Things to do in Switzerland in Fall – Travel Tips

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 fall is my favorite season to visit Switzerland.

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.

Fall starts in mid-September and lasts officially to mid-December. 

However, for my part, I refer to fall from mid-September to November. 

December is 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.

So, let’s talk about activities to do during the months of September, October, and November.

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, 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.

SEPTEMBER

  • In September, you still have long days with 12 to 13 hours of daylight. 
  • Temperatures can be up to 20 degrees Celsius and in the mountains, you still have 11 to 12 degrees Celsius.

OCTOBER

  • In October, the temperature averages 10 degrees Celsius.
  • At higher altitudes (1000 meters above sea level), it can be colder and at night temperatures can be below freezing.
  • Days are much shorter in October and you have about 10 hours of daylight.

NOVEMBER

  • In November, the weather gets colder and there is snow in high-altitude towns like St.Moritz.
  • Temperatures can range from 10 degrees Celsius in places like Zurich and to -10 degrees in Zermatt during the day.
  • 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.

BEST FALL ACTIVITIES IN SWITZERLAND

Here are my tips for a wonderful fall vacation.

Visit Engadin 

One of the most beautiful scenery 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!

Lake Sils in Engadin
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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.

Waterfall in Engadin
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For the best experience, visit in mid-October. It might get even more colorful at the end of October, but Engadin goes into a kind of hibernation after mid-October (but they wake up 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 almost a week because I truly loved it.

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.

Uetliberg view in fall
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This easy 2-hour hike will allow you to surround yourself in nature without doing too strenuous physical activities.

Stroll along Lake Zurich enjoy views from Lindenhof and visit the Chinese Garden, too.

Chinese Garden in fall in Zurich
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The views from the Polyterrasse is also beautiful!

Polyterassen in Zurich, during autumn time
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It 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.

  • 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 itinarary for many more travel tips.
  • Here are accommodation tips for Zurich.

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.

Lauvaux hiking from Lutry near Lausanne near Geneva
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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.

Lavaux hike with wine tasting
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I have seen the vineyards in summer and fall – fall is actually my favorite time to see the region and walk along the fields.

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 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!

Lake Geneva after Lavaux hike
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Discover Valposchiavo

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 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. 

Valposchiavo Lake Saoseo
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Small yet stunning! Especially in the fall months, it becomes even prettier with all the colorful larches and trees surrounding it.

Lagh da Saoseo
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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.

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  • 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 the vineyards.

Hiking along Bieler Rebensweg
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Start your trip with a sightseeing tour of the city 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 the 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.

La Neuvielle
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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.

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.

Bern old town main street
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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.

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Also, the Münster Platform is a great place to enjoy the fall foliage. 

Münster Terassen in Bern
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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.

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.

Bernina Express with Arzo Travels Lago Blanco
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Lago Blanco

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.

Alp Grüm Bernina Express with Arzo Travels
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Alp Grüm

Given that Engadin is one of the most beautiful places in Switzerland in 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.

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.

Bernina Express with Arzo Travels, Mortaratsch Glacier
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Mortaratsch Glacier

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, or 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.

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.

Glacier Express in Switzerland
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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.

Glacier Express, Landwasserviadukt bei Filius, Graubünden / Picture Credit: Swiss Travel Pass AG
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Picture Credit: Swiss Travel Pass AG

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. 

Glacier Express in October
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  • 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. 
  • Check out my Zermatt guide – though I have not visited in 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.

Lake Brienz in Brienz during fall
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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.

Lake Brienz and Brienz in fall
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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.

Ballenberg Museum in Interlaken
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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.  

View from Brienzer Rothorn
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  • I suggest visiting Brienz in September or October.
  • The locomotive operates only until mid-October before it closes for several months.

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, Ascorna, Valle Verzasca – the famous hotspots are must-see. But have you ever considered visiting a lesser-known place in Ticino? I highly suggest visiting Valle Maggia in fall. 

Valle Maggia in autumn
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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.

Bus tour in Valle Maggia
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Bignasco

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).

Valle Maggia in fall
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Cascata Grande di Bignasco

Luckily, not too many people know about this sun-kissed destination – when I visited it was actually quite empty and not comparable to the busy places like Lugano. Also, the milder climate makes Ticino and especially Valle Maggia a perfect fall destination.

Cascata del Salto in Maggia
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Cascata del Salto in Maggia

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.

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 Lake on Albula Pass
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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.

One of the most beautiful lakes, Albula Pass, Lai da Palpuogna
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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.

Albula Pass
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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.

Unlike other mountain passes, there is no bus (yellow Postautos normally operate in mountainous areas). 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.

Albula Pass in fall
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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 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, most gorgeous scenery.

Enjoy!

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