“If I’m going to go all that way, I want to see some bloody snow!” ~ Alyse.
When the opportunity arose for me to spend 3 weeks in Europe during the month of March a few years ago, my initial thought as an Aussie was “SNOW.” I knew there would be loads of reasons to visit Switzerland in winter – even as a non-skier – so I figured why not go back and create awesome memories to rival the ones I made there during the summer a few years prior?
Little did I know Switzerland was about to take my breath away in a way that hadn’t been done before.
Turns out, the end of winter was the PERFECT time to visit Switzerland, even though I didn’t ski during the trip. I discovered quite a few benefits to visiting during the colder months… Please allow me to convince you why you need to visit Switzerland in winter, too!
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Why visit Switzerland in winter?
Here’s 9 inspiring reasons why you should definitely consider a visit to Switzerland in winter:
#1 Less tourists
While many people choose to visit Switzerland in winter for skiing, you’ll find these folk are doing just that. This frees up the main cities and leaves them less crowded for you to explore in an enjoyable, relaxed way. Less crowding on the intercity trains for day trips is another massive win, too!
You’ll be able to marvel at the gorgeous painted façades of buildings in the Old Towns without having loads of people unintentionally photobombing your snaps. Be sure to hunt down these postcard-worthy structures in Lucerne that date back to the Middle Ages:
#2 Great hotel deals, especially after New Years and before Easter
As always, I wanted my accommodation to be right in the heart of the city centres I was going to visit. Staying during the off-season after New Years and before Easter meant there were quite a few great hotel deals to snap up. This wasn’t exclusive to Switzerland, either (find out why March is the best month to visit Paris here). As an example, in Lucerne for the same cost as my usual accommodation budget I scored an awesome deal that meant I could lap up the benefits of staying in 4* hotel with private balcony overlooking the stunning Reuss River. What an absolute treat that was! However, if I were to have stayed there during summer the price would have been more than double.
TIP: I can highly recommend staying in Hotel des Balances, Lucerne if you decide to visit Switzerland in winter.
Read reviews and compare prices with other Lucerne hotels here.
#3 Vibrant Zürich will brighten any gloomy day
I mean, how could you not be in a good mood whilst seeing these colourful structures lining Augustinergasse in the Old Town? This vivid street was once home to medieval artisans in the 17th century and the store owners competed with each other for the best façade. The intricate wood carvings and bright colours adorning the stores make it a popular street to visit in Zürich, but thankfully during winter it isn’t too crowded. Don’t forget your camera!
Another colourful sight is the view over Zürich from Lindenhof. Perched high up on a hill, this area was once home to a Roman castle in the 4th century and the outlook over the town cannot be beaten. The Old Town, Grossmünster Church, University of Zürich, City Hall and the Limmat River are all visible from this tranquil location and you can even try your hand at chess on one of the life-sized boards incorporated into the grounds.
#4 Mt Pilatus is absolutely breathtaking
During my first summer trip to Europe 9 years ago I was fortunate enough to have stayed at Pilatus Kulm, an old hotel with an observation area at the summit of Mt Pilatus, Lucerne. It was such a wonderful experience waking up on top of the Swiss Alps and hearing the soft ring of cowbells float through the crisp mountain air. But let me tell you, this place is even more incredible during the winter! Never have I been anywhere where the weather around me changed so rapidly.
Although the clouds were grey and ominous I decided to head up the gondola to Mt Pilatus anyway, knowing there would be a bit of snow to see up there. There was more than just a BIT and panoramic views of the surrounding scenery were incredible!
The sun decided to finally come out whilst I was at the summit and my breath was taken away by how beautiful (and different!) everything appeared around me in the winter. You could say this Aussie was happy as a pig in poo to be able to experience snow on top of the Swiss Alps! 🐷 It was one of my most memorable travel experiences to date.
Getting there: Catch a bus to Kriens (15mins from Lucerne) to the base of the gondola. Purchase your ticket (cost CHF 72.00 round-trip) and take the gondola up to Mt Pilatus. Dining options are available at the summit as well as a gift shop and views to stay with you forever!
#5 Zermatt is a sight to behold
Boasting sunshine 62% of the year, Zermatt is not to be missed if you visit Switzerland in winter. The “Sunniest Corner” of the country creates perfect conditions for those who ski and the surrounding Alps are a magnificent backdrop to be enjoyed by anyone, especially from the Gornergrat lookout. I was greeted with absolutely perfect weather during my visit and my heart did a little happy dance when I first laid my eyes on the Matterhorn! Its pyramid shape makes it the most photographed mountain in all of Switzerland (and some would argue, the world).
