Best Time to Visit Switzerland
Best Time to Visit Switzerland: The best time to visit Switzerland depends on your plans. Both winter and summer are high season here as the mountainous country is popular for skiing and hiking. If you want to ski, January and February are ideal with below freezing temperatures, making snow practically guaranteed in places around 5,000 feet in elevation. There is likely to be snow in lower valleys but not in such large amounts.
Best Time for Sightseeing: The best time for sightseeing in Switzerland is when the weather is pleasantly warm, generally around mid-April through mid-October. To avoid the biggest crowds while still enjoying a decent chance for good weather, plan to go at either end of that time frame, mid-April through May or mid-September through mid-October.
Best Time to Visit for Good Weather: For warm weather with the least chance for rain, plan to visit Switzerland in July or September. Temperatures typically range in the low to upper 20s, with an average of 80mm of precipitation, quite a bit less than June or August.
Best Time for Snow Sports: Switzerland is famous for skiing and boarding, with the best snow typically in January and February, although the first high-elevation slopes typically open in November and close in March.
Best Time for Hiking: When all the snow has melted, Switzerland is a top spot for hiking. By late April or early May, trails up to around 6,500 feet in elevation should be mostly clear, although they can be muddy. By June, while the highest trails are likely to still have snow, most will be open, and the cable cars will be operating again too. Hiking is usually possible through early October and sometimes longer, but higher trails may be covered with snow by the latter half of the month. This is usually when cable cars stop operating and the pass roads begin to close for winter.
High Season: (mid-June through mid-September, mid-December through February) Switzerland has two high seasons, basically the peak of summer and most of winter, starting just before Christmas stretching through February due to the popularity of both hiking and snow sports here. This is when you’ll find the biggest crowds and the highest prices of the year when it comes to accommodation and airfare.
Shoulder Season: (Mid-April through mid-June and mid-September through mid-October) The shoulder season occurs from the middle of spring until just before summer and around the first month of fall. It can be a great time to enjoy hiking with pleasant temperatures and few crowds. You might find some discounted airfares and hotel rates too.
Low Season: (mid-October through mid-December and mid-March through mid-April) The low season occurs outside of peak hiking and skiing times, but it’s a good time to visit if you’re looking for more budget-friendly airfare and room rates. While it may be damp and chilly, there’s likely to be a lot less shoulder-rubbing when enjoying the sights.
Switzerland Weather by Month
Switzerland Weather in January: While the temperature varies depending on your particular destination, January is the coldest month of the year in Switzerland with the average high in Zurich just 2°C and nighttime temperatures that dip below zero at -2°C. Many places throughout the country will get at least a dusting of snow with the exception of low altitude areas such as Ticino near the border of Italy. The days will be short with sunrise at around 9 a.m. and sunset around 5 p.m., so you’ll need to plan your itinerary accordingly. This is the time to bring warm winter clothing like thermal underwear, a down jacket, gloves, wool socks and waterproof boots. The average precipitation in January is 70mm over 15 days, so you’ll likely experience at least some wet weather. (Average Max Temperature: 2°C. Average Precipitation: 70mm.)
Switzerland Weather in February: February brings warmer weather to Switzerland with the afternoon high increasing four degrees to 6°C now. With the low still at -2°C and the amount of precipitation about the same at 70mm over 13 days this month, it’s usually snowy. The days are getting longer now, so you’ll have more daylight for enjoying the slopes and the sights, with nearly 11 hours by the end of February when sunrise is at just after 7 a.m. and sunset at 6:08 p.m. Pack the same clothing as last month, with plenty of layers topped with a warm coat. Because you’re likely to experience more bright, sunny days, be sure to bring sunglasses, and don’t forget the sunscreen either. (Average Max Temperature: 6°C. Average Precipitation: 70mm.)
Switzerland Weather in March: Spring is almost here now and with it, even warmer temperatures with the mercury climbing to 11°C in the afternoon and the low temperature now above freezing at 3°C. If you’re hoping to ski, you’ll still be able to find snow at the higher-elevation resorts along with the increasingly warm rays of the sun, at least until late in the month. By the end of March most ski resorts will have closed. Now is the time to not only pack those warm layers, but a few short-sleeve shirts along with sunscreen and sunglasses. (Average Max Temperature: 11°C. Average Precipitation: 70mm.)
