Market settings don’t come much more jaw-dropping than the Montreux Christmas Market. Nestled on the bank of Lake Geneva and surrounded by snow-capped mountains, it’s really something. To help you make the most of your time browsing the wooden chalets, I’ve put together this guide to ‘Montreux Noel’.
I love Christmas. No, I know everyone says that – but I really am Christmas mad. My favourite-ever job was working as ‘Santa’s Helper’ taking children to visit Santa at my local shopping centre. Ah, those were the days.
So, visiting a charming Christmas market was definitely on my “must not miss” list for my year in Europe. As luck would have it, I found myself in Geneva, Switzerland in mid-December. It was here I stumbled on the gorgeous Montreux Christmas Market.
Introduction to the Montreux Christmas Market
Montreux Noel – better known as the Montreux Christmas Market – is a gorgeous festive market along the banks of Lake Geneva.
With its amazing lakeside setting in the shadow of the snow-capped mountains, it’s definitely one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in Europe.
While it’s known as the Montreux Christmas Market, it’s more of a big Christmas fair. There are about 160 market stalls selling all kinds of presents and decorations, but there’s also much more.
For the little ones, there are lots of fun activities. There’s Santa Claus’ village, as well as a lumberjack’s village as well. There’s even a ferris wheel that’s sure to delight the whole family!
It’s not just kids who are well taken care of at the Montreux Christmas Market, however. There are many food stalls as well as bars to get you feeling a bit merry.
My favourite was the mulled wine system – simply buy a cup at one of the bars, and you can fill it up for just a few francs at any stall! Good for the environment and your wallet.
When is the Montreux Christmas Market?
Like most Christmas Markets, the Montreux Christmas Market runs from late November through to just before Christmas.
The date changes a little every year, but in 2019 the Montreux, Switzerland Christmas Market will be held from 21 November 2019 to 23 December 2019.
Montreux Christmas Market opening times
The opening hours are a little confusing, with the food and drink stalls staying open longer than the other stalls. Here’s the opening times:
|Day of the week||Artisan stalls||Food/drink stalls|
|Monday and Tuesday||11am – 8pm||5pm – 10pm|
|Wednesday and Thursday||11am – 9pm||5pm – 11pm|
|Friday||11am – 10pm||11am – 11pm|
|Saturday||10am – 10pm||10am – 11pm|
|Sunday||10am – 8pm||10am – 10pm|
Note that some of the bars, including the Bar des Etoiles, does stay open later.
* Different hours on 24 December. Check the website for details.
What’s on at the Montreux Christmas Market?
As mentioned, there is quite a lot to do at Montreux Noel. Here are the main sights!
The Artisan Market
The market is an entire kilometre long, right alongside the lake. Nearly all of the stalls are in adorable little wooden chalets, which adds to the charm.
A lot of the stalls are traditional Swiss crafts and gifts, like delicious chocolates. However, as Geneva is so multicultural there’s a pretty amazing variety. We even picked up some jewellery that was made in Madagascar while we were there!
There’s about 160 stalls, so plenty to choose from whether you’re looking for gifts or Christmas decor. Like all of Switzerland, it’s not cheap, but it’s not ridiculous either.
Perfect for families and little ones, the Elves Workshop is an adorable addition to the market. I’m going to be honest, I was looking around for a kid to borrow so I too could have a go at some of the activities!
(While grown-ups are welcome, it definitely seemed like mostly kids participating.)
The activities include making wreaths, roasting marshmallows and decorating chocolates. What a great souvenir of your time at the Montreux Christmas Market!
Note that each activity does cost 10 CHF so make sure to bring along some money.
The workshop’s opening hours are as follows:
- Monday to Friday: 2pm – 8pm
- Saturday and Sunday: 10am – 8pm
Okay, first things first: Santa does not stay at the Montreux Christmas Market. It would just be much too busy for him, so he’s a bit further away.
Instead, Santa is in a grotto in the heart the Rochers-de-Naye mountain. In fact, he’s managed to score himself a pretty sweet setting at Chateau de Caux Pretty impressive digs, if I do say so myself!
To get there from the Montreux market, you can catch the special Santa Claus train. While it is technically possible to drive there, I really don’t recommend it as parking is a nightmare and the train journey is scenic.
Make sure you’ve thought about what you’re going to ask for!
Every night, an amazing light show is projected onto the Fairmont le Montreux Palace Hotel behind the Montreux Christmas market.
My favourite part of the show is Santa and his reindeer flying right over Lake Geneva. Don’t miss it!
