Guide to Switzerland in Winter for Non-Skiers
Wondering if visiting Switzerland in winter for non-skiers is worth it? No worries, we got you covered!
Now, you may think that Switzerland in winter is a paradise for adventure enthusiasts and snow fanatics, and you’d be right. But, if hurtling down snowy mountains isn’t quite your cup of tea, there is plenty to do and see in Switzerland besides winter sports.
Switzerland has no shortage of winter activities for non-skiers. With everything from charming Christmas markets to a scenic train journey through the Swiss Alps on the Glacier Express, you’ll be spoiled for choice with winter wonderland activities.
With so much on offer, it’s no surprise that Switzerland is one of the best winter destinations in Europe.
The tricky part is deciding what to do when you visit Switzerland. Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.
Here’s our list of the best things to do and places to visit in Switzerland in winter.
Guide to Switzerland in winter for non-skiers
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Practical tips for non-skiers in Switzerland
Before you decide what to do and where to go in the Swiss Confederation, there are a few things that you should know. These tips will ensure your winter trip to Switzerland is a real treat.
Visas, currency, and transport
Visitors from non-visa-exempt countries should apply for a Schengen Visa for entry into Switzerland, even though it’s not a part of the European Union.
Visitors with the US or the United States and Canadian passports do not require a visa to enter the country and stay for 90 days; however from 2023, an online authorization – ETIAS – is required prior to travel.
Although Euros are accepted in most major stores, hotels, and even restaurants, we advise that you use the national currency, the Swiss Franc.
Getting around Switzerland is super easy. All you’ll need is a Swiss Travel Pass.
The pass allows you to use public trains (including the Glacier Express but seat reservation is extra), buses, and boats for no additional charge, no matter where you are in the country. This is particularly handy if you don’t like the idea of carrying cash or buying tickets at every stop.
What’s more, the pass grants you free access to over 500 museums and discounts on tours and excursions. We highly recommend the Swiss Travel Pass if you are using public transportation to get around Switzerland.
Read: How to use the Swiss Travel Pass on a 10 day Switzerland itinerary
The weather in Switzerland’s winter months
Winter starts to creep in by early November. But, as the temperatures drop and the nights get longer, the festivities in Switzerland start to heat up.
The colder months in Switzerland range from about 32°F (0°C) to 39°F (4°C) in the central to southern regions.
In comparison, northern regions experience slightly cooler temperatures, around 30°F (-1°C) to 25°F (-4°C).
During Switzerland’s winter time, from November to February, almost the entire country experiences snowfall. So, even if your plan is to curl up with a cup of hot chocolate and watch the cross-country skiing from afar, be prepared with some snow-appropriate attire.
What to pack for winter in Switzerland
We’ve got you covered on what to wear in Switzerland. While you won’t need any heavy gear as a non-skier, decent snow-proof clothing will keep you dry and warm while you explore.
You’ll need a pair of shoes for the snow and another pair for exploring other parts of Switzerland, like those close to the coast or the quaint villages.
You can’t go wrong with a good pair of walking shoes for your adventures, but remember to pack something classy for evenings, dinners, or any dressy occasion.
Be sure to pack the following
- Carry a winter parka
- Wear comfortable walking shoes, they are perfect for exploring city centres and of course winter boots and socks
- Don’t miss cute beanies to stay warm
- A universal adaptor is a must for charging your electronics
- Don’t forget your camera to take stellar photos!
Without the proper gear, it’s unlikely that you’ll enjoy winter in Switzerland. The good news is that most venues are heated, so you can shed your layers once you step indoors.
Staying at ski resorts might still be worthwhile
Although you won’t be skiing, staying at a ski resort may not be a waste of your time or money.
There is often much more to enjoy at ski resorts than just the slopes. Oh, and the Alpine scenery is unbeatable, even under a blanket of snow.
As a tourist and a non-skier, this country’s mountainous regions are still worth visiting.
