“If I’m going to go all that way, I want to see some 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, winter is 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 that I’m about to share with you so you can have an amazing experience, too!
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!
This post contains some affiliate links, at no extra cost to you. I may earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Is it worth visiting Switzerland in winter?
With incredible winter scenery that seems to be straight out of a fairytale, a Switzerland winter holiday is always a good idea!
Visiting Switzerland in December also means enjoying various Christmas Markets that pop up in larger towns and villages to partake in the festivities.
The Swiss Alps in winter create a beautiful, charming and romantic atmosphere that makes for an unforgettable experience.
There are also so many things to do in Switzerland in winter besides skiing so you’ll never be at a loss for how to spend your time!
Here’s 9 inspiring reasons (+ bonus!) for why you should definitely consider a winter trip to Switzerland, the best places to go in Switzerland in winter, where you can stay, plus how to get to each destination.
Inspiring reasons for a Switzerland winter visit
How many of these points were you aware of?
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!
Obviously the Christmas Markets in cities such as Gstaad, Bern, Zurich, St Moritz, Zermatt, Basel, St Gallen and Chur will be busy. But if you visit Switzerland in January or early November, you’ll be able to dodge most of the Christmas Market crowds.
During a winter trip to Switzerland, it’s possible 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 like the ones pictured here:
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 andcompare prices with other Lucerne hotels here!
3. Winter Swiss train journeys will leave you speechless
One of the best things to do in Switzerland in winter is enjoy the scenic train journeys! What’s better than admiring the crazy-beautiful landscapes outside from the warmth of a speedy Swiss train?
It’s the perfect excuse to snuggle up with your loved one (or by yourself!) as you watch the snow-covered mountains, frozen waterfalls and lovely Swiss countryside pass by from your window.
There are a number of scenic Swiss train rides throughout the country that journey to some of the most beautiful places in Switzerland. If these sound like fun to you, here’s some ideas to get you started:
Fancy visiting Europe’s highest railway station? My visit to Jungfraujoch “The Top of Europe” via the Jungraubahn was a highlight of my second Switzerland trip! More on this further down the page.
Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn
I absolutely LOVED this scenic train journey in Switzerland! Combining cogwheel and rack rail, the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn climbs 144 kilometres from the Zermatt village through the stunning Matter and Rhones valleys to Brig before reaching the highest point at Oberalp Pass (2033 metres above sea level).
Along the journey, the iconic pyramid-shaped peak of the Matterhorn ducks in and out of view as train passes through alpine scenery and villages below.
The elevated and uninterrupted view of the Matterhorn once the train is above the trees is one of my most favourite memories from Switzerland! More on this down the page.
Known as the “Window to the Alps”, this 8 hour journey offers unparalleled panoramic scenery as you meander through mountains, valleys and 291 bridges from St Moritz to Zermatt.
Don’t worry about getting hungry as snacks are available on board and a multi-course lunch is offered in Excellence Class. The train passes by the Landwasser and Solis Viaducts, spiral tunnels, the Rhine Gorge and the Oberalp Pass. This journey is covered by the Swiss Travel Pass, too!
One of Switzerland’s more famous rail journeys, the Bernina Express is the highest railway across the Swiss Alps.
This stunning journey transcends from Chur/Landquart south to Lugano, close to the Italian border and passing through many Italian-speaking towns of Switzerland along the way (yep, this country has four official languages!)
On this journey, you’ll pass over 196 bridges, spy glaciers and enjoy the UNESCO World Heritage section of rail line from Thusis – Valposchiavo – Tirano. Definitely a Switzerland bucket list experience!
4. A Zürich winter day is easily brightened from gloomy to vibrant
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.
Zurich is also an ideal spot for chocolate lovers with the newly-opened Lindt Home of Chocolate factory. Witness one of the world’s largest chocolate fountains, stock up on treats in the world’s largest Lindt chocolate shop, enjoy a guided tour and even make your own confections as a souvenir!
TIP: Read more about how to spend one day in Zurich with my self-guided walking tour itinerary!
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 andcompare prices with other Zürich hotels here!
5. Mt Pilatus during winter is absolutely breathtaking
During my first summer trip to Europe 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 stoked to be able to experience snow on top of the Swiss Alps! It was one of my most memorable travel experiences to date.
TIP: Read more about how to spend 2 days in Lucerne with my detailed itinerary!
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 andcompare prices with other Lucerne hotels here!
6. Zermatt in winter 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 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 andcompare Zermatt hotel prices here!
