It’s time to add Basel, Switzerland to your travel bucket list! Check out our guide and a few key reasons why everyone should visit Basel during Christmas time, experience their culture and history, and bask in the beauty of shared appreciation for Christmas goodness. Come for the markets and cozy vibes, stay for the raclette, fondue, & Swiss charm.


    • Should I use card or cash? Mostly cash. Find an ATM to take out francs in cash in advance. (Read more about this later in the blog.)
    • What are the hours of the Christmas Markets? Basel’s markets are open 11 am-8 pm daily during the Christmas season. Smaller nearby cities are typically only open on weekends. (More on this later in the blog.)
    • Can you walk from one Christmas Market to the next? Yes! It’s easy and highly encouraged.
    • Do I need to eat before I come? No! Christmas markets are basically a food crawl.
    • What should I wear? Check the weather before, but typically a sweater, pants, a good jacket, gloves, and comfy shoes will do just fine. There’s very little places to sit, so you’ll be on your feet a lot.


Switzerland has four national languagesGerman, French, Italian, and Romansh. The most commonly spoken language is German, but in their own Swiss German dialect. We found most people we encountered spoke excellent English. If you encounter any language barrier, this can always be quickly remedied using Google Translate. While you definitely don’t need to know German to enjoy Basel, here are a few helpful words to know while exploring during Christmas:

    • Hallo – pronounced Hah-Low – means hello
    • Danke – pronounced Dan-Keh – means thanks/thank you
    • Glühwein – pronounced Gloo-Vine – means mulled wine


    • The two major Christmas markets are so easy to travel between. The short walk from one to the other is marked by hanging signs guiding you to the next cozy market.
      The positively enormous live Christmas tree at the Münsterplatz market sets the mood before you even step foot in the markets. When we walked up to this market, we heard a violinist faintly playing in the background while many massive bubbles floated in the air for kiddos to play with in front of the larger-than-life live Christmas tree.
      Basel is home to a one-hour fondue winter boat cruise and a Christmas ferry that takes you down the Rhine river in a festive fashion. What better where to see Christmas Magic than from the water!

Best Places To Stay In Colmar For Christmas Markets

Planning on enjoying the Basel Christmas Markets? Check out our list of the best hotels in Basel around the Christmas Markets!


    • Several beautiful and historic fountains allow you to refill your glühwein mug or reusable water bottle with fresh drinking water as you wander through the city and markets.
    • Travelers who stay at hotels get a free BaselCard upon check-in! This card gives you up to 30 days of free public transit (ride as many cute trams as you’d like!) and half-off most museums in the city. How cool is that!
    • Every year (typically on the first Saturday in December), Basel hosts an event called Harley Niggi-Näggi, where dozens of Santa lookalike motorcyclists take over Basel’s downtown on their decorated bikes.


Basel’s Christmas markets were voted the best Christmas markets in Europe in 2021, and it’s easy to see why! They have two large Christmas markets (Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz) and several smaller ones throughout the city. The largest two are within walking distance from each other in the Old Town. Both markets are surrounded by historic buildings, cathedrals, and popular modern shops (such as Zara, Mango, and H&M) where you can continue your Christmas shopping. The open design along the streets of the Barfüsserplatz market gave way to easy accessibility to many food and shopping stalls. The cozy and compact design of the Münsterplatz gave the feeling of a more intimate, family-friendly market.

The markets are typically open from around 11 am – 8 or 8:30 pm daily from around the fourth Thursday in November to the day before Christmas eve. We found visiting on a weekday far less crowded than on the weekends. Still, the Friday night weekend energy gave way to a more energetic vibe than on a Thursday. During the weekday, it was almost too quiet! Shorter lights for raclette and hot chocolate during the weekdays, though! 😉


Though in Europe, Switzerland plays its own game and uses different money. You’ll need Swiss francs when you visit Basel! (Fun fact – it’s also the official currency of the tiny neighboring country of Liechtenstein.) If you’re wondering if you should bring cash or card to the Christmas markets, the answer is yes – both! Some vendors take cards, but you’ll almost always need cash for smaller purchases (less than $20).

