WHAT TO DO IN DECEMBER IN SWITZERLAND + TRAVEL TIPS
- 1 WHAT TO DO IN DECEMBER IN SWITZERLAND + TRAVEL TIPS
- 2 DIGITAL TRAVEL PLANNER FOR SWITZERLAND
- 3 Quick Travel Tips For Your December Trip
- 4 Best Things to Do in December in Switzerland
- 5 FINAL THOUGHTS ON A DECEMBER VACATION 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, December is a great month to explore this pretty country. There are some amazing activities you can enjoy in Switzerland – aka winter wonderland!
DIGITAL TRAVEL PLANNER FOR SWITZERLAND
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.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. This means I might earn a small commission when you buy a product (at no extra cost to you) after clicking on my link. More about it here.
How to Get Around in Switzerland December
Switzerland is a great country for road trips and train travel. But which mode of transportation is the best for a December trip? Here are my thoughts.
PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: For December, I recommend traveling by trains/buses – even in the winter months, they run regularly. 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: If 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! 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, 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 the country 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 that also offers fun winter activities, 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 but also for its 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), including 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 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. Check out my Bern winter guide for more tips.
There are around 70 stalls in Lucerne that have snacks, drinks, and gifts – and of course, Lucerne is also decorated festively and is another great place to see in December. Check out my Lucerne winter guide for more tips.
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 IN LUCERNE:
- If you want to book a luxury hotel in Lucerne, I recommend this beautiful 5* hotel. It is also located within walking distance of the Christmas Markets.
- On my last Lucerne trip, I stayed at Hotel des Alpes. The room view was amazing (and included views of the Chapel Bridge and Mount Pilatus). Check out prices here. There could not be a much better location for visiting the Christmas Markets.
- If you want to stay in a budget hotel, have a look at this B&B. Some rooms have a shared bathroom, and some have a private one.
- Check out my accommodation guide for Lucerne.
WHERE TO STAY IN ZURICH:
- Baur au Lac is one of the best-rated luxury hotels in the city center – and close to the main Christmas markets.
- 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. Also, it is right where all the Christmas markets are.
- Check out my guide on the best places to stay in Zurich.
WHERE TO STAY IN BERN:
- If you are looking for a 5-star luxury place to stay, Bellevue Palace is probably the best place choice. It is centrally located and is great for those who like to indulge in luxury. To check out rates, click here.
- I stayed at the 3-star hotel Goldener Schlüssel for 1 night. Though my hotel room was pretty small though, with no direct (and free) parking options and the breakfast was simple, the location was perfect and made up for it. Check out rates here.
- Bern Youth Hostel is located in the city center, and it offers affordable dorm beds but also private rooms with private bathrooms. Check out rates here.
Where to Stay in Basel
- When I visited Basel in December, I stayed at the Hyperion Hotel. It is located in Kleinbasel, and the tram station is just in front of the hotel. The hotel was great: good breakfast, good location, and a modern style. Find out more about the hotel here.
- For the most luxurious stay, check out rates and prices at Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois, which is centrally located and one of the city’s best hotels. Find out about the rates here.
- We all know that there are no real bargains when it comes to accommodations in Switzerland. However, there are a few budget hotels and hostels that you can check out here.
Do Winter Sports in December
Do you fancy winter sports like skiing, snowboarding, or snowshoeing (just to name a few winter sports activities)?
Switzerland has some great places where you can do any kind of winter sport. Head to Verbier, Grächen (great for families with younger kids), Zermatt, or St. Moritz. 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, and 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. Winter sports in December include – amongst others – skiing, snowboarding, snow hiking, sledding, and ice skating.
Besides Verbier, Zermatt, and St. Moritz also the Jungfrau Region is ready to welcome you in December for some winter sports.
- Check out my guide on the best places to ski in Switzerland.
WHERE TO STAY IN VERBIER:
- Mirabeau – I stayed at this 3-star property and enjoyed great room views (especially sunrise views). The hotel is quite basic (and so was breakfast), but the view and the fireplace in the lobby made up for the simplicity. Click here to find out about the best hotel rates.
- Chalet d’Adrien Verbier is a luxurious 5-star property located next to the Savoleyres Ski Lift with a spa and swimming pool that is the perfect choice for those who want to indulge in luxury. Click here for the best rates and more info.
- W Verbier is another luxurious hotel in Verbier that offers a lot of luxury to its guest. Find the best rates and get more info by clicking here.
Enjoy Mountain Views
Oh, if I had to name one of the most special features 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 the prices for a trip to Jungfraujoch or tickets for getting up Mount Titlis.
- 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 window views.
Unfortunately, not all window views are amazing – not even in Switzerland. However, most are. Most of the time you have beautiful window views. And there are also 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 favorite routes in December 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 – especially those in high altitudes in Grisons or Valais.
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 30€ in winter) on some express trains, but seriously, riding a train in the winter months can be STUNNING.
Take that ride! You will enjoy it, I‘m sure!
TIP: Reservations are compulsory for the Glacier Express, the Bernina Express, and the Gotthard Panorama Express. 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. If you get out of the other 3 express trains, you will 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 a 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 the most visited museum in the country, but there are many more museums to visit – yes, Switzerland is not only about stunning outdoor places.
The Foundation Beyeler in Basel is actually the most visited art museum in the country and is known to be one of the world’s best. Ernst and Hildy Beyeler gathered an art collection that is on display for people from all around the world.
Apart from a permanent collection, there are also contemporary art collections on display. So, even if you have visited Fondation Beyeler before, you might want to revisit it because there is always something new on display.
Lausanne has an interesting indoor museum about the Olympics – I am not into sports or the Olympics, but even I enjoyed my time in that museum. It is interactive and presents the history of the games very well.
If you have a Swiss Travel Pass, many museums (including the Olympic Museum) are included, and you do not need to pay any entrance fees. So, double-check before you pay!
Spa and Wellness Treatments
Spa and thermals might not be the first things that come to our minds when thinking about Switzerland. However, the country has some amazing spas. You will find them throughout the country. In small little villages that cater to the luxury tourists but also in bigger towns and cities – those are also often more affordable.
I just recently visited the Zurich Thermal Baths & Spa. I was not allowed to take any pictures, but I promise you the views from the outdoor thermal pool were beautiful! But even the indoor pools are perfect after a cold day in December.
I mean really, really beautiful views! I could not believe it took me all the years to spoil myself with this visit. Ticket prices are actually not that high and start from around CHF 36. Much less expensive than I had expected. Check out prices here.
Fancy something more luxurious? Then visit the Tamina Therme in Bad Ragaz. The public thermal baths unite traditional spa culture with a modern range of saunas.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON A DECEMBER VACATION IN SWITZERLAND
As you can see, this country is great to visit at any time of the year. However, December is one of the best months to visit Switzerland! From spa treatments to winter sports – from strolling Christmas markets to helicopter rides: It offers something for people of all ages and budgets!