May is the best time to visit Switzerland if you are looking for smaller crowds and perfect weather

Best time to visit Switzerland + when to avoid [2023]

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Switzerland is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, and it is easy to see why with its soaring mountains, quaint villages and cities, and all the stunning lakes and rivers. So, when is the best time to visit Switzerland, and when should you avoid it?

Whether you want to visit the Alps or city-hop through the country, there is something for everyone in Switzerland. There are different times that are the best to visit Switzerland depending on what you want to do. From winter sports to hiking trails in summer, and all the beautiful spring and autumn activities in between, there’s no bad time to visit this country.

Check my complete guide to the worst mistakes to avoid in Switzerland

Although Switzerland is expensive to visit, it is easy to get to and even easier to get around, with central hubs and airports located in Basel, Geneva, and Zurich. Public transport is your best friend, making it easy to pick and choose where to go and what to do depending on when you visit Switzerland.

Overall best time to visit Switzerland

If you want a good all-rounder for good weather, fewer crowds, and still having the opportunity to hike or ski at higher elevations, then the months of March or September are the best time to visit the country.

But the best time to visit Switzerland is November to February, if you want to do winter sports (not including the run-up to Christmas and New Year’s which can get busy), or March through to October, if you want to hike through the Alps.

Why visit Switzerland?

Switzerland isn’t just about the snow, it’s also a great year-round destination, where you can enjoy activities from hiking and paragliding or sailing on a boat in a lake to skiing and tobogganing or hopping aboard the Glacier Express train in the cooler weather.

🚙 Read my guide to planning a perfect Switzerland itinerary.

It also isn’t just for those who are adrenalin fuelled or after adventure but is also a wonderful country to get to know the locals and visit beautiful historic cities, towns and villages with all their weird and wonderful traditions and festivals. If that isn’t enough to convince you to visit Switzerland, how about all the incredible gastronomy, from one of the 138 Michelin-starred restaurants to homemade fondue, chocolates, and cheeses?

Best time to visit Switzerland by months

Switzerland in January

January is one of the coldest months in Switzerland and the peak of the winter, so perfect for snow sports in the mountains. It also brings light and ice festivals across the country, such as in Geneva, Lucerne, Murten, or Gstaad. If you are lucky, you can even glimpse the Festival de Ballons a well-known hot-air balloon festival in the alps, which is a sight to be seen.

  • The average temperature across Switzerland in January is 2°C or 35.6°F
  • Pros – Fewer tourists in the cities, with more people going to the mountains.
  • Cons – The coldest month to visit Switzerland, so you might limited in terms of what you can do outside.

Switzerland in February

February is still a little cold, and the festivities long behind the darker days can be less inviting. However, there are still annual festivals and celebrations, if you head to some of the larger cities and towns across Switzerland. Basel is one such city with the famous Fasnacht carnival taking place at the end of February to scare off the winter and invite in the spring.

  • The average temperature across Switzerland in February is 6°C or 42.8°F
  • Pros – Fewer tourists in the cities because of the colder weather, but the ski season is still in full swing.
  • Cons – Can be cold overnight, down to -2°C or 25.4°F in the cities and even colder in the Alps.

Switzerland in March

With the temperatures beginning to rise and the snow starting to recede, low-level ski resorts start to shut down, and towns and cities start preparing for the spring. You can get the best of both worlds in March with snow still at most resorts in the mountains, so snow sports are still available, but the cities and towns are starting to get warmer weather.

  • The average temperature across Switzerland in March is 11°C or 51.8°F
  • Pros – Best of both the winter snow and the warm spring weather. You can ski in the mountains and visit the lower-level towns without needing snow gear.
  • Cons – Outside the main tourist seasons, some attractions could be closed.

Switzerland in April

Easter markets pop up across the country, and the snow is now only found in the higher elevations making April a month for a trip to Switzerland. Cities are beginning to wake up from the winter with festivals galore, including a tulip festival in Morges and various Jazz festivals across the country.

