Posted on 17 January 2022
Magic comes to winter in Switzerland. Boasting fantastic cities and the beautiful Swiss Alps, this winter wonderland offers many things to do and places to go. Let’s not forget delectable regional cuisines and chocolate. While people visit places in summer for hiking trails and green rolling plateaus, winter is about much more, including snow-covered mountains, and the best skiing opportunities, alongside those city breaks and culinary journeys.
Outside ski resorts, tourist places attract fewer crowds and getting to non-skiing destinations during winter offers up cheaper flight tickets. In addition, Switzerland offers exceptional transport services, so getting around for independent travellers is easy and quick. So, let’s look at what to know about visiting Switzerland this season.
Guide to Winter in Switzerland
1: Winter Temperatures in Switzerland
Expect snow and cold temperatures, but these delights make Switzerland, a global winter destination. Average bottom temperatures throughout winter range from 6 to 16 Fahrenheit. December is the snowiest month, and both December and January see the lowest temperatures. From November to late March, Switzerland’s winter season sees ski resorts at higher altitudes open as early as October and extend their season through to April. So, to experience the best of winter, visit from January through to March.
2: What to Pack and Wear in Switzerland
Pack winter layers from thermal underwear to shirts, sweaters, jackets, scarves, hats, and gloves. Also pack waterproof boots or shoes with good sole grips for snowy winter weather. If you plan to visit ski resorts, but don’t own any gear, check beforehand to see shops renting equipment out daily.
3: The Best Skiing Resorts in Switzerland
Winter in Zermatt: This Swiss alp town screams beautiful landscapes that make perfect winter postcards. The Matterhorn glacier, well-known in skiing circles, takes your breath away. Europe’s highest cable car takes passengers up to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise featuring bars, and restaurants. Zermatt’s offers 360 kilometres of unrivalled runs, and during winter, local shops sell helicopter trips to see Matterhorn from up high. As Switzerland’s highest ski resort, Zermatt offers cable cars to give skiers and snowboarders easy ways to get around to the best landscape views and skiing opportunities. Zermatt turns into picture-perfect winter postcard scenes at night.
Saint Moritz: At 5,905 feet, St Moritz became internationally renowned for hosting the 1928 winter Olympics. Visit Diavolezza for the best holiday photos and Moritz and Staz lakes. Several tour operators also offer snow sports like cross-country skiing, winter walking, snowshoeing, guided hikes, and snowmobiles, but expect an excellent nightlife scene in abundance. From here, take the famous glacier route train journey for even more Swiss winter treats.
The Best of Davos: Normally associated with the world economic forum, Davos features Switzerland’s best skiing resorts, and skiers flock for more than 125 miles of slopes and terrains. In winter, other reasons to visit Davos are stylish après ski, multiple ski resorts, and the place accommodates everyone from beginner to experienced and off-piste skiers. Often used by professionals and open to beginners, Davos boasts of Europe’s largest natural ice rink covering a staggering 18,000 square meters. Alongside winter sports, expect the best in dining. Family-friendly Davos Klosters also features children’s activities, like exciting family sleigh rides.
Places in Jungfrau: Often called Europe’s best peak, the Jungfrau region is another hot spot during winter. Grindelwald-first attracts enthusiastic skiers alongside lakes and ski runs, while Trummelbacj boasts impressive glacier waterfalls carrying a staggering 20,000 litres of water every second. Many people say Jungfrau is Switzerland’s best place to visit in winter because of attractions like Aletsch glacier and Jungfrau, Monch, and Eiger mountains. In addition, Jungfrau is home to Switzerland’s highest train station and easily reached via Zurich airport.
Beautiful Verbier: In Valais Alps’s, overlooking Combins and Mont-Blanc ranges, Verbier benefits from excellent views and generous sunshine during winter. Verbier, part of Switzerland’s French-speaking region, is close to France and Italy’s borders and 4 Valleys ski area. With the best views of Matterhorn and Mont Blanc trails on Mont Fort Glacier. Mont Gelé offers off-piste ski areas and southern nature reserves and waterfalls cascading into Mauvoisin Lake. More About Verbier.
Winter in Flims Waldhaus: Charming Flims Waldhaus joins Switzerland’s most prominent winter sports places with 220 kilometres of pistes covering 100 square kilometres. This beautiful winter mountain resort promotes traditional Alpine village charm as Swiss chalets line main streets and new residences blend into backdrop views discreetly. Upmarket Klosters, a favourite of wealthy celebrities, is within 60 minutes drive. (Find out more here.)
Crans Montana: A white wonderland awaits skiers who visit Crans Montana. Expect picturesque views of Valais Alps and Weisshorn, which means white peak/mountain. In 2017, Chermignon, Mollen’s, Montana and Randogne merged to form this new ski centre. The skiing area boasts 125 kilometres of pistes, including Plaine Morte Glacier, and is two hours from Geneva and Zurich Airports. Find out about Crans Montana.
4: Other Places in Switzerland to Visit in Winter
Lucerne: This German-speaking part features another clear water lake and landscape mountain views. The old town perfectly displays Switzerland’s cultural heritage, and the Transport Museum gives excellent insight into Switzerland’s aviation, train, and car industries. Mineralbad thermal baths overlooking Lake Lucerne, offer indoor and outdoor pools. Lucerne is a great place to visit in winter because fewer crowds enhance experiences. With snow-capped mountain views, visit Chapel Bridge and Mount Pilatus, then reach Mount Rigi by train.
