Without a doubt, the best part about Zurich in the wintertime is the magic that comes with the Christmas season. If you find yourself in this Swiss city from late-November through December, then make sure to check out these fantastic festivities!
LIGHTS NAMED LUCY
Christmas lights have bedazzled Bahnhofstrasse, one of the most expensive shopping streets in the world, since 1971. A new light display – named Lucy – was installed in 2010, and she’s been a crowd favorite from the moment she debuted. Lucy is a starry canopy of twinkling bulbs that seems to float above Bahnhofstrasse. The gorgeous light display was named after The Beatles song, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. And diamonds you can certainly find on Bahnhofstrasse…
Usually on the third Thursday in November, Lucy’s initial lighting kicks off Zurich’s Christmas season. Also, stores stay open later for an evening of holiday shopping in the city center. Christmas 2017 will begin at 18:00 on November 23!
CHRISTMAS MARKETS THAT SPARKLE AND SING
Zurich has some great Christmas markets to get you in the holiday mood. With a cup of glühwein in hand, make the rounds at one (or more!) of these cheery settings.
The Christkindlimarkt at Zurich Main Station – The glittering Swarovski Christmas tree is the standout feature of this market. With its arched iron trusses, the former train shed protects shoppers from harsh winter weather and is one of the largest covered Christmas markets in Europe.
Markets Down and Around Bahnhofstrasse – Market stalls are stationed down Bahnhofstrasse and tucked into pedestrian alleys and squares. From sweet confectionary to handmade wool beanies, you can find an assortment of goodies while you stroll under Lucy’s lights.
One of my favorite things about Zurich at Christmas is the Singing Christmas Tree in the Werdmühleplatz. Different singing groups of all ages take the stage – which is shaped like a Christmas tree – and charm the crowds with holiday tunes, gospel music, and more. You really shouldn’t miss this special Zurich treat!
The Old Town Market – As you amble through the cobbled stone streets of the Niederdorf, you’ll find more classic Christmas market, making the medieval part of the city that much more romantic.
The Christmas Village at Sechseläutenplatz – My favorite Christmas market is a relative newcomer to the Zurich holiday scene. The Christmas Village (Wienachtsdorf) in the plaza in front of the Opera House is a cool and cozy place to grab some grub, shop from local vendors, or even ice skate!
Usually on the first weekend in December, 350 ambitious adults volunteer to go for a swim across the Limmat River, dressed in Santa’s raiment. They take the breathtaking plunge for charity in The Samichlaus Swim, an annual event that will send a shiver down your spine and put a smile on your face!
CHRISTMAS FOR KIDS IN ZURICH
A Hike to the Waldhüsli
On a wooded hill up above Zurich, children can meet with two beloved Swiss Christmas figures – Samichlaus and Schmutzli – at the Waldhüsli of Käferberg. This bearded duo is not Santa-from-the-North-Pole and his Overgrown-Elf, but rather St. Nicolas from the Catholic cannon and a man from a muddied Swiss fable. I’ll share more on their story in my next post, but if your kiddos want to visit them for stories and sweets, check out the St. Nick’s Society of the City of Zurich to know the dates and times the hut is open.
A Ride on the Märlitram
Children have another magical way to encounter Samichlaus in Zurich. Ol’ Sami drives a jazzed up Christmas tram, called the Märlitram, around Old Town, while a few darling angel helpers read stories to kids while they ride – without parents! The Märlitram is a wonderful experience for kids, who get to go on a grand adventure without ever leaving town. The tram departs from the stop at Bellevue. Visit the Zurich City webpage for more details.
A Slew of Activities
From ice skating to candlestick making, there are a number of holiday activities and special attractions (like the Conelli Circus!) to keep you and your kids entertained during the Christmas season. I’ll let this Zurich Tourism website break it down for you :)
THE FINAL FIREWORKS SHOW
Zurich at Christmas is such a lovely city, and it’s one of my favorite times of the year. But by December 24, the Christmas markets are closed so that the Swiss can enjoy their holiday, too. However, you can still ring in the new year with a bang. The City of Zurich hosts a fantastic firework display on the lake that’s sure to blow you away.
Enjoy this enchanting time in Zurich!
Frohe Weihnachten! Are you excited about Christmas time? Have you ever been in Zurich over Christmas? Are there any Swiss traditions you want to share with me? What are your favorite holiday destinations?
Ana Darino says
HI Hailey, we are planning to spend Christmas in Zurich. Will everything be closed on the 24-25th? Restaurants? Supermarkets? thanks!
Thanks for leaving a comment. I am glad that you will have a chance to enjoy Zurich at Christmas, and you are wise to think about what will be open. You WILL find restaurants that are open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and your best bet would be to make some dinner reservations on those nights. Unfortunately, most of the Christmas markets end on the 23rd or 24th, so you can’t count on grabbing a bite out in the street. I’m pretty sure Haus Hiltl is open on Christmas, but call or email them just in case!
In Switzerland, supermarkets are always closed on Sundays (except in train stations and airports), and I imagine the same goes with Christmas day!
Enjoy your trip to Zurich!
Esther Turnbull says
Are the lights still on in January? We will be visiting Zurich first week of January.
Unfortunately, the “Lucy” light display down Bahnhofstrasse ends on January 1. In fact, most of the Christmas events end by December 23 or 24. However, you could get a taste of the “Dreikönigskuchen” or Three Kings Cake, which is available only around Epiphany (January 6).
I hope you enjoy your visit to Zurich!
Awesome article and looking forward to ticking off a bunch of these next month!
Thanks for the feedback, Jon! I hope you enjoy your time in Zurich. They put up the Swarovski Christmas tree in Zurich HB this past weekend, and the market stalls are being built. Christmas is almost here! :)