Best Things to Do in Switzerland in the Winter – Winter Guide
Switzerland, this tiny country in central Europe, is a beautiful place to visit at any time of the year. Whether you visit in the spring, fall, or summer, the options for activities are endless. The scenery is always amazing, and the towns and villages know how to charm. Of course, Switzerland is also perfect to visit in the winter.
As a Switzerland fan, I love exploring the country at any time, but I have to admit that I am not a winter sports fan.
Actually, I have never skied in my life. I recently went on my very first ski trip in Verbier – of course, in Switzerland and what should I say? The scenery was amazing, everything was organized perfectly and professionally and Switzerland in winter was just amazing!
Best Time to Visit Switzerland in the Winter
Whether you visit Switzerland in December, January, or February – each month has its charm. Actually, even March is still good for a ski trip to Switzerland.
When you visit Switzerland in December you still have the chance to visit some of the Christmas Markets in Switzerland – and they are great. I know, especially U.S. Americans envy us Europeans for the Christmas Markets. And Switzerland has some of the cutest ones – so one of the best things to do in Switzerland in December is to visit a Christmas Market – in addition, to do some winter sports.
The end of December is also the busiest season for winter sports – especially around Christmas, popular ski destinations get busy.
January is normally the coldest month but also less busy – some parts of the country offer even winter sports activities until April!
If you visit Switzerland during this time of year, winter sports are an important aspect, but there is more to do than that. Click here to find the best things to do in Switzerland at any other time.
I have asked a few well-traveled bloggers to share their favorite winter activities in Switzerland. They include some winter sports, but not exclusively, and so there is something for everyone.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN SWITZERLAND IN THE WINTER
When you visit Switzerland in the winter months, here are my tips on where to stay:
Jungfraujoch Region (including Interlaken) is a great place to stay – it is one of the best winter destinations and you can reach places like Lucerne easily. Interlaken would be my top tip here.
Victoria Jungfrau – since I have not started there myself I can just repeat what I heard: This hotel is supposed to be amazing, so if you are looking for a fancy place this is probably the best pick.
I recently stayed in the newly renovated Hotel du Nord and I actually was very positively surprised (the reviews were not great but since all rooms were renovated lately, it is a great place to stay). Click here to get the best deals.
Airbnb is also big in Interlaken and though you will not find a bargain where you might get a better deal if you like to prepare your own meal or if you are in a bigger group. If you are an Airbnb first-time user you can save $$ by using my link.
Zurich: If you are more into Christmas Markets in visit in December, then I suggest staying in Zurich, so you can visit Basel and Lucerne easily – and have the nice Zurich Christmas Markets, too.
Dolder Grand is one of the best-rated luxury hotels close to the city center.
Warning, there are not many budget hotels in Zurich, this one is a good-rated hostel in Zurich.
Zermatt: Zermatt is an amazing place to stay in Switzerland in the winter – it is located a bit remotely so getting around is not as easy but you have a beautiful town which offers plenty of winter sports and activities.
The best things to do in Switzerland in winter
Recommended by MSC Gerber
Switzerland is famous for its ski slopes, beautiful mountains and, especially in winter, snow. Almost everybody would love exploring the wonderful nature, remote places and just have a great time.
While most of the famous spots such as the Jungfraujoch, Zermatt or Lucerne are extremely crowded all year long there is an easy solution for everybody that loves adventures in winter:
A helicopter flight in the Swiss Alps – even better, in the incredible Jungfrau Region. This is one of the best things to do in Switzerland during winter – and it will even bring you to a remote glacier, that you can’t reach otherwise.
It’s always an unbelievable feeling once you are up in the air with a helicopter, yet, it’s even better when you fly around some of the most stunning peaks of the Alps. With the “Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau” the Jungfrau region is simply a perfect spot for a helicopter adventure.
The prices of these flights are probably the only drawback: A 30minutes flight with a landing on a glacier costs around 300 to 400 Swiss Francs per person, which is quite pricey, but absolutely worth it.
Tip: If you are on a budget but would love to do a helicopter ride nevertheless, there are also more affordable tours available (they are much shorter though).
Christmas Market in Basel
So, if you are in Switzerland in December – a visit of the Christmas Market is a must!
