Basel‘s Weihnachtsmarkt: enchanting December festivities
When winter begins to settle on charming rustic chalets of craftsmen and artisans, when aromas of Raclette and Glühwein drift tantalisingly around Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz, then you can travel back in time at Basel’s Weihnachtsmarkt.
By Ella Revitt
On Münsterplatz – overlooking the Rhine and near Basel’s renowned minster – the chestnut trees are decorated with snowflake-esque lights and the 80-foot Christmas tree is illuminated with ornaments designed by Johann Wanner (whose famous Christmas Shop in Basel has attracted the likes of Queen Elizabeth II for ornaments). Down the hill at Barfüsserplatz, just in front of the Barfüsserkirche housing the Historical Museum, are 132 white-roofed stalls selling a variety of gifts and decorations. Adjacent to that lies Freie Strasse, where rows of Christmas lights span the street. Further onto Marktplatz, in the ornate Rathaus (the city hall) a beloved tradition continues for another year; since 1933, the Basel Wish Book has provided an opportunity for 20,000 annual visitors to write their wishes. The festive lights continue onto Mittlere Brücke and to Claraplatz where, for the first time, there is a small but first-class selection of dining options.
On 26 November, Basel’s president of the cantonal council, Dr Guy Morin, opened the Winter Market, lighting up Basel with festive decoration. Every day until 23 December a wide variety of goods will be on sale from 11am-8:30pm. Considered to be one of the largest and finest Christmas markets in Switzerland, and even Europe, Basel provides a range of opportunities for tourists and locals throughout the advent period – and, according to Janine Teucher from England, this market epitomises a “perfect Christmas appetiser.” Anne König (Basel) has sold unique objects (instruments and tools, for instance) made of chocolate at Schoggi-Werkstatt here for four years, and she loves the “amazing, friendly atmosphere.” Further along in Münsterplatz, an approachable Peter Schenk, also a local to the city, mans the “Gschängg Box” stall and sells gifts and organisational storage from recycled wood by Werkhaus Design. Schenk’s selling for his second year, and thinks “It is very nice with the lights in the trees.”
Tools and instruments made of chocolate (Photo Ella Revitt)
The 33rd Basler Stadtlauf took place at the last weekend of November, and over 9’000 runners took to the streets for the annual 5.5km city run (with shorter distances for children). During the evening, runners, spectators and shoppers flooded to the various stands selling classic Swiss indulgences, including warming waffles, ever-popular grilled sausages and authentic Läckerli, Basel’s unique and sweet delicacy. In the upcoming weeks there is an abundance of further experiences to be enjoyed. On 5 December was the Harley-Niggi-Näggi, with numerous Santa Claus’ riding around Barfüsserplatz on Harley Davidsons, handing children traditional “Grätimaane” (sugar-bread). On 13 and 20 December, city shops open their doors to customers from 1pm for “Silber-Sonntag,” providing rare additional shopping opportunities. Regardless of the day, however, there are a variety of concerts and tours which contribute to a very unique European Christmas adventure.
Everyone has individual highlights of this pre-Christmas celebration: “It provides an escape from the stresses of daily life” said Silvia Luescher from Oberwil. “The hearty food and handmade gifts,” said Heather Bruton from Ireland, “really rouse the festive spirit”. Another visitor, Jason Cleaver-Smith from Canada, enthused that the market is “very tasteful, thoroughly enjoyable.”. Personal favourites include warming up in front of the fire pits; making wax candles on a chilly afternoon; and indulging in a delectable hot chocolate at the end of a winter’s evening. All visitors return 100% satisfied according to holidaycheck.ch, with the event rating an excellent 5.3 stars out of 6.
If you are going to be near the city in December, the Basler Weihnachtsmarkt is not to be missed. As any local will tell you, it is a good opportunity to immerse yourself in Basel and Swiss culture. It is no exaggeration when the market is branded as a timeless spectacle, anticipated by all.