Switzerland Weather in April: Temperatures have warmed up enough now that skiing is unlikely. It’s a quieter time in Switzerland, with skiers and boarders back home, while summer’s hikers have yet to arrive. The average high temperature increases another four degrees to 15°C although nights and early mornings will still be quite chilly with the low temperature at 3°C. As the month progresses it will get increasingly warmer. Now is the time to bring a mixed bag with items for both cold and warmer weather. As it typically rains on about 18 days this month, bringing an average of 70mm of precipitation, you may want to throw in a waterproof jacket. When you’re out hiking, there’s a good chance you’ll see colorful wildflowers now, so be sure and keep an eye out when in the meadows. (Average Max Temperature: 15°C. Average Precipitation: 70mm.)
Switzerland Weather in May: May is an unpredictable month in Switzerland. It can be quite pleasant or rather miserable, but you can be almost sure that whatever you’re experiencing now will be different tomorrow. The afternoon high averages 20°C while the low has increased quite a bit too, to 7°C, well above freezing. There is a greater chance of rain, with 90mm over 17 days, which when combined with the unpredictability, means bringing a wide range of clothing along with a waterproof jacket and sunglasses is advised. (Average Max Temperature: 20°C. Average Precipitation: 90mm.)
Switzerland Weather in June: June is likely to be pleasantly warm with the average high climbing to 21°C, and the days wonderfully long. On the summer solstice, June 21st, the sun rises at about 5:30 a.m. and doesn’t set until almost 9:30 p.m. This month is the calm before the storm, with the chance to get out on the trails before peak crowds arrive in July and August. There is a greater chance of rain, with the average precipitation increasing to 110mm over 18 days so be sure to pack a waterproof jacket along with clothing that can be layered. It will still be cool on those early morning hikes with the low temperature at 11°C but afternoons will likely be quite warm. (Average Max Temperature: 21°C. Average Precipitation: 110mm.)
Switzerland Weather in July: July is part of the peak summer season, a time when some of the biggest crowds and the warmest temperatures are typically enjoyed. The afternoon high rises to 24°C while precipitation decreases quite a bit down to 80mm over 17 days. It’s the perfect time to enjoy the open-air festivals, hike in the mountains and take advantage of the lakes, which become popular spots to hangout and escape the heat. Bring summer attire now, along with a light jacket or sweater for evenings and early mornings. (Average Max Temperature: 24°C. Average Precipitation: 80mm.)
Switzerland Weather in August: While the average high is the same as last month at 24°C, in many places it rarely dips below 30°C for days at a time, making swimming in one of the lakes an especially popular pursuit now. There’s more rainfall now, however, especially during the first half of the month, which can help cool things off. And you won’t have to worry about getting too warm at night with the low at 13°C. Bring that lightweight summer clothing, including a bathing suit, along with a light waterproof jacket.
(Average Max Temperature: 24°C. Average Precipitation: 120mm.)
Switzerland Weather in September: September is a wonderful time to be in Switzerland, with the crowds thinning and the weather still be quite warm, especially during the first half of the month. The average high temperature dips to 20°C this month but expect it to be warmer the earlier in September you arrive. Rainfall decreases now to 80mm, with a reduced chance as the month progresses. The low temperature is just 10°C so you will need to bring a range of clothing for both warm and cool weather.
(Average Max Temperature: 20°C Average Precipitation: 80mm.)
Switzerland Weather in October: It will be crisp and cool in October, and with summer gone while snow is still weeks away, it’s a great time to visit Switzerland to avoid the crowds. The high temperature is just 14°C and the low plunges even further to 7°C, so be sure to bundle up. Rain is always a possibility but it’s usually light, with 70mm of precipitation over 21 days now. Plan to dress in layers for both warmer and cooler and days along with chilly early mornings and nights. With the time change this month, plan for shorter days too. In late October, the sun rises a little after 7 a.m. and sets at 5:11 p.m. (Average Max Temperature:14°C. Average Precipitation: 70mm.)
Switzerland Weather in November: November kicks off the potential for the winter season to begin with the possibility of some ski resorts opening, especially in the higher elevations. Of course, it’s never a guarantee as it may not happen anywhere until early December. The average afternoon high is now just 7°C and the low is slightly above freezing at -2°C. It’s time to pack your winter clothing now, preparing for snow just in case by bringing a heavy waterproof coat, wool socks, gloves, waterproof boots and the like. (Average Max Temperature: 7°C. Average Precipitation: 70mm.)
