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10 Reasons to Visit & Things to Do in Switzerland in Winter

Sep 02, 2020
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Switzerland may be small but it's big on what it offers to its visitors all year round. It is arguably the most popular summer and winter destination in all of central Europe.

Switzerland in winter not only attracts tourists from across the world, but also has a huge chunk of domestic and European tourists especially from neighboring countries like Germany due to its amazing winter activities - and skiing is just one of them!

Switzerland is beautiful all year round but in the winter, when the mountains turn totally white and there is a fresh crispiness to the air, the charm is only doubled.

The unbelievable miles of pistes, the white valleys that the train journeys take you through and the sight of snowy peaks, which you can gaze at from a hot tub of natural mineral springs, can all blow your mind.

Other than nature, Switzerland in winter is abuzz with events, Christmas markets, winter sports and events that make for an amazing holiday. Here are just some of the fun things that you can do if you are travelling to Switzerland in winter.

1. Glacier Express from Zermatt to St Moritz

The most popular train journey in Switzerland also connects the two most popular winter destinations of the country - St. Moritz and Zermatt. This train, also known as the "Slowest Express train in the World" and the "Window to the Alps" takes you across mountains, valleys, tunnels and 291 bridges and will have you mesmerized throughout the almost 8-hour journey.

Sit back and gaze through its panoramic windows, order a 3 course meal and feel at one with nature.

If you really want to notch up the experience and have the pockets for it, try the Excellence Class in which every seat is a window seat. The Excellence Class also includes a 7 course meal, champagne and has a concierge service. Live it up!

Tip: If you hold the Swiss Travel Pass, you only have to pay for seat reservation on the Glacier Express.

2. Visit Jungfrau

Jungfraujoch - Top of Europe is one of the most popular Alpine excursions come summer or winter.

The Jungrau is a heaven clad in white the full year round but in winter fresh, downy snow just adds to the beauty.

Visit the Ice palace, try some sledding and grab a delicious meal while on top.

Tip: Jungfrau is one of the more expensive mountain excursions in Switzerland. However, Jungfraujoch with Swiss Travel Pass comes at discounted fares.

3. Christmas Markets

Christmas comes early to Switzerland! By mid-November, many small and big towns put up their Christmas markets that are a huge tourist draw…and justifiably so!

These markets with their Christmas trees, twinkling lights and Christmas music (sometimes choirs) just make the already beautiful surroundings more magical. The markets have all kinds of stalls selling locally produced foods and drinks (amazing cheese, and dairy products, preserves, gingerbread and of course wines!)

There is an amazing array of Christmas buntings, clothes, artefacts and jewelry. There are skating rinks and other entertainment rides that the kids can enjoy as well.

Among the more popular markets to visit in Switzerland in the winter are the ones in Basel, Bern, Montreux and Zurich.

However smaller towns like Rapperswiil, Murten and Stein Am Rhein also hold beautiful Christmas markets.

4. Thermal Spas

Don't forget your swimming gear in winter! Yes, you heard right. Switzerland's mountains have blessed her with an unending supply of rich mineral healing waters that have been channelized into amazing thermal spas.

The spa's of Switzerland are popular throughout the year but just imagine the allure of soaking up in an outdoor pool, in waters that can range somewhere near 23 to 43 degrees C and gaze out at white vistas and snowy peaks. And like everything Swiss, these spas are in wonderfully scenic places.

Some of the most popular ones are Leukerbad Thermal Spa - Europe's largest Alpine Thermal Spa, Mineralbad, Spa Rigi Kaltbad, the Thermalbad and Spa-Zurich.

5. Fondue in the Alps - Gstaad

Head for Gstaad in the Bernese Oberland. Gstaad is the centre of the jet setting crowd and known for its small and exclusive pedestrian town centre with high end luxury outlets.

Gstaad and its neighbouring villages offer a wide number of winter activities like skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing and winter walking trails. There is also a trail which takes the hikers up to a mountain to have a high altitude fondue. Hot cheese with toasty flavors surrounded by winter landscape? What more can you ask for.

You can also visit the Glacier 3000 from Gstaad. A short bus ride from Gstaad main station to Col Du Pillon and you are ready to board the cableway to this snow-clad mountain with its unique summit station designed by architect Mario Botta.