The town itself is a fairytale winter wonderland with its boutiques, wooden ski lodges and high-pitched roofs layered with snow, resembling icing on a cake. It’s a truly magical place!
Getting there: Zermatt is an easy day trip from Bern, a picturesque 2-hour journey each way with SBB rail. Ticket prices vary depending on the type of Swiss rail pass you have, if you decide to purchase one. An adult one-way ticket is CHF 45.50 with the Half-Fare Travel Card.
#6 Bern has medieval arcades to shield you from wind or snow
With origins dating back as early as the 12th century, the entire Old Town of Bern is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of Europe’s most underrated capital cities (in my opinion). The enchanting medieval architecture is wonderfully preserved in the Old Town (Altstadt) and the 6 kilometres of arcades provide welcome shelter outside in snowy weather.
Be sure to take in the intricate details of the iconic Zytglogge – a 15th century astronomical clock displayed on Bern’s bell tower and is said to have inspired Albert Einstein.
TIP: Head to the hills in the early morning to view Bernese rooftops dusted in snow!
#7 Jungfraujoch is literally a winter wonderland
Complete with ice sculptures, ice tunnel, mini museum and more, Jungfraujoch is the highest point in Europe that can be reached by rail and is very worth-while visiting especially if you’re a history buff. Several restaurants are also here for you to relax and admire the view outside – an ultimate dining experience at 3,454 metres up!
On the journey to the top, the Jungfraubahn stops at two lookouts on the way: Eigerwand lookout (elevation 2,865 metres) and the Eismeer lookout (elevation 3,160 metres). On the day I visited the weather was clear and the views were awesome. A thermometer recorded the temperature as -15.5°C but thankfully it didn’t feel that cold!
Construction of the railway began in 1896 and the first rail journey commenced in 1912. Today, the Jungfraubahn safely transports passengers through the Alps up to this winter wonderland. You can find out more about Jungfraujoch’s interesting history and railway construction here.
Getting there: Jungfraujoch is quite isolated and the journey to get there reflects this. It’s possible to do as a day trip from Bern like I did, taking about 3 hours with 3 rail changes (via Interlaken Ost – Lauterbrunnen – Kleine Scheideggeach) each way with SBB rail. Ticket prices vary depending on the type of Swiss rail pass you have, if you decide to purchase one. An adult one-way ticket is CHF 67.20 with the Half-Fare Travel Card.
#8 Geneva will be off-duty
Financial, diplomatic and international headquarters for numerous organisations such as the United Nations, Geneva is usually a bustling global city. During the winter months before Easter it’s a different story, though. Enjoy afternoon tea in one of the many cafes without the crowds and wander the cobblestone streets filled with art galleries and antique stores. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time and may forget the important role Geneva plays on the world stage in the present day!
Getting there: Geneva is an easy day trip from Bern, approx 1h45 journey each way with SBB rail. Ticket prices vary depending on the type of Swiss rail pass you have, if you decide to purchase one. An adult one-way ticket is CHF 25.50 with the Half-Fare Travel Card.
#9 Swiss hot chocolate will keep you cosy!
Obviously, the Swiss know how to make darn good chocolate. Drinking chocolate is no exception! Whenever it got a little too cold outside I’d head to a cafe to warm up with a delicious hot drink. I had the nicest hot chocolate ever during my visit to Switzerland, and wherever I could I would stock up on the little sachets of Caotina, pictured below (with me they didn’t last very long). I was pretty sad to learn it wasn’t available anywhere in my home country so I look forward to the day when I can revisit Switzerland to enjoy that sweet, chocolately goodness in a cup ☕️ Nothing compares, seriously!
What you’ll need for a visit to Switzerland in winter:
Here are a few ideas for things you’ll need to explore Switzerland in winter. For me, having well-insulated boots were a must to ensure I could spend long days on my feet out in the cold, and especially up in the sub-zero temperatures at Jungfraujoch!
Are you convinced to visit Switzerland in winter yet?
I hope you found these 9 reasons to visit Switzerland in winter pretty convincing 😉 I’m always blabbering on to my friends about why they should visit this alpine nation during winter. I believe Switzerland is a country that flies under the radar of many travellers, especially during the colder months when people tend to seek warmer climates.
As you can see, even if you’re a non-skier there are plenty of astonishing sights to discover and keep you busy! But, what’s the next step?
Are you thinking of heading to Switzerland in winter? If you found this helpful or enjoyed being inspired, please share this article on Facebook or Pinterest and follow me on Instagram for more Switzerland inspiration!
Until next time,
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