As the days get shorter, the Swiss employ all kinds of ways to bring warmth back into their lives. These Swiss Christmas and New Year’s events in 2022 will help brighten the festive season.
I remember seeing my first illuminations in Japan some 20 years ago. An entire shopping arcade in Kobe was brightly lit with colorful lamps and festive music. In the past few years, Switzerland has caught up. It has graduated from traditional Christmas markets to include more elaborate holiday events.
From Bern to Zurich, there are numerous ways to experience the Christmas season in Switzerland. Some events involve projections and illuminations, while others are based on the tradition of Swiss Santa.
Here is our guide of hand-picked Swiss Christmas and New Year's events. Search it by canton abbreviation:
Zürich ZH: Illuminarium
Nov 10 - Dec 30
Colorful and quirky light projections and food stalls will once again brighten up the outdoor venues of the Swiss National Museum. Named “TurbOlente Weihnachten,” this animated movie for families plays nightly from 5 PM. Starting at 8 PM, the building’s facade switches gears as animations of international studios and a Swiss university are screened.
Meanwhile, there is a food market in the inner courtyard. And those who want to cozy up with friends and colleagues can enter the chalet. The restaurant serves fondue, and even illuminated cocktails. Admission to Illuminarium is free, but you need a ticket to watch the animations.
Zürich ZH: Lighting of the Lucy Christmas Decorations
Nov 24 - Jan 6, 2023
The season's first lighting of the Zürich Christmas decorations is very popular among locals. Every last Thursday of November, locals will grab a cup of mulled wine and meet up along Bahnhofstrasse, the main shopping street.
At 6 PM sharp, the 23’100 energy-saving LED lamps will turn on. Given that the lights change color in a continuous wave, the one-kilometer street becomes a cheerful place for the weeks to come. The “Lucy” lights in Zürich are turned on nightly, and we can recommend viewing them during rain and snow when they reflect off the street. Make a detour onto Rennweg or Neumarkt for yet different atmospheres. More information
Baar ZG: Lichterweg
Nov 25 - Jan 8, 2023
Imagine an enchanted trail lit up by 2000 LED lights. At the foot of the Baarburg hill, the organizers have set up a 1.5-kilometer, one-way trail for all ages: Lichterweg Baar. Start from Kapelle Heiligkreuz and keep a safe distance between groups. (Daily from 5 - 11 PM)
Lenzerheide GR: Magic Forest (Zauberwald)
Dec 16 - Jan 4, 2023
As if Lenzerheide wasn’t magical enough during the holidays, they are bringing back the popular Lenzerheide Magic Forest attraction. This outdoor experience promises full Christmas immersion thanks to light installations, music, food, and a Christmas market.
Appenzell Ausserrhoden AR: Silvesterchlausen Living Tradition
According to the Gregorian calendar, December 31 is considered New Sylvester. On this day, groups of men dressed in traditional costumes will scour the countryside as they visit the farms and towns. You can best witness the fascinating Silvesterchlausen living tradition in the communities of Urnäsch, Schwellbrunn, Herisau, Hundwil, Waldstatt, Stein, and Teufen.
Lausanne VD: New Year’s Eve Concert & Cathedral Illuminations
With its 7000 pipes, the great pipe organ at the Lausanne Cathedral is unique in the world. At 10:30 PM on New Year’s Eve, you can enjoy an organ concert entitled “Fireworks.”
Then, at midnight, participate in the century-old tradition of Embrasement de la Cathédrale. Lausanne residents would gather at the Gothic cathedral every New Year’s Eve shortly before midnight. At the stroke of midnight, the cathedral is illuminated with fires that have been placed on the bell tower’s three stories. Do as the locals do and toast to the New Year with champagne or mulled wine...
Zürich ZH: New Year’s Eve Fireworks Display
Usually, more than 150'000 visitors attend the big New Year's Eve party in Zürich. The highlight of Silvesterzauber event is the impressive fireworks display. Twenty minutes after midnight, a beautiful firework display appears above the lake.
From 2 PM, the lakeside will feature various vendors. Admission to the festival grounds is free of charge. There will be additional late-night connections on public transport.
Klosters GR: New Year’s Day Pig Races (Hotschrennen)
Jan 1, 2022
A pig race in the middle of town! How could we skip this most unique event to kick off the New Year? Every New Year’s Day, Klosters hosts a reception with live music and the Hotschrennen. From 3 to 6 PM, watch the cute hogs with names such as “Speedy” as they cross the finish line...
Luzern LU: Light Festival Lucerne – Lilu
Jan 12 - 22, 2023
A festival at the cold start of the year: with its warm lights, Lucerne's first "Light Festival Lucerne - Lilu" - 12 to 22 January 2023 - is sure to enchant you.
Lucerne transforms into a light-filled wonderland every night from 6 to 10 PM. The fourth edition of the Lilu Light Festival Lucerne features artists from all over the world who exhibit creative light installations. The various squares and alleys in the old town will be artfully illuminated, offering entertainment designed to appeal to all senses.
This Swiss Christmas events guide is frequently updated, but let us know if you encounter any errors or cancellations. The below events have already passed:
Bern BE: Rendez-vous Bundesplatz
Oct 22 - Nov 26
It has become a tradition that light artists illuminate the Swiss Parliament Building in Bern. This year’s colorful light spectacle transports an important message: Planet Hope - Comeback takes us on a journey to the parts of the world where nature is under siege. It will be quite literally amazing to stand on this large square in Bern and watch the rainforest, the Arctic, or a Swiss glacier as they are projected onto the Bundeshaus - sounds included.