  • The average temperature across Switzerland in April is 15°C or 59°F
  • Pros – Fewer tourists means cheaper accommodations
  • Cons – Some attractions and businesses may close for Easter.

Switzerland in May

May is the peak of the albeit short but beautiful spring in Switzerland. Blossom coats the trees; wildflowers fill alpine pastures, and the hiking trails and railways that have been shut over the winter reopen, such as the cogwheel railway up to Mount Pilatus. It is a great time to do higher-elevation hikes before the summer crowds arrive.

👉 May is a perfect time to visit Ticino, the Italian canton of Switzerland, which boasts a warm Mediterranean climate.

  • The average temperature across Switzerland in May is 20°C or 68°F
  • Pros – Attractions and locations closed over the winter begin to reopen this month.
  • Cons – Although the weather is getting warmer, there is also a greater chance of rain.

Switzerland in June

June is one of the rainiest months in Switzerland, but don’t let that stop you from visiting. The temperatures are rising, and when it isn’t raining, the weather is perfect for a hike in the mountains or to sit out along one of the local rivers or lakes in one of the larger cities. It is also the perfect month to visit while it is warm before it gets more crowded in the later summer months.

  • The average temperature across Switzerland in June is 21°C or 69.8°F
  • Pros – Fewer crowds than in the later summer
  • Cons – One of the rainiest months to visit Switzerland

Switzerland in July

Temperatures are often at or near their peak for Switzerland in July, while it averages around 24°C or 75.2°F, you will often have a hot spell hitting the mid to late 30°C or 86°F in the main cities of Basel, Zurich, and Bern. The float down the local river through the city or take a dip in one of the nearby lakes to cool off.

  • The average temperature across Switzerland in July is 24°C or 75.2°F
  • Pros – One of the warmest months to visit Switzerland.
  • Cons – July is one of the hottest months to visit Switzerland. Yes, it is an advantage and disadvantage at the same time, as it can make being out the in the middle of the day unbearable in Switzerland if they are having a hot spell, which is not what you want if you plan on hiking.

Switzerland in August

With temperatures, high August is still a great time to visit Switzerland for a camping trip or hiking. It can get a little busy at the beginning of the month with various school and public holidays, but with the wonderful weather, you get throughout the month that doesn’t keep anyone away. It’s also the month that music and dance festivals occur in many locations like Locarno, Lucerne, Zurich, and Basel.

  • The average temperature across Switzerland in August is 23°C or 73.4°F
  • Pros – The weather is warm, and any rainfall that does occur is short, plus lots of music festivals happening across the country.
  • Cons – August is the peak of the school summer holidays in Europe so accommodation prices may be higher, and more touristy locations will be much busier than other times in the year. August 1 is also Swiss National Day, which is celebrated across the country, so expect the first week of August to be somewhat busy.

Switzerland in September

September is the season to visit Switzerland if you want to experience Switzerland when most tourists have gone home and you like your wine, as fruit and grape harvests happen during this time (Lavaux Terrace Vineyards are beautiful in September).

The temperature begins to drop, but it is still warm enough for spending time outside or experience the last of the summer warmth sitting in a café along a lake. Alpine villages celebrate the cows coming home off the mountains with festivals filled with yodeling, music, and flower crown-wearing cows.

  • The average temperature across Switzerland in September is 20°C or 68°F
  • Pros – Most tourists will have left by mid-September leaving top attractions much quieter and uncrowded.
  • Cons – If you visit in the first half of the month, it may still be a little busy, but there aren’t many disadvantages to visiting Switzerland in September.

Switzerland in October

As the temperatures start to dip and the leaves begin to turn, Switzerland in October is the perfect time for a lake cruise to take in the surrounding views or a train ride through the Alps. The higher mountain passes by road start to shut in October as the winter weather begins to set in at the higher elevations, so traveling by car can become a little trickier in these locations, but the bright yellow larches make up for that.

