BEST ACTIVITIES FOR WINTER IN SWITZERLAND
Are you planning a trip to Switzerland in winter? Switzerland, a small 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. Of course, Switzerland in winter is also perfect for visiting.
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 first ski trip. Of course, it was in Switzerland – in Verbier to be more precise. What should I say? The scenery was amazing, everything was organized perfectly and professionally. Switzerland in winter was just stunning! So, spending time in winter is perfect for winter sports fans AND non-winter sports lovers.
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SWITZERLAND IN WINTER TRAVEL TIPS
So, this post should help you find out about things to do in winter in Switzerland, but you will also find many travel tips for your Switzerland winter trip.
Best Places to Stay in Winter in Switzerland
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 stayed 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 at the newly renovated Hotel du Nord. 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.
Zurich: If you are more into Christmas Markets, then I suggest staying in Zurich so that 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.
- A popular hotel in the mid-range section is Hotel Krone which is 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 and getting there is not as easy, but you have a beautiful town that offers plenty of winter sports and activities.
- Here is one of the most luxurious and the best-rated luxury hotel in Zermatt: Grand Hotel Zermatterhof
- Here is the hotel I stayed at in Zermatt (and which I enjoyed) Sunstar Style Hotel
What to Pack for Switzerland in Winter
As it gets cold in Switzerland – and Switzerland is expensive – you might want to pack properly, so you do not have to go shopping in Switzerland.
It is important to dress warmly. Or better to dress in layers.
- A Coat – Warm And Waterproof 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.
- Hat: 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, dexterity, 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 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 Switzerland 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 Switzerland. You have to wear them on a cold day to believe what a wonderful invention it is!
- Comfortable Walking Shoes: If you can only pack one pair of shoes, make sure they are 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.
- I bought my crampons (spikes that you wear over your shoes) in Iceland. I really thought I could make it without them in Iceland, but I was wrong. However, in Switzerland – so far – I did not need them. But that depends on you and the exact place you are headed.
TIP: If you travel by public transportation, you might want to check out a Swiss Travel Pass. I have bought several passes myself over the years and I LOVE it. You can use unlimited public transportation, do boat cruises on almost all lakes in the country, get free access to most museums and attractions and get a discount on many mountain excursions (a few mountain excursions are even included in the Swiss Travel Pass). Check out prices here – most likely it will help you save a lot of money.
AMAZING THINGS TO DO IN WINTER IN SWITZERLAND
Okay, now it is time to talk about what to do in winter in Switzerland.
Recommended by MSC Gerber
A helicopter flight in the Swiss Alps – even better, in the incredible Jungfrau Region – 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 30-minute flight with a landing on a glacier costs around CHF 300 to 400 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, visiting a Christmas Market in Switzerland is a must! The markets in Basel are probably some of the best ones to visit.
You have three main lovely Christmas Markets: one at Münsterplatz, one at Barfüsserplatz, and the Adventsgass in 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 the town hall look even more beautiful with the giant Christmas tree in front of it? Kids can also enjoy their time at the Fairy Takke Forest – or hop on the Christmas Tram or the Christmas Ferry. Here is my detailed Basel winter itinerary.
- The Christmas Markets are open for about 4 weeks (in 2021 from 23rd November to 23rd December).
Ride a Velogemmel
Recommended by The World Pursuit
Dozens of ski resorts and villages worldwide all try to come up with interesting winter activities for the less ski/snowboard inclined of the group. Many activities start to sound the same, but a mountain village in Switzerland is home to something 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 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.
The course they have set up can get quite intense and steep at times, but 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 slightly different while in the Swiss Alps!
- You can rent the wooden bikes for around 15 CHF from the train station in Grindelwald, which gives you access to hours of fun on the mountain if you want it. Check out the Grindelwald in winter guide for more travel tips.
Winter Kayaking in Lake Brienz
Recommended by Awara Diaries
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 you can also enjoy in Switzerland during the winter period.
The snow-capped Alps look extremely beautiful in the winter, especially when you see their reflection fall on the clear waters of Lake Brienz. Winter Kayaking is an excellent group activity that gives you a chance to bond, have fun, and enjoy the Swiss Alps’ serene beauty.
You can take up Winter Kayaking by booking a High Tide Kayaking School tour in Boningen, about 30 minutes from Interlaken. On this tour, you can go kayaking in small groups across the turquoise waters of Lake Brienz.
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.
- Winter Kayaking in Lake Brienz is a highly rejuvenating activity with value for money!
- Check out tours and prices here.
- Here are more tips for Interlaken in the winter.
(Snow)Shoe Hike With 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.
Get the cable car straight to the start of the hike at Blauherd station. From there is the most breathtaking view 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 which path you actually choose (there are a few to choose from).
Whichever you pick, the incredible Matterhorn is always standing proudly in the distance. It is a truly spectacular walk, and children will love the hike too.
- As with everything in Switzerland, the hike comes at a price – but it is worth it. 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.
Check out my Zermatt travel guide
Ski from Zermatt to Italy
Recommended by A Pair of Passports
Not only is Zermatt a great winter destination on its own, but it is connected to Breuil-Cervinia. This means that people 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 mountain’s Swiss and Italian sides.
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 Breuil-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, which make for 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 not to 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!
- Click here to read my tips on the best places to stay in Zermatt, or check out my Zermatt winter guide.
Visiting the Jungfraujoch
Recommended by Arzo Travels
The Jungfraujoch, a saddle in the Alps connecting two four-thousander, is one of Switzerland’s main attractions. 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. It is 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 Jungfraujoch in Alpine Sensation, or just play in the snow high in the mountains.
