Last updated on February 8, 2024
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to experience Christmas in a city where three different countries meet? Many people zoom past Basel on their way to Colmar and Strasbourg, but this Swiss city is a festive destination in its own right.
As someone who’s wandered through more festive stalls than I can count, Basel stands out as one of the most unique cities I’ve ever explored. Sitting at the crossroads of Switzerland, France, and Germany, it’s perfect for a memorable stop on your tour of European Christmas markets.
In this blog post, I’m going to be your guide through the Basel Christmas Markets. Whether you’re a Christmas market enthusiast or planning your first festive adventure, I’ve got all the information you need. I’ll point you to the best stalls, the cosiest spot for a warm drink, what Swiss food you should try, and where to find those one-of-a-kind gifts.
AD – This post contains affiliate links (marked with *) | Read my full disclaimer
So, settle in with your favourite winter beverage, and let me show you what makes the Basel Christmas Markets a must-visit this holiday season!
How can you get to Basel?
Basel is served by the EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg, known as the world’s only tri-national airport. The airport is easily reachable, with plenty of flights coming in from big European cities and some international destinations.
When you land, you’ll have the option to go through either French or Swiss customs depending on your onward journey. If you’re staying overnight in Basel, make sure to exit on the Swiss side. For those arriving from another Schengen country, you won’t face passport control, making your entry smooth and hassle-free. Just follow the signs in the arrivals hall – they’re super clear and will guide you right where you need to go.
Right outside the terminal, there’s a bus stop from where you can catch a bus number 50 to Basel city centre. If you’ve booked a place to stay in Basel, just keep your accommodation confirmation on your phone – it doubles as your bus ticket, saving you a bit of cash (stay tuned for the other amazing benefits of staying in Basel overnight!).
Alternatively, if you’re exploring Europe by rail, Basel’s train stations – the Basel SBB for Swiss and international trains, and the Basel Badischer Bahnhof for German connections – are key hubs. Travelling by train to Basel is not only scenic but also incredibly efficient, with high-speed connections from cities like Zurich, Paris, and Frankfurt.
If you’re planning to visit some French Christmas markets while you’re in Basel, make sure to check out my guides to the Colmar Christmas Markets and the Strasbourg Christmas Markets. They cover all the essentials – from the market opening dates to the experiences each market offers, as well as the must-try Alsatian dishes!
Where to stay in Basel?
Since many travellers head to Colmar and Strasbourg, you can find some fantastic deals on accommodation in Basel. One of the best perks of staying in Basel is the Basel Card. You’ll receive this card at check-in, unlocking a host of benefits. Think free public transport (including the bus ride from and to the airport!), 50% discount on a number of tourist attractions, and free Wi-Fi at 8 hotspots across the city. Plus, with the money you save on transport and attractions, you can splurge a little more on Christmas market treats or a nice meal!
If you’re looking for a place to stay in Basel on a budget, I’d highly recommend the B&B Hotel Basel*. It’s a bit outside the city centre, but don’t worry – it’s super easy to get there in under 15 minutes. Just hop on any tram from Basel SBB station to Aeschenplatz, then switch to tram number 14. It stops right outside the hotel at Zeughaus. And the best part? This same tram will whisk you to the Basel Christmas markets in just 10 minutes!
Our stay cost us only 417.30 CHF (that’s about €440 or £385) for three nights, breakfast included. which is really decent for Switzerland! Eating out can be really pricey here, so opting for a breakfast buffet can be a smart move. It fills you up so well that you might just need some light snacks from the Christmas markets for the rest of the day.
The cheapest hotels get booked up fast – book your stay now:
It’s also worth looking into the Winter Special package deal that runs until the end of January. In addition to the usual benefits, you can also get a 50 CHF voucher which you can redeem in over 400 shops and restaurants around Basel!
When do the Basel Christmas Markets open?
Basel hosts two main Christmas markets: one on Barfüsserplatz and the other on Münsterplatz. Both markets will welcome visitors every day from the 28th of November to the 23rd of December. They will open their doors at 11 am and keep the festive spirit alive until 8:30 pm. But remember, on the last day, they wrap up a bit earlier – Barfüsserplatz closes at 8 pm and Münsterplatz at 6 pm.
If you’re into food markets, don’t miss the Adväntsgass im Glaibasel on Rheingasse. This mini food market starts a day later than the main ones. On weekdays, it’s open from 5 pm to 10 pm. It opens at 2 pm on Saturdays and Sundays, closing at 10 pm on Saturdays and a bit earlier at 8 pm on Sundays. It’s a great spot to grab some delicious bites and soak in the festive atmosphere.
In addition to the main markets, there are also several other events happening in Basel in the run-up to Christmas (which I’ll touch upon later!), each with their own opening dates and times.
What are the Basel Christmas Markets like?
This year, instead of our usual trip to the German Christmas markets, we thought we’d see what the rest of Europe has up its festive sleeve. That’s how we ended up in Basel, especially after hearing it was voted the best Christmas market in Europe in 2021. We just had to see if it could really match up to the German ones we knew so well!
