SARL Peak Transfer
44a Chemin du Lai
Chamonix Mt Blanc
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Everyone loves a Christmas market, aka. Christkindlmarkt, perhaps a Marché de Noël, or even a Weihnachtsmarkt. Whatever you like to call it I think they are great (albeit a very biased perspective). I wouldn’t say that I am obsessed particularly with Christmas itself but I am a self confessed Christmas Market ‘Junkie’. Every year I sample a new delightful Christmas themed street market for Advent. I mean who doesn’t love strolling through bustling beautiful snow capped wooden huts full of homemade delicious treats, stunning decorations and beautiful gifts. Embracing the jolly atmosphere and festive ambience with others wavering between sensational scents of regional specialities, perfumed auras, and spices. Suddenly you are hit by a fragrant cocktail of cinnamon, fruit and spiced wine that can only mean one thing… a warming mug of Glühwein / Vin Chaud / Glögg / Mulled Wine (depending where in Europe you find yourself)….. Bliss!
Last year having recently moved to the Chamonix Valley it would have been rude not to sample some local festive Christmas markets, two of which come highly recommended as an absolute ‘must’. These are Annecy, arguably the French’s best Christmas Market and Montreux a Swiss town renowned for its exclusive Geneva lakeside spot against a mountainous backdrop and famous Jazz festival. Last December I managed to convince some of the Peak Transfer team to embark on a small (~90 minute) road trip from the Chamonix Valley over the Col des Montets into Switzerland to see what all the fuss was about in Monteux.
Montreux has a touch of class and sophistication to it and is a great town to visit no matter what season. Located on the stunning shores of sparkling Lake Geneva climbing up to the dizzy height of the sensational Swiss and French Alpine Mountain resorts there is something rather ‘Monaco-esque’ about the town. This dramatic scenery and ambience mixed with Montreux’s beautifully embedded diverse culture has been the source of inspiration of many writers and artists including Charlie Chaplin and Freddie Mercury. Proudly made evident with a striking commemorative statue in tribute. But I digress, you are here wanting to find out about Montreux’s Christmas market, rated as one of the most beautiful in Switzerland. So here goes…
Well our road trip was pretty hassle free arriving around lunch time on a nippy December Saturday by finding central underground parking for what seemed surprisingly cheap for Switzerland, and even more so proximity to Geneva. Although the parking situation looked to get pretty interesting shortly after with what seemed like miles of queues by early afternoon searching for a space. There are plenty of restaurants, cafes and bars to choose from down the many cobbled side streets spurting in all different directions but we (okay I) decided to stick the the main market area. Aisles of wooden cabins lined the lakeside boulevard, brimmed with advent treasures and trinkets and such festive spirit it’s hard not to be sucked in, even if your a bit of a Bar Humbug!
We sampled swiss chocolate, devoured pastries and refuelled with tartiflette, sausages and sweets. We had the opportunity to make our own candles and christmas decorations, admire the boutique shops (window shopping only unfortunately) and of course drink delightful amounts of Vin Chaud. As daylight gently surrenders to dusk and then to night, Montreux starts to sparkle. Each little cabin, boutique and restaurant glowing with lights, which gave me get that warm Christmassy feeling despite the blisteringly cold alpine temperatures outside, or perhaps that was the Vin Chaud?
Due to being such a huge success in recent years Montreux Christmas festivities have spread to the local town of Caux in the Mountains above Montreux. Children can ride the Santa Claus train, take a tour of his workshop and visit the man himself in his grotto atop the Rochers de Naye at an altitude of 2042 metres. The family will enjoy playing with animals and elves or taking part in the pop up children’s entertainment and games throughout the day including face-painting sessions, treasure hunts and other surprises! Okay I can’t speak from my own experience as by this time I had completely pushed my luck with the team and it might look at bit weird, a sole grown up (in body rather than spirit) female wanting to sit on Santa’s lap in the grotto. But if you are thinking of visiting Montreux Christmas markets with your family there is plenty to keep your little ones entertained throughout the day.
After admiring the huge Christmas tree and our last course of food having settled we jumped on the Ferris Wheel at the centre of the Noël Market Village. An experience highly recommended with views overlooking Lac Léman towards Geneva or up to the surrounding alpine peaks. We continued to stumble from one illuminated small chalet to another selling anything and everything one could want for Christmas. Hand-made ornaments, Jewelry, Cheese, Vin Chaud (this seems to be a recurring theme doesn’t it), Crepes, etc. Some of the craftsmanship displayed is awe inspiring. One particular highlight was watching a talented glass blower make spectacular vases, unique wine glasses, ornaments, baubles and tree decorations from plain tubes of glass in elaborate ‘showman’ confidence as many crowded in to watch.
All of a sudden the lakeside promenade stalls seem to quieten slightly before the sounds of a carnival start to make themselves known. This is by no means a normal christmas parade, unless a 50-piece brass band dressed as psychedelic christmas trees, can-canning to time is normal. One of the many fractions presenting themselves one by one to the surrounding crowds. After the conclusion of the parade it’s starting to get late and families wrapped up warm have long since retired and been replaced with groups of friends and couples spending a sociable evening in one of the many outdoor bars, chatting around roaring open fires for warmth… a truly idyllic memorable moment.
If you are in a nearby resort or city and have the time or inclination to visit Montreux at any time of the year, you will not regret it. The Montreux Christmas Market features over 150 mini chalets stalls presenting unique and traditional Christmas, crafts, tastings and gift ideas as well as excellent live performances making it a superb market in my eyes. Running from the 20th of November until Christmas Eve it’s warm festive atmosphere and attention grabbing entertainment is hard to beat.
To find out more about Montreux and its Marché de Noël take a look at their website here or more reviews at www.travelita.ch. This year I have already bent the Peak Transfer team’s ‘rubber’ arm to visit Annecy’s Christmas Market, so keep an eye out for that review. At approximately an hour away from the Chamonix Valley and after having such a great time last year, this was not too hard!
Are you planning a holiday to the French, Swiss or Italian Alps this winter? Why not get a quick and easy immediate quote from Peak Transfer to ensure your holiday starts and finishes stress and hassle free with our reliable, high quality door-to-door private transfers. To find out more or get quote visit our website here or give our team a call. We look forward to seeing you all on the slopes this winter!