If you’re thinking of spending some of autumn in Switzerland, then this is the guide for you!
Whether you want to know why visiting Switzerland in the fall is a good idea, what the weather will be like and what’s open, read on.
Other common questions about visiting Switzerland in fall include what to wear and what are the best things to do in Switzerland in September, October and November? We cover all this and more.
Visit Switzerland in autumn and you can experience this incredible country without as many tourists as in summer, or during the festive season.
The Switzerland autumn temperature is also mild, and there’s also so much to do during fall in Switzerland. There are also some fun events that take place at this time of the year, too.
These are just some of the reasons that many travellers consider autumn the best time to visit Switzerland.
In this article we start by taking a look at why visiting Switzerland in fall is a good idea. We also discuss the weather conditions you can expect during the fall season in Switzerland.
You’ll learn what services might be closed if you’re visiting Switzerland in October, November or early December.
To finish off, we cover what to wear as well as what there is to do during the Switzerland autumn season.
If you’re planning to experience the Swiss autumn sometime during the near or distant future, then this article is essential reading!
Prefer to listen to this information instead of reading it? You can do so by listening to episode 79 of the Holidays to Switzerland podcast.
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What's in this Article
Why autumn (fall) is the ideal time to visit Switzerland
Autumn season in Switzerland really can be a great time to visit. Once summer is done and dusted, temperatures begin to cool down.
The crowds also start to disperse, meaning that popular places are more peaceful than during the preceding months. Fewer tourists can also translate to lower prices for accommodation and other goods and services.
Add that to the mild temperatures of September during early fall, and you can see why postponing a visit to Switzerland until autumn can be such a good idea. Even during late autumn, the weather can be a lot warmer than in winter.
In fact fall is ideal in terms of temperature. Autumn temperatures lie somewhere between the summer and winter extremes. There are also big differences between the months, however.
In September, for example, temperatures can be in the twenties (celsius) and conditions are often sunny and dry. By November, though, the snowfall can begin, especially in the mountains.
In terms of weather for travelling, autumn can be ideal as it’s neither too hot nor too cold. You can also be very active then without running such a risk of overheating.
Summer is very busy in Switzerland, as people across Europe take their holidays. If you do have the option of being able to travel a little later, during autumn, then this is perhaps the ideal season.
September and October are less busy than summer, so there tends to be more space and peace. For people who prefer to travel when there are fewer crowds, autumn is definitely a good time to see Switzerland.
For the most stable autumn weather with warmer temperatures, September is the best month to travel.
Weather in Switzerland in autumn
Let’s make a start by defining what we mean when we say autumn – or fall. Autumn and fall are interchangeable terms used in different countries. Both refer to the post-summer period, when the leaves change colour and tumble from the trees.
The exact dates of autumn – or fall – in Europe are determined by whether you follow the astronomical or meteorological calendar.
The former places the start date for fall at around 23 September, while according to the latter autumn begins on 1 September. The season would then end as November draws to a close (or around 22 December according to the astronomical calendar).
For the purposes of this article, we’ll use the meteorological calendar meaning the autumn season runs between the start of September and end of November. For information about visiting from December onwards, you can refer to this guide to winter in Switzerland.
Now let’s take a look at the temperatures, rainfall levels and daylight hours you can expect during fall in Zurich, Lucerne, Geneva and other Swiss cities and ski resorts. These can have a big impact on your trip, so it’s important to be prepared.
Average autumn temperatures in Switzerland
This table shows the average Davos, Lugano and Zurich autumn temperatures.
This is a sample of what you can expect across the country – from the warmer regions bordering Italy to the cities and winter ski resorts.
|Sep: high / low
|Oct: high / low
|Nov: high / low
|20°C / 12°C
|15°C / 8°C
|9°C / 3°C
|23°C / 14°C
|17°C / 10°C
|12°C / 6°C
|14°C / 4°C
|11°C / 1°C
|5°C / -3°C
As you can see, temperatures vary widely between the start of fall in September and the end of November. These are only averages, and we recommend using the meteoswiss.ch website or MeteoSwiss app for up-to-date, accurate weather forecasts.
Conditions in the cities tend to be far more stable than at altitude.
If you’re headed to the mountains, it’s always wise to check the latest weather conditions before leaving. Swiss mountains all have live webcams, so you can see the current weather conditions.
