As snow begins to settle on the charming rustic chalets of regional craftsmen and artisans, aromas of Swiss Raclette and Glühwein drift tantalisingly around Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz. Upon entering the Basel Weihnachtsmarkt – described as a “perfect Christmas appetizer” (Janine) – you travel back in time.
On Münsterplatz – overlooking the Rhine and near the city’s renowned minster – the chestnut trees are decorated with snowflake-esque lights and the 80-foot Christmas tree is illuminated with ornaments designed Johann Wanner (whose famous Christmas Shop in Basel has attracted the likes of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for ornaments). Down the hill at Barfüsserplatz, just in front of the Barfüsserkirche and 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 cobbled 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. Festive lights continue onto the Mittlere Brücke to Claraplatz where, for the first time, there is a small but first-class selection of dining options.
On 26th November, Basel’s president of the cantonal council, Dr Guy Morin, opened the Winter Market, lighting up Basel with festive decoration. Every day until 23rd December a wide variety of goods will be on sale from 11am-8:30pm (a later closing time in 2015 by popular demand). Considered to be one of the largest and finest Christmas cities in Switzerland, and even Europe, Basel provides a range of opportunities for tourists and locals throughout the advent period.
The 33rd Basler Stadtlauf took place last weekend, and over nine-thousand 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 are an abundance of further experiences to be enjoyed. On 5th December was the Harley-Niggi Näggi (4:50pm), where people watched numerous Santa Claus’ riding around Barfüsserplatz on Harley Davidsons handing children traditional “Grätimaane” (sugar-bread). On the 13th and 20th city shops open their doors to customers from 1pm for “Silver 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 Christmas celebration: “It provides an escape from the stresses of daily life” (Silya); “The hearty food and handmade gifts really rouse the festive spirit” (Heather); “Very tasteful, thoroughly enjoyable” (Jason). 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 Weihnachtmarkt is not to be missed. As any local will tell you, it is the perfect way to immerse yourself in Basel and Swiss culture. It is no exaggeration when the market is branded as a timeless spectacle, anticipated by all.
By Ella (DP1)