Switzerland Weather

Weather in Switzerland

Switzerland has different regional climates and each season is different. Here is what you can expect to help you better prepare for that trip of a lifetime.

Spring

Spring runs from the middle of March to the middle of June and the average temperature is from 8°C to 15°C. The temperature is excellent for exploring the country’s exceptional natural scenery. However, it can get cold at night and temperatures can drop to as low as 5°C. it’s advisable to pack winter wear even when travelling during spring. Remember to take your umbrella with you as occasional showers are to be expected.

The hiking trails come alive during spring. Flowering trees juxtaposed with the snowy mountains in the distance are a sight to behold. A few festivals to look forward to in spring are Ascension Day, locally known as Auffahrt and Zurich’s Spring Festival.

Summer

The generally dry summer season begins in the middle of June and lasts until the middle of September. Humidity is expected during summer but it varies greatly depending on the altitude. Temperatures range from 18°C to 28°C and the days are the longest between July and August. There is a variety of activities during summer and the hiking trails are often packed with people.

There is a huge number of festivals and events but without a doubt, the most important is Swiss National Day celebrated on the first of August. If you’re into music, you’ll be delighted and perhaps overwhelmed with the sheer number of performances and artists who participate in the two-week-long event that is the Montreux Jazz Festival.

Be comfortable when out and about during summer by wearing cotton and other light fabrics. Just remember that it tends to cool down at night so you might need a sweater or a cardigan. Since hiking is one of the most popular activities in the summer, it’s essential to wear the right hiking shoes so you can tackle the Alpine trails in comfort and avoid injuries. Finally, it’s not unusual to have afternoon thunderstorms during summer.

Autumn

Autumn is from September to November and is the start of the low season, so if you’re planning to avoid the crowds but still enjoy the beauty of nature in Switzerland, you might want to consider autumn. Even the cows choose to return to the valleys after spending most of their summer grazing on the pastures at the mountainside. The procession of cows back to the valleys is special to locals and is locally known as Alpabfahrt.

The cows pass through the villages and you can see them wearing flowers on their heads and large noisy cowbells. Brass bands, yodelers, and of course, the crowd, also join the festivities. It’s quite a spectacle!

Elsewhere in the country, the leaves change their colours and temperatures drop to as low as 8°C. the days also begin to get shorter come October. This is the time when you should have light jackets handy so you can keep yourself warm if it starts to get particularly chilly.

Autumn is the foggiest time of the year and just like other areas in northern Europe, rainy days are to be expected so make sure you’re prepared for showers. However, the Swiss don’t let the weather dampen their spirits and as a testament to that, you can head to Lugano for the three-day Autumn Festival.

Winter

Ah, winter, the season most people associate with Switzerland! Popular winter sports abound from January when the Swiss snow season officially starts. The temperatures rarely exceed 2°C during winter and the days are shorter with the sun setting as early as 5 in the afternoon. So, if you aim to make the most of the day, you should hit the ground running as early as 6 in the morning. This can be a bit of a challenge for small children though.

When February comes around there’s a bit more sunshine and the skiing conditions remain excellent. However, by the middle of March spring makes itself felt again. Don’t worry if you are into skiing as there are plenty of other things to do in winter such as going on a toboggan run and hopping on a cable car to enjoy the dramatic views. A few hiking trails remain open during winter too.

It is necessary to have the right winter gear to avoid hypothermia. You certainly need a heavy coat, a scarf, gloves, and a hat to keep snug. Wear only shoes with good traction to avoid slipping on icy pavements. Pack some quality sunglasses too if you plan on skiing as the glare makes visibility difficult and may even damage your eyes.

Tip: Winter is the perfect time to indulge in hearty Swiss cuisine and a few you should try is the iconic cheese fondue and raclette. They are going to make frigid winter nights much more bearable.

Best Time to Visit Switzerland

One of the most important things to consider when planning your vacation is the season and the best time to visit so you can do the activities you want to do the most. After all, this tiny European nation has so much more to offer than just world-class skiing.

The best time to visit depends on the reason you’re going there. If you’re after skiing, then it goes without saying that you should go in winter. If you would like to do mountain hiking, then summer is best as it is warm and there is less rain. You need not worry about a sudden change of weather ruining your plans.

If only things were as simple as that but we all know that with kids along for the trip, it’s never one or the other. The more reason that you should plan your trip well.

For a little bit of everything

If you want a little bit of everything, then you should travel between April and June. If you arrive early, you’ll still find some snow and in a few weeks, warm days will be arriving.

Temperatures can be anywhere from 15°C to 22°C. There is only a bit of rain and plenty of sunshine so you can hike to your heart’s content and explore the outdoors as much as you like. However, May can be unpredictable and the month can bring with it rain, as well as cold evenings.

Summer travellers won’t arrive until July and those who travelled to enjoy winter are long gone, so there won’t be long queues and you’ll get more privacy. You also stand a chance to get better deals on flights and accommodations.

Best seasons for travelling

In Switzerland, the seasons are well-defined as demonstrated by warm and sunny summers and cold and snowy winters.

