Hello everyone! Finally we are less than one month away from the most important festival in Europe – Christmas! Most of the Christmas markets are open from now on! What can be better than having a cup of mulled wine and some roasted almonds while surrounded by happy people, Christmas lights, Santa Claus, Christmas wreaths, stars, reindeers, candles, bells, angels, snowmen, and of course, Christmas trees! When it’s in this season, Christmas markets are the best places to enjoy Christmas atmosphere. You can hangout with your friends, have some snacks and drinks, choose some handmade Christmas gifts for your family, or, alternatively, just immerse yourself in this festive environment.
I guess many people are thinking, you’re from China, and you don’t even celebrate Christmas in China, why are you so excited and happy about Christmas? Well, the answer is actually quite simple. I would definitely fall in love with it, if there is another festival, one month before which, all the shopping malls, streets, houses, flats, train stations, squares, basically everywhere are decorated with lights, stars, wreaths, candles, bells, angels and Christmas trees. I would definitely fall in love with it, if there is another festival, before and during which, you can go to the specially decorated markets to enjoy a cup of mulled wines, some special snacks and have a laugh with your friends, whom you might not have seen for almost a year or even longer. I would definitely fall in love with it, if there is another festival, before which you and your beloved ones will clean and decorate and make your sweet home warm and comfortable again. I would definitely fall in love with it, if there is another festival, during which you get the chance to spend some quality time with your beloved family, whom you have missed and have only chatted through phone or video calls in the last year.
I guess it’s pretty much like my love for the Toffee Nut Latte in Starbucks. The first time I had it was in Starbucks in Suzhou, China around 7 years ago. I liked it at that time and since then, I drink it every year when it’s Christmas time, whether in China, the UK or Switzerland, because each year when I drink it, it reminds me of the Christmas of the previous year or years. I might not remember clearly how many cups I had, but I definitely remember those dearest friends and family members that I drank it with. Some people might say they haven’t even heard of Toffee Nut Latte in Starbucks, some people might say it’s too sweet, some people might say it’s too fat, but I don’t really care, because it makes me happy and it reminds me of something that I cherish.
Since now I’m living in Switzerland, and inspired by my friend Julia, I asked myself, why don’t I visit the Christmas markets in and around Switzerland during this festive time of the year? I’ve been to quite some mountains, cities and some villages, but seeing them in Christmas lights, candles, and under Christmas atmosphere? I’m sure I’ll see and feel more about them. It feels like visiting an old friend, but this time, in a fairyland, more magical and surprising I guess.
Wouldn’t the Christmas markets be all the same? I can guarantee you, no, they are not, at least not in Switzerland. There are so many high, snowy mountains, peaceful villages, modern cities in Switzerland. There are towns sitting at the foot of the giant mountains, or by the amazing lakes. There are German, French and Italian parts of Switzerland, which respectively convey the culture and tradition of Germany, France and Italy. Doesn’t this country offer the best opportunity to explore the Christmas markets in western Europe? Basel, Bellinzona, Montreux, Lucerne, Bern, Zürich, Locarno, St. Gallen, Chur, Lugano, Einsiedeln, Rapperswil-Jona, Constance, Colmar, Stuttgart, Munich, Strasbourg, Freiburg, Heidelberg and so on, what are the Christmas markets like there? I’m not confident that I can visit all the Christmas markets this year, but I’m confident that they will make my Christmas this year unforgettable.
The second city I visited mainly for the Christmas markets is in Konstanz. I guess most Swiss people or people who are living in Switzerland know this city for its cheaper price of various products compared to those in Switzerland(because it’s in Germany already) and tax-free shopping. Though it’s already in Germany, considering it’s right at the border and the trains in Switzerland go directly there, I’d like to include it in my list and recommend this amazing market to you.
In this post I’ll focus on the Christmas markets, which includes the opening hours, unmissable attractions, activities, tips, suggestions and etc. I’ll list them in the form of bullet points so that it’s easier and faster for you to read. I’ll attach the photos of specific markets right after the bullet points so that you have a more direct understanding and you can decide whether you are interested or not. The info I provide below is a combination of the info from the SBB website (if available) and my own visiting experience. and I’ll provide a link to the SBB website by the end if you are interested in the RailAway Combined Offer benefits and prices.
After the introduction to the Christmas markets I’ll show you a bit more about the city of Konstanz. (mainly about the cathedral, LAGO shopping centre and the Imperia Statue)
1. Christmas in Konstanz
There are basically two Christmas markets in Konstanz, and they are located at both sides of the train station. You can reach one Christmas market from another through the train station platform tunnel. (please check the plan of the Christmas market stands from the picture below)
1.1 SBB RailAway combined offer for Konstanz Christmas Market
What I’d like to emphasize here is the SBB RailAway combined offer. I bought it and I think it’s super good deal (maybe because it’s in Germany, but it’s worth the money). The offer gives you
- 50% discount (30% within the Ostwind fare network) on the public transport journey to Konstanz and back.
