Switzerland is magical in any season but especially during winter. Everything gets covered in a fresh blanket of snow, ready for adventurers, skiers and nature lovers to take full advantage of! Whether or not you’re into skiing, there are many places to visit in Switzerland in winter. From extreme sports like skydiving over the Alps to chill time, sitting by the fire eating fondue, there’s something for everyone.
During my 2-week trip, I visited 3 regions around the country. It was the perfect mix of skiing, relaxing, spa-time, adventures, epic landscapes and plenty of cheese and wine. Thankfully, the Swiss transport system is extremely efficient so getting around was very easy. Plus, it’s one of the few places I look forward to staring out my window for hours on end—the views are simply mesmerizing.
Here’s an introduction of my favorite activities and places to visit in Switzerland for a fun winter vacation.
The itinerary for this trip:
- Grindelwald: 4 nights
- Interlaken: 3 nights
- Zermatt: 4 nights
- Glacier Express Train
- St. Moritz: 4 nights
My favorite places to visit in Switzerland in winter
The Jungfrau region is a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site known for spectacular views of the famous Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains. It is home to Jungfraujoch, Europe’s highest railway station, and the Aletsch Glacier – the largest glacier in Europe. Grindelwald and Interlaken are convenient bases for exploring the area because of their centrally located rail stations and easy access to activities.
As I said above, we stayed in Grindelwald because it is an ideal base for experiencing a plethora of winter activities with a convenient rail system that gets you everywhere you need to go. Plus every view looks like a postcard. There were so many opportunities to photograph the chic chalets from every angle – on the ski lifts, walking around, on the hiking trails and looking out my hotel balcony.
Originally used to transport hay and other materials, sledges have since become a fun winter activity for kids and adults. With over 100 km of managed sledge runs for every level and the longest descent in the world, sledging is very popular in the Jungfrau region. Don’t be surprised to see grown adults on sleds flying down the mountain!
It’s not just a daytime sport, there’s also night sledging. You can book a dinner/sledge combo. First you get transported to the top of the trail, then you make your way down to a lodge where a delicious fondue dinner is waiting. After that you can make your way back home down the mountain. Not to worry, the trails are brightly lit by floodlight and you can control your speed!
Another unique winter sport only found in Grindewald is this wooden bicycle on skids. It’s been used as a means of winter transportation for over 100 years and can only be found in this Swiss alpine town! It is a living tradition. You can rent them at the Grindelwald Train station, Kaufmann Sport or Skiservice Egger, Grindelwald Grund.
First Cliff Walk
After taking a 30 minute gondola ride up the mountain, you reach this hiking trail that clings to the edge of a cliff 2,168 meters above sea level. The First Cliff Walk leads over a 40-meter-long single-rope suspension bridge and a terrace that juts out 45 meters into the abyss for breathtaking views of Grindelwald below and mountain peaks all around.
We went for sunset and upon arrival, all the peaks were hidden by the clouds. We weren’t sure if we’d get our colorful sunset. Then just as the sun began to set, everything cleared. It was worth the last minute wait as there’s nothing quite like an epic sunset in the Swiss Alps!
Lauberhorn Ski World Cup in Wengen
Every year around the middle of January, more than 30,000 spectators head to Wengen to watch the Ski World Cup in Wengen. It has been held since 1930 and includes downhills and a slalom. I had never been to a ski race before, but it was so much fun! It’s like a giant winter party with food, drinks, music and very excited spectators.
After the races are over, everyone makes the 2-hour journey down the mountain—either by foot, sleds, skis or other means of transport to end in the charming town of Wengen for a feast. Unfortunately it was canceled this year due to the pandemic, but it’s a fun event so start planning for next year!
Interlaken is a resort town that sits between two lakes and is surrounded by endless mountain ranges. It is known as the adventure capital of Europe. Whether you’re looking to go river rafting, bungee jumping or paragliding, it’s all available with the Alps as your backdrop. Some would say the best way to see the peaks is while jumping out of a plane at 13,000 feet. Others might prefer a calmer drift through the valley. Either way, the views and glows feel like heaven.
Ideal day in Interlaken:
Morning: Kayak on Lake Brienz
Lake Brienz is a crystal clear lake that’s surrounded by the mountains on every side. Going out on kayak gives you a new perspective of the landscape; it’s a special way to experience a different side of Switzerland in the winter. Hightide Kayak School offers half day tours around the lake, where you discover hidden beaches, waterfalls and incredible views. Their experienced guide will teach you the basic kayaking techniques. Don’t worry about falling in—they gear you up in a dry suit just in case!
