Visiting Zurich in winter? We got you an expert guide with accommodation, packing and sightseeing tips so that you are covered for the bucket list things to do in Zurich in winter!
Rich, luxurious, and picturesque are all words used to describe Switzerland’s banking capital, Zurich. A stunning combination of mountain views, glassy lakes, and extravagant stores all make this a great vacation spot year-round.
However, as with most European cities, winter brings something extra to Zurich. With crisper, snowy weather, Christmas charms, and the most delicious food, this city is a marvelous winter destination.
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Why visit Zurich in winter?
There are so many reasons to visit Zurich in winter, I mean there is moderate snow and the temperatures are not super cold (ask this Canadian, weather in Zurich is amazing – a light jacket and a little layering is all you NEED!), pretty Christmas markets, tons of shopping opportunities, delicious cheese and food, and outdoor activities to choose from.
Here are some fantastic reasons to visit Zurich in winter
- Christmas Markets: There are beautiful Christmas markets sprinkled all across the Canton of Zurich. Start with the ones near the main train station, and you can venture out to Rapperswil, and nearby areas. It definitely feels super festive and stunning with all the decorations.
- Special Festive Events: From Advent for Children to lights festivals, and seasonal menu, Christmas in Zurich is delightful! These events take place in December in Zurich.
- New Year Festival in Zurich: The biggest New Year’s Eve Party called Silvesterzauber (New Year’s magic), takes place near Zurich’s lakeshore. This is an amazing outdoor event with food, and music, sort of like an open-air party. The event ends with fireworks display at night.
- Shopping galore: Switzerland is expensive, but for those who love to spoil themselves or their loved ones, you can’t go wrong with shopping here. You can find all the luxurious brands, collections, and pretty festive souvenirs to take back home. Winters in Zurich bring in great retail deals and seasonal items, which are worth buying (I am a shopper, you can tell I can spend an entire day at the Bahnhofstrasse!)
- Off-season with fewer crowds, more relaxation: When we visited Zurich in winter, the city was very calm and quiet. There were not a lot of crowds, it was very easy to find a table at a restaurant or public transportation. With various parks across the city, this is a great time to sit and relax in Zurich.
- Temperature: Depending on what you are looking for, the weather and temperature in Zurich could be a pro or a con for you. We are used to wearing 4 layers of clothing and bundled up with all the winter accessories that we can find. So Zurich was delightful in the sense it is not very cold, temperatures range from 4 degrees celsius (high) to a low of -1 degree celsius! Snow is mild, so you can walk the old town in winter. If it’s rainy or windy, ensure you are bundled well, because sometimes it’s the wind that might dampen your spirit!
- Winter Activities: Although not super cold, you can enjoy winter sports (skating, skiing, tobogganing, etc.) in Zurich or take a trip to ski resorts nearby – Switzerland in winter has you covered!
Zurich winter weather & temperature
Zurich winter months are from December to February. Winter months also experience at least 10 days of rain, and we found that it is windy too especially when you head to Lake Zurich promenade, or Lindenhof Hill.
January is the coldest month of the year, and is also the cheapest to fly to Switzerland.
Zurich winter temperature
What is the weather like in the winter in Zurich?
- Does it snow in Zurich? In Zürich, it doesn’t snow a lot. Statistically speaking there is snowfall for 20 to 21 days. So if you are in Zurich for a white winter wonderland getaway, you may not be happy. But from Zurich, you can head to resorts and mountains to experience the same.
- How cold does it get in Zurich? Although there is not a lot of snow, it gets cold in Zurich. So it’s important to dress appropriately. Evenings and early mornings will be chillier, and the wind is common. Remember it also rains for at least 10 days in a month in winter, so wear waterproof outerwear to be safe!
What to pack for Zurich in winter?
Here is a packing list for Zurich Switzerland in winter, you can grab a printable copy here
- Warm Boots – 1 or 2. Wear them in-flight to travel light. Click to buy this warm boot from Sorel
- Sneakers or comfortable shoes – For all the walking and wandering in the old town and transiting through different cities
- Warm socks – Carry a few (depending on your stay). Click to view these warm merino wool unisex socks
- Warm Parka Jacket – Temperatures in the winter in Switzerland It will be colder and chillier when you go skiing resorts outside of Zurich. Click to view my favorite parka from the North Face
- Cardigan/thermals – Carry 2 cardigans to wear as a layer inside the jacket. If you are skiing or not used to minus temperatures, then add thermals to the list as well.