Of course, winter sports does play a big role in Switzerland in the winter. However, you have a lot of other options. One of the best activities in winter is actually to visit one of the Swiss Christmas Markets. The ones in Basel are probably one of the best ones to visit.
Basel, located in the northern part of Switzerland, just close to the German and French border, is well known for its Christmas Markets. After visiting them this year (December 2018), I can see why.
The Christmas Markets open in the last week of November and are open a day before Christmas Eve (in 2018 from 22.November to 23. December). You have three main lovely Christmas Markets – one at Münsterplatz, one at Barfüsserplatz and the Adventsgass im Glaibasel. Each has its own charm – but you will always have mulled wine and some great snacks.
Get in the festive mood with all the lights and Christmas atmosphere – and does not look the town hall even more beautiful with the giant Christmas tree in front?
Kids can also enjoy their time at the Fairy Takke Forest – or hop on the Christmas Tram or the Christmas Ferry. So, since the Christmas period is not that long, head there first and do the winter sports, after all the delicious food! Here is my detailed Basel winter itinerary.
Ride a Velogemmel
Recommended by The World Pursuit
If you are a pretty avid snowboard junky winter time means you’ll be found in the mountains. Dozens of ski resorts and villages around the world all try to come up with interesting winter activities for the less ski/snowboard inclined of the group.
A lot of the activities start to sound the same, but a mountain village in Switzerland is home to something totally unique. That’s where you find the Velogemmel in Grindelwald and where you probably will fall in love with the wooden bike.
The Velogemmel was made in the small town of Grindelwald, Switzerland for the postman to deliver mail in the winter. It’s been around for over a hundred years and the best way to describe it is a wooden bike with two small sled edges instead of tires. You can try it any time of day, but for a real blast, take it to the sled trails at night after an evening fondue in a small mountain hut nearby.
You can rent the wooden bikes for 15 CHF from the train station in Grindelwald, which gives you access to hours of fun on the mountain if you want it.
The course they have set up can get quite intense and steep at times, but then it quickly mellows out for a reliever. It is a great way for families to get away from skiing and snowboarding and try something just a little bit different while in the Swiss Alps!
Winter Kayaking in Lake Brienz
Recommended by Aware Diaries
Switzerland’s beauty is unparalleled, especially during winter. While you’re most likely to be tempted to stay indoors in your cozy villa and enjoy some cheese fondue, you’re in for a treat if you choose to brave the cold and try some outdoor activities.
Whether you’re on a romantic holiday or a family vacation, a perfect bonding activity for you can be Winter Kayaking. It is one of those off-beat experiences that can be best enjoyed in Switzerland during the winter period.
The snow-capped Alps look extremely beautiful in the winters, especially when you see their reflection fall on the clear waters of Lake Brienz. Winter Kayaking is an excellent group activity which gives you a chance to bond, to have fun and enjoy the serene beauty of the Swiss Alps.
You can take up Winter Kayaking by booking a tour with High Tide Kayaking School in Boningen, about 30 minutes from Interlaken. In this tour, you can go kayaking in small groups across the turquoise waters of Lake Brienz with a stop at the Ringgenberg castle to enjoy the scenic view from the top with some homemade tea.
In case you’re worried about freezing in the cold, the high-quality dry suits are extremely effective in keeping you warm and dry in the course of this activity.
Typically, the tour lasts for 3 hours, although it is advisable to dedicate half a day to this activity including the travel and preparation time from Interlaken. The package includes experienced sea kayak coach, small group sizes (from 2-6), top quality sea kayaks, paddles, and top end Palm Bora dry suits, poggies and booties. You also get photos included in your package.
The cost per adult is 130 CHF.
Winter Kayaking in Lake Brienz is a highly rejuvenating activity with value for money!
Pro Tip: Book yourself an afternoon tour to enjoy the divine view of the winter sunset over the Swiss Alps.
Ski – at Rocher de Naye
One of the best places to visit in Switzerland during winter is Lausanne, Montreux and the surrounding region. There are so many things to do around Montreux all year round, as well as many events and festivals, but if you’re visiting in winter and like skiing you shouldn’t miss heading to Rocher de Naye for a day on the slopes.
Getting there is half the fun – the comfortable Goldenpass train heads straight to the ski resort from Montreux station, and your train ticket also works as ski pass. A daily ticket only costs 35 CHF, an excellent price considering that this is Switzerland!
