A question I often get asked and one that is slightly difficult to answer is: when is the best time to visit Switzerland? There is so much to see and do here that really there is no bad time to travel to Switzerland – it’s nearly a year-round destination.
It really comes down to what you are looking to do in Switzerland – that’s what should decide what is the best time for you to visit Switzerland.
Spring and Summer are the best times to visit to enjoy activities such as hiking, biking or just basking in the sunshine and taking in the spectacular views over the mountains! The weather during this time is mild, flowers are blooming and green pastures are revealed under the melted snow.
Planning a trip to Switzerland? Click here for a detailed travel guide to Switzerland – including itinerary options (for 3, 5, 7 or 10 days), visa, transportation in Switzerland (including Swiss Pass), accommodation options and more!
If skiing is what you are looking for, winter is the time for you, with the added bonus of beautiful Christmas markets and festivities. Winter is a wonderful time to visit Switzerland! Beautiful snow-covered streets, dazzling Christmas markets, entertaining events, delicious fondue and hot chocolate – all can be enjoyed during the winter!
Read on for a complete guide to different seasons in Switzerland and how to pick the right time for a visit.
Have limited time in Switzerland? Here’s a 5-day Switzerland itinerary to take in the best of the country!
Here are more ideas for your trip to Switzerland: 25 best places to visit in Switzerland!
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What to keep in mind to decide when to visit Switzerland
Some things you need to keep in mind when deciding on the best time to visit Switzerland are,
- HOLIDAY PREFERENCES – Are you looking to hike, bike, swim, ski, take in the cities, enjoy the carnival or the welcoming of the cows’ event? When you decide to visit Switzerland will depend on what you are most interested in.
- WEATHER & CLIMATE – The weather in Switzerland varies depending upon the area – the highest areas in the mountains have an Alpine climate while in the plateau region where most cities are located, it is moderately continental. Parts of the region of Switzerland bordering Italy have a mild Mediterranean climate. Pleasant, warm weather in the cities may not translate to the mountains – you need to plan (& pack) for the right weather.
- DAYLIGHT HOURS – Switzerland sees approx 15 hours of daylight during the summer and 8 hours during the winter. The longer duration during the summer allows you to sightsee while also having the margin for long travel times.
- MOUNTAIN TRANSPORT – A visit up the mountains in the Swiss Alps (an absolute must-do when in Switzerland) will require taking a mountain transport – a funicular train or a cable car/ gondola. While some mountain transports operate year-round, most have limited operational time, usually during the late spring to early fall. Some mountains with ski slopes also operate public transport during the winter.
- CROWDS – Switzerland is a popular tourist destination and is very crowded during the high season
- PRICES – Switzerland is an expensive country and the prices are at their highest during the high season
When is the best time to travel to Switzerland?
Best time in Switzerland for sightseeing
The best time to go to Switzerland for sightseeing is during late spring, summer or early fall, so anytime from May to mid-October. The weather ranges from mild to warm – comfortable enough to stroll the streets of beautiful Swiss towns or head up to some of the mountains for panoramic views.
Best time in Switzerland to avoid tourist crowds
Switzerland becomes the most crowded during the summer months of July & August. Try and plan your travel during the shoulder months of mid-April to June or September to mid-October to avoid crowds and still have good weather for sight-seeing or hiking.
Best time in Switzerland to see the Swiss Alps
The 2 best ways to enjoy the Swiss Alps are either skiing or hiking. Of course, you can just head up to one of the mountains using the very fantastic Swiss mountain transport options and enjoy the views. But I’d recommend taking a hike (there are many, many very easy ones!) to really take in the scenic beauty of the Swiss Alps.
The shoulder months of mid-April to June or September to mid-October are also the perfect time to visit Switzerland to see the Swiss Alps.
Skiing is also a great way to take in the beauty of the mountains – though I can’t attest to it firsthand since I’ve been too scared to try it for myself!
Best time in Switzerland for hiking
From June to September most mountain transport options are operational, most of the snow has melted and the weather is pleasant – perfect for hiking in the Swiss mountains. Even during peak tourist seasons, most trails are fairly sparse and you do not run into crowds.
Best time in Switzerland for snow sports
Most slopes operate for winter sports between November and March. The best snow on the slopes for skiing or snowboarding is in January & February.
Best time in Switzerland for good weather
The temperatures are at their highest and the rainfall is the lowest in the months of July or September (this year though we’ve seen a very rainy September!).
