Wondering when the best time to visit Switzerland is? Well, when it comes to the best time to visit Switzerland, we’ve got you covered with our month-by-month weather guide for Switzerland – and even some of the best Swiss festivals you’re likely to read about!
Why wouldn’t you want to plan a trip to Switzerland? With a unique history, this Alpine nation features famous lakeside cities, lush valleys in summer, and some of the most dramatic mountains you can imagine. Don’t forget the chocolate either!
When is the Best Time to Visit Switzerland?
Weather in Switzerland in January
Weather-wise, January isn’t exactly Switzerland’s most spectacular month. Daytime average temperatures are around 0°C, with a high of 5°C. It’s the coldest month of the year, and with only two hours of sunshine a day, you can expect a lot of cloud cover and rainfall, especially in lakeside locations like Zurich, Lucerne, and Geneva.
It’s going to get pretty cold; you’ll want some layers with you. The higher altitude you go, the colder it can be; after dark, it can even get to minus ten! From mid-January, however, it might just be one of the best times to visit Switzerland: it’s ski and snowboard season!
Weather in Switzerland in February
Another frigid and wintery month in Switzerland, the average temperatures run between -0.8°C and 5°C, but lows can be freezing (-10°C). Zurich has an average of 2°C, with highs that can climb up to 6°C if you’re lucky. Cloud coverage is constant throughout the entire month; there’s not a lot of sunshine going on, folks.
Happily, the days get longer, which is great to hear – a whole two more hours of sunshine added by the end of the month. It’s windy around the lakes, and temperatures can drop quickly in the mountains. Speaking of which, this is the peak season for hitting the slopes, as many European schools have a week-long holiday during February.
Weather in Switzerland in March
While the rest of Europe is ushering in spring, Switzerland is still very much stuck in winter. Even though temperatures are starting to creep up, the average temperature across the country is 6°C (with lows of around 1°C). There’s still not a whole lot of sunshine blessing the Swiss land either, with only about four hours a day, and a lot of clouds to contend with.
It can get pretty rainy as the season gradually does begin to change towards the end of the month. Ski season continues into late-March, meaning that keen skiers and snowboarders still have a chance to hit the slopes. That said, Zermatt is open all year round for skiing.
Weather in Switzerland in April
Spring begins to arrive in Switzerland through April. The average temperature in Zurich has clambered up to 9°C, and there are more sunny days to look forward to. In fact, the city can boast highs of 15°C – relatively warm for this time of year! It’s a similar story in Geneva, Lausanne, Bern, and Lucerne. But it can definitely, definitely still be cold.
April can be a very rainy month; on average, 18 days this month see at least some rainfall. The good news is that the days are getting much longer at this time of year, with the sun setting at about 8:30 pm by the end of the month. It might be one of the best times of year to visit Switzerland’s cities before the tourist crowds make their way here come summer.
Weather in Switzerland in May
May can still be icy in Switzerland – compared to other European destinations – but average temperatures still waver between 10°C and 17°C. The rain that did make April a bit of a washout eases up a little in May, with only around 12 days affected by spring showers.
This also means that the sun comes out to play in May; there’s less cloud coverage, meaning bright, crisp spring days. It always feels warmer in the sun, right? And the countryside is also starting to come alive with wildflowers as the snows begin to melt.
Weather in Switzerland in June
Officially the start of summer, June really does have pleasant temperatures. There are average highs of 21°C, but the average across the board is 16°C – still not bad. And don’t be surprised if the evenings are still chilly. Bring layers, or a sweater, and bring more if you’re going to higher altitudes.
The sunset in June peaks, with the longest day of the year not seeing a sundowner till 9:30 pm. It can be one of the best times to visit Switzerland if lush, lakeside destinations are what you’re looking for. Lausanne is an awesome spot in June.
Weather in Switzerland in July
For such a cold, mountainous country, July is surprisingly warm; this makes it a great time of year to visit Switzerland. The average temperature is 19°C, but there can be highs of 24°C. July also sees much fewer cloudy skies than other months; there’s less wind, less rain, and just that better quality, warm Central European weather that makes this part of the world pretty amazing.
But by mid-July, it’s summer vacation, and everything from campsites to lakeside hotels can get very busy – make sure you book ahead. Geneva, with some of the highest temperatures in the country in July, is a great idea.
Weather in Switzerland in August
This is the peak summer season. Families (and it seems everyone else) come to Switzerland to enjoy the August weather. Temperatures can reach highs of 23°C, and it never gets too hot. Tourists from all over the world will be visiting Switzerland’s top sights.
It’s an excellent time to escape the city and enjoy hiking in the countryside, skiing at year-round resort Zermatt, or even taking a train ride to the highest train station in the world at Jungfraujoch. Lucerne is a beautiful spot this time of year and a good place to go if you want less chance of being caught in a rain shower.
