“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 winter, 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.

If you fancy getting 50% off your train, bus, boat and cable car journeys, find out how I did it and how much I saved in my 7 Days in Switzerland Itinerary.

Without further ado, please allow me to convince you why you need to visit Switzerland in winter!

9 Inspiring Reasons to Visit Switzerland in Winter (For Non-Skiers) • The Invisible Tourist
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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, where you can stay, plus how to get to each destination. Get ready to add these places to your Switzerland itinerary:

1. Cities see less tourists in Switzerland in winter

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:

Painted façades in Lucerne's Old Town
Painted façades in Lucerne’s Old Town

RELATED: 7 Days in Switzerland Itinerary: One Week in Winter Wonderland

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. It’s truly a beautiful hotel located in the Old Town and overlooks the Reuss River (pictured below), is steps away from restaurants, shops, cafes and is a few moments walk from Lucerne Railway station.

Thinking of staying in Lucerne?

Read reviews and compare prices with other Lucerne hotels here!

During March I was scored an amazing deal that allowed me to stay in a gorgeous 4* hotel along the River Reuss
During March I scored an amazing deal that allowed me to stay in a gorgeous 4* hotel along the River Reuss

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!

Colourful buildings along Augustinergasse, Zürich
Colourful buildings along Augustinergasse, Zürich

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.

Gorgeous view over Zürich from Lindenhof
Gorgeous view over Zürich from Lindenhof

How to get to Zürich

Zürich is a great day trip from Lucerne, a speedy 45min journey on SBB rail. An adult one-way ticket is CHF 13.00 with the Half-Fare Travel Card.

Where to stay in Zürich

Thinking of staying in Zürich? Read reviews and compare prices with other Zürich hotels here!

 

READ MORE: How to Spend a Weekend in Bruges, Belgium

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.

Mount Pilatus: Summer vs Winter
Mount Pilatus: Summer vs Winter

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!

Taking a gondola ride up to Mt Pilatus
Taking a gondola ride up to Mt Pilatus

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.

Stare in awe at the Swiss Alps at the summit of Mt Pilatus
Stare in awe at the Swiss Alps at the summit of Mt Pilatus

Getting to Mt Pilatus from Lucerne

Catch a bus to Kriens (15mins from Lucerne) to the base of the gondola. Purchase your ticket (cost CHF 36.00 round-trip with the Swiss Half Fare Card) 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!

Where to stay in Lucerne

Thinking of staying in Lucerne? Read reviews and compare prices with other Lucerne hotels here!

 

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).

Matterhorn towering above Zermatt
Matterhorn towering above Zermatt

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!

Winter wonderland in Zermatt, even for non-skiers
Winter wonderland in Zermatt, even for non-skiers

Getting to Zermatt from Bern

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.

Where to stay in Zermatt

Thinking of staying in Zermatt instead? Read reviews and compare Zermatt hotel prices here!

 

READ MORE: 10 Things to do in Ghent, the Gem of Belgium

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.

Arcades beneath the buildings in Bern
Arcades beneath the buildings in Bern

Where to stay in Bern

I highly recommend Hotel Bern. Located in the beating heart of the city centre yet tucked away from bustling streets, a few steps from Zytglogge and moments walk to many of Bern’s main sights and Bahnhopf Bern, the main train station. Staff were polite, rooms were cosy and modern and the wifi was fast. Would definitely stay again!

Thinking of staying in Bern?

Read reviews and compare Bern hotel prices here!

 

Beautiful Zytglogge
Beautiful Zytglogge

TIP: Head to the hills in the early morning to view Bernese rooftops dusted in snow!

Head to the hills for spectacular views over the city in Bern
Head to the hills for spectacular views over the city in Bern

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!

Jungfraujoch, the Top of Europe
Stand on the Top of Europe, 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.

Jungfraujoch Highlights
JUNGFRAUJOCH HIGHLIGHTS: 1) Ice Sculptures ~ 2) Ice Tunnel ~ 3) Mini Museum ~ 4 & 5) View from Sphinx Observatory ~ 6) Weather during my visit

Getting to Jungfraujoch from Bern

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.

  Jungfraujoch from Zurich or Lucerne

If you prefer, it’s also possible to do a day trip to Jungfraujoch from Zürich or Lucerne! To find out more info on:

 Prices and details for a day trip from Zürich to Jungfraujoch, click here.
 Prices and details for a day trip from Lucerne to Jungfraujoch, click here.

