The Christmas market in Basel has surely been getting quite some attention lately. And that’s not at all surprising – it is one of the oldest and largest in Switzerland. Just recently, in 2021, it was voted the winner of the European Best Christmas Markets. So in this guide, I will go over everything that makes the Basel Christmas market so enticing and share my thoughts on whether or not it is indeed the best in Europe.
Christmas Season in Basel
Christmas is a beautiful season all throughout Europe. Entire cities put on festive decorations, and the holiday mood fills the air. Basel is no exception. There is a lot going on, and you’ll certainly find no shortage of activities to engage in during this magical period.
Come evening, the Christmas illuminations light up the streets of Basel, turning the narrow passages of the old town into an enchanting fairy tale. Numerous shops follow suit competing for the most beautifully decorated window display and offering tempting discounts.
Various events take place all across Basel. The Basel theater, for example, presents its creative version of the Advent calendar. From December 1st to December 23rd, every evening at 5.00 PM, a half-an-hour sample from ballet, theater, or opera is played in the theater foyer.
Speaking of Advent calendars, the city of Basel has one of its very own, and quite impressive at that. Prizes include gifts, restaurant meals, event tickets, and hotel accommodations among other things. Oh, and a chance to win the grand trophy: a 2000 CHF Swiss watch. If you plan to visit Basel, that’s something to keep a close eye on!
If that wasn’t enough, there are evening Christmas cruises on the Rhine, a Christmas ferry, and even a very special Christmas tram with Santa himself driving. The tickets for the latter sell out fast, so if you fancy a fun ride, get yours in the Pfauen Coop City starting from late November.
And then there are the Christmas markets. Basel has several, each special and unique in its own way. But we’ll get to that in a second.
As you can probably tell by now, Basel truly goes all-in on New Year celebrations. The weeks leading up to Christmas are packed with exciting events anyone can participate in. That’s something that sets it apart from many other cities, and I love it.
Basel Christmas Markets
Of course, at the heart of Christmas celebrations are the Christmas markets. They are the centers of cheer and festivities and the obvious places to enjoy the holiday vibe. Basel has several, and each one is well worth a stop.
The three biggest and most handsomely decorated Christmas markets in Basel are shown on the map above. What I love about them is how close they are to each other. You can breeze through all three in just a couple of hours, enjoying the very best Basel has to offer.
- Dates: Nov 24 – Dec 23, 2022
- Opening hours: 11 AM – 8.30 PM (on December 23: 11 AM – 6 PM)
- Address: Münsterplatz
- Website: https://www.basel.com
The Christmas market on Münsterplatz square is the largest in Basel and my personal favorite. Set against the backdrop of an impressive gothic cathedral, it sure looks the part. Fabulous illuminations and gigantic installations are visible from afar, urging you to enter and have a peek.
And trust me, you won’t be disappointed. With regards to style and decor, this is one of the more tasteful Christmas markets I have visited. The theme is enchanted forest and it certainly feels like one. The trees are decorated with sophisticated lights that do extremely well to create a suitable mood.
As for the goods selection, there is something for anyone here. There’s mulled wine of course and various culinary delights. If you just want to enjoy the evening tasting the local treats, Münsterplatz is a great choice to do so.
Unlike the Zürich Christmas markets, the focus is mostly on Swiss cuisine. Be that the cheese fondue, raclette, rösti (potato pancake), or any other Swiss classic, you can buy it here. And don’t forego Basler Läckerli, a traditional spice biscuit originating from Basel and the locals’ pick.
But it’s not only about food. There are also plenty of souvenir and gift shops selling local produce, clothes, accessories, and handmade ornaments. If you are more of a shopping person, you will discover a lot of amazing little nuggets here.
In case you only have limited time in town, this is the Christmas market that I recommend going to first. It is cozy, welcoming, well organized, and you will surely have a blast.
- Dates: Nov 22 – Dec 23, 2022
- Opening hours: 11 AM – 8.30 PM (on December 23: 11 AM – 6 PM)
- Address: Barfüsserplatz
- Website: https://www.basel.com
Barfüsserplatz is the second largest Christmas market in Basel, and it’s definitely a little different. It focuses less on the food or design, and more on the variety of goods on sale. In that regard, it certainly feels more like a proper market in the original sense of the word.
The impression is further reinforced by how busy it is. Barfüsserplatz Christmas market sits on the intersection of several tram lines, with lots of people passing by throughout the day. It is also smaller, and thus crowdier.
But for those who are after a souvenir to bring back home, Barfüsserplatz is hard to beat. From toys to ornaments, hand-crafted household items, and numerous local products, you will find anything and everything here.
And whenever you get hungry, there are food stalls at your services. Fewer than on Münsterplatz, but enough for a quick snack. It is also the only location in Basel where I have seen a bizarrely horrendous yet irresistibly tempting specialty known as fondue dog.
