Switzerland has four seasons, each with its own unique character – Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. You can create some great memories during winter in Switzerland and capture lots of charming snow-covered pictures. Switzerland is a winter paradise. We’ve got snowy peaks, awesome ski resorts, and more. Plus, the Christmas season is just around the corner. So, what’s winter really like in Switzerland?
You might want to consider visiting during the winter, especially if you live in a tropical country. Having a cold climate will allow you to experience something completely different from what you are used to. A variety of traditional festivals are also held, as well as Christmas markets and carnivals.
It doesn’t always have to be on the ski slopes; sled rides, wellness areas, and museums are also other options to consider in winter. Most ski resorts also offer winter walking trails if you don’t ski or snowboard. So don’t be afraid that you’ll be left with nothing to do if you don’t ski or snowboard. Snowflakes falling and the sun shining makes for lovely peaceful walks, which I also thoroughly enjoy.
If you’re thinking about visiting Switzerland this winter, here’s what you need to know.
When is Winter in Switzerland?
Although according to the calendar December 1 is the start of winter, astronomically it starts later. In Switzerland, the astronomical winter starts during the winter solstice. This is the day of the year with the shortest period of daylight.
Astronomical winter in Switzerland starts between December 21 or December 22 and lasts for three months until March.
Winter in Switzerland: Recommended Places
Winter is a great time to visit Switzerland. Pack yourselves warm since it might be cold and your trip will take you to some of the most picturesque places in Switzerland. Check out these places to go in winter if you’re looking for some inspiration.
- St. Moritz – St. Moritz is the ultimate winter playground in the Engadine region of Switzerland. Winter activities abound here. It will only be a matter of time before the entire lake in St. Moritz is frozen once the temperatures drop enough.
- Interlaken – Interlaken, one of the most popular places to stay in the Bernese Oberland, is also a perfect winter destination. The location here makes it easy to take advantage of the lakes and mountains, to indulge in shopping, or to visit nearby picturesque towns.
- Lucerne – Winter in Lucerne brings you the Christmas market in December, the Light Festival in January, and the Carnival in February. Along with a crystal clear lake, the glacier garden, chapel bridge, and nearby mountains, Lucerne has a lot to offer.
- Verbier or Zermatt – In Verbier, you can find the largest and best ski resort in the country. Furthermore, it is relatively easy to reach from Geneva. Winter sports enthusiasts should definitely visit Verbier. You might want to consider Zermatt if you are not as interested in winter sports. A fairytale winter wonderland, Zermatt is home to wooden ski lodges, shops, hotels, and boutiques covered in snow.
- Ticino – You can find warmer weather in Ticino than in the rest of Switzerland if you’re looking for it.
Winter in Switzerland: Weather
Winter in Switzerland is generally a three-month period from December to February.
Here are some average temperatures in Switzerland from December to February.
|2 to 8 °C
|1 to 7 °C
|2 to 9 °C
|0 to 5 °C
|-1 to 4 °C
|0 to 6 °C
|-2 to 4 °C
|-3 to 3 °C
|-3 to 5 °C
|-6 to 2 °C
|-7 to 1 °C
|-7 to 2 °C
|-14 to -2 °C
|-16 to -2 °C
|-16 to 0 °C
Winter Weather in December
Despite the shortest days of the year, December is not as gloomy as it might seem due to Christmas lights and markets all over the country. In the higher mountainous regions such as Engadine, Zermatt, and Verbier, it is likely that snow has already fallen.
It is starting to get colder in December, so more ski resorts are opening. Snowfall over the past few days or weeks is likely to have reached several inches. Having this in place makes opening a ski resort much easier. In the run-up to Christmas, almost all ski resorts will already be open.
The days immediately before and after Christmas, as well as New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, are likely to be the busiest days of the ski season.
In cities that are not located in the Alps, snow might be present, or there may be none at all. Ultimately, the weather will determine the outcome, and it’s hard to determine what it will be.
Winter Weather in January
Aside from being the coldest month of the year, January is also typically the prime time to enjoy snow sports like skiing and snowboarding. The best time to ski is during the first three weeks of January, just before Switzerland heads into its sports holidays in February.
Winter Weather in February
It is still cold in February, but the days are getting longer as time passes. Consequently, it will be less dark outside during the day. Winter sports are exciting, but so are the numerous carnivals that take place nationwide.
In Switzerland, most schools will take a 2-week sport break in February, so the slopes will be crowded. During the month of February, the majority of ski resorts will be very busy and more expensive. Ski holidays are over for most cantons by the end of February.
Winter in Switzerland: Highlights
- Christmas Markets – The Christmas market is an opportunity for various business owners to sell their produce (such as wood, textiles, ceramics, handmade products, fresh produce, and more). Particularly worthwhile to visit are the Christmas Markets in Montreux, Einsiedeln, and Rapperswil.
- Winter Sports Events – Various winter sports events are held in Switzerland every year, especially the Alpine Ski Races at Wengen and Adelboden as well as the women’s races at St. Moritz and Crans-Montana.
- Carnivals – It is said that the two most famous carnivals in Switzerland are the ones in Lucerne and Basel. In 2017, UNESCO inscribed the Basel Carnival (Basler Fasnacht) on the International Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
- Winter food – It is common for Santa Claus to give clementines and shelled peanuts as gifts during the winter months. Swiss specialties such as cheese fondue and raclette are also enjoyable at this time of year.
Winter in Switzerland: What to Wear
Since Switzerland’s weather can be unpredictable during the winter, it is advisable to dress in layers. You can wear long-sleeved t-shirts, knits, and pants. A heavy winter jacket will come in handy, especially in January or at higher altitudes. Adding another layer or wearing a thicker down jacket is recommended when you’re heading to high altitude.
Wearing proper winter shoes is highly recommended. It may be slippery in some areas, especially if there is a sheet of ice on the road, so you want to have proper grip to avoid slipping.
Summary: Winter in Switzerland
Switzerland is truly a winter wonderland, especially when the sun is shining and snowflakes are falling. With the Christmas just around the corner, winter is truly a relaxing and beautiful time to be in Switzerland.
Winter is our family’s favorite season because we enjoy both alpine and cross-country skiing. I also love winter walks.
While skiing and snowboarding are certainly enjoyable, winter can also be thoroughly enjoyed without them. Make sure you dress warmly and take a break every couple of hours to enjoy a hot beverage.
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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.