosen to be present in the city and the many international residents who have made their home here, have over the years shaped a modern and cosmopolitan city that is welcoming and open, yet has not forgotten its traditions and the most authentic Swiss spirit. For this and many other reasons, Christmas in Zurich has a special flavour and is probably one of the most fascinating in Switzerland. We were there on a day trip and here is our travel report.

The "Christkindlimarkt" in the central station

The “Wienachtsdorf” Christmas village in Sechseläutenplatz

The "Dörfli" Christmas market

Werdmühleplatz and the Singing Christmas Tree

Christmas market in Münsterhof

We love... Zurich!

Zurich is certainly the largest and most populous city in Switzerland. With over a million inhabitants, the city on the shores of the lake of the same name is also an important, if not the largest, economic centre of the nation. Many multinational companies have chosen to be present here, bringing international residents, professionals and families to the city. Over time, these presences have helped to shape a modern and cosmopolitan city, welcoming and open, which nevertheless has not forgotten its traditions and the most authentic Swiss spirit. For this and many other reasons, Christmas in Zurich has a special flavour and is probably one of the most fascinating in Switzerland. The city offers plenty of opportunities for Christmas shopping and entertainment, and its Christmas markets are scattered throughout all districts, but we would like to highlight four of them: the Christmas market in Werdmühleplatz and its Singing Christmas tree, the Dörfli Christmas market, the “Wienachtsdorf” Christmas village on Sechseläutenplatz, opposite the Opera House, and the “Christkindlimarkt” at the main station.

How to get there

Arriving by train

Zurich Train Station

Arriving-by-train

As usual, we chose public transport to get to Zurich. From Lucerne, a direct SBB train takes you to the city in about one hour. But Zurich is of course also well connected to other major Swiss cities. From Basel and Bern, the direct train takes about an hour. Travellers from Lugano will have to travel for about two hours. Finally, visitors coming from Geneva will have to travel for about two hours and forty-five minutes. The city is also well connected to major European capitals such as Paris, Milan, Hamburg, Munich, Vienna, Budapest and others.
In Zurich, the SBB railway station is located in the heart of the city, a stone’s throw from the lakeshore, and is the crossroads for all the city’s main means of transport.
Tickets can be purchased through the SBB website or through the SBB app and, as always, we suggest to check in advance the updated timetables and the different travel options.

Arriving by car

Zurich

Arriving-by-car

Zurich is of course also accessible by car through the excellent motorway network that connects it to the main Swiss cities. From Geneva and Bern, it takes about 3 hours and 15 minutes and 1 hour and a half respectively to reach the city on the A1; from Basel, Zurich can be reached in about 1 hour and 15 minutes on the A3. From Lucerne and Zug, the city can be reached in about 60 to 30 minutes via the A14/A4. Finally, from Lugano, the journey by car takes two hours and forty-five minutes along the A2 and A4 motorways. However, we do not recommend arriving here by car and suggest that you choose public transport, which is efficient, punctual and more ecologically sustainable.

Our visit to Zurich

For the people of Zurich, it is only truly Christmas when the illuminations along Bahnofstrasse are lit at the end of November. And are those lights that welcome us on arrival, as soon as we leave the train station!
The city is bright and sparkling, full of lights, colours and festive scents. On a Saturday afternoon, the city centre is bustling with people and trams, making the atmosphere even more charmin.
Zurich deserves a more in-depth visit and we will probably plan something for next spring. But today our focus is on the Christmas markets! Which is why we chose to arrive here in the late afternoon, to admire the beauty of the Christmas markets as they light up at nightfall. So let’s cut the chitchat and head for our first destination: the Werdmühleplatz Christmas market and its Singing Christmas Tree!

The Christmas market in Werdmühleplatz and the Singing Christmas Tree

The Werdmühleplatz market, our first stop, is located in a small square behind Bahnhofstrasse, a short walk from the main station. It is a small and intimate market but offers visitors a good variety of food and drink and a few small craft stalls. Here we drank a very tasty Mulled Wine and ate an excellent Bratwurst. The cuisine is predominantly Swiss and traditional. From this year it is also possible to dine on a traditional fondue in a typical wooden chalet. But the main feature of this market is the iconic and original ‘Singing Christmas Tree’! This is a large, richly decorated Christmas tree-shaped stage on which choirs from all over Switzerland perform every day. Performers sing traditional Christmas carols from all over the world, making the atmosphere even more cosmopolitan and welcoming. The Werdmühleplatz market is open this year until 23 December and can be visited from Monday to Thursday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., Friday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Choir performances, on the other hand, normally take place from Monday to Thursday at 17:30 and 18:30, on Fridays at 17:30, 18:30 and 19:30 and on Saturdays and Sundays at 14:30, 15:30, 17:30 and 18:30. We, however, have noticed a certain flexibility in schedules, so we suggest you check the official website at this link (german only).