Switzerland Weather in December: Another one of the chilliest months of the year in Switzerland, there’s a good chance for snow now with the low temperature below freezing at -1°C and 70mm of precipitation on average over 16 days now. It’s a wonderful time to be here to enjoy skiing, boarding and the Christmas markets that give many towns an especially magical feel. Just plan to bundle up with that winter gear, and sip cider in between activities to stay warm. (Average Max Temperature: 4°C. Average Precipitation: 70mm.)
Switzerland Events and Festivals
Switzerland in January
New Year’s Day – January 1 is a national holiday in Switzerland, celebrating New Year’s Day, with most businesses closed, although there are usually some shops and restaurants open. It’s a day to rest and recover from the fun festivities the night before.
St. Berchtold’s Day – St. Berchtold’s Day is January 2, a public holiday in 15 cantons where locals get the day off and most businesses are closed. People often meet in pubs, restaurants and other eateries to enjoy meals while exchanging good wishes for the new year. In Hallwil in the canton of Aargau, there is a parade called the Barzeli that includes masked, dressed-up figures that symbolize wisdom, fertility, ugliness, age and vice.
Second New Year’s Celebration – In the Appenzell region of northeast Switzerland, people follow a custom that celebrates the New Year for a second time on January 13, referencing the start of the Gregorian calendar. New Year’s Eve mummers called Silvesterchlause go door to door ringing bells, yodeling and wishing everyone prosperity and happiness for the year. There may be parades, exhibitions and other events in larger cities.
World Snow Festival – Every year in Grindelwald, January 20-25 in 2020, this festival brings sculptors from across the globe for six days. The artists transform ice into works of art that can be viewed throughout the snow town until they melt.
International Hot Air Balloon Festival – In late January every year in the town of Château-d’Oex in Gstaad, the famous nine-day hot air balloon festival is held. It brings balloon pilots from 20 different countries and spectators from across the globe. A sight to see, the colorful shapes float over the snow-capped peaks, usually against a backdrop of a bright blue sky. In 2020, it will take place from January 25 through February 2.
Switzerland in February
White Turf – In St. Moritz on the first three Sundays of February, international jockeys and thoroughbreds from across Europe take part in races across a frozen lake at White Turf St. Moritz; February 2, 9 and 16 in 2020.
Valentine’s Day – February 14th is celebrated with flowers, chocolates and gifts of lingerie in Switzerland. Hotels and restaurants often host special meals and other events. Flowers are most common in German- and French-speaking Switzerland while food rules in Italian-speaking areas.
Tschaggatta – This very unique Swiss carnival brings oversized masked figures that rampage through the streets in various villages starting on the Catholic holiday of Candlemass until Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, February 2 through February 26, 2020. They appear unexpectedly in their masks, frightening spectators and children, while tossing soot at unsuspecting victims.
Switzerland in March
Basel Fasnacht – Annually for some 700 years now in Basel, thousands of residents gather at 4 a.m. in the cold to wait for the four rings of the city clock that announce the start of this three-day carnival. Participants wear colorful disguises with masks and march in parades accompanied by orchestras with wind instruments, including piccolos. In 2020, it will take place from March 1 through March 3.
Chalandamarz – On March 1 every year the traditional folk custom of Chalandamarz, symbolizing the long-awaited spring season, is celebrated. Schoolchildren dress up in brightly colored costumes, parading through towns and villages in Graubunden.
Fuchstival – On a Saturday around the first day of spring, March 22 in 2020, this ski and snowboard festival hosts rock and pop bands in the family-friendly ski resort of Danusa.
Interlaken Music Festival – One of the most important events on the classical Swiss music festival calendar, this event brings chamber and symphony music concerts to various venues, including the Congress Center Kursaal Interlaken. It starts in late March and runs through much of April, with 2020’s dates still to be announced.
Switzerland in April
Tulip Festival – Starting around April 1st and running throughout the month, this festival is hosted along the shores of Lake Geneva in Morges at Parc de L’Independance. It showcases over 120,000 tulips, including 300 different varieties.
Sechseläuten – For four days in mid-April, April 12 through April 15 in 2019, Zurich’s traditional spring festival is an annual highlight in the city. Members of all the guilds dress in costume to celebrate spring, highlighted by the burning of a straw figure that symbolizes winter called Böögg. It includes a colorful children’s procession as well as a parade with guild members featuring 3,500 people, 350 riders, 30 brass bands and 50 horse-drawn wagons.