- Tops/thermals – Long sleeves tops or thermal wear to keep you warm. Click to buy my favorite thermal top
- Pants/Jeans and add thermal bottoms like this one, which is slim and you can layer with snow pants or jeans
- Sweater Dress – For Christmas markets. You can pair them with leggings
- Leggings or long johns
- Warm cap or beanie – Carry 1 or 2. Get something with a pop of color for your photos. Click to get this cute white beanie with red patterns from Patagonia
- Scarf – Travel scarf for in-flight, and outdoor. I love my Burberry and Coach Scarf as it is very versatile, and looks and feels great! Click to get yours here
- Warm Gloves – Carry gloves to stay warm and toasted. Choose something that has a good grip instead of being bulky! LOVE these gloves as they are tech-friendly and warm
- Sleepwear or loungewear
Where to stay in Zurich in December – February in winter?
We have a detailed guide to where to stay in Zurich, in this section we will highlight the top areas, and 5 top accommodation picks
- Romantik Hotel Europe: This is our favorite hotel in Zurich. Great location – you can easily walk down to the city centre, and the interiors are just so charming. Best of all breakfast is free, and there is also a restaurant on-site in case it’s too cold for you to get out! Click to book your stay here
- Hotel Rössli: This is a beautiful boutique hotel located in central Zurich. Many of their suites offer amazing views of the Limmat River in the old town. Unfortunately no free breakfast, but you can order one for extra pay. The rooms are stunningly gorgeous! Check out photos here
- Limmatblick – This is a relaxed 3-star hotel, with basic amenities and free breakfast. The location is good, pets are allowed and rooms have nice views (plus terrace access). Nightly prices are low to mid-budget. Click to view prices and book here
- Apartment close to Zurich city and airport: This apartment is perfect for a couple, and is located close to the city center in Zurich (10 minutes from the apartment). A superhost takes care of the place, and the property has all the modern amenities and furniture. This Airbnb is very clean and new! View photos and traveler reviews here
- Spacious Apartment – Located only 5 minutes away from the city center, is this Airbnb. You can book the entire apartment, and this is great for families or groups. This place is very spacious as compared to most of the hotels we stayed in Zurich. Click to check out this airbnb here
How to get around Zurich in winter? Airport, and local transportation
We flew to Zurich, and Zurich International Airport is the perfect starting point in the country from the United States, South America, Asia or Europe. In order to get around or travel to other cities and mountain towns, we recommend purchasing the Swiss Travel Pass to obtain discounts and travel effortlessly.
Renting a car is not necessary, as the Swiss Travel Pass will cover out of Zurich train rides plus more. Click to read about the Swiss Pass.
- Zurich Discount Card: If you are staying in Zurich only, opt for the Zurich Discount Card, you will save a lot in train rides, especially if you are staying away from the center or venturing to various Christmas markets and neighborhoods.
- Swiss Rail Travel Pass: This is great for those looking to make the most of your trip to Zurich Switzerland. This pass offers unlimited rides on trains, boats, buses, and premium panorama trains across the country for 3, 4, 8, or 15 consecutive or non-consecutive days, plus access to museums and attractions! Find more details about Swiss Rail Travel Pass
- Swiss Half Fare: This pass is great for a long term stay, up to one calendar month. You can enjoy a 50% discount on unlimited tickets to regular and premium trains, buses, and boats in Switzerland. Click to purchase Swiss Half Fare Pass here
One day in Zurich in Winter
Your ideal one day Zurich winter itinerary should start at the Old Town area, wandering through the charming lanes (walking tour), visiting a museum, eating fondue and festive shopping. In the afternoon add Christmas Markets to your list, you can head to the Zurich Main Station, or venture to Rapperswill to explore more.
Finish the day at the old town area – opt for an Opera Show, and dinner.
Have more time in Zurich, you can choose one of the following activities or venture out of town!
12 Things To Do in Zurich in Winter 2020/21
How do you take full advantage of this spectacular destination and all it has to offer in winter? Start by ticking activities off the list below in this post.