What are the travel seasons in Switzerland?
High Season in Switzerland
Switzerland is a sought after destination both during the summer and during the winter. July & August are the high seasons during the summer. Most mountain transports & hotels are more expensive at this time.
E.g., the Gorngergrat Bahn in Zermatt costs CHF 118 for a return trip during July/ August while it costs CHF 102 during May/ June or September/ October and CHF 80 during November – April.
During the winter, the high season is from mid-December till February – covering both the Christmas festivities and the best times to be on the ski slopes.
Low Season in Switzerland
The time from mid-October to mid-December and March to mid-April is when the weather is chilly and rains are more frequent – not the best time for either skiing or hiking. Most mountain transport options are unavailable at this time.
Shoulder Season in Switzerland
From spring to summer, Mid-April to June & the initial period of fall, September to Mid-October make up the shoulder season to travel to Switzerland. The prices are lower than the peak season and the crowds are thinner during this period.
What is the best month to visit Switzerland?
Spring in Switzerland (MARCH-MAY)
What is the weather like in Switzerland during Spring?
In March, the temperatures remain low going up to ~10 °C (average for the Zurich region). Most cities are clear of snow by March, though the mountains are still covered in it – so most ski slopes are open.
The weather starts getting warmer in April (though there are times when winter returns in April and there are even snowfalls in the cities!) through May and the temperatures reach ~20 °C.
The number of hours of daylight goes up from ~12 hours in March to a whopping 15 hours in May! The day doesn’t seem to end, giving you so much more time to stay outdoors and enjoy the natural beauty.
Why should you visit Switzerland during Spring?
Switzerland in spring is beautiful – vivid colours & bright flowers liven up the country and there are fewer crowds.
Spring is a wonderful time to visit Switzerland – it’s lovely to walk down the streets of the old towns with flowers blooming everywhere. You can still ski in March or start exploring some of the amazing hiking options in May.
Transportation and hotels are cheaper at this time – though several hotels & restaurants may be closed, waiting to open during the summer.
Spring is also the best time to visit Switzerland for a honeymoon! There are fewer crowds, there is still snow easily accessible, and if it rains – well, it just makes it all the more romantic, doesn’t it?!
What are the significant events in Switzerland during Spring?
You can take in beautiful flowers at the Morges Tulip Festival along the shores of Lake Geneva in April.
Zurich’s spring festival, Sechseläuten is held in mid-April. It involves colourful parades culminating into the burning of a figure of a snowman called Böögg, symbolizing winter. Quaint isn’t it?!
A cheese festival is held in Gruyere in early May celebrating cheese from Switzerland & other countries. This is the place to taste various cheeses and watch the production of cheese.
Practical tips before you visit Switzerland in the Spring
You will need a mixed bag of clothes for a trip to Switzerland during spring – pack a few warm layers along with your summer clothes, a waterproof jacket and an umbrella.
Summer in Switzerland (JUNE – AUGUST)
What is the weather like in Switzerland during the Summer?
Summers are typically mild with average temperatures ranging from 16° C in June to ~28° C in July & August. Rains are quite frequent during the summer months.
There are almost 15 hours of daylight during the summer giving you ample time to explore the outdoors!
Why should you visit Switzerland during Summer?
Summer is the best time for all outdoor activities – hiking, biking, swimming etc. There are 15+ hours of daylight so there’s ample time to enjoy! During the summer, all hotels, restaurants, and trails are open and it is a popular time for tourists in Switzerland
June is perfect to go on hikes – the trails are usually clear, the weather is mild and there are no crowds!
In July & August, the days can be quite hot. The last couple of years we’ve had temperatures of 35° C+ on some days – with homes/ hotels not built for warm weather, it can get blistering hot at times with no AC or fans to cool you down!
The heat also means it’s the perfect time to go swimming though! The lakes and rivers in Switzerland are wonderful for swimming. Crystal clear waters and several swimming facilities at the water bodies make it super inviting to take a dip. The lakes of Lucerne & Zurich and the river Aare in Bern fill up with swimmers during the summer.
What are the significant events in Switzerland during the Summer?
The famous Montreux Jazz Festival is held during the first couple of weeks of July. Swiss National Day is on 1-August and is marked by festivities and fireworks across the country.
