TRAVEL TIPS FOR A FALL VACATION IN SWITZERLAND
Are you planning your trip to Switzerland in the fall? Then this post is for you. Switzerland in winter is great. Switzerland in summer is amazing. Switzerland in spring is awesome. Switzerland in fall, however, is next-level stunning!
Do not get me wrong, each season in Switzerland is unique and fantastic, but I think, after countless visits, that my favorite season to visit Switzerland is…fall. Of course, we can never rely on the weather and it could be rainy and grey – but most likely it will just be awesome.
So, here are my tips for the best fall activities (or let’s say autumn activities for my British-speaking readers) plus more travel tips for an unforgettable fall trip to Switzerland.
So, let’s talk about activities in Switzerland in September, October, and November.
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FAQ: SWITZERLAND IN THE FALL
First: a few FAQs and the answers.
When is the Fall Season in Switzerland?
Fall starts in mid-September and lasts officially to mid-December.
However, for my part, I refer to fall from mid-September to early November. Late November and December are already winter season for me when I think about Switzerland. For one because the Christmas Markets are set up everywhere in the country and also because the winter sports season starts.
Switzerland Weather in Fall
Though the weather is unpredictable in Switzerland, fall – especially September and October – can be sunny and nice. The weather will allow you to go on hikes, and spend time outdoors (even if you are not very active), but also – especially on colder days – visit indoor places like museums or warm up in spas.
ℹ️ In September, you still have long days with 12 to 13 hours of daylight.
ℹ️ Temperatures can be up to 20 degrees Celsius and in the mountains, you still have 11 to 12 degrees Celsius.
ℹ️ In October, the temperature averages 10 degrees Celsius.
ℹ️ At higher altitudes (1000 meters above sea level), it can be colder and at night temperatures can be below freezing.
ℹ️ Days are much shorter in October and you have about 10 hours of daylight.
ℹ️ In November, the weather gets colder and there is snow in high-altitude towns like St.Moritz.
ℹ️ Temperatures can range from 10 degrees Celsius in places like Zurich and to -10 degrees in Zermatt during the day.
ℹ️ Days are quite short and have about 8 hours of daylight.
In places like Ticino, a canton bordering Italy, you might have warmer weather throughout all the months.
Before talking about the best fall activities, I like to introduce you to the Swiss Travel Pass. If you use public transportation, I recommend getting a Swiss Travel Pass. Swiss Travel Passes are available for non-Swiss residents and they are absolutely amazing. I visit Switzerland often, and most of the time I get one. This is for several reasons.
- It allows you to use trains and buses without any extra costs – so basically, you can use almost all trains and buses for free.
- You can also do boat cruises without additional costs.
- 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 if you follow my tips, you will need it twice), some mountain excursions – like Mount Rigi near Lucerne – are even included.
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.
For me, it usually makes sense as I am very active and use public transportation/mountain rides often (even if I road trip Switzerland). I also love boat rides – which means many, many boat cruises for me whenever I have a Swiss Travel Pass. Check out prices for a Swiss Travel Pass here.
BEST ACTIVITIES IN SWITZERLAND IN FALL
Here are my tips for a wonderful fall vacation.
One of the most beautiful sceneries in fall, if not THE most beautiful one, is in Engadin.
Engadin is a long high Alpine valley region in the eastern Swiss Alps in the canton of Graubünden (Grison in English), in the southeast of Switzerland. St. Moritz is the most famous village in the area, known as a winter sports destination – but I promise you, Engadin is so much more. It is so underrated as a fall destination – it is stunning! Like really, really stunning! Promise!
You might be wondering what makes Engadin so unique?! Well, larches. What? Engadin is full of larches – these giant trees get especially pretty in fall. When the green needles turn yellow, Engadine turns into a colorful fall wonderland (is that an expression?). You will find larches all over Engadin (and also some areas in Switzerland) which makes it my favorite place to see fall foliage.
Whether you hike around Lake Sils, Lake Moritz, or Lake Silvaplana – you have some great fall activities here.
So one of the best places to visit in Switzerland in October (until mid-October) is the Engadine Valley. It might get even more colorful at the end of October, but Engadin goes into a kind of hibernation after mid-October (preparing for the winter season). Most cable cars do not operate anymore after mid-October — there is less public transportation and it can also get quite cold in the later months. If you do not mind, then late October is perfect for visiting.
