Back to Itineraries

Weather & Climate of switzerland

Also best time to go to Switzerland


The climate is temperate, but varies with altitude. Switzerland has cold, cloudy, rainy/snowy winters and cool to warm, cloudy, humid summers with occasional showers.
Switzerland has a temperate climate in the populated areas, but mountain peaks in the Alps are buried under eternal ice and snow. On the southern side of the Alps the climate is a little bit warmer than in the north, but the really important thing to consider is that the alps form a barrier that separates two completely different aspect of a weather situation.

Weather

Hemmed in by the Alps and Jura mountains, Switzerland is full of regional micro-climates. Weather in the sub-Jura valleys is the coldest in Switzerland, while the southernmost canton of Ticino boasts warm, Mediterranean-like weather. For the most part, the country’s climate is typical of central Europe, with cool daytime temperatures and sometimes frosty nights. Summers in Switzerland usually boast plenty of sun, though rain is just as common. Switzerland’s springtime and autumn weather is generally agreeable, if slightly chilly, with the exception of stiflingly hot winds that occasionally blow through low-lying valleys.

Crowds

Switzerland’s tourist season peaks during the months of July and August, when the weather is most pleasant. Travelers planning to visit during this period should book accommodations well in advance, as Switzerland’s youth hostels, hotels and inns fill up quickly in the summer. For those preferring to explore the alpine nation with less shoulder-rubbing, April, May, September and October are all ideal, since it's less crowded, yet weather remains agreeable.

Prices

Travel in Switzerland is pricier when tourists abound, so it follows that the best times to save cash are outside the summer months. During the country’s low season from November through March, it’s easier to find deals on airfare and accommodations, while prices begin to rise again in April. Visitors opting to spend their Swiss vacation on the slopes should remember that the country’s ski resorts are most expensive in winter, with a slight drop in prices in autumn and spring. Switzerland’s largest cities--including Zurich, Geneva and Bern--are notoriously expensive throughout the year, since they rely less on tourism as a revenue source.

Outdoor Activities

For the many tourists hoping to take advantage of Switzerland’s striking natural beauty during outdoor activities, it’s important to visit at the right time. Skiers and snowboarders would do well to visit from December through March, as the snow starts to melt around mid-April. Those in search of sunnier outdoor pursuits should avoid the winter months and opt to visit from late June through September, when conditions are ideal for hiking, kayaking, canyoning or other alpine offerings.

Festival

In addition to religious holidays, Switzerland boasts numerous festivals throughout the year. During Switzerland’s National Day (Bundesfeier) on August 1st, towns countrywide celebrate with fireworks and concerts. The most famous Bundesfeier celebrations are at Rhine Falls, which are specially lit for the occasion. In Geneva, visitors can enjoy the city’s annual “L’Escalade” December 11 to 13 festival commemorating Genevans’ holdout in 1602 against invading soldiers with modern-day re-creations featuring period costumes and parades. A month later, the Swiss celebrate Vogel Gryff Volksfest, a centuries-old tradition, wherein a wild masked man flanked by men bearing large flags and canons float down the river on a raft, meeting a lion and griffin on the Middle Bridge at noon. Onlookers celebrate this whimsical ritual with parades, traditional music and dances.

 

Currency

As on 23 July 2013 1 CHF = 63.72 INR

Switzerland is not part of the European Union and the currency is the Swiss franc (or Franken or franco, depending in which language area you are), divided into 100 centimes, Rappen or centesimi. However, many places - such as supermarkets, restaurants, sightseeings' box offices, hotels and the railways or ticket machines - accept Euro and will give you change in Swiss Francs or in Euro if they have it in cash. A check or a price-label contain prices both in francs and in Euro. Usually in such cases the exchange-rate comply with official exchange-rate, but if it differs you will be notified in advance. Changing some money to Swiss Francs (CHF) is essential. Money can be exchanged at all train stations and most banks throughout the country.

Switzerland is more cash-oriented than most other European countries. It is not unusual to see bills being paid by cash, even Fr 200 and Fr 1000 notes. Some establishments (but fewer than before) do not accept credit cards so check first. When doing credit card payments, carefully review the information printed on the receipt (details on this can be found in the "Stay Safe" section below). All ATMs accept foreign cards, getting cash should not be a problem.
Coins are issued in 5 centime (brass, rare), 10 centime, 20 centime, ½ Franc, 1 Franc, 2 Franc, and 5 Franc (all silver colored) denominations. One centime coins are no longer legal tender, but may be exchanged until 2027 for face value. Two centime coins have not been legal tender since the 1970's and are, consequently, worthless.

Banknotes are found in denominations of 10 (yellow), 20 (red), 50 (green), 100 (blue), 200 (brown), and 1000 (purple) Francs. They are all the same width and contain a variety of security features.