Easter – There are many events throughout the country to celebrate Easter, including the Lucerne Festival which will be hosted April 6-14 in 2019. It has a focus on sacred music, bringing concerts to the city’s churches. On Easter Sunday (April 21, 2019) and Easter Monday (April 22, 2019), there will be closures throughout much of Switzerland. The most impressive celebration for Easter may be the procession and passion play in Mendrisio, held on Easter Sunday.
Switzerland in May
May Day – May 1 is May Day, a public holiday in 10 cantons where it’s a day off for the population. Most businesses will be closed.
Cheese Festival – In the medieval town of Gruyeres in early May each year, May 5 in 2019, this festival celebrates cheese with chesses from across the country and beyond. Some of the highlights include the tasting of alpine fondue, wheelwright craftsman demonstrations and demonstration and demonstration of the production of Gruyere.
Ascona Music Festival – This prestigious chamber music festival is held next to Lake Maggiore in the town of Ascona, celebrating the music’s finest with internationally-renowned musicians in a gorgeous setting. In 2019 it will be held start May 12, running through October 5.
Ascension Day – In Beromünster, a religious celebration for Ascension Day takes place starting early in the morning, May 30 in 2019. Costumed riders will circle a field on horseback followed by a large group of spectators. In the afternoon there are solemn festivities with church council, priests, a cross- and flag-bearer, singers and musicians wearing colorful costumes and uniforms.
Switzerland in June
Street Arts Festival – For four days in early June, June 7-10, 2019, this festival brings actors, dancers, mimes, jugglers, balancing artists, musicians, clowns, fire breathers and more to Ascona Old Town. There are hundreds of free exhibitions and performances.
Fête de la Musique – In Geneva, this event takes place every year for three days around summer solstice, June 21 through June 23, 2019. Music will take over the squares and streets in Lausanne, with more than 50 podiums showcasing musicians from around the world, with everything from rock and pop to classical orchestras, French and world music. As streets are blocked for the event it’s best to arrive using public transportation.
Alpine Ascent – This event, typically held in late June with the exact date dependent on the weather, brings the opportunity to watch some 500 cows hike the Engstigenal early in the morning. Starting at 5 a.m., visitors can take the train up the Alp to enjoy the sunrise and grab a spot to welcome the cows that have made this arduous journey.
Switzerland in July
Montreux Jazz Festival – For two weeks over the first half of July, Montreux hosts the biggest jazz festival in all of Europe. It features both up-and-coming musicians and world-famous jazz and blues artists, with many free performances.
Weggis Festival – This popular long-running summer event is held annually over the first weekend of July, July 6-7 in 2019, along the shores of Lake Lucerne. There are fireworks, the crowning of the Queen of Roses, parades, music, dancing, a market and children’s activities.
Gurten Festival – Over four days in mid-July, July 17-20 in 2019, this festival features over 60 live acts and 60 DJs with a backdrop of breathtaking scenery. It represents rock, pop, soul, R&B, punk, electro, hip hop, country and the blues with both national and international bands.
Paléo Festival – This six-day annual rock festival, July 23-28 in 2019, is hosted in Nyon. Switzerland’s largest open-air music festival and one of the major ones on the calendar in mainland Europe, its final concert includes a spectacular firework display.
Switzerland in August
Swiss National Day – August 1 is Swiss National Day, a public holiday, which means many businesses will be closed but there will be parades, fireworks, barbecues, bonfires and more. Children parade through the streets with paper lanterns and you’ll see people lighting candles in their windows. The biggest celebrations will be on Lake Lucerne at Ruetli Meadows.
Locarno International Film Festival – Annually in August, August 7-17 in 2019, this event brings some 3,000 film professionals, a thousand journalists and around 160,000 cinema-goers to the small picturesque town of Locarno near the Italian border on Lake Maggiore. It offers all kinds of films and formats, without limitation, becoming the world capital of auteur cinema over 11 days.
Lake Thun Fest – One of the top open-air music events in Europe, this festival is hosted for three days (August 9-11, 2019) against the backdrop of the stunning mountain landscape that includes Junfrau, Eiger and Mönch, bringing over 70,000 to Lake Thun.
