WHAT TO DO IN WINTER IN ZURICH – ACTIVITIES + TRAVEL TIPS
Are you headed to Zurich in winter? Then check out this winter guide for Zurich to find out what to expect if you visit in the cold months.
Switzerland’s biggest city has tons to offer! Personally, Zurich is one of my all-time favorite cities and I’ve spent so much time there that I practically have a Swiss passport (Ha, I wish, these passports are hard to get a hand on!)! Well, at least I feel at home in Zurich (and Switzerland).
But let’s be real, winter in Zurich can be a bit of a mixed bag. If you hit the city shortly before Christmas, it’s like stepping into a winter wonderland. The Christmas Markets are a sight to behold! But, if you come on a rainy day in January or February, well, it’s not exactly a scene out of a postcard.
Don’t get me wrong, Switzerland in winter is breathtaking, but Zurich in the winter can be a bit of a buzzkill. Especially if it’s your first time visiting the country. But fret not! I’ve got some insider tips for you to make the most out of your Zurich winter adventure!
And believe me, it’s going to be great! So, stick around, and let’s get this Swiss party started!
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TIPS FOR ZURICH IN WINTER
Before discussing the best things to do in Zurich in winter, here is some info for your trip.
How to Get Around in Zurich in Winter
When it comes to navigating Zurich, the best way to do it is on foot or by hopping on public transport. You don’t need to rent a car in Switzerland, especially during the winter months.
Zurich in the winter is more or less the shoulder season for tourism, yet trains and trams might be fuller than in the summer months – after all, people probably walk less and with their bulky jackets, it can be jam-packed. Nevertheless, for a winter city trip to Zurich, public transportation is my top tip.
However, if the weather is on your side, walking is always a great option too! But, if the chill gets too much to handle, just hop on a tram or bus and ride your way to your next destination.
Zurich’s public transport is the bee’s knees and it’s the most efficient way to get around, especially when the temperatures are dropping.
If you’re planning on exploring Zurich, the Zurich Card is a must-have! Not only does it give you unlimited access to the city’s public transport system, but it also gets you free entry to almost all of the museums in the city.
So, grab a Zurich Card and get ready to immerse yourself in the culture and history of this incredible city! Click here to find out more and check out prices for the Zurich Card.
SWISS TRAVEL PASS
If you’ve got a Swiss Travel Pass, you won’t need to bother with getting a Zurich Card. Why? Well, with the Swiss Travel Pass, you’ve got unlimited access to public transport in Zurich, and that even includes the boats on Lake Zurich! Not only that, but you also get free entry to a bunch of museums and select attractions, without any extra costs.
If you’re planning on staying in Switzerland for more than three days and you’re looking to explore multiple cities and places, then the Swiss Travel Pass is an absolute game-changer and will give you unlimited access to public transportation, including trains, buses, and boats, throughout the country.
Where to Stay in Zurich in Winter
LUXURY: Baur au Lac – Zurich has some great luxury hotels that are amazing for getting spoiled and enjoying life. Baur au Lac is one of the best-rated luxury hotels close to the city center. ➡️ Book your stay at Baur au Lac here.
MID-RANGE: The Glärnischhof by TRINITY – This 4-star hotel – The Glärnischhof by TRINITY is one of the best-rated mid-range hotels close to the city center, right next to the famous Bahnhofstrasse. ➡️ Book your stay at The Glärnischhof by TRINITY here.
BUDGET: Oldtown Hostel Otter – Warning, there are not many budget hotels in Zurich. This is a good-rated hostel in Zurich. I stayed here once and for a hostel, it actually was quite good for a hostel – especially because of its great location. ➡️ Book your stay at Oldtown Hostel Otter here.
Check out my guide on the best places to stay in Zurich.
Read more: For more Zurich travel tips, check out my detailed 2-day Zurich itinerary.
What is The Weather in Zurich in Winter Like?
Zurich is situated within the temperate climate zone and experiences four distinct seasons. During the winter months, temperatures may occasionally dip below freezing.