Average autumn rainfall in Switzerland
The following table shows how many rainy days, on average, you can expect per month in Zurich, Lugano and Davos.
As is typical of a winter sports resort, Davos gets more precipitation, which will fall as snow when it’s cold enough.
Average number of rainy days per month
In short, expect rain or snow around two thirds of the time in the mountain resorts, and around one third of the time in the drier Swiss towns and cities.
Average number of autumn daylight hours in Switzerland
Again these are only averages, but here’s how many daylight hours you can expect in Switzerland during each month of fall.
|Hours of daylight
This can be especially important if you want to spend a lot of time outdoors. For example, by taking an autumn hike in Switzerland, either early in the morning or before it gets dark.
Autumn closures of services and attractions in Switzerland
If you’ll be spending any of September, November or October in Switzerland, you may be wondering if any of the services are closed. This can affect where you can go and what you can do, so it’s something that it’s important to be aware of.
Though it may seem early, services can and do close for a period in Switzerland, and this can affect autumn operations. The reason may be for scheduled maintenance but some attractions and service do close for the entire autumn and winter season.
In November, for example, a number of Swiss cable cars and funicular railways are closed for yearly maintenance. This is so this can be completed before the busy winter season, and can affect October and December too.
Some Swiss hotels and restaurants also close during this period so it’s worth checking before you go if there’s somewhere special you’d like to stay or eat.
In smaller places, eateries and hotels tend to coordinate with one another, so that there’s always at least one place open for business.
Swiss mountain railways like the Schynige Platte and Brienz Rothorn trains close during autumn and many of these won’t operate again until spring, as the services are seasonal.
It’s not all bad news, though.
Some mountain railways do operate 365 days a year – such as the cogwheel train from Vitznau to Mount Rigi, and the train and cable car to Jungfraujoch.
In Swiss cities, public transport operates 365 days a year.
Find all the current closing dates for funicular railways and cable cars in this article.
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What to wear in Switzerland in fall
As in many countries, layering is key when you are visiting Switzerland during the autumn.
The weather can be unpredictable, particularly at altitude. There are also wide variations between monthly averages, and by location so you need to be prepared for all situations.
The activities you’ll be doing also matters when it comes to deciding what to wear.
If your plan is to take in the best autumn hikes in Switzerland, for example, then you’ll need to pack appropriate outdoor clothing such as hiking boots, a packable rain jacket and of course lots of layers.
If you’ll be spending time in the mountains during November, then do expect cold weather. A warm jacket and also waterproof boots are also recommended during late autumn.
When you venture inside a museum, shop or restaurant, expect temperatures to be a lot warmer. This is another reminder of why layering can be key when it comes to dressing for fall in Switzerland.
Taking mountain excursions and browsing Christmas markets are two reasons why you might need a good warm jacket – plus a hat, scarf and gloves. At altitude it can also be very windy, which can also make it feel much colder.
At the other end of the scale, you may be spending time in a warmer place like Lugano during September or early October. As the temperature table above shows, the mercury can creep up here as high as 23°C during September.
If autumn is the season when you’ll be visiting Lugano or southern Switzerland be sure to include some lightweight layers in your suitcase or backpack. A swimsuit for dips in the lake or outdoor pool may also come in handy.
If you’re planning an active visit that involves lots of walking, don’t forget that this exertion might well make you hotter than you would be if you were taking things at a more relaxed pace.
Best things to do in Switzerland in autumn
The really good news is that there are so many things to do in Switzerland during fall. Seeing the colourful leaves is an obvious one, for starters. With cooler temperatures, this can also be the ideal time to tackle those mountain hiking trails.
Whatever the season and the weather, Switzerland’s fine museums are also always well worth your time. Wine festivals are also often held in autumn, to coincide with the harvest season. Other festivals often occur during this season too.
Fall is also when you can witness the famous Swiss Alpine descents. For more on what to do in Switzerland during September, October and November, read on.
Admire the autumn leaves
Switzerland has amazing autumn colours, with the leaves changing to yellow, orange and red. So where are the best places to go if you want to see these magnificent displays of autumn foliage in Switzerland?
While you can see autumn foliage everywhere, even in the cities, three places really do stand out.
The first is the Engadine Valley in the eastern Alps, where there’s a lot of forest with huge trees. This spectacle is simply breathtaking.
The second is the Lavaux wine region. All the colours of the vines and surrounding trees change to red, gold and all the shades in-between.