- 50% reduction on a gift bag with gingerbread, snow globe and a Constance magazine.
- 50% reduction on one souvenir cup with mulled wine or punch.
For this offer, you can go from Basel SBB, Bern, Luzerne, and Zürich HB (second class) for 46.6 CHF, 53.6 CHF, 41.6 CHF and 32.6 CHF respectively with Half-price card and 77 CHF, 91 CHF, 67 CHF, 49 CHF without Half-price card. (offer also valid for 1st class)
I went there from Zürich HB, so I’ll take the route from Zürich HB to Konstanz to explain why it’s a good deal. If you have Junior travelcard or GA, you can redeem this offer before traveling for only 16 CHF, which means one souvenir cup with mulled wine or punch, plus a gift bag with gingerbread, snow globe and a Constance magazine cost only 16 CHF. Maybe it’s because Konstanz is in Germany already, but such a price is really attractive after you’ve spent more than a year in Switzerland. Also, this means the train ticket from Zürich HB to Konstanz (round-way) costs only 16.6 CHF (which is almost the lowest price you can get by supersaver tickets with Half-price card).
To redeem your vouchers, you need to go to the “Christbaumschänke” restaurant first, and then you will get one souvenir cup with mulled wine or punch and another two vouchers. After that you need to go to stand H04 for ginger bread and the Ice Bar for the snow globe, the gift bag and the magazine. For more info about where they are located, please read section 1.2 Tips for Konstanz Christmas Market.
For more info such as how long the ticket are valid once you’ve bought them, further reduction, or how to buy and redeem the offers, please click here.
1.2 Tips for Konstanz Christmas Market
- Konstanz Christmas Market is the largest on Lake Konstanz. With more than 170 stands, it extends from the old town to the harbor. The two parts are close connected by the train station tunnel, which provides you easy access to both of them.
- Both markets are just a few minutes away from the Konstanz train station.
- Markets Opening hours: Sunday to Thursday 11 a.m.–8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.– 9.30 p.m., snack and mulled wine stands, daily up to 9.30 p.m.
- The RailAway combined offer is valid from 24th November to 22nd December 2016.
- The first place you should go to redeem your RailAway combined offer voucher is the “Christbaumschänke” restaurant at the town gardens plaza at the lake. As you can see from the Christmas market stands plan picture I attached above, at the most southern square by the lake, there is a big restaurant made up of two floors with a big Christmas tree on top. That’s the “Christbaumschänke” restaurant. You will get a souvenir cup with mulled wine or punch from there and two vouchers for other gifts.
- If you bought the RailAway combined offer, you can keep the mulled wine or punch cup from the “Christbaumschänke” restaurant. Otherwise, you need to pay a deposit for the cup and when you return it to the stands which use the same cups, you will get your deposit back. I guess you can keep the cup if you want it as a souvenir, but then you won’t get your deposit back.
- Don’t forget to redeem your RailAway combined offer voucher for the ginger bread on time (Sunday to Thursday 11 a.m.–8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.– 9.30 p.m) at stand H04. I was quite late and basically after I redeemed my voucher, they closed the booth.
- The last stop you need to go to redeem your RailAway combined offer voucher is the Ice Bar, which is located on the third floor of the Christmas boat on Lake Konstanz.
- One highlight of the Christmas market in Konstanz is the Christmas boat on Lake Konstanz. You can enter for free and on the first floor, there are different stands, on the second floor there is a restaurant and on the third floor, there is an Ice Bar, where you can buy drinks, find a small table, chat with your friends and enjoy a 360 degree panoramic view over Lake Konstanz and the market.
- If you are interested in guided tours of the town in winter time, please click here.
- Winter on the lake. For more info about offers from Lake Constance boat operators, please click here.
2. Pictures of the Markets in Konstanz
2.1 Christmas boat on Lake Konstanz
2.2 Market on the harbor (night)
2.3 Market on the harbor (day)
2.4 Market in old town (night)
2.5 Old town with Christmas lights
2.6 Christmas in shopping mall LAGO
3. Konstanz Minter
If you have some spare time besides visiting the Christmas markets in Konstanz, I’d like to suggest that you should have a walk in the old town, visit the Münster Unserer Lieben Frau (Konstanz Minster) and visit the statue of Imperia.
You can visit the minster, the chapels and the crypt for free. Unfortunately, the minster tower is closed from November, 2016 till March, 2017. You could have climbed this 193-step tower, at the top of which, you will have a wonderful view of the old town, the city as well as the lake. I guess it now has become a motivation for me to come back here in late spring or summer again next year. Anyway, don’t be too disappointed because the minster itself together with the Christmas markets will surely make your visit unforgettable.
Don’t worry if you can’t spare time to visit other attractions in Konstanz. You should always remember that the Christmas markets are the most important during this season! Come and visit Konstanz again for other attractions next spring or summer and I guarantee you a totally different experience.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!