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7. Bern in winter 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.
But if you love wintery sights as I do, head to the hills for amazing views of Bern’s old rooftops dusted in snow.
TIP: Read more about how to spend one day in Bern with my detailed itinerary!
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 Bern Hauptbahnhof, 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!
8. 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 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 fromZürich to Jungfraujoch, click here.
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9. Geneva in winter 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.
Why not enjoy the city from the water on a Geneva sightseeing cruise? If the skies are clear, you’ll even be able to see Mt Blanc, Europe’s highest mountain peak. The cruise is free for Swiss Travel Pass holders so be sure to take advantage of it!
TIP:Read my in-depth itinerary for spending one day in Geneva here!
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, so if you’re considering spending the night I’d highly recommend it.
Thinking of staying in Geneva?
Read reviews andcompare Geneva hotel prices here!
BONUS: 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!
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 or follow me on TikTok and Instagram for more Switzerland inspiration!
This guide to visiting Switzerland in winter contains some affiliate links, at no extra cost to you. I may earn a small commission if you decide to make a purchase and if you do, thanks for your support! This helps with the costs of running my blog so I can keep my content free for you. As always, I only recommend a product or service that I genuinely love and use myself!
Thank you for the article and insight! I was glad to find a positive outlook for a December trip. I certainly don’t mind braving the cold but hope to catch the sun as much as possible. I am heading there in 2 weeks from Texas for an 11 day trip by rail.
I see someone else asked, but I just received an official Swiss Green Pass certificate. (30CHF) They transfer all your home country’s information (V status, confirmation of stay, ID etc) to their format. I don’t know for sure if it is mandatory but would make things smoother regardless.
Thanks for the info, Travis!
I’m glad you found my guide helpful and I hope you have an amazing winter trip in Switzerland 😃🇨🇭
These are amazing suggestions for non-skier like me.
Do you have any updates on how to secure a swiss pandemic certificate for tourists? What are your suggestions in case we cannot get the said certificate? My main concern is dining in restaurants, visiting museums and other indoor activities.
I’m glad you enjoyed my suggestions, Marilyn! I absolutely adore winter in Switzerland 😊
When it comes to the Swiss Green Pass certificate to enter restaurants, shops etc, I am sorry to say I’m no expert in this area.
Although from what I have read, it says visitors will need to test every 3 days as external certificates won’t be recognised, but the certificates will only be required until 24 January 2022. You may not need it if you’re planning to visit after this time.
But please do check with your country’s local Swiss Embassy to confirm the latest and most accurate information, as the situation is constantly changing and evolving.
Best of luck and thanks for your comment!
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 !
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’ve published my personal itinerary for Switzerland here, so be sure to take a look 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:
Thanks again for your comment!
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?
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!
To round things off in Switzerland’s winter time you should spend a night at an igloo 😉
An igloo sounds like an amazing idea!
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! 🙂
I’m so glad your parents enjoyed Switzerland as non-skiers! And yes less tourists in the cities is one of the best things 🙂
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!
Thanks so much, Kristen! I hope you get to visit in winter to experience all the beauty in person 🙂
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!!
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 🙂
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
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 🙂
Everything looks so dreamy covered in snow! I’d love to visit in winter!
It really is, Michelle! A real winter wonderland ❄️
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!
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 🙂
Adding this to my travel list! Tons of helpful information, i love it!!
Glad to hear that, thanks very much Justyn!
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!
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!
Love the post and the site. Can’t wait to go to Switzerland. I’m ready for some cold weather
Thanks so much Karen 🙂 Switzerland won’t disappoint!
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!
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 🙂
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!
That’s so lovely, Addie! I hope you get to go back in winter someday 🙂
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.
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 🙂
Thanks Alyse for 7 days itinerary to Switzerland in winters
My wife and I are in Paris from 21-25 December 2021
Can you suggest 4 days itinerary to Switzerland
Also can you suggest the best way to travel
I also thought about 3-4 days travel to Bruges
What do you suggest
No worries! It really depends on your personal interests. But if you only have 4 days instead of one week in Switzerland, I’d suggest using Lucerne as a base and do day trips to other cities (or to the mountains) from there.
As mentioned in my Switzerland itinerary, I’d highly suggest travelling by high speed train. Just sit back and relax!
For Bruges, definitely spend longer if time allows as you can escape the crowds and experience much more! I have an itinerary for spending 3 days in Bruges for you to follow.
I hope that helps and happy travels!