I have to say, my favourite thing about exploring the Basel Christmas Markets is how compact and easy to get around they are. You can just stroll from one market to the next, soaking in all the festive vibes of Basel in a few hours. And the best part? Since most people tend to head to Colmar and Strasbourg, the Basel markets aren’t too crowded, making it super easy to explore and enjoy.
In 2023, the Basel Christmas markets had around 155 wooden chalets between them, offering everything from unique gifts to tasty Christmas treats. Let me guide you through what you can expect from each of the markets, and show why Basel should be on your Christmas market itinerary.
The bigger of the two markets, the Christmas market on Barfüsserplatz is a perfect starting point.
The 13-metre high Christmas pyramid, that doubles as a Glühwein (mulled wine) stand, is a popular hangout spot for the locals.
If you’re a foodie set on trying local delicacies, this is definitely the place to go. There are numerous stands wrapped around the Barfüsserkirche, serving up everything from grilled sausages and Swiss raclette to the famous Basler Läckerli biscuits, warm donuts, and Feuerzangenbowle (if you don’t know what that is, definitely check out my Nuremberg Christmas Market guide!).
We visited on a rainy afternoon and were relieved to find plenty of covered areas where we could shelter from the rain and enjoy a cup of mulled wine.
If you’ve ever been to any German Christmas markets, you won’t have any problems navigating the Christmas markets in Basel. Like in Germany, you get your hot drinks in ceramic mugs, pay a 3 CHF deposit, and can either keep the mug as a souvenir or return it for your deposit back. And here’s a little tip: bring cash, as many stalls only accept cards for larger purchases!
If you head to the front part of the market, there’s a variety of stalls selling all sorts of goods and decorations.
Think handmade baubles, Christmas tree ornaments, candles, and even some FC Basel merch for the football fans 😉
Just a stone’s throw from Barfüsserplatz, about 350 metres away, you’ll find the Münsterplatz Christmas Market, right beside the stunning Basler Münster Cathedral. If you go towards the back of the market, near the food stands, you’ll easily spot signs guiding you to Münsterplatz.
On the left, there’s a magical touch for the little ones – the Märchenwald, or fairytale forest. It’s a wonderland of activities and workshops for kids, where they can try their hand at decorating gingerbread, making candles, and even forging metal objects!
To the right, you’ll discover the heart of the market, set under trees adorned with twinkling snow globes. And here’s a special tip: from the 4th to the 22nd of December, you can climb the cathedral tower for a small fee of 6 CHF to get a breathtaking view of the Christmas lights.
This market was much quieter than the one on Barfüsserplatz, with fewer food stands and slightly higher price points. If you’re on the hunt for unique gifts, check out the handmade ceramics by Corienne Tamschick – her gorgeous tea sets are a real find. I couldn’t see a price tag, and I was a little too afraid to ask, so be prepared for potentially higher prices. This is Switzerland, after all!
And don’t miss the chance to warm up at the Wacker Fonduestübli restaurant. Their tartelettes with Gruyère cheese are a must-try, and you can try a variety of other toppings too. They were SO delicious I immediately wanted to go for seconds! For a classic Swiss experience, you can also try their traditional fondue at 26.50 CHF per person. Just a heads-up: it’s a popular spot, so you might need to wait a bit for a table. But trust me, it’s worth it!
Adväntsgass im Glaibasel
If you’re feeling a bit full from the usual festive dishes or fancy a break from the traditional Christmas market stalls, Adväntsgass im Glaibasel is your go-to spot.
Tucked away on the other side of the river on Rheingasse, this place is a food lover’s paradise, with two rows of food trucks dishing out everything from truffle chips and pizza to pad thai.
It definitely has the most creative vibe out of all the Christmas markets in Basel. Here, you’ll find vintage caravans transformed into quirky food spots and mobile cafés brewing up all sorts of hot drinks. And for something truly unique, you can even dine inside an old ski gondola lift!
However, if you’re watching your budget or are more into the classic Christmas market experience, you might want to stick to Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz. Keep in mind, even a simple mulled wine here costs 2 CHF more, and the food prices can quickly climb, especially if you opt for the ski gondola dining experience.
For those looking to enjoy the Basel Christmas markets without splurging too much, the traditional festive treats are a safer bet. Don’t worry, I’ll break down the costs for you in the next section, so you can plan your visit with ease!
Map of the Basel Christmas Markets
What food should you try at the Basel Christmas markets?
Strolling through the Basel Christmas Markets, you’ll find all the classic treats you’d expect at a European Christmas market, like chocolate-covered fruits and marshmallows, sizzling sausages, and potato fritters with apple sauce.
But, as you might guess in Switzerland, there’s also a fantastic selection of cheese-centric dishes. It’s just what the Swiss do best!