It’s fun to sit on the little train as it heads further and further up, with stunning views the whole way and Lake Leman getting smaller behind you, until it reaches the Rocher de Naye station.
Once you get there, just strap your skis on and… go! The slopes start right next to the train station, so you can spend the day skiing at will and then just head back down to Montreux by train when you’re tired.
There are only a few slopes at Rocher de Naye, with two of them ideal for beginners, and there’s a chalet attached to the train station where it’s possible to get lunch or snacks, including lots of veggie options like cheese fondue!
Ski from Zermatt to Italy
Recommended by A Pair of Passports
Not only is Zermatt a great ski destination on its own, but it is connected to Brueil-Cervinia, meaning that skiers can ski from Switzerland into Italy for the day. Buying an international ski pass in Zermatt allows skiers to use all lifts on both the Swiss and Italian sides of the mountain.
This means that it’s possible to wake up, go to the top of the mountain, ski down into Italy, enjoy an Italian lunch, and then ski back to Switzerland at the end of the day.
There is more than one way to get to Italy, but the recommended way is to take the gondola from Zermatt up to Trockener Steg. From there, switch to the lift that goes up to Klein Matterhorn. Klein Matterhorn is the very top, and there is a café there for any skiers that need a refreshment or a break before starting the journey to Italy! Exit Klein Matterhorn station and just start skiing, following the signs to the Italian side.
Once on the Brueil-Cervinia side of the mountain, it’s essential to stop and eat Italian food. Chalet Etoile is a very popular and picturesque spot with delicious pasta. Cervinia offers some stunning, wide pistes and offers a great day out of skiing. Skiers from Zermatt can spend the day skiing on the Cervinia side but have to keep an eye on the time in order to not miss the last lift back to Zermatt! After a long day of skiing in Cervinia and back to Zermatt, Zermatt offers a range of great après ski spots – Cervo, Hennu Stall, and Papperla are some of the best rated.
There are no passport stamps involved, but spending a ski day in two countries is a fun, unique thing to do when visiting Switzerland!
Hike – and Enjoy a Matterhorn View
Recommended by My Travel Scrapbook
Start your day with a picturesque train journey. Pass through snowy valleys and past gigantic icicles in the south of Switzerland. Your destination is the touristy town of Zermatt. Leave the bustling town full of noisy golf buggies and tourists and head upwards.
The fitter amongst you may choose to walk to the first cable car station and others can get the cable car straight to the start of the hike at Blauherd station.
In the valley, thick clouds may block the mountainous views. Was your trip to see one of Switzerland’s most iconic views in vain? Fear not as the cable car heads upwards the little gondola will soon be above the clouds. From there is of the most breath-taking views in the whole of the Alps: the iconic Matterhorn.
After dodging a few skiers, you will have arrived at the start of your hike. The trail is just for walkers allowing for safe and unimpeded views of the famous mountain. Another great feature of this path is that it is prepared for winter hikers meaning no snowshoes are required. The hike takes around two to three hours depending on whether you choose to start at Blauherd and walk down or start at Sunnegga and walk upwards. Whichever you choose the incredible Matterhorn is always standing proudly in the distance. It is a truly spectacular walk and children will love the hike to.
As with everything in Switzerland the hike comes at a price. You will need to pay for the cable car up to the start of the hike and back down as in winter it is not possible to walk on certain parts of the mountain due to skiers. Yet it is worth every penny as when else can you walk next to one of the world’s most well recognizable peaks?
Read More: Best Things to Do in Zermatt
Visiting the Jungfraujoch
Recommended by Arzo Travels
The Jungfraujoch, a saddle in the Alps connecting two four-thousander peaks, is one of the main attractions in Switzerland. While you have snow at any time of the year (yes, even in the summer), winter is the perfect time to visit.
The Jungfraujoch, standing at 3,454 meters above sea level, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and fun for people of all ages.
Hop on a cogwheel train to visit the highest train station in Europe, and spend a full day up in the mountains – enjoy the views of the stunning Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau mountains at the Sphinx Observation desk, stroll the Ice Palace, learn about the history of Jungfrauhoch in Alpine Sensation, or just play in the snow high in the mountains.
This place is so full of activities and attractions that it’s no surprise that it is such a popular place to visit.
