A Detailed Guide to the Basel Christmas Market in 2023

Planning a trip to the Basel Christmas Market? You’re in the right place – we’re sharing a detailed guide (updated for 2023) for this lovely market.

A lit up Christmas pyramid shines against the night sky, with some market stalls in the foreground, lit snowflakes in the trees, and the cathedral in the background.

The bustling sounds of a Christmas marketplace mingle with the smell of gluhwein, hot cider, and melted cheese, as lights glow in the trees of the square and on the towering Christmas tree.

Welcome to the Basel Christmas Market, serving heavy doses of Christmas cheer, unique stalls and goods, and – most importantly- melted cheese in a variety of forms!

The markets in Basel are often considered among the best in all of Switzerland, and they certainly should be considered on a European Christmas Market tour. So, let’s dive into exactly what it’s like to visit the markets in Basel at Christmastime.

Where Is Basel?

The city of Basel is found on the northwest border of Switzerland, riiiiiiiiiight up near the border of Germany and France. (In fact, you can exit into any of these three countries from the Basel airport!)

Basel is squarely in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, though you will find many French and English speakers.

The city of Basel is absolutely beautiful, situated along the Rhine River, which cuts through the center of town. Classic, stately Swiss architecture features prominently, and during the Christmas season, lights and decorated trees are set up around the city.

A view of Basel from the Rhine River. You can see the river in front and charming buildings lining the banks of the river, with the spires of the cathedral in the back.

Where to Stay in Basel

Prices for hotels can really jump during the Christmas season, and they can sell out early, so I highly recommend booking your hotels as soon as possible. Additionally, Switzerland is just a more expensive country across the board, so just know even the “budget” options are not really cheap.

Here are a few great options for where to stay in Basel:

($) Hotel Rochat:This hotel is really in the perfect central location to many of the sites of Basel. The rooms are simple, but modern, clean, spacious. The value for price really can’t be beat here.
Rating: 8.8 of 10 stars, read reviews
👉Book here

($$) East-West Riverside Hotel Basel Located right on the river, this hotel has loads of charm, with beautiful decor contrasting with original wood floors. A nice breakfast is included in the price.

Rating: 8.1 of 10 stars, read reviews
👉Book here


($$$) Les Trois Rois: This luxurious hotel in a historic building just oozes old world charm. The view over the river (including from the roof) is fantastic, and the decor and architecture seem like something right out of Napoleon’s time. Plus, the food served at the on-site brasserie is top notch!
Rating: 9.3 of 10 stars, read reviews
👉Book here

Drinks at the Basel Christmas Market

Real quick, we need to talk about drinks – an integral part of experiencing a European Christmas market!

Around the markets, you can find drink stands selling various alcoholic and non-alcoholic hot beverages. When you buy your drink, you also pay a small deposit for the cup it is served in. In Basel, the deposit was 5 CHF. 

A woman smiles at the camera, holding a blue mug in one hand and a baguette stuffed with cheese in the other - one of the best parts of the Basel Christmas market. Stalls of the Christmas market are set up behind her.
Always with a mug in my hand!

When you finish your drink, you can return the mug for your deposit back OR you can keep the mug as a fun market souvenir.

We collected mugs from all over Europe and brought them home with us – a fun souvenir that I see every time I open my cupboard doors (pro tip: when packing, stick each mug in a sock, and then place all the mugs in a carry-on duffel bag, padded with clothes). 

Basel had a few different mug varieties, including a boot-shaped mug and this cute blue mug you see above.

If you are keeping your mug, you can still go up and exchange the dirty one you just drank out of for a clean one (people were really nice when we did this – it seems like this is pretty common).

Truly, I found the mugs to be such a delightful part of the market experience in Europe.

Dates for the Basel Christmas Market in 2023

The Basel Christmas Markets will open on Thursday November 23, 2023, and close on Saturday December 23, 2023.

Market opening hours are from 11am-8:30pm.

On December 23, the Barfüsserplatz market closes at 8pm and the Münsterplatz market closes at 6pm.

The Two Official Markets in the Basel

There are two Christmas market locations in Basel: Münsterplatz and Barfüsserplatz. Here’s what each market is like.

Münsterplatz 

Stalls decorated with greenery are lit up in front of the Munster cathedral at night in Basel, Switzerland.

Münsterplatz is located right next to the beautiful Basler Munster cathedral, with its red bricks and two spires. And, very appropriately, there is a mechanical clock and sundial on the face of the church.

The market itself has so much ambiance. It’s nestled among the trees of the square, with glowing decorations in the trees above. 

Right outside the entrance to the market is a grand Christmas tree, and just inside the entrance is a large Christmas pyramid, a traditional fixture of European Christmas markets. This pyramid was particularly enchanting, as the figurines on it were mechanized and moved in creative ways – like a Santa who did flips on a gymnastics bar. 