Food and drink at the Montreux Christmas Market
When I think of a Christmas Market, ‘good food’ isn’t really what pops into my head. At the Montreux Christmas Market, however, the food is fancy (and delicious).
Feeling particularly peckish? If so, head to where all the hardworking lumberjacks go and get some fare from the Lumberjack Village.
It’s located inside a charming log cabin and it’s the perfect place to try all the festive delights, Swiss style! I vote for cheese fondue with mulled wine, personally.
The prices here are pretty good as the food is self-service – so it’s a good choice if you’re on a budget.
Guest of Honour
One of my favourite things about the Montreux Christmas Market is the “guest of honour country”. Each year, a country is selected to show off their national dishes which can be purchased.
The 2019 guest of honour country has not been chosen yet, however in 2018 it was Bosnia and Herzegovina. I can’t wait to see who takes the stage this year! You can check to see if it’s been announced here.
If you’re not on a budget and looking to try some Swiss specialties then you’d best head to the gourmet area. Here, near the Convention Centre, you’ll find the fancier meals on offer.
In particular there’s Chalet Heidi, which specialises in my faaavourite: Fondue!
Another choice if you’re looking to tee off a little, the apres-ski igloo is open for the duration of the market. It has a bar as well as a selection of fine foods to enjoy, and is located very close to the light show.
Practical tips for visiting the Montreux Christmas Market
Alright, so now you’ve got your heart set on visiting the charming Christmas market in Montreux – here’s the practical stuff you should know.
Where is the Montreux Christmas Market?
The Montreux Christmas Market is located in Montreux. Montreux is a small town roughly an hour from the city of Geneva and about half an hour on from the ski favourite of Lausanne.
Once you’re in Montreux, It’s pretty hard to miss the distinctive chalets of the market. Just head for the Main Street and you’re sure to find it.
Transport to the Montreux Christmas Market
If you’re coming for the market, then you might like to stay in Montreux which makes things easy. It’s a super easy walk to the market from pretty much anywhere in the town.
We stayed in a small village called Chexbres, which was absolutely gorgeous. We had a car so we just drove down to the market, however parking was not easy. Instead, if you stay in one of the nearby villages then my advice is to try to get one of the shuttle buses instead.
If you’re coming from Lausanne or Geneva, there is a major train line that runs frequently. It can be on the pricey side (this is Switzerland, afterall) but is worth it to avoid the hassle of driving and parking.
Plus, if you don’t drive you can drink as much mulled wine as you want. Win-win!
Parking at the Christmas Market in Montreux
In case I haven’t made it clear, parking in Montreux is not easy. I understand that this is the case at the best of times, let alone when the Montreux Noel is on!
We were lucky and managed to score a park at the nearby shopping centre’s underground car park. It set us back about 5 CHF which I thought was pretty good by Swiss standards.
Some other car parks you can try are:
- Place du Marché
- Railway station
- Montreux Palace
Note that the car park which is usually on the lakeside near where the main ‘Montreux Noel’ sign is gets closed off during the market.
Cash or card?
One thing that caught us off-guard about the Montreux Christmas Market was that several of the food stalls did not accept credit cards and were cash only.
You can bet that I wasn’t going without my mulled wine, so we went off on a wild goose chase to try to find an ATM. We found one eventually, but it wasn’t easy.
So, while most of the stalls (including the artisan stalls) do take card, I’d recommend bringing some cash just in case. Swiss francs are preferable, although a lot of places in Switzerland will accept euros begrudgingly.
Where to stay in Montreux for the Christmas Market
If you are looking to stay in Montreux then you’ll be in easy walking distance of the market. Luckily, there are accommodation options for all budgets.
- Hostellerie De Caux (Budget) – stay near Santa Claus’ workshop atop a mountain! The views are so spectacular (and the price so affordable) that it will be well worth the short train trip into Montreux.
- Hotel Splendid Montreux (Mid-Range) – This simple and comfortable hotel boasts an amazing location in Montreux. From here, you’ll easily be able to walk to the Christmas Market as well as the other attractions in the town.
- Fairmont Le Montreux Palace (Luxury) – it doesn’t get more iconic than staying at the Fairmont Le Montreux Palace, arguably Montreux’s most beautiful building. If you stay here you’ll be joining good company, including Lord Byron, Freddie Mercury and B.B. King
Have you got any more questions about the Montreux Christmas Market? Leave them down below, and I’ll do my best to answer them!