Weather in Switzerland: Climate, Seasons, and Average Monthly Temperature

Sörenberg, the Brienzer Rothorn peak

MySwitzerland.com

The central European nation of Switzerland is dominated by two mountain ranges, the Alps and the Jura. It's also dotted with lakes and rivers of all dimensions, as well as forests, meadows, and stark massifs.

Most visitors to Switzerland associate it with two types of weather — cold, snowy winters and warm, sunny summers. And while these two seasons do draw the majority of visitors, Switzerland has four distinct seasons, as well as some weather variations within the country.

Depending on what kind of weather and travel experience you're looking for, there's a season for you in Switzerland. Read on to learn more about the weather and climate in Switzerland, including what to expect and what to pack.

Weather Changes and Seasonal Closures

Two important things to know about the seasons in Switzerland:

  • Winter in the mountains is serious business. If you go hiking, snowshoeing, or engage in any other outdoor activities in Alpine terrain, be prepared for sudden weather changes, as sunny blue skies might quickly give way to white-out snowstorm conditions.
  • Many mountain and lakeside resort areas close twice a year for a few weeks in the fall and several weeks in the spring. If you do find an open hotel in a seasonal destination, go there knowing that things are likely to be very quiet, with lots of businesses closed.

Regional Weather Variations

The Alps run roughly diagonally through Switzerland, and form a sort of climactic dividing line. Though there are some variations and even microclimates within mountain ranges, weather-wise, Switzerland can be considered as three different regions.

Alpine Regions

Regions that are largely within the Alps, including the cantons of Bern, Graubünden/Grisons, and Valais, have reliably cold, snowy winters. These, along with the more southernly Engadine canton, are home to most of Switzerland's famous ski resorts including Gstaad, Interlaken, Zermatt, and St. Moritz. Summers in the regions are sunny, mild, and brief. In summer and winter, visitors should plan on wearing sunscreen when they head outdoors, as it's easy to get sunburned on a sunny winter day.

North of the Alps

The large part of Switzerland that sits to the north of the Alps, including the cantons of Zurich, Basel, Aargau, and St. Gallen, experience more continental weather patterns—that is, they have four seasons of weather, including warm summers, cold (but not frigid) winters, and spring and fall seasons that are a mixed bag of rain and transitionary temperatures. In low-lying areas, winters are more likely to be foggy and rainy than snowy.

South and Southwest of the Alps

The Ticino canton, a large portion of which borders northern Italy, is one of the warmest regions of Switzerland, thanks to Mediterranean weather systems that move up from the south. Geneva, on Lake Geneva, also experiences mild winters and summer weather that's more reminiscent of the south of France or the Italian Riviera.

Winter sunset on the Swiss town of Ardez covered with snow
Roberto Moiola / Sysaworld / Getty Images

Winter in Switzerland

Winter landscapes in the mountains of Switzerland are, for many visitors, the iconic Alpine scenery they've always imagined. Those scenes are as beautiful as you've seen in photos—at least on a clear day. Clouds, fog, and snowstorms can roll in quickly and make entire mountain ranges invisible, only to clear out just as quickly and afford fabulous panoramic views.

Even if you don't ski, a winter trip to Switzerland is hardly complete without at least a few days in the Alps, taking in sweeping vistas and dramatic snow-covered mountains. In lower elevations, winter temperatures are usually above freezing, ranging from about 35 to 45 F, and rain is common. In the mountains, daytime highs typically reach into the low-to-mid-30s, but drop much lower at night, during storms, and at higher elevations.

What to pack: When spending time in the mountains, you'll want a waterproof parka or ski jacket, waterproof hiking boots, heavyweight hiking pants, sweatshirts or sweaters, and thermal socks, as well as base layers of thermal/wicking long sleeve shirts and long underwear. At lower elevations and for evenings out, you'll want nice jeans or slacks, waterproof, slip-proof boots or walking shoes, long-sleeve shirts, and sweaters. Don't forget warm socks, a hat, gloves, a scarf, sunscreen, and lip balm!

Spring in Switzerland

In most of Switzerland, spring is a transitionary season that can see everything from late winter storms to bright, sunny, warmish days. Late spring is a favorite time for hiking in Switzerland, before summer crowds descend and when there's little risk of truly hot days. From March to May, temperatures in lower-lying areas will range from the mid-30s to the mid-50s F. At higher elevations, you can expect much lower temperatures and should be prepared for extremely cold weather. Spring also gets increasingly rainy as the months wear on. So despite the season being popular for hiking, rainstorms frequently occur in the afternoon.

What to pack: Your spring suitcase needs to be filled with layers of heavy- and lighter-weight gear. A waterproof jacket is a must, as are waterproof shoes or boots, even in cities. Bring layers of thermal/performance gear that you can pile on or peel off as temperatures dictate. A sturdy umbrella is a must, as is a hat and a scarf.

Summer in Switzerland

The summer weather in Switzerland can range from warm and sunny to rainy and foggy on the same day—and often within hours. From June to August, average temperatures will climb from the low- to mid-60s up to the high 70s F. Heat waves are possible, and could drive temperatures up to the 90s at lower elevations. These are the best months to jump into Swiss lakes and rivers for a swim or ride funiculars or mountain railways up to higher altitudes (and cooler weather) for an exhilarating hike.

What to pack: You can figure on a summer wardrobe of T-shirts, shorts, and sturdy walking shoes or sandals. But you'll also want a couple of pairs of slacks and collared shirts, especially in cities where the dress is less casual. For cooler days and evenings, toss is a sweater or two, some long-sleeved shirts, a light rain jacket, and an umbrella, plus warmer layers for higher elevations. Don't forget a swimsuit, sunglasses, and a sunhat.

Fall in Switzerland

Much like the spring, fall weather in Switzerland is a mixed bag of sunshine, clouds, fog, and rain. September is one of the best months to visit Switzerland, thanks to mostly sunny days and still warm, but usually not hot, temperatures. September temps are in the high 70s F on average and steadily drop in October and November to the mid-40s, though it gets much colder at higher elevations. November is cold and damp in low-lying areas, though many ski resorts are open by the end of the month.

What to pack: For a September visit, you'll want to add a few T-shirts and lightweight pants to an otherwise autumnal wardrobe. Later in the fall, plan on a mid-weight, waterproof coat, waterproof boots, or walking shoes, plus a raincoat and clothing you can wear in layers.

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