Besides the stunning views, you’ll find tons of activities, entertainment, and day trips at large resorts like Club Med St. Moritz and Mountain Paradise in Zermatt. They offer a combination of entertainment for snow lovers and non-skiers.
Switzerland in winter for non-skiers – winter activities
Here’s a list of things to do for non-skiers visiting Switzerland in winter.
Admire the incredible winter scenery in Switzerland with ease
Just about everywhere in Switzerland is beautiful at this time of year, and the festivities certainly add to the charm.
Get your camera ready and head to these locations for spectacular views of the Swiss Alps and the idyllic villages nestled between snow-covered mountains.
Read: Scenic train rides in Switzerland
The Matterhorn – aka Toblerone Mountain
While you’re welcome to choose the adventurous route and hike up the Matterhorn, the best place to see it is by taking the cable car from Zermatt to the viewing platform.
On your way up, grab a box of Toblerone so you can pose with the Matterhorn and your box of chocolate. It may sound cheesy, but hey, Switzerland is known for its cheese.
Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe
Tick another spectacular vista off your Switzerland bucket list at Jungfraujoch mountain.
It’s called the ‘Top of Europe’ because Jungfraujoch railway is one of the highest accessible points in Europe.
Views of the winter landscape below are especially magnificent in the early evening when the warm glow from the mountain town contrasts the glistening white snow.
If the unforgettable railway journey to Jungfraujoch isn’t enough splendor for one day, do some sightseeing around the towns of the Jungfrau region.
This luxury resort town in the Swiss Alps is a popular spot amongst the rich and famous, and it’s no surprise why. It’s one of Switzerland’s most beautiful towns.
The elegant architecture nestled between magnificent snow-covered mountains and frozen Lake St. Moritz offers superior Alpine scenery.
In fact, the scenery in St. Moritz is unbeatable throughout the year. In the warmer months, the lush mountain foliage makes this region look like something from a fairytale.
As the snow begins to fall, visitors and locals make the most of the amazing slopes at St. Moritz; this area is a hotspot for winter sports and ski resorts.
But don’t worry. There’s plenty to do for non-skiers too. Ice skating on the frozen lake is always great fun.
If you’re in search of indoor activities, this Alpine town has a lot to offer. We’d recommend visiting one of the many spas in St. Moritz or getting a taste of luxury by going caviar tasting.
To really experience the best of the region’s scenery, hop on the Glacier Express or the Bernina Express for panoramic views and premium comfort.
Note: The Glacier Express connects from Zermatt to St. Moritz. It closes for manintence between late October to early December, however it is one of the prettiest routes to take in the winter. The Bernina Express runs all year round with a limited schedule in winter. Also, certain transportation (buses from Tirano to Lugano) doesn’t operate during this season.
Experience Switzerland’s best Christmas markets
You’ll find that Christmas markets are very popular around Switzerland.
Most are open from early December until Christmas Eve, although some stay open until the new year.
Just about everything is on sale at these markets, but roasted chestnuts, fresh pastries, and decadent raclette are all essentials.
Below are the most popular Christmas markets in Switzerland.
Basel Christmas market
Wander the streets with a cup of hot chocolate, and take in the aroma of fresh pastry and the glow of Christmas lights. You’ll quickly understand why Basel is voted the best Christmas market in Europe.
If you’re in the area from late November till Christmas Eve, take a trip to Old Town in Basel for an unforgettable experience. This is also a great opportunity to get trinkets for everyone back home. You can book a Basel Christmas walking tour here
Order a warm beverage at Basel market and pay a small deposit of five Swiss Francs, and you’ll receive it in a mug. You can return the mug and get your deposit back or keep it as a souvenir.
Bern Christmas market
You’ll find similar trinkets and tasty treats from the Basel market here in Bern. But, this market, set in the medieval streets of Bern, offers an enchanting experience in a winter wonderland.
If you visit Switzerland in December, make sure to spend some time in Bern.
Gift shopping is a breeze at the Bern market. You’ll find jewelry, art, clothing, regional crafts, and more as you explore the market. Why not pick up a hand-crafted Christmas ornament to remind you of the festive season in Switzerland?