  • The average temperature across Switzerland in October is 14°C or 57.2°F
  • Pros – Much quieter than the previous months and the best time for seeing the fall colors in the mountains.
  • Cons – Some attractions are starting to shut down for the winter months.

Switzerland in November

November in Switzerland means the arrival of the snow, with mountain locations often getting the first snowfall at the beginning of the month kicking off the winter ski season. As the peak ski season doesn’t arrive until December, you can also find some great accommodations and experience mountain attractions while it is relatively quiet still. If you want to hop on board the famous Glacier Express train, November is the only month it doesn’t run.

  • The average temperature across Switzerland in November is 7°C or 44.6°F
  • Pros – If the snow falls earlier, some of the ski slopes open up in November, and you can still do some hiking
  • Cons – If you are coming to Switzerland to hike, this is not the month for you. As of the first week in November, most of the mountains close their hiking trails to make way for the inevitable snowfall.

Switzerland in December

December is time for the famous Christmas markets that fill the towns and cities across Switzerland. It is also the perfect time to head to the mountains with a good amount of snowfall having happened in November. If you are lucky, you may even have some snow in the cities further from the alps, which is perfect to explore the Christmas markets with a mug of Gluhwein in.

  • The average temperature across Switzerland in December is 4°C or 39.2°F
  • Pros – It is Christmas market month across the country.
  • Cons – Because of the Christmas markets, city destinations tend to be busier than usual, and accommodation prices also go up. The mountains tend to be busy around the run-up and following Christmas too.

When is the high season in Switzerland?

Switzerland has two high seasons, one over the summer and one over the winter. Mid-June through to mid-September is the peak of the Swiss summer and many people flock to the mountains for hiking, the school summer holidays, and the bigger cities for a city break.

✔️ Read my complete guide to Bern, one of the best places to visit in Switzerland in summer.

Mid-December through to early February is the winter high season, with snow sports dominating the mountains, (especially around Valais and St Moritz) and Christmas markets filling the towns and cities.

When is summer in Switzerland?

Summer in Switzerland is from June to September, and if visiting during these months, be prepared to expect more crowds and some warm weather in some of the larger cities. It will often hit 40°C or 104°F for multiple days in a row in August. That weather will allow you to either get in the lakes for a dip or float down a river through one of the cities.

When is the low season in Switzerland?

Low season in Switzerland is generally from mid to late October through to mid-December and then again from mid to late March through to mid-April. It’s the best time to visit Switzerland if you don’t want to deal with the crowds, but it can also be unpredictable weather. If you visit Switzerland in the low season, you can enjoy perfect weather for a spring or autumn hike.

When is the worst time to visit Switzerland?

The worst time to visit Switzerland depends on what you want to get out of your trip. For example, if you want to visit Switzerland to ski or take part in snow sports, then don’t come in the summer. If you want to hike mountain trails, don’t visit in the peak of winter. Overall, the time of the year with the more unsettled weather and when some locations and attractions start to close down on the run-up to the winter, (mountain huts and campsites), in October.

When is the least busy time to visit Switzerland?

The least busy time to visit Switzerland is either in one of the shoulder seasons, so from mid-April to mid-June, or in the low season. However, depending on local festivals and events that may be happening throughout the year, certain areas will still be busy during these months. Mid-September through to mid-October can be crowded in the Bernese Oberland due to the annual festive processions for the cows descending from their alpine pastures for the winter.

Tips for visiting Switzerland

Buy a Swiss Travel Pass

Depending on your length of stay in Switzerland, one way to reduce the cost of your trip is to buy a Swiss Travel Pass, (not to be confused with a SwissPass which is a pass for Swiss residents only).

The pass gives you unlimited travel by train, bus, or boat, plus other public transport in select locations, on 3, 4, 6, 8, or 15 consecutive days, with prices starting at CHF 232.00 for 3 days in 2nd class and up to CHF 429.00 for 15 days in 2nd class. You can easily buy this online via Switzerland Travel Centre, where you can see the full extent of Switzerland that the Swiss Travel Pass covers, and get free entrance for many museums.