Afternoon: Skydive or Paraglide (or both)
My first time skydiving was in college. I told myself if I were to do it again, it’d have to be a pretty epic place like Hawaii, New Zealand or Switzerland! We went with Sky Dive Switzerland who are absolute professionals. We all jumped tandem with an instructor and I felt safe the entire time. The experience is full of mesmerizing mountain views, from the quick flight up to the slow (but fast!) descent down. When we first jumped out of the plane and got into free fall, we were on top of the mountains and I just remember this ray of light twinkling through the clouds. It was one of the most magnificent views I’ve ever seen and something I’ll never forget.
Paragliding into Interlaken is another unique way to see the landscape from a different perspective. After arriving at the top of a hill, we were told we would need to run and jump off the side of the cliff. I’m glad I had a tandem pilot with me from Paragliding Interlaken, who took care of everything and made sure we landed safely. It felt like flying but a bit slower than sky diving. There was still an adrenaline rush (especially when jumping off the side of the cliff!), but I was more aware of what was happening.
I would recommend both! Which one would you pick?
Late afternoon: Spa time at Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa
Interlaken may be known as the adventure capital of Switzerland but rest assured there’s no shortage of luxury. A member of Leading Hotels of the World, Victoria Jungfrau is a five star hotel in the center of Interlaken. It dates back to 1865 and is a beautiful blend of old school charm and modern style. They have 216 rooms, 106 suites, 2 restaurants, 2 bars and a 5500 m2 spa.
Spa Nescens is equipped with a sauna, steam room, indoor and outdoor pools, quiet room, gym and offers massage options and beauty treatments. They also offer wellness programs.
Zermatt is a beautiful mountain resort that lies at the foot of the iconic and most famous peak in the Alps, the Matterhorn. It is one of the best places to visit in Switzerland in winter. We arrived just before sunset and when I saw the peak for the first time, I had to take a moment (I think I started tearing up!) Everywhere we went, it seemed to be in view—on the train, walking around town, in the hotel, while skiing and my favorite, during a helicopter ride to see the mountain up close!
A fun way to fully experience the outdoors is by staying in an igloo for a night. Igludorf has multiple spots around Switzerland. Each igloo village has a hotel, restaurant, snow bar, outdoor whirlpool and sauna. Redesigned by international artists and rebuilt each year, there’s something new to discover every time!
They also offer private events or group activities like building an igloo, carving snow sculptures and snowshoeing. You can also have your wedding there!
Chez Vrony is the epitome of a rustic chic Swiss chalet. It used to be a farmhouse and has since become one of the most popular on-slope mountain restaurants in Zermatt. It was named among the best mountain restaurants in the world by The Telegraph.
The family-owned restaurant opened over 100 years ago and still uses traditional recipes that were passed down from many generations, like the dry-cured meat, homemade sausage and Alpine cheese. Not only do they have the best views of the Matterhorn and surrounding valley, but they have the best burger in town. Ideal for a quick lunch after skiing all morning!
What better way to spend 8 hours on a train than surrounded by the most epic Swiss landscapes? The Glacier Express is a direct train that goes from Zermatt to St. Moritz. It’s referred to as the ‘slowest express train in the world’. With large panoramic windows, it’s the perfect way to see Switzerland’s mountains, alpine villages, rivers and lakes. Prominent highlights include the Solis and Landwasser viaducts and spiral tunnels, the Rhine Gorge, the “Grand Canyon of Switzerland” and the Oberalp Pass.
For a truly luxurious experience, be sure to book the Glacier Express Excellence Class that has guaranteed window seats, an exclusive bar, on-board entertainment, a concierge service, champagne and a five-course meal with accompanying wine.
Book reservations here.
The Glacier Express ends in St. Moritz, the birthplace of Alpine winter tourism. It hosted the Winter Olympics twice and is popular for its ski trails, top-class restaurants and abundant winter activities. It was originally known as a summer spa resort because of its mineral springs discovered 3000 years ago but has since then also become a sought after winter destination.
Badrutt’s Palace feels straight out of a winter fairytale. It is an iconic St. Moritz hotel dating back to 1896 and often hosts royals and celebrities due to their glamorous, luxurious service. All 157 rooms and suites have picturesque views of the lake, mountains or town center.
I loved ending my Swiss trip at Badrutt’s Palace because I didn’t feel bad staying in all day, ordering room service and enjoying the mountain views from my suite balcony. As a long term-traveler, it’s necessary to schedule these days in to avoid burnout and create balance. Can’t think of a better place to stay in!
Badrutt’s Palace Spa
During this trip, I noticed the Swiss take their spa time very seriously. Most hotels seem to have a plethora of relaxation options from indoor and outdoor heated pools, saunas, steam rooms, rain showers and natural springs, not to mention all the treatments! The Palace Spa’s outdoor pool is ideal for an après-ski spa session. There’s nothing like swimming outside in the wintertime!
Did I convince you Switzerland is one of the best places to visit in the winter? From Grindelwald’s majestic mountain ranges to Zermatt’s unique experiences to glitz in St. Moritz, there’s really something for everyone.
Let me know what other places you would add to this list of Swiss winter spots.