- During January, Zurich is in the midst of winter, characterized by cold weather and occasional occurrences of snow and ice. The average temperature hovers around 0°C (32°F).
- February maintains its winter grip, with average temperatures not significantly warmer than those in January. Occasionally, as the month progresses, Zurich may see the first glimpses of sunny days with slightly milder temperatures. However, to make sure you pack accordingly, check the forecast prior to your trip.
- While March marks the official start of spring, Zurich can still be quite chilly and may even see snowfall. However, with some luck, the first sunny days can bring temperatures ranging from 10 to 15°C (50 to 60°F).
- Historically, the initial snowfall in Zurich has frequently occurred towards the conclusion of November. Otherwise, the month is marked by cool temperatures and fog.
- In Zurich, winter commences in December, bringing cold weather and the potential for snowfall. The sun rarely breaks through the elevated fog in this period
What to Pack For Your Zurich Winter Vacation
Though Switzerland in December is not as bad as many think, it is still important to dress warmly. Or better, to dress in layers.
✔️ A warm, waterproof jacket should be one of the first items you think to pack. Avoid choosing a bulky jacket that takes up a lot of space. This can make you feel uncomfortable when you have layers underneath. Instead, opt for a lightweight trench raincoat that will keep you warm, dry, and comfortable.
✔️ A knitted beanie is a perfect solution for keeping the warmth in while you venture out. A hat will keep you toasty warm wherever you are.
✔️ A pair of gloves can do wonders for your mobility and comfort. When selecting your options, it’s worth investing in a pair that can dry quickly and are touch-screen compatible.
✔️ A warm scarf and/or turtleneck sweater are key items for keeping your neck covered. A turtleneck sweater is perfect as a garment to wear underneath your jacket, while the scarf can be removed easily.
✔️ Leggings are an essential item to pack as you can dress them up or down. You can even wear them underneath your denim as an extra layer of warmth.
✔️ When it comes to packing socks for your Austria winter trip – the thicker, the better. The chances are that you’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors in the snow, and you’ll want your feet to be warm and cozy.
✔️ My favorite winter clothes are thermals. A quality set of thermals is your key to enjoying the winter weather in Austria. You have to wear them on a cold day to believe what a wonderful invention it is!
✔️ Make sure you have a trusty pair of waterproof snowshoes. You’ll want your shoes to be as versatile as possible. Snowshoes allow you to enjoy a variety of activities while keeping your feet warm and dry.
THINGS TO DO IN ZURICH IN THE WINTER MONTHS
No matter when you visit, whether it’s in December, January, or February, there’s always something to do in this awesome city! So, bundle up and get ready to experience the magic of winter in Zurich!
Visit Christmas Markets
If you’re planning a winter trip to Zurich in late November or December, you don’t want to miss out on the epic Swiss Christmas markets with the beautiful Christmas decorations that take place from late November until Christmas.
These markets are some of the best in all of Switzerland and offer everything from mulled wine and delicious food to unique handcrafted gifts and festive decorations.
So, if you want to get into the holiday spirit and experience some true Swiss magic, make sure to plan your visit during the Christmas market season.
I know some of you might not be the biggest fans of Christmas markets (neither am I, generally speaking), but hear me out! Zurich’s markets are a whole different ball game. These markets are next-level and have something for everyone! Whether you’re on the hunt for the perfect gift or just want to take a stroll through the beautifully decorated markets, you won’t be disappointed.
And let’s talk about the food and drinks, people! It’s like a foodie’s paradise! You can munch on everything from savory snacks to sweet treats and wash it all down with some delicious mulled wine.
If you’re looking to explore some of the best Christmas markets in Zurich, make sure to check out the oldest market in the Old Town or the urban “Weinachtsdorf” Christmas village near Bellevue.
And don’t forget to swing by the train station, where you’ll find a massive 15-meter Christmas tree at the Christkindlimarkt.
Fun fact: this indoor market is one of the largest in Europe, with around 150 stalls! So, get ready to indulge in some festive cheer and yummy treats at Zurich’s epic Christmas markets!
