Planning

When is the best time to visit Switzerland?

November 2, 2019
by

Are you ready to plan your holiday but are wondering when is the best time to visit Switzerland? Of course there is no actual best time to go to Switzerland – what’s best for you may not work for the next person.  However, in my opinion, any time is a good time to visit Switzerland!

In this guide, I’ve covered a number of factors to consider when deciding which month you will visit Switzerland so that you can determine the best time to visit Switzerland for you.

The ‘best time’ may depend on when flights are cheapest, when you can get time off work, or when particular events that you want to participate in are happening. Other considerations include if you want to hike or ski, for instance.

Lake Brienz, Switzerland
Deciding when is the best time to visit Switzerland depends on a number of factors including which activities you’d like to enjoy.

A couple of the Swiss panoramic trains (Glacier Express and Gotthard Panorama Express, for example) and some of the mountain cableways and funiculars cease running over the winter months, so if you’re desperate to enjoy one of these rides, this should be a consideration, too.

Check Switzerland’s cable car and funicular closure dates for the upcoming winter in this article.

Before we dive in and discuss the different times of year to visit Switzerland, let me just clarify that the seasons in Switzerland – as in the rest of Europe – are determined by the Summer and Winter Solstices.  Therefore, Summer actually starts on 21 June, the Summer Solstice – or longest day of the year – and finishes on 20 September.

For the purposes of this guide, I’ve used full months to discuss the pros and cons of visiting in each season, rather than the specific dates as you’ll see below.

[This post may contain compensated links. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.]

Best time to travel to Switzerland

Below I have listed some pros and cons to visiting in the different Switzerland seasons, along with what you can and can’t experience during those months, so you can make an informed decision on the best time to travel to Switzerland – for you. 

Spring in Switzerland

Official dates: 21 March to 20 June
Months: March, April, May

Montreux in Spring
Montreux is awash with colourful blooms in Spring.

Spring is an exciting time to visit Switzerland.

Because it’s the country’s true off-season, you can likely score good deals on flights and accommodation (which, considering the price of everything in Switzerland, could make or break your trip). You also won’t end up fighting the crowds, which introverts might find particularly refreshing. 

That said, Switzerland weather in March can still feel quite wintery, with highs around 6 degrees Celsius and lots of rainfall. It could easily dip into freezing territory at night. 

Because of the cooler temperatures, but longer daylight hours (daylight savings starts on the last Sunday in March), this is actually a great month to get your skiing in. The Alps are still snow-covered but there are fewer tourists. 

Still, if you visit right after Easter (which can fall at the end of March some years), you’ll find many cable cars are shut down until hiking season begins at the end of May. So if you have your heart set on the trails or scenic mountain top views, keep that in mind. 

Gruyeres Castle
If you love cheese, a visit to Gruyeres on the first Sunday in May is a must.

Switzerland in April, on the other hand, starts to warm up. It’s too warm to ski in most of the country, but like I mentioned above, some of the summer tourist attractions and hiking trails will be boarded up for another month. 

Flower lovers are in for a real treat in April as the Morges Tulip Festival takes place on Lake Geneva throughout the month.

If you’re travelling on a budget you will find the best deals during April, so check attraction websites carefully and see what’s open when you’ll be there. And dress in layers! 

For slightly warmer and more predictable weather, the average Switzerland temperature in May hovers between 15 and 19 degrees Celsius. Warm enough to melt the snow and for you to get a glimpse of the under-appreciated narcissus blooms. 

And if you love cheese as much as I do, you can visit Gruyeres on the first Sunday of May for their annual Cheese Festival. 

Summer in Switzerland

Official dates: 21 June to 20 September
Months: June, July, August

Switzerland in Summer
Summer in Switzerland means an endless selection of mountain excursions to enjoy.

The months of June through August are one of the two ‘peak seasons’ in Switzerland. The weather is balmy, the hiking trails are open, and the lakes are ready for boaters and swimmers. 

As such, the prices for accommodation are high and all the popular locations will be packed with fellow tourists. 

Summer is high season for coach tours as well as independent travellers so attractions like Jungfraujoch and Mt. Titlis will be heaving with visitors.

If you’d like to travel during the Swiss summer but would prefer to avoid huge crowds at the major sites, you’d be wise to visit early in the morning or later in the afternoon, or choose sites and attractions that are a bit more under the radar – think Mt. Niesen or Mt. Stockhorn, for example.


GET SWITZERLAND TRAVEL TIPS, NEWS, SPECIAL OFFERS AND INSPIRATION DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX EVERY MONTH.  CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP!


Weekends also tend to be particularly busy during summer as the Swiss head to the mountains to go hiking.

June is when the peak hiking season begins, and all those cable cars that shut down after Easter are re-opened. The trails shouldn’t be too muddy, and since the Switzerland temperature in June is generally warm, it should be a pleasant time to get views of the valleys. 

One of the major events that takes place in Switzerland during summer is the Montreux Jazz Festival which runs from late June to mid-July.

If you visit Lavertezzo’s famous double-arched bridge during the summer months, you might be tempted to take a dip in the river.

Switzerland weather in July on average gets up to 24 or 25 degrees during the daytime, making it perfect for swimming. There are plenty of places to take a dip, but try Lake Sils or the Aare River if you need a recommendation. 

It’s not uncommon for temperatures in the lower lying areas to reach 30 degrees or more so it’s definitely worth considering booking a hotel or apartment with air-conditioning if you are visiting Switzerland in summer.  Even a day or two with temperatures above 30 degrees can make things very uncomfortable.