A traditional Christmas pyramid, which is several stories high. 4 different levels are stacked on top of each other, with "fan blades" on the top. Candles adn different figurines are on the tower. The pyramid sits on a top of a little, wodden drink stand, that is trimmed with greenery.

Pick up a drink at the bar under the pyramid to sip as you peruse the market – gluhwein (hot, mulled wine) is the most popular drink, but heiss chocolate (hot chocolate) or kinderpunsch (non-alcoholic cider) are also solid options.

This market had a great selection of handmade and interesting wares for sale, but it also had a lot of food options, including a few sit-down, almost restaurant style booths.

Barfüsserplatz

Overlooking the stalls of the Basel Christmas market, with big lit up stars on top of the stalls, and the buildings of Basel in the background.

The market at Barfüsserplatz features a bit more of a carnival feel and is more in the heart of the city. It features different types of decorations on the stalls with most being lined with garland and having various large decorations like stars, snowflakes, or Santas on top of the stalls. There was no church, large trees, or pyramid, though, but the stalls were very cozy.

The front part of the market almost exclusively sold goods, like Christmas decorations, treats to take away, and toys or jewelry.

Head to the back of the market to find the drinks and hot foods.

Other Spots to See in Basel During Christmas

Minster Basel Cathedral

A view from the base of the Minster Basel Cathedral, loooking up to the spires. The cathedral is made of red brick and has two pointed spires.

This cathedral was built as a Catholic church but today is a Protestant church. It’s right next to the market at Münsterplatz , so it is easy to stop in as you are touring the markets.

Between November 28 and December 23 from Monday- Friday, 4-6pm, you can climb the bell tower in the cathedral to enjoy spectacular views over the market below. Entrance fee is 6 CHF.

Freie Strasse Street

Large, pointed arches with stars hanging from them are hung between buildings on Freie Strasse street in Basel - you can see arches all the way down the street.

One of the most beautiful streets in Basel at Christmastime, Freie Strasse boasts an archway of lights down this main street. It hosts several shops and banks. While it is pretty during the day, you definitely need to walk through after dark!

Marktplatz

A woman in a tan coat and red scarf smiles at the camera in the middle of a squre with a tall evergreen tree filled with thousands and thousands of lights, and the dark red city hall building behind her.

The Basel Town Hall is located in Marktplatz (it’s the cool red building in the picture!) and there’s also a big, beautiful tree in this square. It’s a pretty place to admire and take a picture.

In the inner courtyard of City Hall is the Basel Wish Book – visitors can “fill the book with their private thoughts, wish lists for Santa Claus and hopes for peace, love and good health.”

Spalentor (the Gate of Spalen)

A square watchtower with turrets and an arched passageway through the bottom - the Gates of Spalen in Basel.
The street leading up to the tower of Spalentor.
Note the mini Christmas trees on the sides of the buildings on this street – you’ll see this kind of decoration all over Basel!

This tower is a remnant of the old city wall and is worth the 10 minute walk it takes to visit. First, the walk, especially the street it is on, brings you through charming parts of the city with fun Christmas decor.

The tower itself… well… towers over you and showcases a great blend of intricacy, function, and intimidation. It’s great at night, but it is also nice in the daytime as the pink color is delightful.

There are two other gates in the city, with St. Alban being the other gate close to the markets. (St. Johanns -Tor is a bit father away.)

What to Eat at the Basel Christmas Market

The fresh hot food offerings in Basel were second to none! Most of it centered, unsurprisingly, around cheese – I was in heaven. Here are the main players in the food game: 

A hand holds a baguette stuffed with fondue in front of the stalls of the Basel Christmas market.

Fondue Stuffed Baguette

Melted cheese is stuffed inside a hollowed out baguette half and topped with crispy onions. If this isn’t the perfect market food, I don’t know what is!
Cost: 9 CHF

A baked cheese tart about the size of your hand sits on a red and white checked tablecloth.

Cheese Tarts

Not to be confused with quiche, these little tarts had a buttery crust and a baked cheesy interior. The version with the gruyere cheese was fantastic (I came back twice for one of these bad boys!)
Cost: 5.50 CHF

Raclette

Raclette is a quintessential Swiss dish and a must-try. Raclette cheese is melted and then scraped onto a plate, where you eat it with sides such as potatoes (a must), pickles, and pickled onions. Don’t leave Switzerland without trying raclette!
Cost: 9 CHF

Quiche Lorraine

A classic Swiss dish – this egg “pie” is accented with onion to compliment the delicious cheese and flaky crust. Other common ingredients can include bacon or other vegetables (like spinach).
Cost: 6.50 CHF

A market stall selling chimney cake - large rounded dough with a hollow interior.