Date: The Christmas Markets take place from the 24. November – 23. December in 2023, so Zurich in December is a good time for the festive atmosphere. Please check the exact times before your visit, as they might slightly differ each year.
Zurich’s Christmas markets are a must-see place.
Hop on a Jelmoli Märlitram
Who’s up for some Christmas storytelling while taking a tram ride through Zurich? Well, unfortunately, I’ve got some bad news for all you big kids out there. The Jelmoli Märlitram, which offers just that, is only for the little ones between the ages of 4 and 10.
But if you’ve got some kiddos with you, this is an absolute must-do activity during the holiday season! They’ll get to snuggle up in the cozy tram and listen to magical Christmas stories while taking in the twinkling lights of the city.
Book your tickets for the Jelmoli Märlitram and treat your kids to a magical experience they’ll never forget! While on board, angels will read enchanting Christmas stories, all while the tram is decked out in its festive best.
The 20-minute journey starts and ends at Bellevue station, giving you a chance to relax and enjoy some downtime while your kids are safe and entertained. So, if you want to make some unforgettable memories with your family this winter, don’t miss out on the Jelmoli Märlitram!
- The tram rides through Zurich from 23. November to 24.December 2023.
- Tickets can be bought up to a week in advance but also might sell out quickly – at Jelmoli Kids World (a department store at Bahnhofstrasse) on the 2nd floor from November 17, 2023. The prices are about 8 CHF.
Get up Uetliberg
As a fellow lover of stunning mountain views, I highly recommend a visit to Uetliberg, Zurich’s very own mountain. Now, it may not be the highest peak in Switzerland, but trust me, the views from the top are still absolutely breathtaking.
So, whether you’re looking to hike to the summit or take the train up, make sure to add Uetliberg to your Zurich itinerary.
This majestic peak is part of the Albis chain and rises to a towering 870 meters (2,850 feet) above sea level, giving you unparalleled views of the city from about 450 meters above it.
Whether you’re looking to play in the snow or simply take in the stunning winter scenery, Uetliberg is the perfect winter day trip destination. Getting there is a breeze, just hop on a train from Zurich and make your way to the Uetliberg train station. From there, it’s just a short uphill walk to the top.
Once you reach the summit, you’ll be greeted by a restaurant and a tower. And while there are a few extra stairs to climb to get to the very top of the tower, I promise you, the views are absolutely worth it! Just be prepared to pay CHF 2 to access the platform (though the first few steps are free).
- The train up is free with your Zurich Card or Swiss Travel Pass.
Winter in Switzerland is synonymous with winter sports, but while Zurich may not be the ultimate destination for skiing or snowboarding, there are still plenty of fun activities to be had. One of the most popular winter pastimes, regardless of age, is tobogganing!
Now, since snow in Zurich can be a bit of a hit or miss, your best bet for some epic tobogganing fun is to head outside of the city. Luckily, I’ve got just the spot for you – Uetliberg!
You might remember me mentioning it earlier as an amazing place to visit in the winter, and now you can add tobogganing to your list of must-do activities there.
If you’re willing to venture a bit further out, there are plenty of other places to go tobogganing, like Mount Rigi, Mount Pilatus, and Mount Titlis, all of which are located near the beautiful city of Lucerne and are guaranteed to have plenty of snow.
Enjoy Ice Skating
If you’re visiting Zurich during the winter months, you simply have to try your hand at ice skating! This beloved activity is a staple in Zurich’s winter scene, and with so many options to choose from, you’ll have no shortage of places to get your skate on.
Whether you prefer skating on natural ice rinks or indoor rinks, there’s something for everyone. And if you happen to be in Zurich during December, you’re in for a real treat. Picture this – gliding around an ice rink in the middle of a Christmas market, surrounded by twinkling lights and festive cheer. Sounds magical, right?
But, if you’re looking for a more long-term ice skating solution, make sure to check out the Dolder open-air ice rink. This massive rink is one of the biggest of its kind and stays open from October all the way until March.
Plus, it’s conveniently located near the luxurious Dolder Grand Hotel, making it the perfect spot for a post-skate hot cocoa or cocktail.
