SWISS CHRISTMAS MARKETS RULE!
The world famous Christmas market in Montreux best exemplifies Yuletide in Switzerland!
Christmas markets are a mostly Germanic and eastern European tradition and even the traditional Christmas tree was not a Dickensian invention but introduced into England by Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria. The German prince hankered for his childhood Christmas tree decorated by him and brother Prince Ernst and recreated one for his children in England.
In 1848 The London Illustrated News published pictures of the Royal Family in Windsor Castle next to their gaily decorated tree. The aristocracy and middle classes were enamoured and quickly emulated this new fangled custom. This was followed by the novel notion of gift giving to children and exchanging presents between adults.
A mere 2 hours train ride from German-speaking Zurich is French-speaking Montreux, home to another celebrated Christmas market. Located in the great outdoors by Lake Geneva (or Lake Leman or Lake Lausanne depending on who you ask!), Montreux Tourist Office will have you know the region enjoys a mild, Mediterranean type micro-climate that allows palm trees to grow, hence their moniker Swiss Riviera.
Micro or maxi-climate, I failed to tell the difference and wore the same fur coat as I did in Zurich. Montreux’s Christmas market lines the bank of Lake Geneva (Geneva is an hour by train) and opens at 11 am till 8 pm which is the same as Zurich.
The setting is more romantic since the shimmery waters form a picturesque, postcard perfect backdrop.
“Since tourism started over a century ago, Montreux was viewed as a summer resort and winter was very quiet. So we decided to do something about it,” said Yves Cornaro, director of Montreux Noel which oversees the Christmas market. “We visited the Christmas markets in Austria and Germany and saw how successful they were so we created our own. That was 19 years ago and now we have around 150 illuminated chalets by lakeside and also lining the main road. Several restaurants, cafes and an indoor market are built only for the market.”
Sixty percent of all goods are locally made or produced in Switzerland, like sweets, chocolates, cheeses, handicrafts, clothes, accessories and glassworks. “Asian tourists may find a few stalls selling things from their part of the world but to us locals, these are exotic goods so there is a good mix.”
Those with time should take the train to visit Santa Claus House inside a grotto perched atop the 2,024 metre atop Rochers de Naye with a panoramic view of Montreux. The kids will love telling Santa what they want for Christmas and pose for photos.
On the way down, visit the Christmas Village (not to be confused with market!) at Caux filled with traditional buildings inside the forest and glade.
Swiss Christmas marts are ideal and idyllic getaways!
SWISS CHRISTMAS MARKETS START ON 25 NOVEMBER AND ENDS ON CHRISTMAS EVE/DAY!