Zurich: As Switzerland’s most prominent and wealthiest city, don’t get confused with the German language. Start exploration in the traffic-free, old town district with numerous historical buildings. Also, visit Uetliberg mountain with fantastic city views from 2847 feet above sea level. Meanwhile, outskirt regions attract visitors with ice skating on Katzensee natural lake.
Gruyeres: This medieval Swiss town attracts visitors with a 13th-century castle and museum informing visitors about Switzerland’s historical past. For more local insights, stop by the Giger Museum displaying exhibitions detailing the region’s history and best art collection. While in Gruyeres, taste their renowned cheese.
Geneva: If flying into Geneva airport, stay overnight to explore this prominent Swiss city. Museums like Musee d’ Art et d’Histoire hold exhibitions about prehistorical cultures. Several Christmas fairs like Rue du Mont-Blanc, which runs from November to January, sell traditional mulled wine. In addition, Geneva holds the annual Coupe de Noel on the Sunday before Christmas, which sees swimmers dive into Lake Geneva wearing fancy dress. Geneva is near Jura Mountain ski resorts to combine city breaks with Swiss Alps experiences.
5: Best Things to Do in Winter
Glacier Express Train Journey: Train travel is popular to get around and see the best landscapes. The 180-mile Glacier winter Express from Zermatt to St Moritz takes eight hours, crosses 290 bridges, and you can book tickets via Gotthard or Rhatische Bahn, who operate daily trips. While onboard, enjoy sumptuous food while admiring fantastic winter views. If you enjoy train journeys, complete Bernia Express between Chur and Tirano.
Ice Skating: Popular in winter, visitors enjoy skating on Switzerland’s beautiful frozen lakes like Lac des Rousses, Lac de Joux, and Lac des Tailleres in Brevine. The Jura region offers many choices, as do Davos and Zurich mentioned above.
Winter Thermal Baths in Switzerland: This suggestion typically sees people raise their eyebrows, yet Switzerland’s best off-slope winter activity features thermal pools at 40 degrees with good health benefits. Termali Salini on Lake Locarno and Leukerbad-Therme, the alps largest spa have esteemed reputations.
Dog Sledding: To join off-slope activities in winter, families, groups, and solo travellers always enjoy dog sledging. Sign up for short tours or book longer excursions and learn to operate the sleigh yourself.
An Amazing Restaurant: Switzerland features the famous Piz Gloria in Murren, the world’s highest revolving mountain restaurant at 2,970 metres. Sitting in the Bernese Oberkand region and reached by cable car, the name originates from a James Bond novel called on “Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”
Balloon Festival: Chateau d’Oex holds the best nine-day balloon winter festival every January, and global teams travel to take part. Imagine hot air balloons amongst Switzerland’s finest mountain peaks, where you can book trips yourself. If you stay in Zurich, Chateau d’Oex is only three hours’ drive away.
Lake Geneva and Chateau De Chillion: The 12th century Chateau de Chillion offers inspirational vibes for artists and writers, while tourists go to see the chapel, underground rooms, and artworks. The Chateau sits on Lake Geneva’s magical shores, and local operators sell guided adventure tours in winter to admire the beautiful scenery.
Paragliding in Switzerland: As well as skiing, Switzerland does paragliding with excellent style. Pump up the adrenaline by shooting off mountain sides to see the best scenery from a bird’s eye view. Grindelwald is the best place to book tandem paragliding rides with an experienced instructor.
Interlaken Sports: This Swiss region features excellent paragliding trips and ice climbing experiences. You may think you need to be an expert, but knowledgeable mountain guides give safety briefing before heading out to explore fantastic scenery in an alternative but unique way.
Titlis Cliff Walk: The 100-metre long and 1-meter-wide suspension bridge, Europe’s tallest, stands at 500 meters above the ground. To get there, take a gondola ride up Mount Titlis, then walk through a glacier cave to reach the viewing platform. After the bridge, descend from the Ice flyer chairlift station on the other side.
6: Chocolate, Cheese and Fondue in Switzerland
Take time out to indulge in Switzerland’s national culinary delights. Fondue is about more than indulging in melted cheese on crusty bread and comes with cultural etiquette worth knowing. Great chocolatiers offer free tastings of Switzerland’s famous chocolate in many places. Drop by Maison Cailler chocolate factory in Broc or create your version in Bilten’s Laderach factory. When shopping in local Swiss delicatessens and eating in restaurants, sample great cheeses of Alpine Switzerland that keep you coming back for more.
7: The Best Christmas Markets in Switzerland
Last in our travel guide to winter in Switzerland is excellent fairs with festive sounds, decorations, and cinnamon smells. These include Christkindli in Zurich, Europe’s largest indoor market, and Basel turns their main square into an artisan fest with locals selling food, gifts, handicrafts, and art. Geneva features several fairs, but a fun one is Chateau de Chillon castle’s medieval fair in Montreux. At the same time, Luganos’ Christmas fair opens from November to January. Otherwise, Rapperswil’s Christmas fair is one of Switzerland’s best, and while there, visit the majestic castle, the region’s top visited attraction. More about Christmas markets in Switzerland.