Practical tips before you visit Switzerland in the Summer
Plan ahead since summer is very busy in Switzerland – hotels will be expensive and can fill up fast. Try and book a hotel with air-conditioning especially if you’re visiting during July or August.
Pack summer clothes & bathing suits, along with a warm jacket & closed shoes if you plan to visit one of the snow-covered mountains.
Fall in Switzerland (SEPTEMBER – NOVEMBER)
What is the weather like in Switzerland during the Fall?
The weather is still quite warm in September with average high temperatures of 20° C. Temperatures fall from ~15° C in October to <10° C in November. The first snow also starts by the end of November.
Hours of daylight start falling from ~12 hours in September to ~9 hours in November.
Why should you visit Switzerland during Fall?
The best thing to do in this season is to enjoy the fall colours – take in the beautiful views over the lakes and spectacular sunsets from the mountains.
September is one of the best times to visit Switzerland – the weather is warm, crowds are mostly gone and things get cheaper.
You can also continue to enjoy hiking or biking in September and early October since most trails & mountain transports are open.
By November though most mountain resorts & transports are closed, the weather is chilly and there isn’t snow yet for winter sports – cities are still pleasant for a visit during this time.
What are the significant events in Switzerland during the Fall?
The welcoming of cows back into Alpine villages from the mountains, an event called Désalpe or Alpabzug is held in September. Bedecked cows make their way to the valleys and plains for the winter after spending months grazing in the alpine pastures.
Christmas markets also start coming up in November.
Practical tips before you visit Switzerland in the Fall
Similar to Spring, you will need a mixed bag of clothes for a trip to Switzerland during spring – pack a few warm layers along with your summer clothes, a waterproof jacket and an umbrella.
Winter in Switzerland (DECEMBER – FEBRUARY)
What is the weather like in Switzerland during Winter?
The weather in winter is cold and foggy with temperatures <5° C. Snow and ice are common during these months and there are about 8 hours of daylight.
Why should you visit Switzerland during Winter?
Snow-capped mountains are a spectacular sight – even for non-skiers! Visit Switzerland in the winter for panoramic views of the snow-covered mountains, charming Christmas markets and fantastic ski opportunities.
The cities of Zurich, Bern, Lucerne and Geneva are great to visit around Christmas or New Year. For a white Christmas, head to St. Moritz or Zermatt since most cities are unlikely to have enough snow to turn into a white wonderland.
January & February are also good for cosy city trips and winter sports.
The Jungfrau region is one of the best places to spend winter in Switzerland – little snow-covered towns and gorgeous lakes, tall snowy mountains, and if you’re visiting during the holiday season, beautiful Christmas festivities.
If you’re looking for milder weather, head to the Swiss Riviera along Lake Geneva or to the southern part of the country, the canton of Ticino.
What are the significant events in Switzerland during Winter?
Christmas brings out a special side of Switzerland – twinkling lights, huge Christmas trees, bustling markets, and scores of events, all add to the magic of Christmas in Switzerland.
Horn sled races are held during the winter in the regions of Graubünden, Glarus and the Bernese Oberland – these are enjoyable even as a spectator!
Carnival celebrations called Fasnacht are held throughout Switzerland from January to March – these involve colourful parades, street performances, music and lots of food!
Practical tips before you visit Switzerland in the Winter
Prices in the mountains become high and places tend to get filled up fast so plan ahead if you’re looking for accommodation in places such as Zermatt or the Jungfrau region.
Pack warm – a winter coat, waterproof shoes, gloves, a cap will all be required to face the winter weather.
Summing up: The best time to visit Switzerland – depends on your interests!
JANUARY – MARCH: Ski, snowboard or enjoy the snow in the mountain resorts. Experience the Carnival!
APRIL – MAY: Sightsee in the cities/ towns, enjoy panoramic views from the accessible mountains
JUNE – SEPTEMBER: Hike, cycle, swim, cruise, or drive through the mountain passes – everything is open during these months!
OCTOBER – NOVEMBER: Cheaper options for stay & sightseeing, cozy city trips
DECEMBER: Enjoy Christmas & New Year festivities and snow at the mountain resorts
What is your favourite time of the year to visit Switzerland? Let me know in the comments below. Have questions? Ask away!
More information for your trip to Switzerland:
BUCKET LIST DESTINATIONS: 25 best places to visit in Switzerland
HIDDEN GEMS: 10 hidden gems in Switzerland
TRAIN RIDES: The Golden Pass train line
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