WHAT TO DO IN DECEMBER IN SWITZERLAND + TRAVEL TIPS
- 1 WHAT TO DO IN DECEMBER IN SWITZERLAND + TRAVEL TIPS
- 2 Quick Travel Tips For Your December Trip
- 3 Best Things to Do in December in Switzerland
Are you planning a winter trip to Switzerland and are wondering what Switzerland in December will be like? Do you want to find out about the best things to do and see in December?
Switzerland is always a good idea – this is not just a saying. I mean it wholeheartedly. As a Switzerland travel fan, I know every month has its charms and peaks. Of course, some months are better for a visit than others, but there is no “bad month”.
So, is December a good month to visit Switzerland! Yes, it is a great month to explore this pretty country. However, I would not say it is THE best month.
I prefer the summer months – I am not into winter sports and prefer hiking. However, there are some amazing activities you can enjoy.
Quick Travel Tips For Your December Trip
In this post, you´ll find out about the best things to do in December in Switzerland and get more travel tips for your trip.
How to Get Around in Switzerland December
Switzerland is a great country for road trips and train travel. But which mood of transportation is the best for a December trip? Here are my thoughts.
PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: For December, I recommend traveling by trains/buses – they run regularly even in the winter months. Overall, public transportation is safe, reliable, and superb! You can sit back – in the warmth of the train – and enjoy some fantastic winter scenery while the train gets you to every destination – regardless of the weather conditions.
SWISS TRAVEL PASS: In case, you opt for public transportation, then consider getting a Swiss Travel Pass. I visit Switzerland often, and most of the time I get one (even when I road trip). Trail travel in December was STUNNING! It is only for non-Swiss residents though. Here is why I suggest a Swiss Travel Pass.
- It allows you to use trains and buses without any extra costs.
- You can also do boat cruises without additional costs.
- Also, you quite some attractions (like museums) are included.
- It also gives you a 50% discount on most mountain rides (you can get up via cable car/funicular for half of the price and there are even some mountain excursions, like Mount Rigi which I will talk about later in more detail, that are free with a Swiss Travel Pass.
- The initial prices for a Swiss Travel Pass are quite high. But it pays for itself if you get around via public transportation and are active in Switzerland for more than three or four days. So, check out prices for boats and trains and then calculate if it is a good option for you. You can find out more about the pass here.
ROAD TRIP: Why not road trip in December? I love driving in Switzerland and I road trip once a year. You can also explore Switzerland by car in December. However, driving in the mountains, especially with all the snow, might be challenging. Many streets and roads are cleared from the snow but this is not always the case. If you decide to drive yourself, make sure your cars have winter tires (and maybe even snow chains).
Where to Stay in Switzerland in December
The way to choose your accommodation in December depends on what you are interested in doing and seeing.
- If Christmas markets are your main point of interest, then Zurich, Basel, or Lucerne would be the best choices, as you can get around easily and hop from one city to the other while visiting the main Christmas Markets.
- If you want to stay in a snow-capped town, then Zermatt would probably be the best choice.
- And if you are into winter sports activities, then the region of Interlaken/Jungfrau, Zermatt, Verbier, or St. Moritz are my suggestions.
What to Pack For Your Trip in December
Even if December is not the coldest month in Switzerland, it can get very cold. Though there will not be snow in some places, I highly recommend warm and waterproof shoes. A very warm (fur-free) jacket with a scarf, cap, and gloves is a must, too.
If you go skiing/snowboarding, you will need all your ski equipment, including ski pants and thermal underwear (seriously, I just discovered them, and they are amazing and keep you so warm). If you want to do winter sports but do not/cannot bring your own equipment, then you can rent ski equipment in all ski destinations.
I have a detailed post with “Things to pack for Switzerland” where you will also find tips on what to bring.
Best Things to Do in December in Switzerland
Okay, here we go – find out about what to do and see in December.
Visit Christmas Markets
If you plan your vacation to Switzerland in December, you are probably here for the Christmas Markets. And in Switzerland, you´ll find some great beautiful markets to visit.
So, there are a couple of well-known places for their Christmas Markets.
Basel, the most northern city in the country, is known for art and Christmas Markets. It probably has the most beautiful markets, and the good news is that there is more than one market. Eat your weight in snacks and mulled wine at the Christmas Market at Münsterplatz (just next to the pretty Basel Cathedral) which also includes a Fairy Tale Forest. Or visit the Christmas Market Barfüsserplatz. Both markets have a combined 180 stalls (approximately), and it is all about food, drinks, and Christmas gifts.
But of course, Basel is not the only city with Christmas Markets. Zurich, the unofficial capital of Switzerland, also has several markets to choose from. One in the Old Town, one on the Sechseläutenplatz near Bellevue, and one at the Zurich Main Train Station.
If you visit the official capital of the country, Bern, you´ll find more markets in the old town of the city where you can indulge in gingerbread, roasted almonds, mulled wine, and more.