This list of must-sees and have-to-dos, while you’re visiting Switzerland’s luxurious city, should help you start planning the perfect vacation.
Here’s a guide on all the best things to do in Zurich in winter.
Visit a Christmas Market
European winter is almost synonymous with Christmas markets. And there is arguably no better place to experience your ideal festive fair than in Zurich. Mulled wine, the smell of cinnamon, and bright, cheerful lights transform the already beautiful city into a truly marvelous scene.
The city is host to a number of markets, each one offering a unique take on traditional festivities. Head to the market at the city’s main station where you’ll find a massive Christmas tree covered in Swarovski crystals. Or enjoy a cozy walk through one of the Old Town markets.
These markets usually start popping up in late November and close a couple of days before Christmas. So you have plenty of time to fit one or all of them into your winter travels. Each one has its own opening dates and hours, but you can check the schedules out here.
Browse the Many Museums and Art Galleries
If you’re looking to escape the cold for a few hours, Zurich’s museums provide a warm retreat as well as fascinating findings.
With 50 museums and over 100 art galleries, there’s something for almost every interest. Not only will these provide a warm place on especially cold and stormy days, but they’ll offer a deeper insight into Zurich’s culture and history.
Here are just a handful to add to your Zurich itinerary:
- National Museum Zurich
- Museum Riteberg
- Fifa Museum
- Money Museum
- Museum of Digital Art
- Zoological Museum
- Zurich Tram Museum
Also Visit – Lindt Home of Chocolate
This recently opened chocolatey heaven is the perfect place for Lindt lovers. There are interactive exhibits, a chocolateria, and its main feature – the 9-meter-tall chocolate fountain. This is also the home of the world’s largest chocolate shop.
Feast On Hearty Food
If there’s one thing Switzerland has no shortage of, it’s good food. Zurich has plenty of cheese and chocolate havens, from fondues to food tours, you’ll never go hungry in this city.
Indulge your sweet tooth and visit one of the chocolatiers for a tasting and some treats to take home. There’s also some tantalizing hot chocolate to be found, which not only tastes amazing, but will warm you up too.
If you’re a cheese fan, Zurich will not disappoint. You can savor many different types of cheese, in a list of different forms. Cheese fondue is the most popular in Zurich and can be found at many cafes and restaurants. You can even learn to make your own cheese.
And of course, there are amazing restaurants and cafes found all over the city for you to enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner in between the chocolate and cheese delights.
Go On a Walking Tour
It might be a little frosty outside, but a walking tour is still the best way to see the city. One of the best areas for a tour on foot in the Old Town. Take a guided walk through this neighborhood to learn all about its fascinating history and view the many historical landmarks.
You’ll also find plenty of themed walking tours throughout the city. Walk through the streets to discover the street art, or marvel at Zurich’s architecture from years gone by.
There are also food tours, photography walks, and social groups you can join to view the city at a comfortable pace while meeting locals and other travelers. Be sure to bundle up before heading out to enjoy the crisp winter air.
Visit the Sukkulenten Sammlung
Another ideal place to warm up is this indoor botanical garden. It’s a large succulent collection, showing off a range of succulent plants from around the world.
If you’re missing the sun despite the pretty winter landscape, these cacti are sure to transport your mind to brighter skies and sunnier regions. The collection has free entrance and is sure to be fun for all ages.
From the botanical library to the child-friendly experiment stations, you’ll likely find yourself enjoying a full day here, especially if it’s stormy outside.
Enjoy a City Ice Rink
Ice skating is a winter activity loved by so many, and one that shouldn’t be missed in Zurich. There’s a long list of ice rinks, both indoors and open-air ones scattered around the city.
The most impressive rink, however, would be the Dolder open-air ice rink. It’s one of the largest of its kind in the whole of Europe, and sees many locals and visitors each year. You can visit Monday – Sunday (opening hours differ on specific days) and your entrance fee includes skate hire.
Another magical experience would be to find one of the many pop-up ice rinks that are placed in between the Christmas markets.
Hit the Slopes
It’s quite safe to say that anyone interested in skiing has dreamt of enjoying the snowy slopes of Switzerland. There are several ski villages within a short drive from Zurich, some with direct train transfers as well.