You can book tickets from different train stations (hiking there is almost impossible, regardless of the season) and have access to all of the mentioned places, like the Ice Palace. While tickets aren’t cheap, it is an activity that keeps you busy the entire day and is such a unique experience.
READ MORE: Best Places to Stay in Switzerland
Visit the Arosa Gay Ski Week
Recommended by 2BT Travel
Each January, the Swiss Alps hosts one of the largest LGBT winter events in Europe. Arosa Gay Ski Week is now in its 15th year and the offers a welcoming atmosphere for all LGBT people and allies in the gay-friendly village of Arosa, Switzerland.
The skiing and snowboarding might be the main draw for most attendees but the amazing line up of events and activities throughout the week make for an unforgettable experience. Besides the daily group skiing available, attendees can enjoy activities like classical concerts, ice skating, nighttime fondue and sledging, plus the infamous drag ski race, where the fastest pair in the race wins an amazing all-expenses paid trip.
The event attracts guests from more than 30 countries with 500+ people attending the all-inclusive event. Arosa is accessible by both car or train, with direct connections from all major Swiss cities, by making a quick transfer in the town of Chur.
A week-long pass to Arosa Gay Ski plus lift tickets is 408 CHF (approx. $410), plus the cost of accommodation, which varies based on your budget and location selected.
Visit Mount Pilatus
Recommended by The Invisible Tourist
Visiting Mt Pilatus in summer is as amazing as visiting in winter. It is the perfect place for those who want to experience this iconic mountain towering over Lucerne – a place that takes away the breath! So, you must go during your winter visit, too!Getting to the Pilatus gondola is a 15min bus ride from Lucerne to Kriens, (adult cost CHF 3.10). On arrival, purchase your tickets up (adult cost CHF 72.00) and a little red gondola will swing around to greet you shortly after. As an Australian (where snow is almost non-existent) it was magical to watch the green hillside slowly transform into what looked like a greyscale painting as I climbed the mountain.
Once the gondola reaches its end, a larger cable car fitting about 20 people will take you up the remaining distance. Be warned, once it gets moving the car does quite a sharp drop before ascending (to the horror of those who aren’t aware)!
If you are lucky, you will even see the at the sun peeking out from behind the clouds. Striking snow-capped mountaintops – visible all the way to the horizon, their icy blankets glistening in the sunlight.
It might also be surprising to see icicles taller than people suspended from the roof! During winter at the summit, it’s possible to rug up and admire the view from the Pilatus Kulm Hotel, dine at the Bellevue Restaurant and see various ice sculptures (if the weather permits). It’s just another reason to visit Switzerland in winter!
Visit Mount Titlis
By from Wanderer Hubs
Of all the things to do in Switzerland in winters, indulging in snow activities at the popular Mount Titlis would be the best.
You can enjoy pure winter fun and all sorts of snow activities whilst gawking at the panoramic valley views. The sturdy cableways will drop you in comfort to altitudes up to 3,020m. And then you can uncover the snowcapped landscapes and a whole lot of winter activities such as snowboarding, skiing, toboggan run, and scootering around the Titlis adventure park.
The excursion starts with you sitting in Europe’s first ever rotating cable car which is an experience in itself. It rotates360 degrees within a short span of 5 minutes journey. Just make sure you stand next to the window so you do not miss out on scenic pictures.
Further on your glacier excursion, you can enter a glacier cave, Ice Flyer chair lift as well as cliff walk. It feels almost like a scene from the Disney movie FROZEN. When you are done exploring the cave, simply hit the slopes. If skiing and snowboarding isn’t something that entices you much, sledging surely will. Sleds can be used free of charge and no wonder there are tourists flocking around to ensure they can make the most of this winter activity.
Enticed much already? Snow activities at Mount Titlis are a definitive pull to prepare you for your Switzerland holidays this year.
Click here to find tickets for this great activity in winter.
Visit LAX Ski Resort
Recommended by Les Berlinettes
If you are going to Switzerland, you won’t want to miss the coolest ski resort: LAAX situated 1,5 hours from Zürich and easy to access by public bus.
LAAX is 224km of slopes, where you can go snow wandering, cross-country skiing, alpine ski, but above all do some freestyle. LAAX is the leading freestyle resort in the Alps. It has the longest continuous halfpipe in the world and many freestyle options spread across four snow parks.
