During a time of year when most Christmas fans head north to markets in Basel, Strasbourg or Nürnberg, we headed south to Montreux.
Because if there is one place in Switzerland where the holiday season is celebrated with an international touch, Montreux Noël is it. After delving into the Christmas village in Montreux, our conclusion is unanimous: Montreux makes for a fun weekend escape during the holidays.
Montreux Noël offers delights for everyone.
It is no secret that Montreux is a popular hideout among celebrities and politicians from all corners of the world. During our visit, we overheard just as much English as we heard French. Many of the 160 vendors sell artisanal products that would appeal to a broad audience, such as handcrafted Christmas ornaments or funky chocolate made to look like screws and bolts.
Among the culinary delights, there is moité-moité cheese fondue or a variety of meats and sausages. And finally, there is an elf village for the little ones offering souvenir photographs with Santa Claus himself.
Once darkness falls, the Ferris wheel comes to its full potential:
But the real attraction is something which we have never seen anywhere else: A flying Santa Claus, with reindeer and all!
High above the lake, his sleigh will zip by once an hour - pulled by reindeer! Actually, we could not believe our luck, because Santa took Mamiko for a ride in his sleigh... Watch the archived live video if you do not believe us!
We especially liked the floating objects on Lake Geneva. They change color every so often, creating a magical atmosphere:
Rochers-de-Naye is Montreux's own mountain. And during the holiday season, Santa welcomes the little ones to his workshop.
This summit of Rochers-de-Naye can be reached from Montreux by cogwheel train. Up there, visitors can relax on the sundeck before having a cheese fondue. A Mongolian yurt offers space for overnight guests, and Santa will even drop off presents for the kids.
(Photograph copyright Caitlin Krause)
And historic Chillon Castle is just around the corner.
There is a reason why Chillon Castle is the most visited historic building in Switzerland. This fortress at the banks of Lake Geneva has an iconic shape which looks amazing during sunrise or sunset. Every Saturday and Sunday during December, the castle grounds are decked out for the holidays, offering a Medieval fairytale world for families.
(Photograph copyright Montreux Noël)
To make it a perfect Montreux getaway, stay at a romantic lake-side hotel.
Thanks to the renowned Montreux Jazz Festival and the countless gourmet temples along the lake, Montreux has a reputation among those who enjoy a ritzy lifestyle.
We have recently stayed at the Hostellerie Bon Rivage in La Tour-de-Peilz, a historic guest house with three star superior credentials and some of the best lake views. Each stay includes an all-inclusive transportation pass, so it is easy (and free) to reach the Montreux Noël Christmas market.
There is still time to visit Switzerland's holiday capital: Montreux Noël continues through Christmas.