Lausanne is the second largest city on Lake Geneva, just 40 minutes by train from the Geneva Airport. Designated the “Olympic City, “ by the International Oltmpic Committee, Lausanne is the headquarters of the I.O.C. and home to the Olympic Museum, which has the largest archives of Olympic Games exhibits and documents in the world.
But in December, Lausann’es most popular sport is shopping, as residents and visitors turn out for the annual outdoor Christmas Market, which takes place around St. Francis (Saint Francois) Square, almost under the shadow of the city’s 12-Century gothic cathedral.
The Lausanne Christmas Market
Lausanne’s Christmas market comprises 50 miniature outdoor stands, each built as a miniature traditional Swiss chalet. The stalls sell Swiss souvenirs, with displays of everything from Christmas ornaments to sweaters to jewelry.
Traditional Swiss handicrafts include walking sticks and carvings, hand-knit sweaters, and cuckoo- clocks. Also on offer are contemporary and original designs in crafts, jewelry, and clothing. And, taking off the chill of winter, many hot and hearty foods are available, including seasonal specialties such as roasted chestnuts.
Activities at the Lausanne Christmas Market
Lausanne goes all out for the month of December, with brilliant displays of Christmas lights. Seasonal activities include music performances ranging from traditional chorales to gospel songs to a tableaux vivant (complete with wise men and camels) that shows the nativity scene. 30 minute performances depicting its events of the nativity take place in St. Francois Square on the hour, from 6 till 9 each evening,
Tourists might be lucky enough to hear the newly restored organ at one of the 25 annual concerts that take place in the cathedral. The 7,000-pipe organ is one of the most expensive instruments in the world. The 4.2-million dollar organ was built by C.B. Fisk, a Massachusetts, U.S.A. company, making it the first organ in a major European cathedral to be built by an American company. The organ was unveiled in 2003 in time to mark the 200th anniversary of the Swiss state of Vaud joining the Swiss Confederation. In December, special holiday concerts will be held on Christmas evening and New Year’s Eve.
On a lighter note, Father Christmas and his donkey visit Lausanne on December 6, St. Nicholas Day, in the afternoon.
Practicalities of visiting the Lausanne Christmas Market
- Dates: Last week of November 27 through December 24.
- Train station: About 40 minutes from Geneva.
- The train station is an easy walk from the markets, the main shopping district, and the cathedral.
The Lausanne Christmas market blends holiday festivities and shopping with easy access to Geneva and Montreux, as well as cultural and musical events. This medium sized Swiss city is big enough to be interesting, and small enough to be manageable.