Budget your trip

Another way to save money on your trip to Switzerland is to purchase a day pass or multiple saver day passes, from Swiss Railways, (SBB CFF FFS). They will allow you to travel on most public transport throughout Switzerland for an entire day at a highly reduced rate, sometimes as little as CHF 29.00.

It’s a great option if you would rather not spend more on the Swiss Travel Pass, or only want to travel on certain days, as the earlier, you book the pass the cheaper the ticket. You can also book these reduced-price tickets for children under 16, bicycles, (should you want to get out on two wheels), and dogs.

Get a city pass

Getting city passes is also a fantastic option to budget your trip when visiting Switzerland. Quite a few cities around the country will give tourists a free day pass to explore the city or at least have the option for you to buy one, giving you cheaper prices for a tram, bus, and boat travel.

Basel gives each visitor a free BaselCard for the entire length of their stay in the city with any stay at a hotel, hostel, B&B, or apartment. It provides free use of all public transport, half-price entry into certain museums and attractions, and a discounted rate on e-bike rental.

Cook your meals

The most expensive thing you will find when visiting Switzerland is that eating out at restaurants three times a day can get expensive quickly, even more so if you are visiting during a high season. So, take full advantage of local supermarkets and grocery stores such as Migros, Lidl, Co-op, or Denner to make your food if you have the facilities too.

Why not even pack yourself a lunch to have in the mountains?

Rent a car

If you want more flexibility when traveling around Switzerland, consider renting a car. While you will pay more for a car than for a train, you will be able to visit many hidden spots, hike cool trails and enjoy Alpine villages that many travelers don’t get to see.

✅ I always rent my car with DiscoverCars, one of the best car rental platforms that allows you to find vehicles at competitive rates and has no hidden fees, unlike some other car rental websites.

Best time to visit Switzerland: FAQs

What is the cheapest month to visit Switzerland?

The cheapest time to visit Switzerland is generally between mid-January to the beginning of April, as it is the spring shoulder season with fewer tourists visiting the country. It can be a great time of year to visit Switzerland though.

What is the rainiest month in Switzerland?

Surprisingly although June is technically one of the summer months in Switzerland, it is also the rainiest month in Switzerland, and it can get quite humid depending on where in the country you are.

What are the warmest months to visit Switzerland

The best time to visit Switzerland for some of its warmest months is between July and early September. Unfortunately, because of this, these months are also some of the busiest and priciest across Switzerland. These months are some of the best for hiking in the alps.

What is the best time to visit Switzerland for hiking?

Spring or autumn are ideal times to visit Switzerland for hiking, with warmer days, short rain showers, and clear views. Summer is another great time for hiking in Switzerland, but it is also slightly rainier and can get busy at the more well-known destinations due to the various holidays.

What is the best time to visit Switzerland for skiing?

November through to March is great for skiing, but if you want to skip expensive hotel prices, avoid Christmas and New Year. The snow begins to fall at the highest elevations in mid-November right through to mid-March, with most of the country getting a good blanket of snow in December and January.

Is it better to visit Switzerland in April or May?

April and May are great times to visit Switzerland as they are in the spring shoulder season, but the weather can be a little more unpredictable than in the rest of the year. It’s more obvious in May when there is more rainfall on average than in April, but the days are beginning to warm up nicely. 

What’s the best time to visit Switzerland: final words

So, when is the best time to visit Switzerland? It depends on what you want to do on your trip be it hiking, (best in March through to October), snow sports, (November to February), or taking in the autumnal or spring views. I suggest that either early spring or autumn, so March or September are good all-rounders for the best time to visit Switzerland.

The weather is warm enough, so you don’t need as many layers as over the peak of the winter, either the spring flowers are blooming, or the larch and beech trees are turning bright yellows and orange with the arrival of autumn, and there may be snow at higher elevations. So, it is the perfect time to visit a city or hike in the mountains.