Head up Lindenhof Hill
No matter what time of year you find yourself in Zurich, I highly recommend making the trek up to Lindenhof Hill. This small hilltop park, located just a few minutes walk from the Old Town, offers some of the most breathtaking views of the city.
The Lindenhof is a popular spot for locals to bring their lunch and enjoy a quick break from the hustle and bustle of the city. And while it may be too chilly to sit on the benches for too long during the winter months, the stunning views are still worth the trip.
So, bundle up and take a stroll up to the Lindenhof, where you can take in the picturesque scenery and get a unique perspective of Zurich.
Discover the Old Town
If you’re looking for a truly picturesque spot in Zurich, you simply must visit the Old Town. This charming area is especially enchanting during late November and December when the festive spirit is in full swing.
Stroll down the narrow streets and alleyways and discover a plethora of unique boutiques, stores, and charming cafes and restaurants. But it’s not just the shopping and dining that make the Old Town so special – it’s also the stunning old buildings that transport you back in time.
Whether you’re exploring during the day or taking in the ambiance during the afternoon and evening, the Old Town is a must-visit spot in Zurich that’s sure to capture your heart. So, grab a cup of coffee and take a leisurely stroll through this magical part of the city.
- One popular way to discover the old town is via a guided tour. You can check out tours here.
Go to Fraumünster
If you’re looking for a bit of culture and architecture during your visit to Zurich, make sure to add some of the city’s beautiful churches to your itinerary. Not only are they a great place to warm up during the winter months, but they also offer stunning and simple interiors that are sure to impress.
One church that you absolutely can’t miss is the Fraumünster, one of Zurich’s most important religious sites. With its iconic golden clock face and distinctive greenish roof, it’s easy to spot from afar. And if you’re visiting during the holiday season, you’re in for a real treat! The church exudes a special festive atmosphere that’s sure to leave you feeling full of cheer.
So, don’t miss your chance to admire the beautiful architecture and soak in the history and culture at Fraumünster church during your visit to Zurich.
- In the winter months, it is open from 10 am to 5 pm, except for Sundays and holidays when it is only open after services.
- Tourists have to pay an entrance fee of CHF 5 (and then visit the crypt museum), while non-tourists can enter for free and join services.
Stroll Limmatquai Riverfront
If you’re looking for a romantic winter stroll in Zurich, I highly recommend taking a walk along both banks of the Limmat River. The scenery is lovely, and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to cozy up at one of the many restaurants along the way.
The Limmat River is the perfect backdrop for a romantic evening or a casual catch-up with friends. So, bundle up and take a relaxing stroll along the river, where you can indulge in good food and drink while taking in the beauty of Zurich.
Not only will you enjoy stunning views of the water, but you’ll also have the chance to admire some of the city’s most beautiful buildings.
From elegant historic landmarks to modern and innovative designs, the buildings along the river are sure to impress. Stroll along the riverbank – a delightful activity that’s sure to make your winter getaway all the more memorable.
Visit the Illuminarium
For a truly magical experience in Zurich, make sure to check out the Illuminarium. From November to December, the inner courtyard of the National Museum is transformed into a stunning winter wonderland of light, music, and culinary delights.
As you wander through the free section of the courtyard, you’ll find a cozy bar, a fondue chalet, and various food stalls to indulge in. But the real magic happens in the paid section, where visitors can witness two breathtakingly elaborate light shows that are sure to leave you in awe.
So, bundle up and head to the National Museum for an unforgettable winter experience that’s sure to dazzle your senses. With stunning illuminations, delicious food, and a festive ambiance, the Illuminarium is the perfect place to get into the holiday spirit and create lasting memories.
- Dates: 10th November – 30th December
Go to Grossmünster
If you’re looking for a cozy indoor spot to visit during your winter stay in Zurich, I highly recommend checking out Grossmünster church. With its iconic two Romanesque towers and a prime location near Limmatplatz, this church is easy to spot and is a must-see for history and architecture buffs.
