We just returned yesterday from an incredibly successful xmas markets trip, for which I have many of you to thank for your input. Since I've been up since 3:00am, jet lagged, I'll work this while the info is still fresh. I am a senior woman and I travelled with my mid-thirties daughter. We did carry-on luggage only; four outfits total.
Our trip was 12 nites on the ground, which was 14 days of travel, [including the air travel.] I had Google flight alerts established, so I could track price fluctuations.
I booked hotel rooms in June, which wasn't too early, as a few options were already full, especially the moderately priced options. Most of the hotels through Booking.com do not require pre-payment, and we only wanted hotels with breakfast provided. We choose hotels on the fringe of the major plazas, which was a bit more expensive, but since we ate all of our dinners at the markets, it was the right priority for us. It was really nice to wander the area and markets, go back to the hotel and put our feet up for a rest, then resume wandering.
Maps & Info- many of the xmas market cities are not covered in the RS Guide Books. I looked up maps on-line, but many did not print out legibly. I then emailed the Tourist Info Centers in each of the cities, and received great hard-copy guide books and maps thru the mail, free of charge. It usually took about 2-3 weeks to receive this info.
-In all our cities, the TI was close to the main train station, and the TI's had special xmas market maps.
My daughter used the "MOVE IT" app, for info on public transportation routes in all our cities. It worked beautifully: type in your destination, and the app gave the correct specific bus/tram/train line from your location.
Weather- the early predictions were for 80% rain, every single day of the trip. This didn't materialize, and if it rained, it was short-lived showers, usually in the evenings.
Landed in Zurich, purchased the Swiss Travel Pass, & took a quick train to the main Zurich station, to the largest indoor xmas market in Europe; wandered for an hour, catching the 1st aromas of Gluhwein.
BASEL- an hour train from Zurich - 4 nites at the Hotel Teufelhof in Basel , our base.
We purchased the four-day consecutive Swiss Travel Pass, which covered all OUR [see site for exception] trains, buses, trams, boats, most museums in Switzerland, and the Mt. Rigi cogwheel train to the summit. This was especially nice as we did not need to deal with individual ticket machines for trains, did not have to validate, and could be completely flexible, altering the schedule for weather and weariness. The Swiss transportation system is marvelous in its convenience and efficiency, and Chris F. is an invaluable on-the-ground resource.
From our hotel, we walked to the two major xmas markets in Basel, rode the river ferries, visited the Paper museum [hand-on experience] and the Art Museum [underwhelming.] Gluhwein & food at the Barfusserplatz Xmas Market.
LUZERN- an hour train from Basel to Luzern, quick walk into Luzern from the train station.
We knew xmas markets weren't open yet, but the Saturday Farmer's market was, so we walked the Chapel Bridge/ river area, then took the hour boat ride to the cogwheel train [30 minutes] to the summit of the Mt. Rigi. Altho the day was cloudy on the ground, the 6,000' summit was above the clouds that day, and we had a spectacular experience at the summit: no wind, sunny, quiet, peaceful, fresh snow, and just awesome! And the very organized Swiss transportation system times the ferries to meet the cogwheel train.
BERN- an hour train from Basel to Bern. All markets are an easy walk from the train station. We did a city walking tour, and our favorite market was two blocks straight ahead of the train station, the Berner Sternen Market, which had a small pond with lighted waterfall, which was just beautiful. It was too cloudy to see the Jaugfrau from the park.
To be continued....