Indulge in the Swiss culinary scene
After all, Switzerland is renowned for its culinary feats. Although it’s most famous for chocolate and cheese, the culinary scene in Switzerland is one that you shouldn’t miss, especially if you’re a foodie.
Both vegetarians and meat lovers can enjoy well-balanced Michelin Star meals at EquiTable restaurant in Zurich.
Good food should always have a good philosophy, and EquiTable believes in sustainability and climate-friendly practice. Although you’ll have to book your table well in advance, the excellent service and world-class gastronomy are worth the wait and the price.
For a glimpse into the production of Swiss cheese, take a day trip from Zurich to the Swiss countryside and embark on a culinary adventure through Lucerne and Engleberg.
After a picturesque journey to Lucerne by bus, you’ll continue to Engleberg, visiting a Swiss cheese factory and a Baroque monastery.
Alternatively, you can experience delicious Swiss fondue and wine right in the heart of Zurich. Explore Zurich on a tuk-tuk culinary tour to admire the city’s magnificent architecture while indulging in Swiss cheese and wine.
Visit Switzerland’s ice skating rinks
Gliding along the surface of glistening ice while surrounded by the serene natural beauty of Switzerland is a surreal experience that you’re unlikely to forget.
Of course, if you’ve never donned a pair of blades before, natural ice rinks can be a little daunting, so do be cautious of lumpy ice.
If you’re up for the adventure, there are many towns around Switzerland where you’ll find natural ice rinks with incredible mountain views during winter.
Because it’s all up to nature, you can’t always rely on the lakes to be frozen and safe for skating. It’s always important to check with local authorities, even if you are a seasoned skater or a snow connoisseur like us Canadians.
Lake Zurich is a popular choice for locals and tourists who visit Switzerland in winter.
Read: Activities in Zurich in winter
Explore Geneva – a city break with a moderate climate
There is plenty to see and do in Geneva in winter. This city is filled with cultural and natural splendors that are worth visiting.
Getting around Geneva is easy, especially if you’ve got a Swiss Travel Pass. Public transportation is readily available, and you can navigate the city fairly easily without the help of a guide.
If you don’t enjoy winter, yet find yourself in snowy Switzerland, Geneva’s moderate climate is pleasant at this time of year.
It also boasts a more international environment than the rest of the country because of the many global organizations based in the city.
Lake Geneva is spectacular all year round. Although, during winter, you won’t see the iconic Jet d’Eau — the lake’s impressive water feature. Strolling along the lake’s promenade is peaceful, and you can take in all the sights and sounds of the city.
You can’t leave Geneva without exploring its old town. So make sure to carry your camera for this, because you’ll want to capture the intricate, postcard-worthy architecture of the 12th to 18th centuries.
Winter hikes around Switzerland + walks
Escape the larger towns and spend one-on-one time with the great outdoors in Switzerland. Snow lovers will adore Switzerland’s winter hiking trails.
There are far too many to name, but you’ll be guaranteed to find one that suits your fitness level. It’s important to factor in the high altitude, so we wouldn’t suggest picking anything too strenuous.
Lake Lauenensee offers a scenic hike that lasts around 2.50 hours. It covers a peaceful five miles around the Lake, uninterrupted by the sounds of civilization.
Alternatively, set aside an hour or so in the evening to go hiking at Laternliweg Schwӓgalp and experience the glistening snow under the glow of hundreds of oil lamps.
If you plan on hiking in Switzerland in winter, make sure to have the correct gear, like snow shoes and waterproof trousers, to keep you warm, dry, and safe.
Switzerland in winter for non-skiers – final thoughts
So you see, there is plenty to do in Switzerland for non-skiers. In fact, wintertime in Switzerland is ideal for exploring the country’s culture, history, natural splendor, and cuisine.
We hope you enjoyed our list of activities in Switzerland for non-skiers.
If you need some help with planning your trip, check out our Switzerland checklist and get ready to take in those magnificent mountain views.
Read more Switzerland travel blog posts
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