Zermatt Folklore Festival – Over a weekend in mid-August every year, August 10-11 in 2019, this festival is dedicated to Swiss tradition, bringing colorful costumes, yodeling, music and dance to the beautiful village of Zermatt. The highlight is the Sunday parade along the Bahnhofstrasse which includes over 1,000 participants.
Switzerland in September
VINEA Wine Fest – The VINEA Wine Fest, hosted in the canton Valais, Switzerland’s largest wine growing region, is the biggest wine fair of the year, offering the chance to sample many different types of Swiss wine on September 6-7 in 2019.
Oktoberfest – Oktoberfest events will take place across Switzerland in September and October, including Bern which hosts its festivities over two Fridays, September 6 and September 13 in 2019. It includes live music, a beer garden, and all sorts of food. Lucerne hosts its Oktoberfest on September 5 and September 21 in 2019, featuring lots of beer and Bavarian delicacies.
Federal Thanksgiving Day – Celebrated on the third Sunday of September every year, September 15 in 2019, this public holiday is a day on which Jewish, Catholic, Reformed and other denominations and faiths gather together for prayer events in cities throughout Switzerland. Many businesses will be closed everywhere except Geneva.
Switzerland in October
Desalpe – In Canton Fribourg the Alpine Descent known as Desalpe takes place, usually in early October, although it’s sometimes occurs in late September. It celebrates the coming home of the cows from the Alpine pastures and is the best known of all traditional mountain festivities. There will lots of bell clinging, music, flag throwers and cheese for sale.
Lugano Autumn Festival – The final open-air event of the summer season in Lugano is held in early October, October 5 in 2019. It celebrates local produce with lots of food and drink. One of the highlights is the eating stations called grottini, where attendees can sample a wide range of Ticinese specialties like polenta with stew along with Ticino wines. There’s also a parade, face painting, live music and dance.
Chestnut Festival – On the second Saturday in October, the Chestnut Festival is hosted in Ascona, October 12 in 2019. Visitors can taste chestnuts roasted on a fire by the local maronatt, as well as a variety of chestnut-based delicacies like cakes, honeys and jams along with traditional foods and wines from the region. There will be multiple concerts in the afternoon as well.
Swiss Cheese Festival – The largest cheese market in Central Switzerland, this event that will be hosted on October 19 in 2019, features 70 market stalls and a cheese breakfast, as well as a competition to determine who will be the Swiss champion with around 900 cheeses in 2 different categories vying for the title. There will also be a dairy show and opportunities to learn how to milk a cow.
Switzerland in November
All Saints Day – All Saints Day is a public holiday in 15 cantons, where Catholic influence is largest, providing a day off for the general population with most businesses closed. It’s a day to recognize loved ones who have past, with candles lit in cemeteries across the country.
Onion Market – This traditional folk festival in Bern takes place on the fourth Monday in November, November 25 in 2019. It brings 50 tons of onions artistically woven into braids along with stalls that sell traditional pottery, hot mulled wines and a variety of foods.
Christmas Markets – Christmas markets will open throughout Switzerland in the second half of November, bringing holiday music and lights, local handcrafted items, roasted chestnuts, melted cheeses, mulled wine and much more.
Switzerland in December
Saint Nikolaus Day – December 6 is Sankt Nikolaus Day celebrated mainly in German-speaking areas where the night before Samichlaus visits children’s houses. In Bulle there will be a St. Nicholas Market and torchlight procession.
Fete de L’Escalade – Held over three days around December 11 every year, this is the biggest celebrated event of the year in Geneva, commemorating the failed attempt of the Duke of Savoy to seize the city by surprise in 1602. Locals dress in costume, parading through the streets with drums and torchlights. There will be country markets, folk music and banquets as well as a bonfire where attendees can stay warm while enjoying the traditional chocolate cauldron.
Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and St. Stephen’s Day – December 24 through December 26 are holidays in Switzerland, celebrating Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and St. Stephen’s Day respectively. Many businesses will be closed starting the afternoon of the 24th, when the Swiss celebrate Christmas with a holiday feast. Gifts may be exchanged on the 25th, January 1st or 6th.
New Year’s Eve – December 31st will bring parties to celebrate the coming year to cities across Switzerland, with Zurich hosting one of the biggest, drawing more than 100,000 to the shores of Lake Zurich for live music, food, drink and fireworks at midnight.