 

READ MORE: Here’s How To NOT Look Like a Tourist in 10 Easy Steps

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!

Normally a bustling international city, Geneva is quieter in winter months

Getting to Geneva from Bern

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 if you use the Half-Fare Travel Card.

Where to stay in Geneva

I wish I had spent more than just a day in Geneva! I’d really like to go back and explore more.

Thinking of staying in Geneva?

Read reviews and compare Geneva hotel prices here!

 

Enjoy coffee and cake at one of the numerous cafe's in Geneva's Old Town
Enjoy coffee and cake at one of the numerous cafe’s in Geneva’s Old Town

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!

Delicious Swiss breakfast including the amazing hot chocolate
Delicious Swiss breakfast including the amazing hot chocolate

Are you convinced to visit Switzerland in winter yet?

I hope you found these 9 reasons to visit Switzerland in winter pretty convincing ? If you need more ideas for your trip, don’t forget to check out my guide for how to incorporate these cities into a One Week Switzerland itinerary!

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. If you’re after more inspiration here’s a fellow blogger’s tips for more of the best places to visit in Switzerland.

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?

Get your Switzerland itinerary planning off to a good start by searching for hotels in Bern or Lucerne here. You can also get a 50% discount on transport costs around Switzerland by purchasing a Swiss Half Fare Card here. Yes, it includes cable car, bus, train journeys and more!

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,The Invisible Tourist


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9 Inspiring Reasons to Visit Switzerland in Winter (For Non-Skiers) • The Invisible Tourist

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Alyse
Author

Australian-based Alyse has been travelling "The Invisible Tourist Way" for eleven years and hopes to encourage fellow travellers to do so, too. She's passionate about responsible travel, history and preserving local cultures. A professional language hoarder, she can usually be found burying herself in travel books and Wikipedia articles. Her dreams? Always about the next destination and how to make the most of the experience.

30 Comments

  1. Avatar

    As a total non-skier this list is perfect for me. And I love the idea of less tpurists after New Years and before Easter. Truly such amazing scenery and architecture that makes it feel like I am stepping back in time and into a total winter wonderland.

    • Alyse, The Invisible Tourist
      Alyse, The Invisible Tourist

      So glad to hear that, Kelly! And yes the architecture is truly stunning, especially in the Old Towns. You can almost picture yourself amongst people of the Middle Ages around you when you’re there, it’s amazing! Thanks for your comment 🙂

  2. Avatar

    Aw, I absolutely love Switzerland – my family is from there! I haven’t been in the winter yet, but I’d really love to. It looks absolutely gorgeous!

    • Alyse, The Invisible Tourist
      Alyse, The Invisible Tourist

      That’s so lovely, Addie! I hope you get to go back in winter someday 🙂

  3. Avatar

    Even with it being a skiing destination, the prices are still reasonable in the winter? Your photos showcase the location well… the colors of the buildings, the snowy mountains and yummy food!

    • Alyse, The Invisible Tourist
      Alyse, The Invisible Tourist

      I found the prices were reasonable staying in the city centres, I’m sure the ski resorts are a different story though! Thanks so much for your comment, Jamie 🙂

  4. Avatar

    Love the post and the site. Can’t wait to go to Switzerland. I’m ready for some cold weather

    • Alyse, The Invisible Tourist
      Alyse, The Invisible Tourist

      Thanks so much Karen 🙂 Switzerland won’t disappoint!

  5. Avatar
    Sarah Shumate

    LOVED this post! We experienced #1 in Innsbruck, Austria. We’d been skiing in Alpbach, but decided to spend a couple days in Innsbruck before flying back to London. Whereas the slopes had been packed, Innsbruck was like a beautiful ghost town! It was amazing being able to explore without crowds of people everywhere! Lower hotel prices would be a big benefit, too, especially in an expensive country like Switzerland!

    • Alyse, The Invisible Tourist
      Alyse, The Invisible Tourist

      I’m glad you had a similar experience, Sarah! Innsbruck is such a beautiful city too so it would have been wonderful to explore it without the usual summertime crowds. Thanks for your comment!

  6. Avatar

    Adding this to my travel list! Tons of helpful information, i love it!!

    • Alyse, The Invisible Tourist
      Alyse, The Invisible Tourist

      Glad to hear that, thanks very much Justyn!

  7. Avatar

    Oh I love this! As many times as I’ve been to Europe, I have yet to make it to Switzerland … and I’ve been to all the countries around it! Part of me can’t justify going because I don’t sky, but reading this post convinced me to visit anyway!