Let me take you through some of the top food picks that you really shouldn’t miss in Basel:
These Swiss gingerbread biscuits have a unique, slightly chewy texture and a rich blend of honey, almonds, candied peel, and Kirsch, all spiced up with cinnamon and cloves.
A local favourite, a Chäsbängel is a cheese-filled bread roll, crispy on the outside with delicious melted cheese inside. You can get the best ones, in my opinion, from Zihlmann on Barfüsserplatz.
And, they’re lactose-free too, so you can indulge to your heart’s content without any worries!
Price: 10 CHF.
More than just a drink, it’s a festive spectacle – mulled wine with a flaming sugarloaf soaked in rum. It’s as fun to watch as it is to drink!
Price: 5 CHF + 3 CHF deposit for the ceramic mug.
This is comfort market food at its finest – gooey, melted cheese scraped onto potatoes, and served with a side of pickles and onions. It’s a simple dish, but oh-so-delicious.
Dipping bread into a pot of melted cheese is a classic Swiss experience. It’s a must-try for cheese lovers.
Price: 26.50 CHF per person at the Wacker Fonduestübli restaurant. For a cheaper version, head to the Alphütte stand on Barfüsserplatz.
Tartelettes with Gruyère cheese
These little crispy tarts filled with creamy Gruyère cheese are a perfect bite-sized treat to enjoy as you explore the markets.
If you head to the Wacker Fonduestübli restaurant, there are also plenty of other fillings to choose from. These were so good I immediately wanted to go back for more after taking the first bite!
Price: 5.50 CHF.
Zigerkrapfen are deep-fried pockets filled with a creamy, cheesy mixture containing almonds, cinnamon, sugar, raisins, and lemon juice. They’re traditionally served during Fasnacht, or the Carnival of Basel. The name comes from a special kind of Swiss cheese made from the whey of goats’ milk called Ziger. As it’s not as easy to get your hands on a slab of Ziger these days, some people replace it with ricotta cheese or quark.
I gave them a pass due to the raisins, but they’re a hit with many. If you want to try them at the Basel Christmas markets, head to the donut stand towards the back of the market on Barfüsserplatz.
Price: 3.50 CHF.
The name of this dish has several variations depending on the region, but the best way to describe it is as a Swiss take on an Alsatian tarte flambée. Dinnete is a kind of thin, flatbread pizza, traditionally topped with cream, onions, and bacon, but it can also be served with apples, potatoes, cheese, and other ingredients.
Price: 10 CHF.
Another Swiss Christmas baking staple are the Zimtsterne, or cinnamon stars. They’re made with ground almonds, sugar, and lots of cinnamon, and they’re often topped with a thin layer of white icing. If you’re not sure if these spiced treats are your thing, the good news is that you can buy as little as you want since you pay by weight.
We got one each to try – even though they look crunchy, they’re in fact perfectly chewy and moreish! If I didn’t already have a big chocolate stash back home, this is the one sweet treat I would happily bring back from Basel.
Price: 6.50 CHF per 100 grams (works out at around 1 CHF for 1 star).
You might find these under different names like Grittibänz, Grättimaa, or Baselmann. Some might have raisins or chocolate drops for eyes, others might carry an entire chocolate bar or have sugar on top, but they’re one and the same thing.
These Christmas bread men are traditional to the Basel region, where St. Nicholas (or Samiclaus as he’s called in the German-speaking regions) visits schoolchildren and hands these out to be eaten on 6th December. I actually didn’t spot these at the Basel Christmas markets and didn’t have much time to visit any local bakeries, but you can easily get different variations from the local supermarket if you wish to try them!
Price: Between 2 and 3 CHF from a local supermarket.
What are some other things to do in Basel in winter?
Winter in Basel is a magical time, and there’s so much more to do beyond the charming Christmas markets. The city hosts a variety of events in the weeks before Christmas, and there’s truly something to choose for everyone.
Every evening from December 1st to 23rd at 5 pm, Theater Basel reveals a surprise performance in its lobby. You could catch anything from a snippet of ballet to a dramatic opera piece. You should also make sure to visit the Basel Town Hall courtyard to see a beautifully decorated Christmas tree.
While you’re there, you can join in a local tradition by writing your wish in the Basel Wish Book.
Then, there’s also one of the most important events of the festive period – the gospel night at Basel Cathedral, as well as the Christmas variety show at Palazzo Colombino, and even a Santa Claus Harley Davidson parade!
But, if I were to choose only one, I’d recommend you join the penguin walk at the Basel Zoo. Yes, you read that right! Every day at 11 am, from November through February, the zookeepers take the penguins for a walk through the zoo, provided the temperature is below 10 degrees Celsius.
It’s a one-of-a-kind opportunity to see these adorable creatures up close, outside of their usual environment, as they waddle along their path. The penguins seem to enjoy their little excursion as much as the visitors enjoy watching them – one stopped right in front of me to pose for the photos! Plus, with your Basel Card, you can enjoy this experience at half the price – from 23 CHF down to just 11.50 CHF.
Would you consider visiting the Basel Christmas Markets?