Step inside and marvel at the stunning interiors, which feature intricate details and breathtaking design. Whether you’re seeking a peaceful escape from the winter chill or are simply interested in exploring one of Zurich’s most iconic landmarks, Grossmünster is the perfect spot to visit on your winter getaway.
If you’re up for a bit of a climb, I highly recommend visiting the towers at Grossmünster church for some truly breathtaking views of Zurich. However, be warned that you’ll have to climb 187 narrow steps to reach the top!
There is an entrance fee to visit the towers, but I assure you that it’s a small price to pay for such a unique and memorable experience. So, channel your inner adventurer and climb to the top of Grossmünster’s towers for a view of Zurich that you won’t soon forget!
- The church itself is free to visit.
- There is a 5 CHF fee for getting up the towers
- In the winter months, it is open from 10 am to 5 pm – and on Sundays, it opens after the service.
While Lake Zurich might not look its best on a gray and gloomy day, I still highly recommend taking a stroll along its picturesque shores. It’s a must-visit spot during the winter months, and you never know when the sun might decide to peek out and transform the scenery into something truly stunning.
On sunny or snowy days, Lake Zurich is a breathtaking sight to behold. The sparkling water and snow-capped mountains in the distance create a winter wonderland that’s sure to take your breath away.
So, don’t let a little bit of gray weather deter you from visiting this iconic spot in Zurich. With its stunning views and tranquil atmosphere, Lake Zurich is the perfect winter destination for those looking to relax and take in the beauty of nature.
Starting from Buerkliplatz, you can choose to walk along the left or right shores of the lake. While both sides offer stunning views, I personally find that the right side tends to be quieter and less crowded.
While I prefer visiting Lake Zurich during the summer months, there’s still plenty to enjoy during the winter season. Take in the tranquil beauty of the lake, snap some photos of the snow-capped mountains in the distance, and enjoy a peaceful winter walk along the shores.
With its serene beauty and peaceful atmosphere, it’s the perfect winter destination for those looking to connect with nature and relax.
Zurich Thermal Bath
I have a confession to make – before the year 2021, I had never experienced the joy of spa treatments in Zurich. As a lover of outdoor exploration, I always thought that Switzerland was too expensive to indulge in such luxuries.
But boy, was I wrong! I recently discovered that the Thermal Baths & Spa in Zurich is actually quite affordable, and I can’t recommend it enough – especially during the winter season!
Imagine soaking in an outdoor hot tub while taking in stunning views of the city – it’s truly a magical experience. And if you get a bit too chilly, there are plenty of indoor pools and a cozy lounge area with a restaurant where you can warm up and relax.
One important thing to note – the spa has a strict no-photo policy, so make sure to leave your camera and phone in a locker before entering.
So, why not indulge a little and treat yourself to some much-needed relaxation during your winter stay in Zurich?
Shopaholics, if you’re looking to do some Christmas shopping in Zurich, then look no further than Bahnhofstrasse – one of the most expensive shopping streets in the world! While it can get quite busy in December, the festive atmosphere and stunning illuminations (after sunset) make it all worth visiting Zurich´s main street.
If you prefer a more relaxed shopping experience, then consider visiting at the beginning of the year when the crowds have dissipated. However, keep in mind that many of the snack stalls and illuminations may be gone by then.
While Bahnhofstrasse may be known for its luxury stores and high-end boutiques, there are also plenty of more affordable options to choose from. So, don’t let your budget hold you back from exploring this iconic shopping destination.
Whether you’re searching for the perfect Christmas gift or just want to indulge in some retail therapy, Bahnhofstrasse is the perfect place to do it.
Looking for something to do on a rainy and gray day in Zurich? Look no further than the National Museum! While this activity can be enjoyed any time of the year, it’s the perfect way to spend a dreary winter day indoors.
Located just behind the main train station, the National Museum is a must-visit if you’re interested in learning more about Switzerland’s rich cultural history. With exhibits covering everything from art and architecture to customs and traditions, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
So, if you’re looking to escape the cold and rain, head on over to the National Museum and immerse yourself in the fascinating history and culture of Switzerland.