Weather in Switzerland in September
After the peak of summer, September sees much cooler temperatures than previous months. The average temperature sits around the mid-teens; don’t be surprised to experience daily highs of only 22°C. Nighttime temperatures can drop to a pretty cold 10°C. Days are sunnier at the beginning of the month, but towards the end, there’s more rain and more clouds (boo).
Days are also starting to get shorter, losing about an hour of sunlight from the start to the end of September. Basel is a popular spot to visit this time of year; there’s less rain, moderate temperatures, and – being outside the peak of tourist season – lower prices.
Weather in Switzerland in October
October is cold. There’s a nationwide average temperature of 11°C, and things are basically starting to get even more chilly in the mountains and at higher altitudes. Bring appropriate clothing! Not only that, but rainfall is on the up. In fact, 21 days are affected by showers – great or small – throughout October.
The daylight hours are also rapidly decreasing, with daily sunset occurring just after 5 pm. It’s not the best time to go to Switzerland, but hiking is still viable, especially around lake areas like Geneva. Or possibly even Lugano.
Weather in Switzerland in November
This autumnal month feels much colder than the summer months. As Switzerland heads towards winter, the temperatures plunge to an average of 5°C; nights are around 2°C but can possibly be lower. Sunshine is much more limited in November, with Zurich only getting around two hours each day.
There’s a lot of clouds, people. With all that cloud comes rain showers and snow on the mountain tops; this falls on around two-thirds of days in November. Don’t go expecting that outdoor activities like hiking are going to be a viable option at this time of year! Not the best time to visit Switzerland.
Weather in Switzerland in December
December in Switzerland is very much winter. Temperatures slump and can drop below zero pretty easily across the country – especially at night time. They also never really get past 5°C, either. There are a lot of cloudy days, a lot of rainy days, not a whole lot of sunshine, and even some snow starts falling in mountainous places.
This is the time of year to enjoy the hearty food and drink of Switzerland inside, preferably next to an open fire. The sun sets around 4:30 pm, and days can be pretty windy, too. Skiing is popular over the Christmas vacation period, so join the crowds and head to Zermatt, Verbier or Davos for prime snow.
Festivals in Switzerland
Swiss Festivals in Winter
Christmas is definitely a welcome thing in the dark and gloomy Swiss winter. And that’s possibly why it starts so early. It all begins on December 6 when Samichlaus (guess who?) delivers presents to children. You’ll also find a load of markets to enjoy from this time of year onwards.
From December 13-15 (2019), it’s the time of L’Escalade. This festival actually celebrates a failed overtaking of the town by the Duke of Savoy back in 1602. Locals don costumes and embark on torch-lit parades with drums. Sounds fun!
New Year’s Eve sees the Swiss celebrate, like most of the world, but in Appenzell, there’s a quirk of history that sees an unusual twist in the celebrations. That twist is New Year being celebrated not once, but twice! People go the whole hog again on January 13 – an homage to the beginning of the adoption of the Gregorian calendar. During NYE, the mask-wearing partygoers (Silvesterchläuse) go from door to door, collecting wine and money as they go.
Swiss Festivals in Spring
For one of the best spring festivals in Switzerland, head to Basel. This city is the home of a 700-year-old carnival. It kicks off at an awful-sounding 4 am, when crowds gather to wait for the bells to strike four and announce the start of festivities. Locals parade in masks wearing colorful clothes alongside orchestras.
A fun music festival that occurs throughout March and April, the Interlaken Classics Music Festival is a gathering of international orchestras and soloists. Performances at this annual music fest range from the symphonic to the baroque. Fans of classical music will love it.
And then there’s Easter. Nowhere does it better than Lucerne, who put on an Easter Festival that goes on for ten days. Tens of thousands of visitors turn up for this event, which culminates on Easter Sunday.
For something more pagan, you need to experience Sechseläuten. Held in Zurich, this is when a straw effigy of winter (called Böögg) is burnt, symbolizing the start of spring. Very traditional stuff. It occurs on the third Monday of April.
Swiss Festivals in Summer
Summer festivals in Switzerland often mean music. Ascona Music Festival, along the banks of Lake Maggiore, is a highbrow chamber music festival. It attracts international musicians and runs from June 8-18.
Another musical event is the Fete de la Musique. This one takes place in Lucerne, from June 21-23, and is more of a mix of rock, jazz, world music, and dance. Blocking off a lot of the city, it makes being in Lucerne like being part of one big party.
Yet another music festival is the Zurich Festival. Well, not just music. There’s also some theater, art, and dance to enjoy, too, in a big celebration of the city’s cultural side. The streets along the River Limmat are crowded with literally millions of people who come to sample the culture – as well as the international food stands. BUT this giant festival is only held every three years.
On August 1, it’s Swiss National Day. Parades, BBQs, and fireworks are the order of the day as towns, villages, and cities across the country celebrating everything Swiss to commemorate the founding of the Swiss Confederacy.
Swiss Festivals in Fall
Known as Alpabfahrt (or Désalpe), this Swiss festival is literally when the cows come home. The cows get to wear flower headdresses, big cowbells, and parade through the streets. This very Alpine festival takes place in Alpine villages across the country; it features yodeling, farmers’ markets, brass bands, and more. There’s no set date, but it usually happens in late September/early October.