If you’re staying in Zurich for a few days, set at least one aside and head to one of these slopes. Whether you’re just a beginner or a real pro, Zurich skiing will make for a memorable journey.
Hike Up Uetliberg
Towering 871 meters above sea level, Uetliberg Mountain is a brilliant winter activity. The short hike to the summit rewards you with breathtaking views of the city and its surrounding beauty. There are restaurants and cafes at the top where you can soak in the scenes with a cup of coffee to warm you up.
If you’re not feeling up to the hike, you can also take the train to the top. If it’s been snowing, it’s wiser to hike in the morning. Before the sun turns the magic white powder into squishy melted ice. With enough snow, you may even see some of the hiking trails being used for sledding.
Marvel at Lake Zurich’s Beauty
Also known as Zürichsee, this is a spectacular place to spend a day outdoors. On the shores of the lake, you’ll find a promenade and public gardens on the eastern end. This is ideal for those wanting to enjoy winter picnics, long strolls, or simply sit on a bench and look out over the water.
Another brilliant way to enjoy the lake and the city is a boat trip. You can float along the water and see the many attractions and landmarks in Zurich – all from a new perspective.
See a Show at The Zurich Opera House
Not only is this theatre home to some of the most iconic ballets, plays, and operas, but the building itself is quite impressive as well. The theatre also sees children shows and renowned singers on its stage, and so there’s a show for nearly every taste.
And of course, this is winter in Zurich, so why not time your visit to coincide with the Christmas market that is held outside the Opera House each year. Find your preferred show on the Opera House website before you start your trip to the city.
As the banking and financial capital of Switzerland, Zurich is known for its luxurious, rich culture. This can often mean more expensive costs, but it also means plenty of shopping opportunities.
Bahnhofstrasse is the main shopping street in downtown Zurich city. It’s known for its extravagant stores and expensive products but is a great place to experience. Even if you only end up doing a bit of window shopping.
Day trips from Zurich Switzerland in winter
- Bern: The capital city of Switzerland can be easily explored from Zurich. It is just an hour away. So you can either take the train or hop on a guided tour. The old town has many attractions so you can easily cover a lot in a day in Bern. Book a guided tour here!
- Lucerne and Mount Titlis: Another cool day trip option (9.5 hours). In this tour, you can visit Lucerne as well as experience the glaciers of Mount Titlis at 9,800 feet (3,000 meters) above sea level. Tour prices include cable car rides as well as round trip transportation per person.
- Rapperswil: Rapperswill is an amazing Christmas destination close to Zurich. It is an easy day trip from Zurich, and you will be delighted with the stunning castle and medieval town backdrop!
- Rhine Falls: Love taking a day tour that is for half a day, like this one from Zurich. The Rhine Falls tour starts from the Zurich main train station and takes you to the Falls area, whilst driving you through vineyards and cute towns.
- Grindelwald & Interlaken: This day trip will take 12 hours, but is worth it. You can explore both Grindelwald & Interlaken (with Bernese Oberland and Jungfrau mountain region) and spend time in the old town, and enjoy the lakes and beautiful landscape.
Enjoy a Swiss Wonderland in Zurich This Winter
If you’re looking for the perfect winter vacation in Switzerland, Zurich offers so many amazing things to do and see. Whether you’re eager to get out and enjoy the Christmas market magic, or interested in browsing museums all day, there’s something for everyone.
We’re sure you’re going to love the activities available, both indoors and out in the city streets, public parks, and mountains.
Winter may bring cooler temperatures and some snow, but it doesn’t take away from everything this city has to offer. So pack warm clothes, don’t forget your camera, and get ready to experience a wondrous trip to Zurich.
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Switzerland Travel Blog Resources
- Best Cities in Switzerland – Places to visit in Switzerland Bucket list
- Switzerland Trip Guide – 5 days in Switzerland itinerary
- Switzerland Train Journeys – Scenic train rides in Switzerland
- Europe 101 – Our introductory guide to planning a trip to Europe.
- Guide to Schengen Visa – read the guide and checklist here.
- Europe Packing Guide – This is the only packing guide to Europe you will ever need.
- Boots for European winter (Female edition): Top boots to wear in European winters