Festive lighting along traditional narrow streets, the smell of Christmas baking and mulled wine, elaborately decorated market stalls… Travel by public transport with ease to your favourite Christmas market. Our tips will help get you through the run-up to Christmas stress-free.
1. The ideal day: Visit the Christmas market on a weekday if possible. The market is far less busy from Monday to Friday. If you are only able to go at the weekend, then keep an eye on the weather. The Christmas market gets fewer visitors in bad or in very good weather – because many prefer a trip to the mountains.
2. The best time of day: Of course evenings are particularly enchanting for visiting Christmas markets, when all the little lights and candles bathe everything in a magical light. On the other hand, they are also busier in the evening. If you want to do some serious shopping, it’s better if you go in the morning. Ideally, make a point of arriving in the evening and take a leisurely stroll around the market to see what’s on offer and to soak up the atmosphere. Then, after an overnight stay in a hotel in town, you can visit the Christmas market again the next morning to do some shopping.
3. Choose the best place: You can easily travel by train to various Christmas markets all over Switzerland, as well as ones in neighbouring countries. Most offers will give you 50 per cent reductions on the train journey, plus an additional extra at the Christmas market – such as a serving of raclette or some roasted almonds. You can find detailed offers at sbb.ch/en/advent. So, where should you go? A place which you have never been to before would certainly be exciting. Or, if you know someone who lives in a particular city, you could meet up for a wander around the market.
4. Plan the journey: You can buy most of our Christmas market offers, including reduced train tickets, online at sbb.ch/en/advent or at any SBB counter. You can find the best connection to your destination with our online timetable and, while you’re there, you can also check the train times for returning home. My tip: if you want to surprise a loved one with a visit to a Christmas market, then why not make your train journey extra special by travelling 1st class, reserving a seat or visiting the dining car – by the way, you can reserve seats here too.
5. Dress sensibly and pack accordingly: Shoes that are comfy and warm are essential, because you will spend a lot of time walking and standing around at a Christmas market. As I’m always cold, I go for practical underwear that you wear for skiing. And of course, depending on the weather, you may also need a warm hat and gloves. I recommend that you take a rucksack or a large shopping bag so that you have enough room for your purchases. (Unfortunately, pickpockets like to go to Christmas markets too. Use our tips to protect yourself againt them.) Don’t forget to take a camera or camera phone and a pen and stamps to quickly write a few postcards.
6. Last-minute preparations at the station: Before boarding the train, you can withdraw some cash from the ATM at the station. It’s also worth having a little bit of change handy.
7. Look first, then buy: If, after half an hour at the Christmas market, you have already bought a wooden crib, a bottle of mulled wine syrup and a bird box, you’ll have a great deal to cart around for the rest of the day. So just browse for a bit and then take a relaxing meal break. Finally, you can revisit all the stalls from which you wanted to buy something. And do bear in mind that many stall owners will happily reserve your chosen item for you for a few hours.
8. Eating and drinking: When it comes to food you should try the local specialities that you might not be able to find in a supermarket back home. I always try a little something first, then if I like it I buy a larger amount to take home with me. It is always nice to drink something hot, but be careful with mulled wine – after all, you don’t want to stagger back to the train station.
9. Travelling to neighbouring countries: Beautiful Christmas markets can be found not just in Switzerland, but in Germany, France and Italy too. You might like to visit Strasbourg, for example. You will not only find culinary specialities there, but also arts and crafts items at attractive prices. Don’t forget to take your passport or identity card and some euros, which you can change at the station at SBB Change.
10. Capture the memories: Take a few photos during the train journey, at the Christmas market, of your travel companion and yourself. At home you can have a little photo book printed. You could then give this to your travel companion – as a Christmas present, for example.