- It is open daily (except Mondays).
- With the Zurich Card or a Swiss Travel Pass, you will have free entrance.
New Year´s Eve
New Year’s Eve in Zurich, Switzerland is an occasion of celebration and joy. Every December 31st, locals and tourists alike come together to witness the spectacular fireworks display that lights up the night sky above Lake Zurich.
The show begins with a grand parade that takes place along the Bahnhofstrasse, one of Zurich’s most famous streets. This parade features marching bands, floats, and performers from around the world who come together to entertain the crowds.
After the parade, a stunning fireworks show is held in front of Zurich’s Old Town Hall. For those wishing to experience an even more grand celebration, there are plenty of private parties and events taking place throughout the city.
- Keep in mind that the 1st of January is a public holiday in Switzerland.
As a chocolate expert, I can guarantee you one thing: Swiss chocolate is the best! This is how chocolate has to taste! And you will find several chocolate museums in the country. One of the most prominent chocolate brands in Lindt.
You can visit the interactive Lindt Home of Chocolate Museum, which is next to the Lindt & Sprüngli factory. Find out about the long journey that cocoa takes from bean to bar on an audio-guided tour and learn about the production process through multimedia exhibitions.
Or check out the 9-meter tall chocolate fountain or stroll the biggest chocolate shop, spread over more than 500 m2.. But what would a chocolate museum be if you could not do some chocolate tasting? Savoring a variety of chocolate delicacies is probably one of the highlights (or is it just me?). The Lindt Museum is one of a kind – and perfect for people of any age!
- It is located near Zurich.
- When you book your ticket, you can choose the time of your visit.
- Check out tickets for the Lindt Museum here.
If you are looking for a breathtaking winter experience, then look no further than Mount Rigi! This stunning peak, often called the “Queen of the Mountains,” is located near Lucerne and is the perfect place to catch a snowy sunset.
While it does require a train ride to get there, it’s definitely doable to visit Mount Rigi in just one day or even half a day. And trust me – the stunning views and peaceful serenity of this mountain are more than worth the journey.
While there may not be much snow in Zurich itself, this stunning mountain is the perfect place to enjoy all sorts of winter sports activities.
But even if you’re not much of a winter sports enthusiast, there’s still plenty to love about Mount Rigi. For example, the sunset views from this mountain are absolutely breathtaking and are widely considered to be some of the most beautiful in all of Switzerland.
So, whether you’re hitting the slopes or just taking in the stunning views, Mount Rigi is a winter destination you won’t want to miss.
- If you have a Swiss Travel Pass, the train ride from Zurich to Lucerne is free. You can also use the funicular up to Mount Rigi without any extra costs with your Swiss Travel Pass in 2023.
Another fun mountain trip from Zurich in winter would be a trip to Mount Pilatus, located in Central Switzerland near Lucerne.
Not only are the views from Mount Pilatus absolutely breathtaking, but there are also plenty of opportunities to enjoy all sorts of winter sports activities. Whether you’re a fan of skiing, snowshoe hiking, snowboarding, or sledding, you’re sure to have a blast in the region of Lucerne – and especially on Mount Pilatus.
Just keep in mind that getting to Mount Pilatus from Zurich can take a bit of time, so it’s a good idea to plan for a full-day tour. And, since the cogwheel train ride isn’t available in the winter months, you’ll need to take the cable car up to the top of the mountain.
- Read more: Here are more fun day trips from Zurich
CONCLUSION: VISITING ZURICH IN THE WINTER
Zurich in December – or in general Zurich in winter – can be a great time to visit. However, since I always want to be honest with you, it is not my favorite time to visit Zurich.
From the breathtaking views of snow-capped mountains in the surrounding regions to the cozy cafes & restaurants and museums, there’s something special about the city in the wintertime.
December in Zurich is great because of the Christmas Markets and the winter and Christmas lights, but the city itself can be sleepy in January or February.
However, it can be fun if you know what to do. And I hope the above-mentioned fun winter activities will help you plan your trip to Zurich in winter.
Have a safe trip!