- I visited at the end of October and stayed for a week because I truly loved it.
WHERE TO STAY IN ST. MORITZ
- LUXURY: This luxury hotel – Battrud´s Palace – has everything you are looking for when booking a 5-star hotel in St.Moritz. From an extensive spa area, a lounge and bar area, luxurious hotel rooms and suites, and more. Check out prices for the stunning Battrud´s Palace Hotel in St.Moritz.
- MID-RANGE: Hotel Corvatsch is a 3-star hotel located in the lower part of St.Moritz. and only a 3-minute walk from the lake and the Signal Cable Car. Find out more here.
- BUDGET: The St. Moritz Youth Hostel is situated at the edge of the forest in the lower part of St. Moritz. During the day, there is a bus that gets you to the St. Moritz train station. The rooms all have shared bathrooms, and breakfast is always included – you cannot find better prices in all of St.Moritz. Here are the prices and availabilities for the hostel.
Explore and Rest in Zurich
Zurich might be the perfect summer destination – then you can spend a lot of time in Lake Zurich. But it is also great to visit in the fall. The city is covered in fall foliage and strolling the streets of Zurich is even more fun with all the natural colors. You can also do some wonderful hikes – I highly recommend hiking from Uetliberg (the local mountain in Zurich) to Felsenegg-Bahn in Adliswil.
This easy 2-hour hike will allow you to surround yourself with nature without doing too strenuous physical activities. Stroll along Lake Zurich enjoy views from Lindenhof and visit the Chinese Garden, too.
The views from the Polyterrasse are also beautiful – it a must-see place in Switzerland in September and October.
Zurich in autumn is less busy, accommodation prices have dropped (if you are familiar with prices for hotels, you know what a relief that is) and you can visit the many museums and indoor places you might not want to visit in the warm months, like the Lindt museum.
Also, you could visit the fantastic thermal baths in Zurich – warm up in the hot bath with great views of Zurich. I visited for the very first time, on a coldish fall day in October, and I loved it! It is a perfect, relaxing fall activity for all those who want to rest without leaving the city. And in case it is rainy or grey, you can visit one of the numerous museums in Zurich – like the Lindt Chocolate Museum.
- I highly suggest visiting at the end of September or October. It might be too chilled in November and there might not be much fall foliage.
- If you are up for indoor activities, then November is also a good time.
- Check out my Zurich itinerary for many more travel tips.
- Here are accommodation tips for Zurich.
WHERE TO STAY IN ZURICH
I recommend staying close to the city center, but since public transport is pretty good, you can also book a hotel a bit further away, and you will still be mobile.
- LUXURY: Zurich has some great luxury hotels which are amazing to get spoiled and enjoy life. Baur au Lac is one of the best-rated luxury hotels close to the city center. Check out rates for Baur au Lac here.
- BUDGET: There are not many budget hotels in Zurich, but I once stayed at this well-rated hostel in Zurich and was not disappointed. It is located right in the heart of the old town and you can get to many places within minutes. Check out rates for Hostel Otter here.
Hike in Lavaux
Hiking is great in the fall season. The heat is gone – no need to escape to the mountains. And one of the top hikes in fall is surely hiking in the Lavaux region.
The region consists of 830 hectares of terraced vineyards that stretch for about 30 km along the south-facing northern shores of Lake Geneva. It starts just a few kilometers east of Lausanne in Lutry and goes all the way to Chexbres / St. Saphorin, a few kilometers west of Montreux.
From September onwards the harvest season of grapes starts – by October all grapes are harvested. So, depending on the exact time of your visit the vines might not have any grapes. But that should not stop you from hiking there during these months, especially because the vines are actually even prettier in a mix of green, yellow and red leaves.
I have seen the vineyards in summer and fall – fall is actually my favorite time to see the region and walk along the fields. So, this is one of the top places Swiss activities in September and October.
Depending on your fitness level, you can do the whole hike or just some parts. It does not include any crazy uphill/downhill hiking but is quite “humane“. My tip is to start in Lutry and hike to Cully, Rivaz, or beautiful St. Saphorin. You will surely not regret it.