    • Alyse, The Invisible Tourist
      Alyse, The Invisible Tourist

      Glad I could convince you, Jin! There are so many things to see and do for non-skiers. I hope you get to make it to Switzerland someday 🙂

  8. Avatar
    Michelle Joy

    Everything looks so dreamy covered in snow! I’d love to visit in winter!

    • Alyse, The Invisible Tourist
      Alyse, The Invisible Tourist

      It really is, Michelle! A real winter wonderland ❄️

  9. Avatar

    It looks almost like Switzerland may be more magical in winter! I’d be interested in knowing just how cold it gets, but I imagine it’s not much worse than I get here in Michigan

    • Alyse, The Invisible Tourist
      Alyse, The Invisible Tourist

      I think it is, Brianna 😉 In the city centres each day it wasn’t too cold, between 2 – 9°C mostly. I’m sure it can get much colder in Michigan! Jungfraujoch is usually around the -22°C range because of its altitude but in the sun it didn’t feel so bad 🙂

  10. Avatar
    Diana • Opium Teahouse

    It’s almost criminal that I’ve never been to Switzerland.. and I have family in Bern and Zurich! Always debated if I should go in spring to explore the lakes, mountains and do so hiking or winter for snowboarding. But after reading this, the debate is over. Winter it is!!

    • Alyse, The Invisible Tourist
      Alyse, The Invisible Tourist

      Oh Diana you really should go then! You have the perfect excuse, too 😉 I hope you enjoy a winter visit to Switzerland as much as I did! Thanks for your comment 🙂

  11. Avatar

    I am not a skier but I would LOVE to visit in the winter. It looks so beautiful! Your photos really are amazing and make me want to start planning a trip!

    • Alyse, The Invisible Tourist
      Alyse, The Invisible Tourist

      Thanks so much, Kristen! I hope you get to visit in winter to experience all the beauty in person 🙂

  12. Avatar

    I am a skier and visited Switzerland to ski before. My parents didn’t ski and enjoyed many of these places you suggested in the article.
    As a family we all enjoyed Zurich. And way less tourist then in the summer! 🙂

    • Alyse, The Invisible Tourist
      Alyse, The Invisible Tourist

      I’m so glad your parents enjoyed Switzerland as non-skiers! And yes less tourists in the cities is one of the best things 🙂

  13. Avatar

    Great post!

    To round things off in Switzerland’s winter time you should spend a night at an igloo 😉

    • Alyse, The Invisible Tourist
      Alyse, The Invisible Tourist

      An igloo sounds like an amazing idea!

  14. Avatar

    My wife and I are going in February for our 20th Anniversary and have booked the Hotel des Balances for our first night. We are going to travel to Zermatt for 6 nights and back to Zurich for our last night. Any recommendations for places to stay in Zurich before departing back to the states?

    • Alyse
      Alyse

      Congratulations, Dennis! What a wonderful way for you and your wife to celebrate your anniversary 🙂 Hotel des Balances is truly exquisite and a real treat, I hope you love as much as I did! For Zurich, I only visited as a day trip from Lucerne however if I were to revisit, I would stay in a hotel nearby Augustinergasse & Lindenhof areas to the west of the river, or somewhere near Munstergasse in the Aldtstat area on the east side. There are loads of shops and restaurants nearby and all the main sights are within walking distance. You can take a look here: https://booki.ng/2NHHfhM
      I hope you have an amazing trip and thanks for your comment!

  15. Avatar

    Hi Alyse,
    Thanks for putting together such a great article with so much useful information.

    It would be helpful if you could tell me whether you thought the sun set too early or you had enough time in daylight to see all the sites. Im asking because normally during winter, the sun sets earlier so just wanted to know if you could tell me this. Thanks !

    • Alyse
      Alyse

      This is a very good question, sohini! I’m glad you asked actually because it was something I also wondered about before my trip. During my visit, the sun set around 5:30pm which worked out fine. Plenty of time to get around and see what I wanted each day! Even on the longest day trip I took (Bern to Jungfraujoch) it was ok, despite being dark when travelling back to Bern I’d still seen everything I wanted that day 🙂

      I’m working on sharing my personal itinerary for Switzerland at the moment, so be sure to check back soon if you’d like to see how I spent my time there in winter!

      If you’re curious to see what times the sun will rise and set during your visit, you can find out by putting in the month/year you’ll be visiting and the table will display the results here:
      https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/switzerland

      Thanks again for your comment!

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