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Switzerland in winter is a snow-filled wonderland perfect for those who love chasing fresh powder on the slopes or cuddling up with a rich cup of Swiss hot chocolate.
On a winter trip to Switzerland, you can expect chilly conditions below freezing, lasting from December through February. Naturally, skiing is a popular activity in Switzerland in the winter, and, as it’s the peak season to visit the country. Ski spots can be very busy; prices tend to increase, so be aware of this and book in advance if possible.
Switzerland’s winter season varies pretty dramatically depending on where you are in the country. In the southern region and cities, like Zurich, average temperatures rarely go below freezing; however, if you journey up to Zermatt in the Alps, the average high for the season is around -5°C.
Snowfall is one of the key reasons that people visit the Swiss Alps in December, January, and February. In January alone in Zermatt, an average of 14 days of snowfall normally aggregates up to 220 mm of snow.
During winter in Lucerne, you can still experience snowfall; however, for the same period, you’d expect around 4 days of snowfall, leaving behind just 160 mm of snow.
|Avg high||4°C (39°F)||2°C (36°F)||6°C (43°F)|
|Avg low||-1°C (30°F)||-2°C (28°F)||-2°C (28°F)|
|Precipitation||70 mm||70 mm||70 mm|
For a more seasonal overview, check out our guide on the best time to visit Switzerland.
Switzerland is stacked with winter adventures. Here are a few reasons why you should tour Switzerland in winter:
- Lower rates in the cities: Although prices are high at resorts in Switzerland in winter, especially in the Alps, accommodation rates in lakeside towns and cities are much lower. It is essentially low season for these areas that normally come alive in the summer months— so snag yourself a deal!
- World-class snowsports: There is a lot of snow in Switzerland in winter. People from all over come to Switzerland in winter for the world-renowned ski resorts. From Grindelwald to Zermatt, all over the Valais region in the Alps, there are amazing places to stay, ski, snowboard, sledd, and explore. Whether you’re a beginner or hitting the black runs, there are plenty of options.
- Christmas markets: Want to get in the festive mood? Head to any number of Swiss towns and cities during December and you’ll be greeted with a typical European Christmas market straight out of a fairytale. Grab a mug of gluhwein, savor the enchanted atmosphere, and get a few unique gifts.
- Winter hiking: A winter hiking tour in Switzerland is not for the faint-hearted, but if you have the skills and the equipment, you’ll find some of the best hiking and climbing routes in the world. Whether you want to take on a legendary route like the Eiger or the Matterhorn or find a less intense trail, the choice is yours!
Switzerland offers a diverse range of activities from affordable lakeside stays to zipping down the slopes in the Alps in winter.
Some of the best places to visit in Switzerland in the winter lie high in the mountains, with plenty of things to do and accommodation on offer.
Up in the Swiss Alps at a dizzying 1,600m elevation, Zermatt is the place to go for winter activities in Switzerland. It’s famous for its alpine chalets, ski resorts, and high-scale dining experiences, so you can definitely treat yourself after a long day on the slopes. Temperatures don’t tend to get above freezing during the winter, but there is plenty of snowfall to keep you skiing or snowboarding all day long. Check out our tours to Zermatt for more information.
Major attractions: Matterhorn Museum, Gornergrat Railway, and Klein Matterhorn Cable Car.
- Some of the best skiing in the world happens around Zermatt in the winter months.
- Zermatt has a bustling and lively apres-ski scene with plenty of entertainment away from the slopes.
- The snow-capped views of the Matterhorn from the Klein Matterhorn Cable Car are bucket-list-worthy.
- As it’s the height of Zermatt’s peak season, it can get seriously busy all around the main spots.
- Ski resort accommodation gets booked up in advance and prices get a lot higher.
2. Grindelwald and the Jungfrau Region
If you’re looking for less of a party vibe, head to the village of Grindelwald in the Bernese Alps for an unforgettable winter getaway with spectacular scenery. It is one of the most cool places to visit in Switzerland. There is excellent skiing in the region but also many other attractions for non-skiers, including the Great Aletsch Glacier and Jungfrau Railways, Europe's highest railway station, both of which can be visited all year round.
Major attractions: The Eiger, Jungfrau Railway, Aletsch Glacier and Sphinx Observatory.
- Grindelwald is home to some of the best ski slopes in the whole of Switzerland, although there is also plenty to see and do even for non-skiers
- The spectacular mountain views and scenery here are second to none.
- In December, there is a charming Christmas market in Grindelwald and also a mulled wine festival in Wengen.
- In Grindelwald, there aren’t as many restaurants and bars as in other resort towns, like Zermatt, so the ones that are around get booked up quickly during peak season.
Want more of a city experience from your winter vacation to Switzerland? Head to the vibrant and historic city of Zurich during winter. You’ll still get all the snow-capped, wintry vibes of the season, but temperatures tend to be a little more forgiving, varying between 4°C and -7°C. With Christmas markets, world-class dining, galleries, shopping, and more, it’s the perfect holiday getaway if you don’t feel like skiing or snowboarding.
Major attractions: Lake Zurich, Limmatquai, and the Swiss National Museum.
- As it's the low season for the lakeside cities, there tend to be fewer tourists during the winter.
- Christmas markets bring the opportunity for festive spirit and unique gifting experiences.
- The slightly warmer temperatures mean that you don’t have to pack quite so many thick and durable layers for your trip to Zurich.
- Many of the lakeside excursions, like boat rides, may be closed for the low season.
There is no shortage of amazing winter destinations in Switzerland. Get your fill for winter sports and city sightseeing during your holiday.
Winter in Switzerland is synonymous with skiing, but there are plenty of other activities to try. Here are our recommended options:
- Snowsports: We can’t talk about the best things to do in Switzerland in winter without mentioning snowsports. From snowshoeing to skiing to snowboarding to sledding and wintry hikes, Switzerland has it all. There are many Swiss destinations for world-class skiing, whether on the slopes, off-piste, backcountry, or cross-country. Popular alpine resorts include Verbier, Saint Moritz, and Adelboden. All of these towns have bars, restaurants, chalets, and shops to keep you stocked up, and you can definitely hire gear and get lessons if you’re just starting out.
- Indulge in Swiss cuisine: There’s nothing more wholesome and warming than coming in from the cold Alpine weather and diving into a big bowl of cheese fondue with your friends. This Swiss specialty is a must-try, as is the lusciously thick and rich hot chocolate.
- Visit museums and galleries: As it’s the low season in the cities, away from the slopes, Winter is a great time to check out Switzerland’s museums and galleries. Spots like the Fine Art Museum in Basel or the Kunsthaus in Zurich are likely to have fewer tourists, so you can avoid the crowds and enjoy the wonderful exhibits in front of you.
Your winter holiday to Switzerland is bound to be amazing with these top choices.
- Bring sunscreen. It sounds backward for the temperatures, but the sun reflects back off the snow and trust us - you’ll want to be protected!
- Try and take one of the iconic railway journeys, such as the Bernese Oberland Railway, during winter. It goes through the mountain landscapes and gives you jaw-dropping views you’ll never forget.
- Fondue is a way of life in Switzerland and the freezing temperatures of winter are the perfect time to indulge in the national favorite.
So, if you love snowsports, festive markets, wintry scenery, and more, it’s well worth checking out Switzerland in winter. With it being peak season in the mountain resorts, you’ll want to book as far in advance as you can to try and snag a deal. If you want a hand in creating a customized trip for Switzerland, our travel experts are here to help!