With breaks, and maybe some wine tasting, I suggest planning half a day or even a full day for this impressive hike!
- I suggest doing this hike someday in October.
- You can find out more about this guide in my Lausanne travel guide or check out my Montreux itinerary for more tips around Lake Geneva.
Here is a more or less hidden gem recommendation for your fall vacation. Visit the beautiful valley in the southern, Italian-speaking part of Graubünden (Grison). Yes, again Graubünden – you should know it is one of the most beautiful cantons in the country. Its remote location is probably the reason why Valposchiavo is not a hotspot – there cannot be any other explanation for why this gem is lesser-known.
Valposchiavo (or Val Poschiavo), with its capital town Poschiavo, is gorgeous. However, one place, in particular, is worth a visit: Lago di Saoseo. Lago di Saoseo is just wow! What a lake.
Small yet stunning! Especially in the fall months, it becomes even prettier with all the colorful larches and trees surrounding it. That is one of the top lakes in Switzerland.
For more great fall scenery, hike to Lagh da Val Viola. This is a 2-hour hike, but you have perfect autumn scenery and another unique lake.
- Visiting Valposchiavo is perfect for a trip in September, October, and early November.
- Check out my Valposchiavo guide for more detailed information about this formidable fall destination.
Walk the Bieler Rebenweg
On the northern shores of the Bielersee (Lake Biel), you will find wonderful vineyards. The hike along the vineyard path from Biel to La Neuveville offers beautiful views of the lakes and vineyards.
Start your trip with a sightseeing tour of the city of Biel and then get on with the hike which will take you, without much elevation change, to several cute villages along the way.
The view of St. Petersinsel, a little island on Lake Biel, is quite picturesque. This path is quite easy and also doable with strollers and little kids – no hiking skills required. Along your way, you will also pass a gorge which you can see for a small entrance fee. It is not a must-see in my opinion, but nice.
You can stop at several villages and take the train if you are tired. To end this beautiful day, I suggest going to La Neuveville though, at the end of the hike/train ride. It is a charming little town with lovely architecture.
From there, you can take a boat and get to one of my favorite hidden gems in Switzerland – Erlach. It is a tiny village but really pretty. Really. This would make a perfect autumn day in Switzerland for me!
- For beautiful fall foliage, I would wait for a visit until mid-October – but once there is October in Switzerland, make sure to visit this area.
Enjoy Fall Time in Bern
Are you looking for another great city to visit in the fall? Then visit Bern. Switzerland’s capital is exceptionally pretty. The whole old town was declared UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
The medieval town center was built on a narrow hill bordered on three sides by the Aare River (a beauty by itself) – its layout has remained mostly unchanged since its construction during the twelfth to the fifteenth century.
Fall might not be the perfect season for dipping the toes into the Aare River, but it is perfect for discovering the city center.
Once you get up Rosengarten – a little park area on a hill – you have great views of the city. The colorful trees make the panorama even prettier.
Also, the Münster Platform is a great place to enjoy the fall foliage in late September and October.
And in case it rains or you want to warm up, visit the Albert Einstein Museum or go inside the stunning Cathedral of Bern.
- You can visit Bern all year round, for fall, I suggest visiting in November or October.
- Check out my post on Bern and the tops things to do for more tips.
WHERE TO STAY IN BERN
If you can, book your hotel in the old town. From there, you can get to all (or most) attractions in Bern within minutes.
- LUXURY: 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.
- MID-RANGE: I stayed at the 3-star hotel Goldener Schlüssel for 1 night, located in the city center/old town. 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. It was also pet-friendly (I had my dog with me). Check out rates here.
- BUDGET: Switzerland is no budget-friendly place, and Bern is no exception. Bern Youth Hostel is located in the city center. It offers affordable dorm beds but also private rooms with private bathrooms. Check out rates here.
Sit Back and Ride the Bernina Express
How could you visit Switzerland and not enjoy some of the best train rides in the world? The Bernina Express is a great experience for a day in the fall. If it is cold you will love the warmth inside the train. But regardless of the weather – the views…the window views. It is all about the window views when riding the Bernina Express.
