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Merry market in Montreux

Carols fill the air at many of the Swiss Christmas markets

(Keystone)

Christmas lights and decorations liven up the shortest days of the year in towns and cities across Switzerland. One of the merriest events is the Christmas market in Montreux.

From December 7 to 24, the resort on Lake Geneva takes on a warm winter glow. Crafts and Christmas decorations are sold from little wooden chalets that take over the town's streets and quays.

Choirs and orchestras fill the air with traditional Christmas music. They're joined by conjurors and other performers who help make the atmosphere even more magical.

Children are drawn to the life-size Nativity scene in the covered market. Santa Claus also makes an appearance. He was so impressed by Montreux's effort last year that he paid two visits, arriving once by boat and the second time by helicopter.

Visitors may also have the chance to rub shoulders with some of the celebrities who have made their homes on Lake Geneva's shores, and who also find it difficult to resist the Christmas attraction.

Elsewhere in Switzerland, Christmas markets have already opened or will open shortly. There are two in Bern - the most atmospheric takes over the beautiful square in front of the Cathedral. It runs until December 23.

The Stockalper castle in Brig in canton Valais provides a medieval setting for the town's market, which is held from December 14 to 17. Christmas with an Italian touch can be found at the market in Bellinzona, which is a one-day event on December 10.

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