Spring

Meadows covered in a blanket of wildflowers are a spectacular sight and only a few things compare to it. Even in March, resorts in higher elevations still see a lot of snow. With temperatures going up as much as 11°C and sunshine aplenty, it is an excellent time to put your plan of conquering the slopes into action.

The prices are just starting to go down, the crowd is thin, and you have more than 10 hours of daylight. By March, hikers are starting to replace skiers but you still need to wear waterproof clothing and a few layers to keep yourself toasty and warm. As mentioned previously, May is a rainy month and precipitation is not unusual.

Summer

June is the time when mountain cable cars start plying their route and this coincides with the hiking season too. If you’re planning to tackle the trails with the family, you should come in June. Yes, it’s a little early but if you don’t like sharing your space with hundreds of hikers, it’s the best time.

Popular areas in Lake Lucerne and Canton Valais have the perfect weather in June. Don’t worry even if you start late because daylight lasts until after 9 in the evening. Summer is considered peak season and July and August can be crowded. The cost of flights and accommodations are significantly higher too.

August is the best month for open-air events such as festivals and outdoor concerts and some of the most popular are Paleo Rock Festival in Nyon and the Lake Thun Music Fest. It’s the perfect month for hiking and lake swimming in high altitudes too.

Autumn

Autumn is from September and November but the most magical time is between September and October because it’s when the fog starts. There’s little to no rain, the trees are splendid in their varying shades of red and orange colours, and the air is crisp. Ask any hiker and they will tell you that they prefer hiking during this time.

Take note that funiculars stop operating before the end of October so don’t wait too late if you plan on mountain trekking. When November comes temperatures can drop to single digits even in the daytime and it can be freezing at night. Although it doesn’t rain that much in November, there is a chance of seeing snow so make sure you pack a thicker jacket and waterproof boots.

Winter

Just like summer, winter is also considered peak season as ski resorts open. If you plan on enjoying snow sports to the max, December to February are the best months, but it’s also the busiest.

Prices can be exorbitant near the resorts, the mountainside, and even in the cities. Throngs of people start arriving in December looking forward to a snowy holiday and exploring the many Christmas markets. There is a plethora of things to do in winter, so you’ll have fun even if you’re not into sports.

The climate can be unpredictable though and temperatures hover just above 0°C from December to January. It is common to have precipitation for most of December but by February, the weather will have significantly improved with lots of sunshine.

What to Wear and Pack

Beyond figuring out your itinerary and the best places to visit in Switzerland, you also need to know what the whole family should wear and pack for your trip. Remember that this is just the general packing list. What you wear is still highly dependent on the activities you wish to engage in.

Spring packing list

The first half of soring can be a tad chilly while April and May have a slight increase in temperatures. The weather can be unpredictable and layering is essential. Start with your base clothing that includes a good pair of trousers in a darker shade or jeans. Generally, dark blue denim is versatile and is considered fashionably timeless in Europe.

Opt for tops and t-shirts in light colours to reflect spring. Don’t forget a lightweight jacket or cardigan to protect you from evenings that can abruptly become cold.

Sandals are great footwear for spring, especially during warmer days but for colder days, you should consider sneakers or ankle boots. Ballet flats are dressier options for warmer days or evenings.

Summer packing list

The evenings in summer can still be quite cold so you should still include a lightweight jacket. In addition, a raincoat is beneficial to protect you from the occasional showers. During the summer months, it is alright to wear shirts and tops without sleeves, as well as shorts. Light linen and cotton are the fabric of choice for summer to allow breathability.

Any packing list is incomplete without the right footwear and in summer you want comfort and style. Summer follows the same rules as spring when it comes to footwear. Furthermore, it is the perfect season for the whole family to wear sneakers and sandals.

Autumn packing list

Autumn weather can be unpredictable too and it can encompass sunny days to rain and sometimes, even snow. It can be a difficult season in terms of what to pack and wear because the outdoors is cold and the central heating in public transport, as well as inside the buildings can leave you hot.

Layering is perfect for this season which comes with short and a noticeable drop in temperature. Scarves are a must, as well as tops and shirts with long sleeves, sweaters, and warm coats. Pack a few pairs of jeans or trousers, as well as waterproof and warm boots. Leather boots are a great choice for the season too.

Winter packing list

During winter it can be a challenge to find a good balance between cold outdoor temperatures and indoor heating. Rain, snow, and days with few light hours are to be expected too and all these things will have an impact on your winter packing list. Opt for waterproof, lined boots to keep your feet warm and dry at all times.

Layering is again a must during winter. It makes you well-equipped in coping with the difference in temperatures from the outside to the inside. Ear muffs for the little ones, gloves, wool scarves, and thermals that can be worn underneath your clothing are a must for bitterly cold days. A good tip to keep in mind is to bring along a packet of tissues as the cold can wreak havoc on your sinuses, so it’s best to be prepared. Of course, you can’t forget your warm winter coats.

Other essentials

Lastly, regardless of the weather, you need the following items when travelling with family and toddlers:

  • Umbrella
  • Raincoat
  • Sun cream
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Warm clothing
  • Light clothing
  • Wet wipes
  • Books and games
  • Toiletries
  • First-aid kit
  • Charging cable and power bank

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