The Bernina Express is a train connecting Chur to Poschiavo via Tiefencastel – Bergün – Alp Grüm – Poschiavo – Le Prese and then riding to Tirano in Italy. The train also runs along the World Heritage Site known as the Rhaetian Railway in the Albula / Bernina Landscapes and the railway line from Thusis – Valposchiavo – Tirano has UNESCO World Heritage status.
Given that Engadin is one of the most beautiful places in Switzerland in the fall, this train ride does not come as a surprise as it passes the Engadin Alps.
You can do this train ride at any time of the year, but fall is a pretty great time to do so. I suggest doing this in September or October in Switzerland.
55 tunnels, 196 bridges, and the highest regular train station in Europe (Ospizio Bernina at 2,253 meters above sea level) – this and much more will be part of your Bernina Express experience.
To do the complete ride, you will need more than four hours. I highly suggest getting out at several stops. I mentioned Valposchiavo and Lago di Saoseo already, Alp Grüm, St. Moritz, and Lago Blanco are some more fantastic stops.
- This train ride can be done at any time of the year. In November, you might see some winter wonderland scenery already. Check out my guide on the Bernina Express.
Make a Reservation for the Glacier Express
Another amazing train ride to take in the fall is the worldwide-known Glacier Express – the world’s slowest express train. It connects St. Moritz with Zermatt in Valais and passes through 91 tunnels and over 291 bridges.
If you plan to do the whole train ride, you need to plan in 8 hours though – one-way. Yes, it takes that long but you will be rewarded with great window views. So, St. Moritz and Zermatt both make great overnight stops.
While I have not visited Zermatt in the fall myself, it is said that it is a stunning place because of the tallest larches in the world. And you know how stunning larches are in fall, right?
I mentioned St. Moritz already – so, you see the journey is the reward in the case of the Glacier Express.
You will also see the Rhine Gorge along the ride – the gorge is gorgeous, just gorgeous. Though – in full honesty – in summer even more than in fall, but still, it is…gorgeous.
Alternatively, you can take local trains. You might have to change trains – there is no other train directly going from Zermatt to St.Moritz – but the local trains operate all year round. Also, you can get out at every stop and do not need any reservations.
- There are a few downsides though: The Glacier Express hibernates for about 6 weeks from the end of October until mid-December. So, this is a great activity just for September and the first part of October. find out more about the Glacier Express ride.
- Check out my Zermatt guide – though I have not visited in the fall, I visited in winter and summer and have also written down tips on where to stay in Zermatt.
Fall in Love With Brienz
Brienz – this beautiful village is one of Switzerland’s gems. And it is hard to compete with this town on a sunny fall day.
Brienz is located on the northeastern shores of stunning Lake Brienz, near Interlaken. The village is well-known for its woodcarving tradition – you will find many 18th-century wooden chalets and sculptures.
After strolling the village center, enjoy a nice walk along the lake. No lake can compete with Lake Brienz (on a sunny day).
Also, you can take a bus and enjoy a bus ride up to Ballenberg Museum. Enjoy some beautiful fall scenery before you explore the biggest open-air museum in Switzerland. Here you will find traditional buildings and architecture from all over the country.
Another AMAZING activity in Brienz includes a trip to mountain peaks with incredible views of Lake Brienz and the mountains. Get up Brienzer Rothorn via the old locomotive – this is an experience in itself.
- I suggest visiting Brienz in September or October.
- The locomotive operates only until mid-October before it closes for several months.
WHERE TO STAY IN INTERLAKEN
I recommend making Interlaken your base – from there, you are in Brienz within 30 minutes (and it will be a beautiful train ride).
- LUXURY: The most luxurious hotel in Interlaken is Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa. Since I have not started there myself, I can 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. Find out more about Victoria Jungfrau here.
- MID-RANGE: I recently stayed at 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.
- BUDGET: If you are on a budget, I recommend staying outside of Interlaken. Some cute places close by are offering good value for money. Or you book a bed in one of the numerous hostels in Interlaken, like Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof which has become one of my favorite hostels in Europe so far.
- Check out my Interlaken accommodation guide for more tips on where to stay.
Explore the Hidden Gem of Valley Maggia
Ticino, Switzerland´s Italian-speaking part, is one of a kind. Here you have a perfect mix of Italy and Switzerland.