Market “deposits”

Before you go, you need to know how “deposits” work at Basel’s Christmas Markets. When you want to buy mulled wine (Glüwhein), you’ll approach a stall that says the drink is 4 francs (for example). However, it will typically cost an additional 2 or 3 francs when it’s time to pay. This essentially covers the cost of the mug. If you’d like to take the mug home as a souvenir, congrats! It’s yours. If you’d like to return it to the stall, hand it back to them and say you’re returning it, then they’ll give you a 2-3 franc deposit back! We found the same was true with bigger, nicer meals offered at several different stalls. For example, we ordered raclette, and a deposit was added to our meal since we were handed the dish on a ceramic plate with real utensils. Upon returning the plate, fork, and knife, we were given our 2 franc deposit back.

How much cash do you need?

It’s best to assume about $20 per meal for markets in Switzerland. Hot drinks typically cost between 3.50-7 francs with an additional average 3 franc deposit for mugs. Dishes such as raclette cost around 10 francs with a 2 franc deposit. Hot dogs of most kinds cost between 5-10 francs, depending on the type. Sweet treats and desserts, on average, range between 3 and 12 francs.

If you’re looking to buy a more precious and pricier souvenir, you’ll be glad to have your card on hand, so you’re not limited by your small bills. Always make sure to ask the vendor before ordering or deciding to purchase anything which payment method they will take. (Even if your german language skills are poor and your English is limited, this question can be easily communicated by holding up your credit card and asking, “do you take card?” They will quickly answer with either hand gestures or a verbal yes or no.) If you can, use your traveling expenses to rack up those travel credit card reward points when you can, y’all! We love that the Capital One Venture X card gives us 2x points on everything from glüwhein to ghost tours.

A helpful note about taking out foreign currency in cash: 

The best practice (and cheapest) for having cash on hand in a new country is to go to your bank 5-10 business days before your trip and ask them for the new currency. Depending on your bank, this transaction will either be free or just a few dollars.

If you’re like us and realize the airplane tires hit foreign soil that we forgot to do this, then find an ATM to take out Swiss Francs in cash! Yes, you can do this even with an international debit card and even some credit cards. There will typically be a small transaction fee along with the exchange rate. It’s still cheaper to take out cash this way than to go to a money exchange or Western Union.


    • Fondue Dogs. Hot dog brats served in a fresh baguette filled with cheese? Yes, please!
    • Fondue, in general. No one does it quite like the swiss! Fondue cheese is way more popular here than fondue chocolate. However, you can still find both at either Christmas market or many restaurants. For the best fondue + Market experience, head to the Münsterplatz market before the dinner rush. Order the fondue for two to enjoy in the toasty, covered chalet. Is there anything better than sharing melty cheese and Christmas cheer? We think not.
    • Raclette. I’m sure there’s a better direct translation than this one, but it’s delicious cheese melted on the block, then scraped off right onto your plate and served with accompanied snackies like little pickles, french onions, and potatoes.
    • Chimney Cake. Hands down, our favorite dessert we tried. It apparently has Hungarian origins, but the Swiss have adopted it too. Imagine an elephant ear at the fair paired with a soft pretzel. It’s a hot cone of bread dipped in butter and then coated in cinnamon sugar. It’s not as sweet as it sounds, and it’s perfection.
    • Glühwein. Mulled wine comes in many different forms here. When you order Glühwein, tell them whether you’d like it with red or white wine. Want to get fancy? There are many add-in options at most booths, from vodka, rum, amaretto, or Grand Marnier. For an alcohol-free spiced cider, get the Kinderpunsch! It’s just as delicious.
    • Potato pancakes. They are also famous, but as they were so fried and greasy, they weren’t our favorites. But if you love a greasy, American hashbrown, these are for you!


Stay in or near the old town and walk! Walking is always the best way to see the city. If you’d like to go a little further, the trams and trolleys are constantly running all around town. They are free to tourists who get a BaselCard when checking into a hotel! Easy walk across the main bridges to explore more of the city or take the many ferries that frequently run for quick and easy tours of the Rhine. Going a little further into town and need a ride? We easily used Uber to get where we needed to go. Basel’s main train station is easy to access and goes to many other major stations in many other cities. Being in the cross-section of Germany, France, and Switzerland, Basel’s the perfect launching pad for more European adventures.