The highest peaks in the Swiss Alps have snow all year round. It gets colder the higher you travel. When you’re not in mountains, the climate can be temperate and is influenced by the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.
When to fly to Switzerland
Switzerland is a year-round destination. Spring, summer and autumn are all good times to fly to Switzerland as temperatures are comfortable. In June and July, the alpine wildflowers are in bloom. Skiers will enjoy the winter months. The downhill ski season runs from mid-December to late March. At higher altitudes, it can last beyond March. At Zermatt (the resort that sits in the shadow of the mighty Matterhorn) and Saas Fee for example, there is year-round skiing on the glaciers.
If you want to travel to Switzerland for its celebrations, particularly Swiss National Day, book Switzerland flights for August 1. This is when people gather around bonfires to listen to speeches about the independence of Switzerland. There are also fireworks, parades, music (especially accordions) and at Neuhausen am Rheinfall in Schaffhouse, the Rhine waterfalls are illuminated.
There is no bad time to travel to Switzerland but May is a good month to visit to escape most of the tourists. If you plan your Switzerland trip in advance, it's likely you'll find cheap flights to Switzerland and discounted hotel fares.
Getting around Switzerland
Public transportation is excellent. Comprehensive and punctual, reasonably priced and clean, getting around by public transport is a tourist’s dream. Swiss Federal Railways operates rail services throughout Switzerland. Two of the largest Alpine lines are BLS, which runs the Bern–Lötschberg–Simplon route between the Swiss capital and Italy; and RhB, the Rhatische Bahn, which operates services within Canton Graubünden. Buses complement the train services and stations are generally found in the forecourts of train stations. Many cities also have trams.
There are ferry services operating on Switzerland’s largest lakes including Luzern's Vierwaldstattersee, Lago di Lugano, Maggiore and Como. Ferry services are generally seasonal, between April and October.
The post bus is a novel way of getting to the remotest parts of Switzerland. The service has been operating for 100 years. One of the most scenic mountain/valley journeys runs from Meiringen over four alpine passes - Grimsel Pass, Nufenen Pass, Gotthard Pass and Susten Pass. There are 25 bridges and 23 tunnels along this route.
There are many ways of getting to the top of the mountains. These include funicular, cable-car, gondola, T-bar skilift or draglift.
SWISS, the flag carrier, flies domestically between Basel, Bern, Geneva, Lugano and Zurich.
The following chart gives approximate journey times fromZurich
(in hours and minutes) to other major cities and towns in Switzerland.
Switzerland insider information
- The northeast of Switzerland (near Germany) is less well-known than the rest of the country. The city of St. Gallen, an old textile town, has a beautiful baroque cathedral and a well-preserved medieval town centre. The city is the gateway to Lake Constance and the mountainous Appenzell region.
- It’s possible to trace the footsteps of Heidi, the heroine of Johanna Spyri’s classic book in Maienfeld, Eastern Switzerland. In Heidi’s Village there is Heidi’s house, which can be toured, a petting zoo, shop and post office. There is also a Heidi trail from the village to the mountain which takes about 90 minutes.
- The Glacier Garden in Lucerne is a natural monument with glacial potholes and fossilized shells and palm leaves that date back 20 million years. There are several attractions here, the most famous of which is the Lion monument carved out of rock. It was carved out of the cliff in the 1800s to commemorate the deaths of 700 Swiss guards who were cut down by French revolutionaries storming the Tuilleries in Paris in 1792. There are also botanical gardens and a Hall of Mirrors.
- While many travellers opt for Zurich hotels or hotels in Geneva, during their Switzerland travels, St. Moritz, Davos and Zermatt are the most famous ski resorts, and Zermatt hotels are packed with snowbirds each season. Other popular resorts include Verbier, Klosters, Gstaad, Wengen, Grindelwald, Arosa and Murren.
- Rheinfalls is the largest waterfall in Europe. It is a 30-minute drive or hour train journey from Zurich. There is a platform that extends over the water so it’s possible to get very close to the falls. There are a couple of boat trips you can take too. One drops tourists in the middle of the falls and picks them up later, the other motors to the foot of the waterfalls, cuts its engines and the water pushes it away.
- Free bicycle: leave a small deposit at the Velogate, and a bike is yours for six hours.
- The Kunsthaus in Zurich boasts treasures of the art world such as Picasso, Munch, Monet and Chagall topping the bill.