Think bread filled to the brim with melted cheese – an absolute diet killer, but you owe it to yourself to try it!
Adväntsgass im Glaibasel (Rheingasse)
- Dates: Nov 22 – Dec 23, 2022
- Opening hours: Mon-Fri: 5 PM – 10 PM; Sat-Sun: 2 PM – 10 PM
- Address: Rheingasse
- Website: https://www.advaentsgass.ch
Adväntsgass im Glaibasel is the third area in Basel that often counts as a Christmas market. The reason I word it like this is that it’s a far less traditional Christmas market than the other two.
The name is a bit of a disaster for non-german-speaking guests, I must admit. Adväntsgass im Glaibasel basically means “Advent’s passage” and is a special Christmas name for the Rheingasse street in Basel’s old town.
As the holiday season gets underway, numerous food trucks and stalls fill the street. You can almost think of it as a food truck street, albeit with a strange mix of Christmas decorations and modern art murals.
Here, you won’t see many goods for sale. It is all about getting together and spending relaxed time over the friendly chat with friends and residents away from the shopping frenzy of the larger Christmas markets.
It is also a fantastic part of town to head to if you would like to eat something more sophisticated than the traditional Christmas market snack. The stalls offer anything from Italian to Indian and Thai cuisine, so you’ll have plenty to choose from.
Best Christmas Food to Try
No article about Basel Christmas markets would be complete without discussing the Christmas snacks you can taste there. There are quite a few options, some of which are rather hard to come by anywhere else.
So without further adieu, here are my top things to eat and drink while visiting Basel Christmas markets.
Glühwein (mulled wine) is the number one drink of any Christmas market, and Basel is no different. There is a ton of kiosks selling the delicious steaming-hot wine mixed with fruit and spices. Glühwein warms you up and gets the conversations flowing.
Basel glühwein is quite similar to that you can buy elsewhere, and I wouldn’t necessarily single out any particular stand. Just pick whichever caught your eye, and it’ll probably be good.
If you’re not into mulled wine or alcohol in general, your best bet is its nonalcoholic sibling – the punsch. I had mixed success with it, however. Sometimes, it’s unexpectedly decent, others – barely tolerable, so your mileage may vary.
Glühwein and punsch are traditionally sold in special Christmas mugs that you pay an extra CHF 3 for. You get that money back if you return the empty mug. Or, keep it as a souvenir – for just three franks it’s not a bad deal at all.
The Swiss love their cheese – it’s one of the things the country is most known for after all. So it should come as no surprise that our next entry is fondue – essentially, a melted cheese pot you dip bread pieces into.
Sounds very unhealthy? It probably is, but it’s also quite tasty, so if you haven’t tried it before, you should.
Strictly speaking, fondue is not exclusively a Christmas treat. You can order it in many Swiss restaurants. But it’s also a dish you wouldn’t normally see in the Christmas markets elsewhere, so I decided to include it.
Take the idea of fondue to the extreme, and you end up with a fondue dog, a delicacy so bizarre as it is delicious. Fondue dog is very similar to a hot dog, but instead of a sausage, the bread is filled with melted cheese.
This has to be Basel’s own invention because I haven’t ever seen anything like it in any other Christmas market. Which, truth be told, is probably a good thing. If you thought fondue wasn’t particularly diet-friendly, then this brings it to a whole new level.
But you owe it to yourself to try it. If for no other reason than it being the most extravagant culinary delight available in Basel (or any?) Christmas market. You’ll find the stand that sells on the eastern edge of the Barfüsserplatz Christmas market – don’t miss it!
Another dish typical to Swiss Christmas markets, and – you guessed it – it’s melted cheese again. This time, in combination with potato, cucumbers, and onions.
Raclette is another Swiss classic often served in restaurants throughout the country. So you don’t need to wait until Christmas to try it. But if you’re on a mission to achieve a hat-trick of melted cheese Christmas market foods, definitely seek it out.
Rösti, also known as Kartoffelpuffer or simply potato pancakes, is yet another traditional Swiss dish. It is also a welcome deviation from all the melted cheese madness (although not necessarily a lot healthier).
Visually, Rösti is a rather nondescript snack that you can walk by without giving it much notice. But once you try it, you’ll instantly want more.
Served with sour cream on the side, it is ridiculously delicious. But don’t take my word for it – go and try a piece at the kiosk in Münsterplatz Christmas market.
One of the tastiest snacks we ate in Basel can be bought at the Münsterplatz Christmas market. There, you will stumble upon a stand that sells a wide variety of grilled meat served on a skewer with some bread on top for good measure.
At CHF 15 for a piece (cash only too), it’s one of the more expensive meals, but well worth it. Unless you’re vegetarian of course, in which case you should probably skip this one. Just be ready to wait a bit for it – the stand is extremely popular.
A Good Old Sausage
An undisputed classic of Christmas markets across Europe, this simple yet invariably tempting treat is also available in Basel. Neither particularly Swiss nor particularly unique, it is nonetheless there for those who prefer a quick and easy bite.