In Lucerne, there are around 70 stalls that have snacks, drinks, and gifts – and of course, Lucerne is also decorated festively and is another great place to see in December.
Can’t get enough of Christmas Markets? Then head to Montreux in December and visit one of the most iconic ones in the country and the best one at Lake Geneva – the Marché de Noël à Montreux.
WHERE TO STAY
- Check out my accommodation guide for Lucerne.
- If you plan to stay in Zurich, check out the post about the best places to stay.
Do Winter Sports in December
Fancying winter sports like skiing, snowboarding, or snowshoeing (to name a few winter sports activities)?
Then Switzerland has some great places where you can do any winter sport – head to Verbier, Grächen (great for families with younger kids), Zermatt, or Engelberg. There are quite a few ski resorts that offer winter sports in December.
I am not a winter sports person as you might know. However, I have done my first – and only – winter sports vacation trip (is that the correct name?) 2 years ago. And guess, where I tried skiing and snow hiking for the first time? Yes, in Switzerland. In Verbier, which lies in the canton of Valais, to be more exact.
It was a very fun experience – I did not even mind the bruises that came with it. So, apparently, I am not an expert when it comes to winter sports – but if you ask winter sports fans, they will agree that Switzerland is the country to visit.
So, what about winter sports in December?
Every year is different and we never know long in advance whether there will be enough snow in December or not. Some ski resorts might not offer every kind of winter activity in the first weeks of December. The best time to ski is actually from mid-January onwards.
However, you should be good to experience a fun winter vacation with many winter sports activities from mid-December. Things to do as winter sports in December include – amongst others – skiing, snowboarding, snow hiking, sledding, and ice skating.
Check out my guide on the best places to ski in Switzerland.
Enjoy Mountain Views
Oh, if I had to name the most special feature in Switzerland, it would be the mountain views (often with views of the incredible lakes). The good news is that you can enjoy the mountain panoramas in December.
Mount Titlis, Mount Rigi (especially on a clear day at sunset), and Mount Pilatus are just a few of the amazing mountain views you can enjoy at the end of the year.
The country is so well prepared for visitors coming at any time of the year that its cable cars/funiculars/trains etc. run throughout the year and you can get up many mountains without hiking. But in winter, hiking up mountain peaks in winter is not always possible. The best advice I can give is to take funiculars/cogwheels/cable cars to get up. And then just enjoy the scenery!
You get good mountain views in almost all of Switzerland. However, if you want to have snow-capped mountain peaks, then visit places that are high above sea level. You will find them almost everywhere in the country apart from, I would say, the northern part. Zermatt (and here Gornergrat), the Jungfrau and Interlaken region, all places around Lake Lucerne (at Mount Titlis you have snow throughout the year), and Graubünden (in English it is known as the region of Grisons).
Some mountain excursions are included in the Swiss Travel Pass – e.g. Mount Rigi. But even if you “only” get a discount, getting up there is often well worth the price. Check out my post with the most beautiful mountain views in Switzerland
Hop on a Train
If you travel to Switzerland in December, hop on a train and enjoy the amazing views outside your window.
Unfortunately, not all window views are amazing – not even in Switzerland. However, there are quite a few amazing routes – whether you travel in summer or winter. December is an amazing time to do train sightseeing and enjoy a winter wonderland while sitting in the warmth of a train.
The most scenic train rides – normally – are the “express” trains. These are: the Glacier Express, Bernina Express, Lucerne-Interlaken Express, GoldenPass Panoramic, Gotthard Panorama Express, and Voralpen Express. My favorites routes are the Glacier Express and the Bernina Express! It is just WOW!
Switzerland might not be completely covered in snow in December, but the chances are good that you will enjoy some nice scenic train rides.
You can do all the train rides with your Swiss Travel Pass – you will need to pay a fee for the “reservation” (which can cost up to 45€) but seriously, riding a train in the winter months can be STUNNING.
Take that ride! You will enjoy it, I‘m sure!
P.S. To avoid reservation fees, you can hop on local trains that have the same route and you get the same views. They might take a bit longer but you have the option to get out of the train, too. With the other express trains, you cannot get out if you do not want to lose your reservation.
Do a Helicopter Ride
Without question, the scenery in Switzerland is amazing – whether it‘s summer or winter. And Switzerland from above is even more amazing.
If you head up to a mountain summit (as mentioned above), you will enjoy the gorgeous views – but you can also do a helicopter ride and experience this beautiful country from a different perspective.
For helicopter rides in December, Jungfraujoch is a popular area to experience Switzerland from above.
If you are brave, you can combine a helicopter ride and skydive! Check out prices here for that unique experience.
In summer, you might want to spend every single minute possible outdoors. In December, visiting museums might be a good option to learn more about Switzerland.
The Transport Museum in Lucerne is one popular museum, but there are many more museums to visit – yes, Switzerland is not only about stunning outdoor places.
As you can see, Switzerland is great to visit at any time of the year – and December is a good month to visit Switzerland!