Chimney Cake

Chimney cake is original to Hungary, but was common throughout German and Swiss Christmas markets. A sweet dough is wrapped around a metal tube and cooked, and then brushed with butter and cinnamon sugar – what’s not to love?

A white paper tray on a wooden table holds 2 apple fritters - fresh apple slices that were dipped in batter, fried, and covered in cinnamon.

Apple Fritters

These fritters were fresh sliced apples, dipped in batter and fried, and then dusted with cinammon sugar. They were delicious!
Cost: 5 CHF

A kartoffel puffer, aka potato pancake, made from shredded potatoes that are pressed together and fried, served with applesauce.

Kartoffel Puffer

A “potato pancake”. This is a Christmas market staple – shredded potatoes are fried until crispy and golden brown and served with applesauce!
Cost: ~5 CHF

What to Buy

You can find a huge variety of goods at the markets, including Christmas decorations, ornaments, candles, pyramids, nativity scenes, and paper stars. There are also home goods, jewelry, toys and games, and other items of interest. Here is a sampling of the types of goods you can buy:

A stall at the Basel Christmas market with dozens of Swiss Army knives of shapes and sizes on display
Swiss army knives
A stall at the market selling small, colorful plates with a grating fixture on it.
Little plates with a grating fixture in the middle – you can grate garlic, cheese, chocolate, etc right on the plate.
A stall with many little alpine ceramic houses and little village people.
Alpine village houses and people
A booth selling a variety of handles and glass candle holders, usually in rounded containers.
A large variety of candles
A dispaly case full of tubs of different small, regional cookies common in Switzerland, found at the Basel Christmas market.
Regional cookies
Shelves full of wooden boxes, wooden christmas pyramids, and wooden nativity scenes in the market.
Wooden nativity scenes and Christmas pyramids
A market stall with stacks of chocolate covered marshmallow mousse balls, in a variety of flavors.
Marshmallow mousse chocolate balls
A blue market stall covered racks of Christmas ornaments, in colors of red, gold, and tan.
A large variety of ornaments
Traditional cookie presses displayed in a stall at the Basel Christmas market.
Traditional cookie presses
A market stall full of gingerbread and stollen, some in circles, some in squares, some in hearts, and some in loaves.
Gingerbread and stollen

Some Basics About Visiting the Basel Christmas Market

  • There are no entrance fees to visit the Christmas markets.
  • Currency in Switzerland is the Swiss Franc (CHF). 1 CHF is equal to 1.09 US dollars.
  • People in Basel speak Swiss German, and many people also speak French. You will find that most people working with tourists will also speak at least some English.
  • There are some stands that will accept card, but many places will just take cash. There are ATMs around the city, so it’s not hard to find a spot to pull out some francs. (And there are no ATM fees!)
  • Weekends can get very busy, so if possible, visit the Christmas markets on a weekday.
  • Each market had a free public bathroom you can use – plus, they were very clean!

Traveling to Christmas Markets in Other Cities?

While you can easily take the train between many cities in Europe, for this trip we chose to rent a car and drive between towns (since we were going at a fast pace to visit other markets like the Luxembourg Christmas Market, the Colmar Christmas Market, the Strasbourg Christmas Market, the Trier Christmas Market or the Cologne Christmas market.

Driving in Europe is straightforward, the roads are well-maintained, and the signage is easy to follow. If you want maximum flexibility in your Christmas market itinerary, then driving yourself around is your best option.

My biggest tip for renting and driving a car in Europe is book your rental car as early as possible– rental cars are in high demand and the prices go way up and the availability goes way down the closer you get to your travel dates.

👉We have found that we get the best prices and availability and options for rental cars on DiscoverCars.com – check prices here!

Getting Around Basel

The areas that you will visit when visiting the markets are all pretty walkable. However, Basel does have a very well-developed tram system throughout the city. If you stay at the East-West Hotel or Les Trois Rois Hotel, you are given a complimentary Basel Card which includes free access to the trams.

The trams come very regularly and most stations have a screen saying when the next one will come, and the trams have screens listing the next stations coming up.

A picture of a regular street in Basel at Christmastime, near a bus stop/tram stop, with a digital sign displaying all the upcoming trams.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

Securing some travel insurance is an important part of prepping for any international trip – you never know when something might happen, and your regular insurance generally won’t cover you overseas. Costs for a medical emergency on vacation can add up extremely fast, so it’s just better to be safe than sorry. 

I like booking insurance at Insure My Trip, as they offer a variety of plans with different coverages to choose from, so you can find the right option for you. Plus, they have great customer support if you need help before, during, or after your trip.

👉Get a free quote at Insure My Trip here

Final Thoughts on the Basel Christmas Market

The Christmas markets in Basel were delightful and delicious, and the lights on the streets were enchanting. Make sure you peruse the city and markets during the day AND night to get the full experience that Christmastime in Basel has to offer!

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