Zürich ZH: Zauberpark am Flughafen Zürich
Nov 24 - Dec 11
The Circle park at ZRH airport has a whole bunch of Christmas spirit in store. Zauberpark am Flughafen Zürich activities for children include an interactive music theater and a magician. The dozen light installations along the panoramic trail will surely delight all ages. From animals to a rainbow-colored arch, there are plenty of Instagramable moments.
And for the grownups, the organizers have hired some of the best music acts in Switzerland. The stage offers nightly concerts by acts such as Baschi, Black Sea Dahu, or Lo & Leduc. Admission tickets are 25.90 francs for adults, although ZKB customers and their families receive a five-franc discount.
Zürich ZH: The Singing Christmas Tree
Nov 24 - Dec 23
It would not be advent in Zürich without the Singing Christmas Tree at Werdmühleplatz. Now, if you have never experienced the carols, you might imagine quite literally a singing tree. In reality, the setup is slightly different: every night, different choirs from Switzerland would climb the giant Christmas tree to sing carols. One evening, there might be a kids’ choir while on the next, a choir performing American Christmas songs.
(Photographs copyright Roland Schmid/The Singing Christmas Tree Zürich)
Performances are Mondays through Thursdays at 5:30 PM and 6:30 PM. On Fridays, there is an additional performance at 7:30 PM. And on weekends, choirs will sing at 2:30 PM, 3:30 PM, 5:30 PM, and 6:30 PM.
Lausanne VD: Festival Lumières
Dec 1 - 24
The Festival Lumières is one of Switzerland's largest displays of lights. It celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2022. This year, four of Lausanne’s most iconic buildings and monuments, including the Palais de Rumine, will be lit with elaborate projections.
Each night starting at 6:30 PM, experience how local artists “dress up” these buildings as part of Festival Lumières. Free guided tours in French are available as well.
Luzern LU: St. Niklaus Exodus
We have previously experienced the century-old St. Niklaus Exodus tradition in Luzern. At the stroke of 5 PM, the catholic St. Niklaus will leave the magnificent Hofkirche in Lucerne through the front door and appear on top of the large steps. Surrounded by gnomes and singers, he will address the community and walk through the crowds.
Zürich ZH: St. Niklaus Swimming (Samichlaus-Schwimmen)
Every year, the second-largest winter swimming event in Switzerland attracts hundreds of... Santas! These freeze-proof swimmers will leap into the River Limmat at Pier 7 in order to swim to the Frauenbad at Stadthausquai.
Every four minutes from 1:30 to 2:45 PM, a new batch of Santas will make the 111-meter crossing. While the Samichlaus-Schwimmen event is fun to watch for all ages, the Santas’ entry fees also support charitable causes.
Küssnacht am Rigi SZ: Klausjagen Procession
Here is a St. Nicholaus tradition dating back to the Middle Ages. Klausjagen is one of the most impressive displays of handmade lanterns. Up to 250 of them will light up the night once the town turns dark at 8:15 PM sharp. Amid all of them is St. Nicholaus with his sidekick, Schmutzli. And at the tail of the parade, the actual “Klausjäger” with large bells would follow.
The procession through Küssnacht am Rigi commences at Seebodenstrasse and reaches the Bahnhofstrasse approximately one hour later. Find more information about a later procession at 10 PM on the website.
Unterägeri SZ: Chlauseslä
Chlauseslä is a tradition local to the town of Unterägeri. This impressive Swiss winter tradition dates back to the 16th century. In the afternoon, school kids beg for small gifts by knocking on windows with a sort of hobbyhorse donkey.
But like last year, the organizers have called off the night parade. We still recommend taking a walk through Unterägeri to marvel at the Iffälä lanterns displayed in shop windows. Look at this live map to locate the six Rottä characters as they make their rounds.
Geneva GE: Escalade Festival
Dec 9 - 11
The traditional Fête de l'Escalade is a highlight in Geneva every December. The citywide holiday commemorates an occurrence that took place on the night of December 11 to 12, 1602. Witness Europe's largest historical parade with 840 persons dressed in period costumes.
Kandersteg BE: Pelzmartiga Living Tradition
If you need a thrill on Christmas Day (or on New Year’s Day), head straight to the town of Kandersteg. All kinds of strange fur creatures will be parading through town, with each costume being inspired by a type of danger the locals have faced in the past. The loud and terrifying fur yeti, child eater, or pine man can be seen in the streets and pubs from noon onwards.
Wengen BE: Forest Christmas (Waldweihnacht)
Christmas in the Forest is Wengen's way of spreading holiday cheer. At 4 PM, those who want to take part will start to walk from Eigerhubel to the Flühlenboden forest. Once there, enjoy mulled wine, sing Christmas carols, and participate in English, catholic and protestant sermons.
Bern BE: Santarun Running Event
CANCELLED IN 2022
Once a year, runners of all walks of life will put on a Santa costume and run through the old town of Bern. The Santarun starts at 7:30 PM and is quite an unusual sight for onlookers. Each participant will receive a Santa outfit - or they can wear their own. The sheer mix of runners, including many families, makes this one of those unmissable Swiss Christmas events during advent.
Luzern LU: New Year’s Day Fireworks Display (Neujahrszauber)
CANCELLED IN 2022
Why not start the New Year by skating on Luzern’s ice rink? Admission for Live on Ice is free, and the rink will only be up through January 2.
Then, at 5 PM, lean back in the comfy seats of the KKL concert hall. The New Year’s concert by Luzerner Sinfonieorchester will highlight three music pieces by French composers. You will be traveling to Andalusia in southern Spain before the climactic Organ Symphony will remind you of the present space and time.
After grabbing a bite to eat at one of the many food stalls around the harbor area, find a good spot for the main event. The 15-minute Neujahrszauber fireworks are sponsored by the tourism board and the hotels of Luzern. Could this be hands down the best way to end the first day of 2022?