At the end of the summer, Switzerland weather in August is still warm, hanging out around 25 degrees Celsius in the heat of the day. You can still enjoy a dip in Lake Lucerne, but one of the best reasons to visit Switzerland during August is Swiss National Day on 1 August, where you’ll find festivities all over the country complete with bonfires and fireworks. 

Other fun summer activities include biking around Lake Lucerne, or going down the snow-less bobsled near Basel called SolarBob. 

Whichever way you look at it, you can’t go wrong visiting Switzerland in the summer, although you should be prepared to share your journey with thousands of other eager tourists. 

Autumn/Fall in Switzerland

Official dates: 21 September to 20 December
Months: September, October, November

Switzerland in Autumn.
Beautiful autumn foliage adds to an already stunning landscape.

Perhaps the best month to visit Switzerland to get the best deals, fewer fellow tourists and most comfortable weather, is September.

It’s the start of the shoulder season meaning prices get more reasonable and you won’t have to share attractions with as many people, but the weather is still reasonably warm, meaning you can still enjoy most summer activities (except swimming, perhaps). 

And while the days are getting shorter, they’re still long enough to feel like you can make the most of the precious time you get to spend in Switzerland! 

During September, the Alpine villages across Switzerland welcome the cows home as they descend from the mountains back to the valleys in what is known as Almabfahrt or Almabtrieb. Villagers celebrate as the cows, wearing flower crowns, are welcomed home with fanfare and yodelling.  This is one festival everyone should experience once in their lifetime.

The annual descent of cattle from the high pastures is a fun event to witness during Autumn/Fall in Switzerland.
The annual descent of cattle from the high pastures is a fun event to witness during Autumn/Fall in Switzerland.

In October you’ll get the benefit of seeing the leaves begin to change. While higher trails may get snow-covered (and you get fewer daylight hours), you’ll enjoy colourful fall foliage views which are hard to beat. 

Just keep in mind that cable cars and funiculars may begin to shut down in the later part of the month due to snow or for their annual maintenance (check closure dates here).

Switzerland weather in October becomes chilly, but not overly wet. You’ll need a jacket and won’t want to take a swim, but it’s not time to pull out the waterproof gear just yet. 

For those who enjoy wine, October is the best time of year to go to Switzerland. The Basel Wine Fair falls at the end of the month each year, but the whole month is grape-harvesting season. 

Daylight savings in Switzerland ends on the last Sunday in October.

November, unfortunately, is one of the worst months to visit Switzerland weather- and activity-wise. It gets chilly and wet making all the summer activities unpleasant, but there’s not much skiing to do yet and it doesn’t quite feel like winter. 

That said, if you’re someone who travels for museums or other indoor historical sites, November might be the cheapest time to fly to Switzerland, and you will get great deals on accommodation.  And with entry to more than 500 museums included in the Swiss Travel Pass, you will definitely get great value if you’re using the pass to travel around.

Winter in Switzerland

Official dates: 21 December to 20 March
Months: December, January, February

Zurich in winter
Zurich dusted with snow.

December through February are the official winter months in Switzerland, when the snow starts falling and it’s prime time for skiing. Prices in the mountains begin to skyrocket, and the lodges fill up fast, but if you want to visit Switzerland for winter sports, there’s no other time to go. Personally I think the best place to spend a winter holiday in Switzerland is the Jungfrau Region

Switzerland weather in December is officially cold, cloudy and wet, so plan to spend your time either on the slopes or indoors by a fire enjoying hearty food and warm drinks. 

Believe it or not, you can’t expect a white Christmas all over Switzerland. If you really want snow, make sure you’re high up in the Alps when booking your accommodation – and book well ahead. That said, the Christmas markets in Switzerland are amazing and well worth a December visit, snow or not. 

See this year’s Switzerland Christmas market dates here

Why not ring in the New Year in Switzerland? Like anywhere there are loads of celebrations to enjoy with the added benefit of going skiing. But the cool thing about Switzerland is they don’t just celebrate the new year once – on 13 January the Swiss bring out the party once again and celebrate the beginning of the year according to the Gregorian calendar. 

Christmas markets aren’t the only events taking place in Switzerland during the winter months. There are numerous major events held around the country including the Snow Polo World Cup at St. Moritz, the Lauberhorn Ski World Cup in Wengen and the International Hot Air Balloon Festival in Château-d’Oex.

Zermatt is a real-life Christmas card scene during winter.

The Switzerland snow season formally begins in January, where the weather hovers around 0 all month, rarely getting above 2 degrees. That lasts through February, where it may get up to 2 degrees during the day, and you’ll get a little more sunshine, but still reliable skiing weather. 

If you’re not fussed about skiing and would like to enjoy warmer temperatures consider visiting the canton of Ticino or the Swiss Riviera (alongside Lake Geneva) as both enjoy milder climates than other parts of the country.

Another thing to consider before you decide to travel to Switzerland in winter is how you will get around.  If you are planning on joining an organised coach tour, there are less itineraries and departure dates to choose from during the winter months.

Rail services continue to operate as normal, though, and for those who prefer to drive, roads are regularly cleared of snow.

Visiting during Switzerland’s winter months also means less daylight hours to see the sights as well as the necessity of bringing sufficient warm and waterproof clothing which can be bulky, so keep these things in mind, too.

Average temperatures in Switzerland

So there you have it, a quick look at the pros and cons of travelling during all of Switzerland’s seasons. Armed with all this information, I hope you’ve determined the best time to visit Switzerland for you.

PIN FOR LATER


SWITZERLAND TRAVEL ESSENTIALS