The "Dörfli" Christmas market

Leaving Werdmühleplatz, we head towards the historic centre to visit the more traditional Dörfli Christmas market. It is the oldest in the city and takes place in the streets of the old town, in the “Niederdorf” district between the central Niederdorfstrasse and Hirschenplatz. The market is smaller and the offerings more limited, but it is still worth a visit, if only for the magnificent scenery of the Niederdorfstrasse, a narrow cobbled street full of shops, restaurants, bars and art galleries. The Dörfli Christmas Market takes place this year until 23 December and can be visited from Monday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. From here, we suggest you continue along Niederdorfstrasse and then along Münstergasse to the Cathedral. Here you will find another small market offering handicrafts and gastronomic products. Right in front of the entrance to the cathedral is the food court offering traditional Swiss dishes and hot drinks. At this link (german only) you can find more informations about this market.

The “Wienachtsdorf” Christmas village in Sechseläutenplatz

The penultimate stop on our tour of Zurich’s Christmas markets is the “Wienachtsdorf” Christmas village on Sechseläutenplatz right opposite the Opera House. It is probably the largest in the city and offers a huge variety of handicraft stands. If you are passionate about design, this market is certainly for you! Here, the city’s designers rotate to display and sell their handicrafts. The gastronomic offer is also immense and varied, offering food from all over the world, from Asian cuisine to Swiss tradition, from pizza to pastel de nata! This market is ideal if your aim is to have dinner or a drink with family, friends or work colleagues. However, the wide variety on offer makes this market one of the busiest in the city and, especially in the evenings, a little chaotic and far too crowded, which risks spoiling the Christmas atmosphere of the place. We, however, undoubtedly prefer places that offer a more intimate and relaxed atmosphere. Our advice, therefore, is to visit it but to prefer the early hours of the afternoon and absolutely avoid the weekend. The Christmas village “Wienachtsdorf” runs this year until 23 December and can be visited from Monday to Saturday from 11:00 to 22:00 and on Sunday from 11:00 to 20:00. At this link (german only) you can find more informations about this market.

The "Christkindlimarkt" in the central station

So we leave the hustle and bustle of the market on Sechseläutenplatz and take a stroll through the city on the lakeside promenade and then through the alleys of the old town. We have to return to the station, from where a train will take us home. But first, right in the central station there is another of the biggest and most characteristic Christmas markets in the city: the “Christkindlimarkt” and we can’t miss it! This is one of the largest indoor Christmas markets in Europe and is set up every year in the main atrium of the city’s central station. It consists of more than 150 festively decorated stalls offering handicrafts, gift ideas, fabrics and gastronomic specialities. But the heart of the event is the glittering Christmas tree, over 10 metres high and decorated with Swarovski crystal. Wonderful! The Christkindlimarkt runs this year until 24 December and can be visited from Sunday to Wednesday from 10:30 to 21:00 and from Thursday to Saturday from 10:30 to 22:00, with the exception of 24 December when the market closes at 16:00. At this link you can find more informations about this market.

Anti-Covid19 rules and restrictions

The Christmas markets in Zurich listed in this post will take place regularly in 2021, but due to the rules imposed by the federal and cantonal governments to contain the covid-19 pandemic, visiting possibilities are limited and certain rules of behaviour must be followed.
In particular, the city authorities have decided to make entry to Zurich’s Christmas markets conditional on the presentation of a valid covid certificate, accompanied by an identity document. In addition, wearing a mask in crowded places is recommended. Finally, for all payments, it is strongly recommended (and sometimes compulsory) to use digital instruments, payment cards or the Twint app.
We also remind you that the epidemiological situation is unstable and that things can change very quickly. Before visiting the city, therefore, we suggest you check the requirements and rules of participation on the official websites of the events. You can find the links for each event on this page.

Tips

1

If you want to move freely around the city and save some money, we suggest you consider buying the Zürich Card, a tourist card valid for 24 or 72 hours that allows free 2nd class travel on trams, buses, trains and funiculars throughout the city, as well as on the Limmat boats, and also gives you discounts and access to offers on cultural activities, museums and guided tours. All information and prices can be found at this link.

2

Walking around the city, we discovered the Christmas market in Münsterhof, a smaller, authentic market offering original, quality handicrafts, good music and a decent variety of food and hot drinks. We recommend a visit, because of all the markets in Zurich, it is perhaps the one that gave us the most authentic and genuine sensations and if you like, please let us know what you think by leaving a comment below or by writing an article to publish on our blog!

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