The festive season is upon us! This article will give you the lowdown on everything going on during the Christmas countdown in Basel. For more Christmassy ideas, see the links at the end of this article for the Alsace and Black Forest regions!
There are so many things to do during the Advent season in Basel. Whether you love going to the magical markets and shopping to your heart's content or you prefer a slower pace with a festive drink, there is something for everyone.
The Basel Christmas Market (Weihnachtsmarkt)
The Basel Christmas Market (November 23 to December 23) is considered to be one of the most beautiful in Switzerland and was even declared “Best Christmas Market 2021” by European Best Destinations (second place in 2022). Basel is continually listed as one of the best Christmas markets around the world (CNN Travel 2019 and 2023 lists) and is the perfect spot to start your holiday celebrations. 2023 marks its 46th year and the market is open daily (from 11:00 to 20:30) at two locations in the centre of Basel: Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz. For more information, please read our article The Basel Christmas Market: Top Tips and Picks.
Other Festive Atmospheres
Eating, Drinking, Shopping and More
For the Advent season (November 24 to December 23), Rheingasse in Kleinbasel transforms into Adväntsgass im Glaibasel, also known as the “Christmas food mile”. Offering a cozy atmosphere of festive cheer, Adväntsgass is the place to go to get away from the crowded markets and last-minute Christmas shoppers to have a relaxed drink with friends.
Enjoy the Advent spirit in a stunning setting at the Feldschlösschen Winterdorf in Rheinfelden (November 30 to December 3), where the impressive Feldschlösschen Brewery grounds are transformed into a romantic winter village.
Sandoase Winterdorf transforms into a winter wonderland for the month of December where it serves up countless fondue options, which you can enjoy in one of its cozy purpose-built structures. There's a chalet, hut, yurt or even a gondola, all of which you can reserve, depending on the size of your group. For more festive fondue tips read our article Fondue Essentials and the Best in Basel.
If you enjoy discovering some hidden gems, then check out the Magical Courtyards, a new addition to Basel's festivities for 2023. Eighteen selected courtyards dotted throughout the city have been transformed into peaceful havens leading up to Christmas. With shining lights and festive decorations, each courtyard has its own unique charm and festive magic.
If you prefer to enjoy a moment of contemplation, then take a stroll down the Basel Nativity Trail. From Schifflände to Spalentor you can enjoy nativity scenes in no less than 40 store windows and other locations.
Learn about local Advent customs while enjoying festive light displays during the Basel Christmas Magic City Tour. Tours are held in German every Saturday and Sunday in December and in English on December 2 and 16 (all tours start at 16:00 and last 1.5hrs).
If you love to visit museums, seasonal exhibitions can be found at many of Basel's museums, including Spielzeug Welten Museum Basel, Museum der Kulturen Basel and the Historisches Museum Basel - Haus zum Kirschgarten. Please see their websites for details. There is also a special Christmas programme at the Basler Marionetten Theater.
Sounds of the Season
Music and Theatre
A special holiday treat is the Theater Basel Advent Calendar (December 1 to 23) where the opening of a new advent window every evening at 17:00 in the Theater foyer is accompanied by a surprise half-hour stage presen-tation with samplings from ballet, theatre or opera.
On three Thursday evenings (November 30, December 7 and 14), Marktplatz will be transformed into D'Adväntsbox uff em Märtplatz (Advent Box), a cosy Christmas lounge where several live bands create a wonderful Christmas atmosphere against the backdrop of the festive lights on Freie Strasse and the Rathaus (City Hall).
The city’s churches host a series of events throughout the Advent season. The Gospel Night at the Cathedral (December 3) is an established part of Basel’s Christmas calendar with a programme ranging from traditional gospel to modern pop hymns.
For a spectacular view of Christmas lights, climb the St Martin’s Tower of Basel Cathedral (December 4 to 22, last entry at 17:30 and only in groups of 2 or more).
Head to the City Hall and write down your Advent wishes in the traditional Basel Wish Book. This year marks the thirtieth year that the book has been part of the city’s Christmas celebrations. Located in the inner courtyard the book is an open invitation for local residents and visitors to write their wish lists for Santa and hopes for peace, love and health in the coming year.
An annual tradition of the local canoe club is the Santas in Canoes event (December 2) where you can see dozens of Santas paddling up and down the Rhine.
In the Fresh Air
Last but not least, no festive season is complete without a little ice skating. In the south end of the city, Kunsteisbahn Margarethen (season October 28 to March 3) has two skating rinks (one of which is covered), or in the north end of the city is the Kunsteisbahn Eglisee (season November 13 to March 3). Both ice rinks offer a range of activities from figure-skating to ice hockey. They also stage a number of events such as ice discos and ice-skating festivals and cups. On December 3 the special programme Gratis uffs Glattyys takes place where both Margarethen and Eglisee ice rinks have free entry between 10:00 and 19:00 with lots of activities and fun.
I hope that I have convinced you that there really is more to the run-up to Christmas than the stress of last-minute shopping. Whatever your preference or celebrating style, there are many places to find some festive spirit in Basel. For more Christmassy festivities in the Dreiländer region please see our other articles: The Basel Christmas Market: Top Tips and Picks, Christmas Markets in the Alsace and Christmas Traditions in the Black Forest.
Alison is a Brit who has been in the Basel area for over a decade. She currently resides in Oberwil, where she enjoys having countryside on her doorstep as well as town being only a short tram ride away. She loves cooking, baking and anything food-related and is a beginner food stylist and photographer. She enjoys being in nature and relaxing doing anything wellness-related, as well as engaging in creative activities such as abstract and fluid art and crochet.