On October 5 (sometimes), the residents of Lugano usher in the fall with local food, chestnuts, music, and a lot of wine. There’s also a similar Autumn Festival that takes place in Ticino, the main Italian-speaking canton of Switzerland.
For more classical music that Switzerland seems to love, head to Lucerne for the Lucerne Piano Festival. Well, it’s not just classical: jazz and other forms are represented as international players take to the stage. There are also harpsichords and organs!
On every fourth Monday in November, there’s the Zibelemärit – or ‘Onion Market’ – in Bern. You can guess what this one is about – onions; around 50 tons of them, and garlic, woven into beautiful braids. Expect food stalls, wine, and confetti.
When is the Best Season to Travel Switzerland
High season (June – early September, December-March)
Summer is a high season in Switzerland and what many consider the best time to travel to Switzerland. In the mountains, it’s comfortable and not too hot – perfect for hiking and enjoying the sweet swiss outdoors.
December through March is also considered high season in the Swiss Alps and is when skiing picks up. So while most of Europe is dealing with the low season of the winter, Switzerland is not.
Shoulder Season (late September, October, May, early June)
Tourism is lower during this time, and temperatures aren’t brutally hot. Meaning better prices and fewer tourists. In my opinion, it’s the best time to travel around Switzerland. Though even in September and June you’ll notice that many people are still traveling Switzerland and prices are still not at their lowest.
Low Season (November-April)
Unless you’re on a ski holiday or it’s Christmas/New Year this is could be low season in Switzerland for you. However, this one is a bit tricky, as Switzerland is world-renowned for its mountain towns and ski and it’s a small country you’ll still find prices high throughout most of the alps. So truly there is no real low season, but if you want to be in the Alps and away from the cities your best bet at a good deal is at the very end of the ski season or November.
Best Time of Year to Visit Switzerland?
Because Switzerland can get so incredibly busy (and hot) during peak season I think the shoulder season is the best time to visit Switzerland. April, May, Late September, and October will provide pleasant temperatures and fewer people. If you’re into skiing and snowboarding then a visit to Switzerland in the winter should definitely be on your list. December – early March are the best times for pow.
When is the Cheapest Time to Visit Switzerland?
The cheapest time to visit Switzerland is in the low season. November, March, and April will be the cheapest times to travel Switzerland.
Best Time to Visit Switzerland for Honeymoon?
The best time to visit Switzerland for a honeymoon is May, June, and September and October. Spring and Autumn are warm, but not too warm, so it’s great for couples who want to do outdoor activities. Plus you’ll get lower prices than in peak season and far fewer people. That is of course if you don’t want a dreamy winter mountain escape. In that case you should honeymoon in the winter between December-March.
Quick Switzerland Travel Tips
- ‘Hello’ and ‘Thank You’ in Swiss German:”Hallo” and “Danke” French: “Bonjour” and “Merci”Italian: “Buongiorno” (formal) “Ciao” (informal) and “Grazie”
- Currency: Swiss Franc
- Visa: Schengen Visa, 90 days in the European Union out of 180. Many nationalities are granted this on arrival for free. Check with your embassy to see if that is you.
- What to Pack: Depends highly on the season and what you are doing. Mountain and hiking clothes are always a good idea in the summer, while you will definitely need your cold weather gear in the winter. Don’t forget the ski gear if you plan on going skiing in the majestic Swiss Alps! See our ultimate European packing list here.
How to Travel Around Switzerland
Train travel doesn’t get any easier than in Switzerland. The country has an incredibly efficient rail network that can get you pretty much anywhere – even in the mountain towns. This is the only way we have ever traveled to Switzerland and it’s very enjoyable.
Eurail passes work well in Switzerland, as you can purchase a Swiss Rail Pass for extensive travel. Without these passes, you’ll want to book all your train travel in advance or you could pay a premium on the train. Make sure to be on time – punctuality is key in Switzerland!
Where the train can’t go – the bus can. Bus travel is also easy in Switzerland and your Swiss Travel Pass will work on them as well!
If you want freedom and flexibility you’ll need to get you’re own rental car in Switzerland.
My favorites to look at are:
Plan and Pack for Switzerland
You’re going to need something to carry your belongings in while you’re traveling around the world. Even if you’re not doing extensive hikes you need at least something small for day trips. My favorite daypacks are from Camelbak. You can see all our other backpack recommendations below:
I ALWAYS have a down jacket with me when I’m traveling in the winter, fall, or even spring. They aren’t just good for hikes, but doing anything outside.
Down jackets pack up light and small so there is no reason NOT to have one in your bag. Seriously it could save your life in a bad situation. We wrote a whole post on our favorites
Remember that Switzerland uses the Type J outlets, unlike the rest of Europe. Many adapters around Europe are interchangeable, so make sure you find a good one like the one I have to keep you charged. (This one works well in Switzerland).
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