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Holidays & Customs

A unique tour of Zurich for the holidays

Tour of the senses & the thousand lights and hundred Christmas trees

Do you wish you knew more about Zurich and its traditions? What about a visit of the most exciting Swiss city during the Christmas season?

I participated last week in a guided tour organized by the Zurich Tourist Office and learnt more than I would have ever imagined.

Bahnhofstrasse with Lucy by night, Zurich

Bahnhofstrasse with Lucy by night, Zurich

Our guide, a dynamic and friendly lady, was Daniela Strobel, working as well as Operation Manager for the press. She said at the end it was her first Christmas guided tour of Zurich. One would have never known if she had not mentioned it. Daniela knew her topic well and made it so interesting you wished the tour would have never ended!

You could see she loves her city and history.

She led us during the most busy time of the day and the year though downtown Zurich!

It could not have started better with the Märlitram driving by as we entered the Bahnhofstrasse. You may have noticed it or probably will during your time in Zurich. It is a colorful tram driven by Santa Claus himself during the holiday season and sponsored by the department store Jelmoli. The particularity is that there are angels in the tram!

For two hours we heard her counting fascinating anecdotes and legends. She shared her knowledge about Christmas traditions. Of course we learnt about the well-known 49 feet (15 m) high Swarovski tree, which has been in the main train station at Christmas’time for 18 years and the Bahnhofstrasse lights known as Lucy.

Swarovski tree in the main train station Christmas market in Zurich

Swarovski tree in the main train station Christmas market in Zurich

The tour started at the main train station’s Christmas market and ended a few meters from the Singing Tree.

We managed to leave the crowd and found secret spots for beautiful views. We walked along the Limmat and via tiny streets, known as Gässchen, in the old city. We passed amazing deco and flower shops such as Urs Bergmann Florist, Blumen Schipfe & Blumen Fitze,  all lit up. We stopped by famous conditoreis and cafés such as the 170 years old Café Schober and looked at the Christmas windows of the chocolate store Teuscher.

Not only we saw lots during the tour but be had the opportunity to smell spices such as cinnamon, coffee, glühwein (spiced wine) and fresh cut Christmas trees.

Shop window of Café Schober in Zurich

Shop window of Café Schober in Zurich

I had never seen as many trees starting with the 35 years old fist in the main train station and ending with another traditional tree in Zurich, the Singing Tree. Each night at 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 .m. a different choir comes and sings carols. Some of the singers sit in a decorated tree. This wonderful Zurich activity has been there since 1998.

It seemed everyone had a tree, mostly minis inside the shop windows or outside decorated with bows or lights. At major squares there were large trees, planted for the occasion. Some trees in one street around the Limmat are sponsored by the city of Zurich and Lindt donates 264 lbs (120 kg) of chocolate to the shop owners who are allowed to put chocolate on the trees once a day!

You may have seen the tree at the Hotel Restaurant zum Storchen but there are many others, all more beautiful than others.

Christmas tree at Zum Storchen Hotel-Restaurant in Zurich

Christmas tree at Zum Storchen Hotel-Restaurant in Zurich

Out of the 1 Million Christmas trees which are sold in the country each year, only 300,000 come out of Switzerland.

During the tour we also did some tasting, but of what you may wonder? First of the chocolate the lucky ones of us found on the branches of the Christmas trees. Then, we drunk a warm punsch near the river. My drink was made with some elderflower syrup and water. Delicious!

Anybody from Zurich knows about Tirggel, the hard honey biscuit! I knew Tirggel and love it but what I did not know was that in the olden days men used to bring back Tirggel biscuits to their wives on the way back from the cafés. The men felt guilty about staying too long. The next day all the women chatted about who got the biggest Tirggel!

Zurich shop window for Christmas

Zurich shop window for Christmas


Tirggels have beautiful designs and scripts on them. To eat them you have to cut a piece and let it melt in your mouth if you don’t want to end up at the dentist for the Christmas holidays. The cookie is cooked for 1 minute at 662 F (350 C). Daniela explained to know if your Tirggel has a good quality it has to be white in the back and brown on the top.

Did you know that the first Advent calendar is almost 100 years old? It came out for the first time in 1904. However the calendar as we know it today with windows was only introduced in 1920. Chocolate came much later in 1960! You can open the first window of your advent calendar on December 1st but you can burn the first candle of advent the first Sunday of Advent.

We looked and marveled at the many lights during our walk; so many indeed. First on the Bahnhofstrasse and in other streets like Rennweg and in the old city. Lucy was turned on last week on November 24th at 6:00 p.m. While it is only the second year that the new light display exists, the main shopping street in Zurich has been lit up for the last 40 years. It takes the name of the 1967 Beatles song “Lucy in the sky”. Every night when it becomes dark and until January 2nd you can admire the 12,000 stars in the sky and the 23,000 LED lamps.

So if this sounds interesting to you, don’t wait any longer and sign up for your Christmas guided tour at the Zurich tourist office.

You will soon find out why angels travel for free in the Märli tram!

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  1. Laville Michèle

    Très intéressant et enchanteresse ces jolies histoires de Noël, nous apprenons plein de belles choses et à s’émerveiller devant ces sapins habillés de lumière, les vitrines colorées et les chocolats ! que de regards vont briller…..c’est un beau moment de l’année.

  2. Véronique Post author

    Merci Michèle. Le tour à Zurich montre vraiment de belles choses. La période des fètes passe trop vite.

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