Lugano, Locarno, Ascona, and Valle Verzasca – the famous hotspots are must-sees. But have you ever considered visiting a lesser-known place in Ticino? I highly suggest visiting Valle Maggia in the fall.
Valley Maggia is formed by the River Maggia and is located next to Lago Maggiore and Locarno. It is less famous than its sister, Valle Verzasca, though it is also stunning.
Traditional Ticinion villages, beautiful scenery, the Maggia River, and more – Valle Maggia knows how to impress. Visit some of the waterfalls like the Cascata di Bignasco or the Maggia Waterfall to see another side of Switzerland (it seriously has a Caribbean touch to it).
Luckily, not too many people know about this sun-kissed destination – when I visited it was actually quite empty and not comparable to busy places like Lugano. Also, the milder climate makes Ticino, and especially Valle Maggia a perfect fall destination.
P.S. From Locarno, you can the bus line 315. It stops at many sights, so you can get out, explore areas of your interest and then take the next bus to continue. To see most of the places, you should plan in one full day for Valle Maggia.
- This is a place to visit at any time during the fall
- Check out my Locarno travel guide.
WHERE TO STAY IN LOCARNO
I recommend making Locarno your base and exploring Valle Maggia, and other parts of Ticino from there.
- LUXURY: I have stayed at a couple of very luxurious hotels, but this is probably my favorite – ever. Villa Orselina is a top luxurious small boutique hotel in Orselina, just a few minutes from Locarno. Check out prices here.
- MID-RANGE: Hotel Garni Muralto. I did not stay here, but it is one of the best-rated hotels in that price range. Find out prices here. It is not directly in Locarno, but Muralto just borders Locarno and you can get there within minutes.
- BUDGET: Do not expect bargains when traveling in Switzerland, so there are no real budget hotels. But here are some general money-saving tips, check out my post for the best advice.
Drive the Albulapass
A mountain pass is a navigable route through a mountain range or over a ridge. So, to shorten your travel time it makes sense to drive over mountain passes to get from one place to the other.
The Albulapass (2315 meters above sea level) is one of the highest mountain passes in Switzerland and is known as one of the most challenging passes due to its old and narrow road. However, it is one of the most stunning.
Especially on a nice fall day, it is heaven on earth. Why? First, there is a lake. No, not any lake. A very, very pretty lake. One of the prettiest lakes you can imagine on a sunny fall day.
Lai da Palpuogna (in Romansh, or Palpuognasee in German) is surely one of the most beautiful places in Switzerland. It is a mountain lake in a forest just off the mountain road and surrounded by larches.
Yes, especially when the larch trees wear their foliage it is absolutely stunning.
Also, there are quite a number of bridges (viaducts) you will see – make sure to plan in enough time for the breaks. You will want to stop, get out of the car and see the bridges from different angles. You could spend a full day here – just getting off, doing some hikes and walks, taking pictures, and enjoying.
It is the perfect pass to use if you want to get to St. Moritz from places like Tiefencastle/Chur/Bergün etc. Though the Albulapass does not have the best reputation, it seems there has been a lot of construction work going on because parts of the pass were new and also wider than expected.
I would not want to drive this mountain pass on a busy sunny day in summer with the traffic but in fall, this is a pleasant drive.
If you cannot drive yourself, make sure to enjoy the pass from the train. The train ride “Albula Line“ is one of the most scenic and stunning train rides. The 62-kilometer-long route is part of the Bernina Express but you can also just get on the regular (local) Rhaetische Bahn for those amazing views.
You will not get close to the lake, though but you will see the many bridges (including the famous Landwasser Viaduct) and have in general fantastic window views.
So, hop on the train in Thusis to St.Moritz for that experience (or the other way around).
- The pass normally closes someday in October. I passed it at the end of October and it was still open but to be sure, I suggest doing this activity in the first few weeks of October.
- The train ride can be done anytime between September to November.
- Check out my Switzerland road trip post for more tips.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON VISITING SWITZERLAND IN THE FALL
I said it before and I say it again: Switzerland in the fall months is just beyond stunning! Each season has its charm but if I had to choose the “most beautiful season” or “the best season to visit Switzerland”, then I say, it is fall. If you want to visit Switzerland then – especially in late September or October – you will see some of the most beautiful, the most gorgeous scenery.