Switzerland has four seasons, each with its own unique character – Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. As summer turns to fall in Switzerland, you can create some wonderful memories and capture lots of charming photos. Autumn is a great time to visit Switzerland. We’ve got mild weather and pretty fall colors.
In autumn, harvest is in full swing. In fact, the old German word for autumn is herbist, which means harvest. During autumn, the game season is just around the corner. So, what’s autumn really like in Switzerland?
Autumn is one of the prettiest seasons to visit Switzerland because of the gorgeous fall foliage. There are also tons of traditional festivals in Switzerland during the autumn season. Walking trails in Switzerland are typically still open during the first half of autumn, so you can enjoy the wonderful rusty colors while exploring the mountains and alpine pastures. If you’re thinking about visiting Switzerland this autumn, here’s what you need to know.
When is Autumn in Switzerland?
Although according to the calendar September 1 is the start of autumn, astronomically it starts later. In Switzerland, the astronomical autumn starts on the second equinox of the year. This coincides with when the sun crosses the celestial equator from north to south.
Astronomical autumn in Switzerland starts either on September 22 or September 23 and lasts for three months until November.
Autumn in Switzerland: Recommended Places
Autumn is a great time to visit Switzerland. It’s a nice day for long tours with moderate temperatures. Check out these places to go in Autumn if you’re looking for some inspiration.
- Engadine – It’s going to be sunny and warm instead of gray and foggy in Switzerland’s high places. Engadine is one of my favorites during Autumn. Valais is also worth a visit besides Engadine.
- Val Bregaglia – Bregaglia Valley, also part of Upper Engadine, is located in Switzerland and Sondrio, Italy. It descends from Maloja Pass and is worth visiting during Autumn for its chestnuts. To mark the start of the harvest season, the Chestnut Festival (Festival della Castagna) takes place in October.
- Wine Villages – Visit the wine villages like Mentrisiotto, Bündner Herrschaft, La Neuveville, Frauenfeld, Vully, Lutry, and Hallau. Most of them have wine festivals during harvest season, too.
- Ticino – You can find warmer weather in Ticino than in the rest of Switzerland if you’re looking for it.
Autumn in Switzerland: Weather
Autumn in Switzerland is generally a three-month period from September to November.
Here are some average temperatures in Switzerland from September to November.
|Altitude||September (°C)||October (°C)||November (°C)|
|Lugano||273 m||14 to 23 °C||10 to 17 °C||6 to 12 °C|
|Zurich||408 m||12 to 20 °C||8 to 15 °C||3 to 9 °C|
|Interlaken||568 m||10 to 19 °C||6 to 14 °C||1 to 7 °C|
|Zermatt||1,608 m||6 to 16 °C||2 to 12 °C||-2 to 6 °C|
|St. Moritz||1,822 m||1 to 14 °C||-3 to 10 °C||-9 to 3 °C|
As autumn approaches, the sun’s rays become less intense, the temperature drops, and the days become shorter.
Autumn Weather in September
Autumn weather in September is likely to start similar to late August. In most cities and the plains, we’ll have mild weather, but nothing too hot. The weather will still be perfect for hiking, even at higher altitudes, without the crowds. When you go hiking in Switzerland in September, you’ll need some good boots in case there are any wet conditions up there.
Some of the higher altitude trails (2,500 meters and up) might have snow. Most of the normal hiking and biking trails below 2,500 meters will be open.
Most mountain passes will be open, too. If you plan on driving up higher mountain passes, you might want to change your summer tires to winter tires in case it snows early.
September is when most lidos and pools close. By the end of September, most are closed.
Autumn starts to sneak up on you truly in late September when leaves start turning colors. Depending on the plant, tree leaves will start turning yellow, orange, or red. Engadine is a great spot for autumn foliage.
Autumn Weather in October
You can still do the lower hikes, but check the conditions and local information first. There will still be plenty to hike regardless. Higher trails may be covered in snow, especially in the late part of October.
Autumn weather starts getting colder in October. The lowlands get dense fog slowly engulfing the northern side of the alps. These days can be really gloomy, especially if there’s rain.
