Stretching for 1 km along the shores of Lac Leman is the vibrant and enchanting Montreux Christmas market. I have wanted to visit Montreux since we moved to the Portes du Soleil. The Swiss Riviera is well known for its stunning lakeside location and annual Jazz festival in the summer. Each winter it hosts a beautiful Christmas market. Picturesque wooden chalets are nestled along the bank of the lake offering all sorts of artisan gifts and decorations. There is a huge range of food and drink, activities for children and things to see and do.
Santa at the Rocher De Naye
As well as visiting the market, we were keen to visit Father Christmas as part of our trip. To see the big man booking is essential. You apply online, select your preferred dates and times and then receive an email to confirm if you have been successful with your booking! We chose to go on a Wednesday and this worked perfectly. I had read that the market is very busy at the weekends and the thought of navigating a pushchair through hoards of people was not appealing.
On arrival in Montreux we headed to park at the station. With our train tickets we were given a reduction on parking fees. The whole day only cost us 8 euros! Do note however, that parking in Montreux is restricted at the weekends due to the popularity of the market and therefore the volume of traffic. Alternative options on public transport and park and rides are made available.
The Cogwheel train up the Rocher de Naye
We collected our tickets and then jumped on to a little cogwheel train which took us up the Rocher de Naye which sits at an elevation of 2021m. The journey to the top took 55 minutes which may seem long with young children but the scenery was picturesque and the views were absolutely stunning. As we climbed higher and the landscape became a beautiful white winter wonderland, the journey to see Father Christmas became more and more authentic.
Once off the train, we walked down a very very long dark tunnel adorned with flashing fairy lights. Half way down there was a moving display of polar bears to admire and then we continued along the tunnel, until suddenly we entered a room in which sat Santa Claus. Santa was a formidable man and extremely friendly. He had a chat with the girls and posed for a photo. To purchase the photo was about 16 CHF which we felt was quite a lot but we were able to take our own pictures. He gave the girls a certificate which they then took to his office to have stamped. They were also given a gift bag which contained a chocolate Santa, a badge, an apple, an orange and a small cuddly toy.
The girls then had a treasure hunt to complete. They had to have a card stamped in Santas study, his bedroom and find his rabbits! Once completed, they were then given another small gift which included something that they had always wanted…..a pooping cow keyring! The whole experience took just under an hour and then we caught a train back down to Montreux. It was the best Santa experience that I have ever seen / done!
Once off the train, we left our car parked at the station and headed down to the Christmas market. This was only a 5 minute walk down to the lakeside.
Montreux Christmas Market
There are around 172 exhibitors spread along the lakeside in wooden huts and chalets. Hundreds of different culinary delights are on offer from fondues and raclettes, to pastries and sweets. There is so much variety, with every vendor offering something different and unique. Care had clearly been taken in selecting the vendors so the same wears weren’t reproduced time and time again.
Each year the market also invites a ‘guest of honour’. This is a country that has a small themed area in the market offering typical food, drink and gifts to represent them. This year it was Russia.
At the top end of the market is the big wheel which stands towering over Freddie Mercury! The big wheel cost 7 CHF for adults and children 6 years up and 4 CHF for children under 6. However, for that price you got to ride round the wheel many times, with some spectacular views at the top.
The area beneath the big wheel, the Place du Marché is the Elves Square. This is a little village for family’s and children. Here there were crafts on offer – some for free, others with a small charge. There is a chocolate making workshop, candle making crafts and a chalet for drawing and design. There is also a ‘pedal power’ tent where you ride a static bike to light up the Christmas trees.
Our oldest chose the chocolate making workshop (no surprises there) which cost 10 CHF. She was given a solid conical chocolate which she then decorated with artisan chocolate pieces, stuck on with melted chocolate from a large fondu.
Make a Wish
Next to the big wheel is an undercover market. Towards the back you can find a wish tree – well more like wishing trees, a wishing chalet and wishing hanging branches! People had hung their desires all over the place. There were thousands of wishes and it was great fun to read peoples requests in all different languages. There was everything from wishes to swim with dolphins and to live with Peppa pig to football teams taking trophies! My oldest daughter wished for some loom bands and I wished for my youngest to learn to sleep through the night!
The absolute highlight of Montreux Christmas market is Santa in his sleigh. We watched him fly at twilight, just as the sun was setting. He stopped his sleigh overhead and sang to the crowds. The children were in awe. It really was magical.
The flight takes place over the lake, between the Lumberjack Village and the Place du Marché. Be sure not to miss this when you visit!
Throughout the market there is plenty to keep young children entertained. There are a couple of play areas, merry-go-rounds, balloon artists and lots of beautiful decorations to see.
I would highly recommend a visit to Montreux Christmas market for anyone in the area. To visit Santa, for a family of 4, the cost was 97 CHF. Our youngest, being under 6 was free. Although this was rather pricey, it was a fantastic experience and I would do it again. There is an offer of a reduced rate on Thursdays. The market runs from late November up until Christmas Eve. Although this may be too late for you this year, get it in the diary for next year and you won’t be disappointed. I only fear, that having now visited Montruex Christmas market, it will be a hard task finding another nearby Christmas market that lives up to my expectations!
Top tips for visiting Montreux Christmas Market
- Visit on a weekday if you can. This makes parking a lot easier and helps to avoid the crowds.
- If you wish to visit Santa and your schedule is flexible, check on the website to see if there is a weekday offer.
- If you visit Santa with young children, take a picnic to have on the train. There is a restaurant at the top, but snacking on the train helped to pass time on the journey down.
- If you visit Santa and manage to park at the station, make sure to get your parking ticket stamped when you collect your train tickets to give you a reduction on the parking charges. Parking does fill up quickly so pick a fairly early time to go. We booked at 10:17am train to see him and this worked perfectly.
- Most places at the market accepted cards, however some were cash only. Both CHF and euros are accepted, but change was always given in CHF.