This place is full of activities and attractions, so 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 access 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 my post that includes much more details on Jungfraujoch.
READ MORE: More things to do in Jungfrau/Interlaken
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 they offer a welcoming atmosphere for all LGBT people and allies in the gay-friendly village of Arosa.
Skiing and snowboarding might be the main draw for most attendees, but the amazing lineup 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 sledding, 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 the location selected.
Visit Mount Pilatus
Recommended by The Invisible Tourist
Visiting Mt Pilatus is 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. On arrival, purchase your tickets up, and a little red gondola will swing around to greet you shortly after. The gondola ride itself is amazing – this alone is worth the trip.
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 sun peeking out from behind the clouds. Striking snow-capped mountaintops are visible all the way to the horizon and their icy blankets are 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 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!
- With a Swiss Travel Pass, you can use public transportation for free and get a 50% discount on the Mount Pilatus gondola ride. Check out prices for the Swiss Travel Pass here.
Here are great tips on where to stay in Lucerne
Visit Mount Titlis
Of all the things to do in Switzerland in winter, 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 bring you in comfort to altitudes up to 3,020m. You can then 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. It rotates 360 degrees within a short span of a 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. Or try out the Ice Flyer chair lift or walk the cliff walk.
When you are done exploring the cave, simply hit the slopes. If skiing and snowboarding aren’t something that entices you much, sledding surely will. Sleds can be used free of charge, and no wonder tourists are flocking around to ensure they can make the most of this winter activity.
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.
- With a Swiss Travel Pass, you can use public transportation for free and get a 50% discount on the Mount Titlis cable car. Check out prices for the Swiss Travel Pass here.
Go Snowboarding in Portes du Soleil
Recommended by A World to Travel
Portes du Soleil’s ski domain – 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.
It is also a specially good one for snowboarding too, where crowds (unless in public holidays) are non-existent and the runs are 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 (3257 meters) and Dents Blanches (2756 meters) are in the Swiss part.
It usually opens around mid-December until April. Getting there isn’t difficult if you fly to Geneva.
- It is possible to enjoy 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 Montreux Noel Christmas Market
Recommended by Simpler and Smarter
Montreux Noel should be top of your list if you visit at the end of November to Christmas and love some Christmas spirit.
This festival takes part in Montreux and its surroundings 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, 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 2,042 meters above sea level, his house is located in a 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 occasion 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.
- With a Swiss Travel Pass, you can use public transportation and boats without any extra costs, and you get a 50% discount for the train ticket up Rochers de Naye. The entrance ticket for Chillon Castle is also already included. Check out prices for the Swiss Travel Pass here.
- Find out about the best things to do in Montreux – besides visiting the Christmas market.
Ski – at Rocher de Naye
Recommended by The Crowded Planet
Talking about Montreux! 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 Express train heads straight to the ski resort from Montreux station.
It’s fun to sit on the little train as it heads further and further up, with stunning views the whole way and Lake Geneva 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.
- Free travel with the Swiss Travel Pass (Flex) from Montreux to Haut-de-Caux, 50% discount from Haut-de-Caux to Rochers-de-Naye. Check out prices for the Swiss Travel Pass here.
Enjoy an Epic Train Ride – Bernina Express
By Arzo Travels
I do not even try to hide my love for train riding in Switzerland. There are some epic train routes – and in Switzerland, the journey is indeed the reward if you take one of the “express train rides.”
My most favorite train ride in the winter – without question – is the Bernina Express train ride. It is pretty epic in summer…but in winter, it is even more mind-blowing.
The scenery is like a dream come true (while you stay warm), and the window views could not be any better.
The train ride takes quite long but the scenery is (almost) always stunning. My most favorite window views in winter are from Poschiavo to Ospizio Bernina...oh wait, I actually cannot really say what I liked the most because I was constantly overwhelmed.
- With a Swiss Travel Pass, you can use public transportation for free. This includes the “Bernina Express. There is a reservation fee, though. However, if you use the local trains (that are exactly the same but have no panoramic windows which are a bit larger) you do not have to pay anything on top. Check out prices for the Swiss Travel Pass here.
By Arzo Travels
One of the most beautiful mountain views in winter is from Mount Rigi, on the shores of Lake Lucerne. This is the place to visit on a sunny winter day – the sunset from here is incredible.
Compared to the other popular mountain in Lucerne, Mount Pilatus, Mount Rigi is much quieter, and there are fewer activities. You could still do a few winter sports activities (like sledding or snowshoe hiking) and if you are in Lucerne and do not visit Mount Rigi, you are missing out!
TIP: Do a scenic boat cruise from Lucerne to Vitznau and then take the cogwheel up to Mount Rigi. The ride itself is impressive – it is one of the most beautiful landscapes in all of Switzerland.
- In 2022, you can use the cogwheel up to Mount Rigi without any extra costs if you are a Swiss Travel Pass holder. Even the boat cruise is included in the Swiss Travel Pass.
- Check out my post with the most beautiful mountain views in Switzerland
Here are more travel tips for your trip to Switzerland:
- Best things to do in Switzerland (in spring, summer, and fall).
- Wondering about the most beautiful places in Switzerland? Here are my picks.
AMAZING SWISS WINTER ACTIVITIES – FINAL THOUGHTS
Switzerland is perfect to visit at any time of the year – in summer, you can do gorgeous hikes that offer breathtaking views and picnics at one of the lakes and many more fun things, but winter in Switzerland is also an amazing time to visit. Whether you are into winter sports or not – there are tons to do in winter.
It is a perfect winter destination for basically anyone who wants to experience snowy Europe at its best! We hope these tips have helped you find the perfect activities for your Switzerland winter trip!