Usually, locals start checking the upper fog border (called Nebelgrenze in German) to escape the gray skies. You will typically have to go higher up in altitude to accomplish this. To enjoy the sunshine, you might just have to head up to the next higher town or village nearby. It is not uncommon for the fog to clear up at 1,000 to 2,000 meters above sea level. Most mountains have webcams so you can see if it’s above or below the fog.
With the decrease in temperatures, autumn can also be known for wind storms.
Autumn Weather in November
When the air is colder, it is able to save less humidity. As the excess water condenses, it forms small drops that float to form fog. The cold weather in November makes many parts of the country very foggy. First snow days may also start at higher altitudes.
In most ski resorts, there’s a short break before the ski season starts. It’s normal for higher ski resorts to be open already by late November.
Most alpine mountain passes close in the first week of November.
Autumn in Switzerland: Highlights
- Weltklasse Zurich – An international athletics event that takes place in Zurich in early September.
- Knabenschiessen – One of the biggest traditions in Zurich, Knabenschiessen is where young boys and girls have the opportunity to test and prove their shooting skills. This shooting festival runs from Saturday until Monday and offers a wide range of culinary offerings. Although initially limited to boys, girls have been allowed to take part in this competition in 1991.
- Alpine Descent – (Alpabfahrt in German, Désalpe in French, Scargada in Romansh) Cattle slowly come down from the alps after spending the summer up there. There are some places where sheep come down. During a procession, farmers and shepherds dress up in traditional costumes and bring down cattle adorned with flowers and cowbells. The whole village gathers and welcomes them. After that, there’s food, music, and drinks for the farmers and spectators.
- Wine festivals – Various wine regions offer wine festivals or aperitifs, including La Neuveville, Frauenfeld, Vully, Lutry, and Hallau. Through these, you can learn about a variety of regional, fine wines.
- Autumn Markets – Various villages and towns may hold their local autumn market to sell their produce (wood, textiles, ceramics, handmade products, fresh produce, and more). In Lucerne, there’s an autumn market called Lozärner Määs. Another big one called Basler Herbstmesse takes place in Basel.
- Advent Markets – To mark the start of advent, some villages and towns will have an advent market in mid-November. They typically sell gingerbread treats, Glühwein, cakes, and local produce.
- Game season – As animals need to rest during the winter, and spring and summer are reserved for giving birth and raising babies, autumn is the only time for hunting. In terms of food, you’ll see venison on a game menu. You can get regular venison, venison schnitzel, peppered venison, or strips of venison. Typically, the meal is garnished with red cabbage, Brussels sprouts, chestnuts, pears with cranberries, grapes, and homemade spaetzle.
Autumn in Switzerland: What to Wear
In Switzerland, you should dress in layers during autumn because the weather can be unpredictable. It’s fine to wear short- or long-sleeved t-shirts, knitwear, and pants. Bringing a light jacket will come in handy if the mornings or evenings are cooler or the altitude is higher. Going to high altitude requires an extra layer or a thicker down jacket.
When it’s foggy, I recommend wearing lighter clothes over darker ones. You can also add reflective elements to your clothes. It’s to protect you if you’re walking or biking in foggy or low-visibility weather. For rainy days and slick roads, I’d recommend wearing shoes with good soles.
Summary: Autumn in Switzerland
Even with slightly cooler temperatures, Switzerland is an awesome place to visit during the autumn. You’ve got mild weather, especially in September. As the weeks go by, the country gets colder.
With the game season just around the corner and autumn break for a lot of children, autumn is truly a relaxing and beautiful time to be in Switzerland. The advent season starts around the end of autumn.
Hiking in the mountains is a good treat. When the lowlands stay under fog, the mountains are a great place to visit with the sun on your face. It’s also a good time to go if you’d rather travel during shoulder season instead of peak season.
In autumn, you’ll get to see beautiful fall foliage in the alpine regions, all the great autumn and wine markets, and the traditional alpine descent that’s celebrated all over the country. Autumn is a great time to visit Switzerland.
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Darla Uhl is the owner of TouringSwitzerland.com. Her home is in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. Having lived almost 20 years in Switzerland, she's traveled extensively all over the country.
Darla's favorite regions to visit in Switzerland include Engadin, Lake Geneva, Bernese Oberland, Ticino, and Valais. She loves spending time with her family, hiking, visiting museums, and reading books.