Hiking in the Lavaux at this time while seeing the leaves and enjoying some wine tastings is a very memorable experience.
Thirdly, if you’re in Zurich don’t miss the Uetliberg, Zurich’s ‘house’ mountain.
There are breathtaking views over the city and lake from Uetliberg, and colourful forest as far as the eye can see.
Uetliberg is only 20 minutes by train from the city centre, and once you’re there, a hike of around 90 minutes will show you the spectacular sights.
Watch an Alpine descent
One of the reasons that many international visitors are eager to visit Switzerland in autumn is to witness an Alpine descent, an unmissable Swiss spectacle. So what exactly is an Alpine descent?
During summer, Swiss farmers send their livestock – including cows, goats and sheep – onto the mountain to feed on all the lush grass. The animals stay up there during summer, but of course have to come down during winter because of the cold weather and snow.
When the animals are brought back down from the mountain, this is what’s known across Switzerland as the alpine descent, and it’s a key moment in any farmer’s life.
Local communities make a real event of this, so it’s a proper celebration. You can expect a parade of cows, many wearing floral headdresses, and the farmers and locals in traditional Swiss dress.
Alpine descents take place all around the country, as the Alpine region comprises around 60% of the country. The descent is of course more likely to occur during late September or early October, before the weather gets cold and the grass stops growing.
Some places have a set date for the Alpine descent, but in other locations it can be more weather-dependent. Often Alpine descents are held on a Saturday.
To avoid disappointment, you do need to do your homework if you want to see this traditional spectacle. We suggest you follow the social media pages of local Tourism offices and check the Events page on the Switzerland Tourism website where dates are posted once they are confirmed.
Depending on which language-speaking region of Switzerland you are in, the Alpine descent is known as Alpabzug (in German-speaking Switzerland) and Désalpe (in French-speaking Switzerland).
Visit a wine festival
While Switzerland may not be that well known as a wine destination, wine-making really is one of the country’s hidden gems. As production is small scale, you tend not to get to try these wines outside of Switzerland.
In the Lavaux, for example, vines have been grown since the Middle Ages. You can also find grape varieties in Switzerland that you simply won’t have seen elsewhere.
Swiss wine can be experienced throughout the year, but harvest time is more special. Quite a few festivals take place in the big wine regions such as the Lavaux.
Other hotspots include a small village called Lutry, close to Lausanne, where the annual Faire des Vendanges involves the local people dressing up in vintage clothing.
These wine festivals are real celebrations when winemakers showcase the fruits of their labour. Expect lots of colour, costumes, parades and of course open cellars where you can taste the wines.
Other parts of Switzerland where you’ll find wine festivals include the very steep vineyards of the Valais, plus the northern shore of Lake Zurich.
The Schaffhausen area produces some delicious and innovative wines, while Grisons (Graubünden) is known more for exclusive vintages, including pinot noir. Ticino, the Italian part of Switzerland, is also famed for merlot production.
If you love the outdoors, then hiking while in Switzerland during autumn is a must. The weather is often ideal, and the fall landscapes are stunning. Autumn mists also add to the colours, making for a very atmospheric walk.
If you hike in autumn, temperatures generally aren’t either too hot or too cold. September and October can be the best months, especially if you want to avoid the mountain chills.
There are around 70,000 kilometres of hiking trails in Switzerland, which are very well mapped out and signposted. Should you choose your destination carefully, you can even combine hiking with wine tasting, and perhaps even a festival too.
Visit a museum
A museum visit is worth considering at any time of the year. Big cities like Zurich and Lausanne have some truly world-class museums, but you can find some interesting museums all over the land.
Arts are very well represented in Switzerland and you can peruse works by the likes of Picasso, or see pieces created by local Swiss artists.
There are also museums dedicated to local history or distinctly Swiss things like cheesemaking, chocolate and watches all across the country. A favourite of ours is the Swiss Museum of Transport in Lucerne.
A museum visit is the perfect activity on a wet, windy or cold day.
Final thoughts about visiting Switzerland in autumn
With wine festivals to enjoy, hiking trails to explore, Swiss Alpine descents, attractive autumn leaves and fine museums to visit, there really is so much to do in Switzerland during autumn.
Hopefully this guide has helped you to prepare and plan for your trip. With all the information we’ve covered, you should be ready to make the most of every moment while spending autumn in Switzerland!