Freestyle in LAAX is not for advanced skiers only, it is also for beginners. There are many course options or you can just dare to try out the many options. You will see many kids trying freestyle as well some of them as young as ” years old. Very cute to watch.
If you are into freestyle, you won’t want to miss the LAAX Open that is held every year and features the best freestyler in the world. Indeed, LAAX is also lifestyle and can compete with the coolest cities in the world with it’s very cool and trendy bars, healthy restaurants and the coolest workspace in the world at Galaaxy at an altitude of 2,252 meters. #officegoals
Also, you might want to know that LAAX is a green ski resort that took ecologic measures with the goal to become the world’s first sufficient alpine resort. Very very cool and a great destination to support!
Go Snowboarding in Portes du Soleil
Recommended by A World to Travel
The ski domain of Portes du Soleil – which includes twelve resorts between Mont Blanc in France and Lake Geneva in Switzerland – is one of the best in that mountain range and the perfect one to enjoy the Swiss landscapes the country is famous for.
And not only beautiful, it is a specially good one for snowboarding too where crowds (unless in public holidays) are non-existent and the runs quite enough for a week of fun.
In fact, it has more than 650 km of marked pistes for all levels, 30 snowparks, 286 ski slopes and 196 lifts in total; which make Portes du Soleil one of the largest ski areas in the world. Champéry, Champoussin, Morgins, Les Crosets and Torgon (some of them with amazing views of the famous Dents du Midi (3257m) and Dents Blanches (2756m) are in the Swiss part.
It usually opens around mid-December until April, getting there isn’t difficult if you fly to Geneva and it is possible to enjoy a accommodation in a shared apartment + forfait package from around 400€. Prices can get significantly higher if you book a hotel room and choose busy dates like Christmas or Easter.
Visit a Christmas Market – Montreux Noel
Recommended by Simpler and Smarter
Montreux Noel should be top of your list of things to do in Switzerland in winter if you are visiting in the lead up to Christmas and love some Christmas spirit.
This festival takes part in Montreux and its surrounds in the month leading up to Christmas. It’s easy to get to the center of Montreux via train and you can walk to many of the attractions from there.
The main event is the Christmas market – it spreads out along Lake Geneva and there are tons of stalls, food, and drink. The best time to visit is in the evening when Santa also rides across the lake regularly – it makes for quite a sight!
There are also many other attractions and events like celebrating a medieval Christmas at the UNESCO listed Chillon Castle, learning some new crafts (like candle making) at the Elves Village or eating a lot or having a hot drink at the Lumberjack Village. There is also a light show in the evenings at Fairmont le Montreux Palace.
One of our favorite parts of this festival was visiting Santa Claus’ house up Rochers-de-Naye. At 2,042m above sea level, his house is located in grotto reached by train.
It’s a very scenic ride up and down and there are some activities and food at the top. There is also a very good chance of snow at the top so this is a fun chance to get some snow play in if there isn’t snow further down.
I recommend spending at least a couple of days in Montreux to visit it all. Most things are free but there is a small entry fee to Chillon Castle and you need to buy the train ticket up Rochers-de-Naye to visit Santa’s house.
Find out about the best things to do in Montreux – besides visiting the Christmas market
Visit an Adventure Park
Recommended by From East to West
One of the most different and fun things to do in winter in Switzerland, instead of skiing and other “typical” winter sports, is to go to their adventure park in Interlaken.
Here you will feel like a kid again and can participate in their ropes and adventure course! There are easy, medium and hard adventures and all of them are so much fun. This is a great activity to do if you are visiting Interlaken solo or with a group of friends as it can be used for team-building but also to get your heart racing as an adrenaline junkie. The course is nestled in the middle of the forest and can be done in any season.
It consists of different zip lines, tarzan-like swings and bridges and hula hoops to cross over. There are multiple courses across all difficulties (and heights) and will be fun for any type of person!
The course is totally safe and they go through all the safety precautions beforehand and you are required to wear a helmet as well! I would spend a half day here getting lost in the different activities and adrenaline rushing courses.
You can take a quick cab to the adventure course in Interlaken and the cost for an adult is 39 Swiss Francs (in winter the opening times change, you please contact the park in advance).
Here are more travel tips for your trip to Switzerland:
Wondering about the most beautiful places in Switzerland? Here are my picks.
We hope, these tips have helped you find the perfect winter activities for your Switzerland trip!