From the top you can see 24 snowcapped mountains including the Jungfrau and even the Mont Blanc. Glacier 3000 has the highest toboggan run and the world's first suspension footbridge spanning 2 mountains.

Tip: Like all other mountains, Glacier 3000 will also offer you a passholder discount if you hold the Swiss Pass.

6. Zermatt and the Matterhorn

The small car free town of Zermatt nestled at the foothills of the Matterhorn is Switzerland's winter paradise. Every winter sports enthusiast heads to the place.

Zermatt offers 200kms of pistes making it a skiing heaven. However, that is not all…Zermatt also offers sledding, paragliding and more.

Try a romantic nights stay at the Igloo Village (December to mid-April) at 2727 metres above sea level with glorious views of the Matterhorn.Each igloo is lined with lambskin making sure that you are perfectly warm while it snows outside. A cheese fondue and some mulled wine will make this a highlight of your winter holiday.

No trip to Zermatt is complete without visiting the Matterhorn.

A cable car ride to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise or a cogwheel train ride to the Gornergrat will give you stunning views of the massive triangular peak of the Matterhorn, said to be the most photographed mountain in the world. See it for yourself and you will know why.

Tip: Discount on Swiss Travel Pass is applicable on Matterhorn Glacier Paradise.

7. St Moritz

St Moritz has twice hosted the winter Olympics so it is no wonder that it's the prime winter sport destination that tourists travel to.

However, other than skiing St Moritz also has ice skating rinks, bob sledding, curling and tobogganing for non skiers.

It is also famous for its natural springs, which were discovered over 3000 years ago and are today sought after via its spas.

8. Lucerne

One of the most popular towns in Switzerland, Lucerne is known for its beauty and nearby mountains that are popular in summer and winter.

The lakeside town itself with its famed wooden covered Chapel Bridge, Lion Monument and beautiful Old Town is worth exploring.

A short bus or train ride from Lucerne and you can reach one of Central Switzerland's many mountains.

Mount Titlis can be reached from Engelberg. Mt Titlis is snow bound all year round and amazingly beautiful in the winter especially as you travel upwards in the ROTAIR, the revolving cable car which gives you 360 degree views of the snowy fairytale landscape all around you.

Other peaks like Mount Pilatus, Mt Rigi with its spa at Rigi Kaltbad, and Stanserhorn are all close by.

Tip: Benefits of Swiss Travel Pass apply on many mountain excursions and activities across Switzerland.

9. Ice Rinks in Interlaken

From mid-December to February, you can skate right in the center of Interlaken thanks to the "Top of Europe Ice Magic" which creates 5 interconnected ice skating rinks.

Ice paths that you can walk on from one to the other connect the rinks.

There are also amazing food stalls to help with the hunger that you will no doubt feel after using up some energy at the rinks.

Despite what most people think, you do not need to know your way on the ice since most skating rinks offer skating aids that help non-skaters to try their hand at the sport too.

Interlaken is also one of the prettiest places in the country situated between the 2 lakes of Thun and Brienz (thus the name Interlaken- meaning between 2 lakes).

10. Montreux Noel

This one is particularly for families with kids (although we know adults enjoy it just as much). Along with the Montreux Christmas market (which is one of the best), from around 24th of November to the 24th of December, you can visit the Rochers De Naye mountain and see the real Santa Claus at his home and workshop.

Take a cogwheel train to the Rochers De Naye, which is at 2032m above sea level and has amazing views over Montreux and Lake Geneva.

Once on top, you walk through a beautifully decorated tunnel to reach the house of Father Christmas. The kids get a chance to talk to him, take a photograph and also get a certificate for the visit. With that certificate, you walk to his office where one of his helpers will present you with a gift bag.

The train departs every hour from around 9 am to 3 pm but operates from Wednesday through Sunday so make sure you plan your itinerary accordingly. Also there are limited seats so it is best to book in advance. This is truly one to add to the bag of "amazing holiday memories". Ho Ho Ho

These are just a few of the things that one can do in the winter. Of course Switzerland has loads more if you have the time.

Plan well so that you can include as much as possible during your next visit to Switzerland in winter.

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