Sausages can be found in several stalls in both Münsterplatz and Barfüsserplatz Christmas markets. As is the case with mulled wine, just pick whichever looks most juicy to you and go with that.
Switzerland is a very expensive country, and that applies to Basel as well. Fortunately, I found the Basel Christmas market prices to be overall more affordable than, for instance, in Zürich. Still, the costs do tend to accumulate fast if you’re not paying attention.
So, for those who like to keep an eye on their expenses, here are some sample prices. This should hopefully give a general idea of what kind of budget you’ll have to reckon with.
- Entry: free
- A glass of mulled wine: 4-5 CHF (+ 3 CHF for a mug)
- Raclette: 9 CHF
- Rösti: 8 CHF
- Grilled meat: 15 CHF
- A sausage on a bun: 7 CHF
As a side note, keep in mind that unlike in Zürich, credit cards are not universally accepted at Basel Christmas markets. Sometimes, there is a minimum amount you need to spend to be able to use your card (normally 10 CHF). And sometimes, it’s cash only.
All in all, you can pay with a card in most cases, but having a bit of cash is definitely a good idea. Luckily, it doesn’t necessarily have to be Swiss Franks – euros are appreciated as well.
Rules and Regulations in 2021
If you’re reading this article in 2022 (hello, future people!), and I haven’t updated it yet, this section doesn’t apply to you. But if you still plan on visiting Basel here in late 2021, read on.
Although this year Basel Christmas market will proceed as scheduled, there are certain restrictions to be aware of. Most importantly, entry to the Christmas markets is only allowed with a valid COVID-certificate that complies with the 3G rule.
This means you should be vaccinated, recovered from the disease, or recently tested (“geimpft, genesen, getestet” in German, hence 3G).
You will need to show the QR-code of your certificate at the gate along with your ID, so it’s easiest to have it ready on your smartphone. EU and UK certificates are also accepted. In other cases, you will have to explicitly apply for a Swiss certificate.
Naturally, this creates queues at the entrance, but these tend to move quite fast. I don’t think we ever had to wait for more than 5 minutes to get in. It is still a bit of a nuisance, but nothing too troublesome.
The good news is that inside the Christmas markets, there are pretty much no restrictions. You don’t even need to wear a mask unless you head indoors (to a fondue chalet for instance).
All in all, it’s not ideal, but given the circumstances, I consider the measures reasonably adequate. To me, the benefit of being able to enjoy the Christmas celebrations once again more than outweighs the minor inconveniences.
Is Basel Christmas Market the Best in Europe?
With everything discussed so far in mind, let’s go ahead and answer the question set at the beginning of the article. Is Basel Christmas market really the best in Europe?
No, of course not. For one, an online vote is by definition highly subjective, inaccurate, unrepresentative, and prone to manipulation. For instance, how many of the voters have actually visited all the Christmas markets they can choose among?
More importantly, does such a thing as the best Christmas market even exist? There are so many of them out there that selecting one and calling it top is a bit silly. Besides, the criteria for “best” will be vastly different from person to person.
That’s not to say that having a vote like that is useless. Far from it. It allows cities like Basel to gain media attention, promote themselves, and attract more tourists.
And that’s a great thing. Because in truth, Basel has an excellent Christmas market that it can and should be extremely proud of. I honestly enjoyed it and I’m certain you too would have a lovely time there.
That said, would I personally put it above the Zürich Christmas market? Probably not. And neither one would score as my favorite. That honor currently belongs to the Ravennaschlucht Christmas market. Coincidentally, it is just an hour something drive away from Basel.
Basel is a beautiful winter holiday destination. The city is lit with festive illuminations, the streets are full of life, and there is a ton of events to participate in. And you if feel like doing some gift shopping, there is no better choice than Basel Christmas market.
I had a fantastic time exploring what Basel Christmas market has to offer, and I’m sure you will too. Voted the best Christmas market in Europe in 2021, it is a perfect location to spend an evening over some mulled wine and a warm chat with friends or family.
I hope you enjoyed this guide to Basel Christmas market and got something useful out of it. If so, I would greatly appreciate you sharing it with friends and on social media and helping spread the word. And if you have any questions, just leave them down below, and I’ll come back to you.
Before you go, have a look at the other articles on the blog. I have a bunch of them about Switzerland and beyond, that I think you will like. Here are just some of my recommendations:
- Zürich Christmas Markets 2022: Complete Guide to Holiday Vibe
- A Winter Dream: How to Visit Ravennaschlucht Christmas Market
- Sunrise on Top of the World: Photography Guide to Mt. Pilatus
- Three Places to Enjoy Winter in the Black Forest
- 7 Tips for Winter Landscape Photography
- Lisbon Photography Guide: 10 Fabulous Spots to Capture
- Top 7 locations for landscape photography on Tenerife
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