There’s no question that Rough Guides readers love Switzerland. After all, you voted it one of the most beautiful countries in the world. But then come some crucial questions — what’s the best time to visit Switzerland? What’s the best month to visit Switzerland? How many days do I need to visit Switzerland? Read on to discover the answers in our guide to the best time to visit Switzerland.
What’s the best month to visit Switzerland?The best time to visit Switzerland largely depends on whether you’re planning a city or mountain break. It also depends on whether you want to enjoy winter sports or hike.
At any time of year, Switzerland isn’t short of world-class sports and outdoor activities, with hiking and biking being among the best outdoor experiences in Switzerland, alongside the first-rate skiing.
For high mountain destinations there are two distinct seasons. Summer season for hiking runs from June to October, and the winter sports season is from around mid-December to mid-April.
Between these times, many mountain facilities close down, cable cars and other transport may stop, and hotels take their annual breaks.
For cities, towns and lower-altitude destinations, seasonal distinctions are less crucial, though the temperate summer months (June–Sept) are pleasant.
At other times they can get distinctly chilly, although most receive snow in the winter, which, combined with sunshine and Christmas markets, paints a romantic urban picture.
Wherever you go, it’s worth checking for large events and festivals, when prices will rise and you may need to book accommodation far in advance — festivals in Switzerland are plentiful.
- Best for culture vultures: Alma Hotel. An upmarket designer hotel focused on sustainability.
- Best for couples: Hotel Kindli. One of Zürich’s most charming, tranquil small hotels.
- Best for nightlife-lovers: Pension Furdich. Backing onto a park, this is close to funky bars and clubs.
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Is Switzerland better in summer or winter?Again, that depends on what you want from your trip.
If you fancy a culture-packed city break, the country delivers year-round, with spring being a fine time to visit Switzerland to enjoy Old Town ambling in between sampling local specialties — eating and drinking in Switzerland has much to satisfy foodies.
Basel is an especially great place to visit in spring. Held in March, Baselworld is the most prestigious jamboree in the Swiss world of watchmaking and jewellery. Then there’s the extraordinary annual Fasnacht carnival.
- Best for weekend-break luxury: Teufelhof. An outstanding boutique hotel in the heart of town.
- Best for big occasions: Trois Rois. Founded in 1681, this is one of the oldest, grandest hotels in Europe.
- Best for couples: Au Violon. Beautifully renovated, with cosy rooms above a quiet courtyard.
Best places to stay in Basel
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All of which means, if you fancy a rewarding city-break, spring is arguably the best time to visit Switzerland.
On the other hand, given that Switzerland isn’t short of rewarding things to do in summer, this could also be considered the best time to visit Switzerland. And that’s especially true for music-lovers and festival fans.
Take Geneva, for example. The summer solstice sees the city host the three-day Fête de la Musique. All events are free and festival goers take over the lakeside and parks as well as the city centre.
- Best for couples: Beau Rivage. A dreamy classical-style palace.
- Best for families: Hotel Central. A quiet hotel with excellent-value rooms for three, four and five people.
- Best for budget travellers: City Hostel Geneva. This functional backpackers' place boasts good facilities.
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Lausanne is another hotspot for summer events, with the Ouchy waterfront hosting informal, free music events throughout summer. Held in early July, the Festival de la Cité is Lausanne’s biggest party.
- Best for couples: Angleterre & Residence. A classy hotel on the Ouchy waterfront.
- Best for luxury-lovers: Beau-Rivage Palace. One of Switzerland’s finest hotels, with ten-acre waterside gardens.
- Best for families: Elite. Lausanne's best mid-price hotel, with top-floor balconied rooms offering lake views.
Best places to stay in Lausanne
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All that considered, it’s clear to see why Switzerland is one of the best places to visit in Europe in summer.
Alternatively, winter heralds peak skiing season, and for city breakers it’s the perfect time to soak up Old Town charm with added seasonal ambience.
What are the warmest months in Switzerland?August sees Switzerland hit peak hotness levels, with Geneva averaging 27ºC during the day, and 14ºC at night.
What are the rainiest months in Switzerland?Precipitation patterns vary widely. Switzerland’s northern cities — Bern and Zürich, for example — experience more overcast skies than the Mediterranean climes of the southern canton of Ticino.
- Best for couples: Bären am Bundesplatz. Cosy comfort and modern decor in a handy central location.
- Best for luxury: Innere Enge. This former haunt of Empress Josephine has Art Nouveau style and Alpine views.
- Best for budget travellers: Bern Backpackers/Hotel Glocke. An Old Town gem with top facilities.
Best places to stay in Bern
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If you want to minimise the chances of being caught in rain and maximise your time in the sun, the canton of Valais might just have your name on it.
Despite twenty percent of the canton being covered by ice, the region has the driest climate in Switzerland, with the lowest rainfall and most sunshine.
- Best for families: Alpe Fleurie, Villars-Gryon. This chalet-style hotel has a long history of catering to kids.
- Best for après-ski action: Campanile Martigny. A slick hotel aimed at travellers heading to and from the Passes.
- Best for alpine atmosphere: Hotel Grimsel Pass Höhe. Cosy, with some rooms offering lake views.
Best places to stay in Valais
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How many days do I need to visit Switzerland?If you’re wondering how many days in Switzerland is enough, that’s another of those “how long is a piece of string?” questions.
It’s perfectly possible to soak up the charms of Swiss urban hubs on a 2-3-day city break. On the other hand, if you have the time (and money), you could spend months getting back to nature in the likes of Graubünden, Central Switzerland, the Jungfrau region, the Bernese Oberland, and the northeast and Liechtenstein.
And the good news is, given Switzerland’s efficient, affordable, comfortable public transport system, it’s easy to explore the entire country — find out more in our guide to getting around Switzerland.
Switzerland is also known for its awe-inspiring train routes, which is why the country gets a few mentions in our run-down of the most scenic train rides in Europe.
Is Switzerland cheap to visit?In a word, no. As explained in our Switzerland travel tips, the country is about as far from being a budget destination as it’s possible to be.
If you are travelling on a budget, low-season is the best time to visit Switzerland, with October and November offering more opportunties to book cheaper places to stay.
In addition, our run-down of things not to miss in Switzerland will help you plan.
Not a fan of planning? Consider booking a hassle-free tailor-made trip to Switzerland, with customisable itineraries curated by local experts covering everything from unforgettable highlights of Switzerland, to touring the Grand Circle.
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