 

Clothing

Clothing & Dress Code

  • Very smart casual or smart business orientated clothes will carry you through for business, sightseeing and for eating out.
  • Dark coloured clothing is always popular in Switzerland.
  • We recommend low key but quality jewellery.
  • In Geneva you can never be overdressed even down to the gold shoes for shopping.
  • Even in summer the evenings can still be cooler so pack a lightweight jacket, jumper or a versatile pashmina shawl.
  • A light raincoat and umbrella are useful all year round.
  • Dressing in layers will help you with the temperature changes during the day, whatever time of year you visit.
  • The sun can be deceptively strong even if the temperature feels cool this is especially so at altitude and on the lakes, we suggest that you use a good quality sunscreen.
  •  In the winter most people wear snow or thermal boots, even in the cities. It is important that you get soft rubber soles because even medium soles get really hard in the freezing cold. Make sure too that they have large spaces between the tracks, or the snow will get stuck in them and make them very slippery.
  • Swiss women don't seem to wear skirts in the winter so pack any that you need as you won't find them in the shops.
  • If going up mountains or on the lakes in winter it is best to wear layers e.g. silk thermals, proper walking trousers, a thin jersey and two high tech fleeces, one with a zip and one without and a light Goretex jacket which is waterproof and windproof. This will keep the bulk down and it's easy to remove layers and pop them in a day pack.

 

Shopping

 


"Swiss-made": Souvenirs and Luxury Goods
Switzerland is famous for a few key goods: watches, chocolate, cheese, and Swiss Army knives.

  • Watches - Switzerland is the watch-making capital of the world, and "Swiss Made" on a watch face has long been a mark of quality. While the French-speaking regions of Switzerland are usually associated with Swiss watchmakers (like Rolex, Omega, and Patek Philippe), some fine watches are made in the Swiss-German-speaking region, such as IWC in Schaffhausen. Every large town will have quite a few horologers and jewellers with a vast selection of fancy watches displayed their windows, ranging from the fashionable Swatch for 60CHF to the handmade chronometer with the huge price tag. For fun, try to spot the most expensive of these mechanical creations and the ones with the most "bedazzle!!".

  • Chocolate - Switzerland may always have a rivalry with Belgium for the world's best chocolate, but there's no doubting that the Swiss variety is amazingly good. Switzerland is also home to the huge Nestlé food company. If you have a fine palate (and a fat wallet) - you can find two of the finest Swiss chocolatiers in Zurich: Teuscher (try the champagne truffles) and Sprüngli. For the rest of us, even the generic grocery store brand chocolates in Switzerland still blow away the Hershey bars found elsewhere. For a good value, try the "Frey" brand chocolates sold at Migros. If you want to try some real good and exclusive swiss chocolate, go for the Pamaco chocolates, derived from the noble Criollo beans and accomplished through the original, complex process of refinement that requires 72h (quite expensive though, a bar of 125g costs about CHF 8.-). For Lindt fans, it is possible to get them as low as half the supermarket price by going to the Lindt factory store in Kilchberg (near Zurich).

  • Cheese - many different regions of Switzerland have their own regional cheese speciality. Of these, the most well-known are Gruyère and Emmentaler (what Americans know as "Swiss cheese"). Be sure to sample the wide variety of cheeses sold in markets, and of course try the cheese fondue! Fondue is basically melted cheese and is used as a dip with other food such as bread. The original mixture consists of half Vacherin cheese and half Gruyère but many different combinations have been developed since.

  • Swiss Army knives - Switzerland is the official home of the Swiss Army Knife. There are two brands Victorinox and Wenger. Both brands are manufactured by Victorinox. The Wenger business went bankrupt and Victorinox purchased it (2005). Victorinox knives, knife collectors will agree, are far far superior, in terms of design, quality, functionality. The most popular Victorinox knife is the Swiss Champ which has 33 functions and currently costs about CHF78 . Most Tourists will purchase this knife. The "biggest" Victorinox knife is the Swiss Champ 1.6795.XAVT- This has 80 functions and is supplied in a case. This knife costs CHF364. The 1.6795.XAVT may in years to come be a collector's model. Most shops throughout Switzerland stock Victorinox knifes, even some newsagents stock them. They are excellent gifts and souvenirs. The original "Swiss Army Knife" is not red with a white cross (as usually seen by tourists), but gray with a small Swiss flag. The Swiss Army Knife is also produced by Victorinox. Its main particularity is to have the production year engraved on the basis of the biggest blade (and no cork-screw because the Swiss soldier must not drink wine on duty).

Note that Swiss Army Knives must be packed in hold luggage.

Ski and tourist areas will sell the other kinds of touristy items - cowbells, clothing embroidered with white Edelweiss flowers, and Heidi-related stuff. Swiss people love cows in all shapes and sizes, and you can find cow-related goods everywhere, from stuffed toy cows to fake cow-hide jackets. If you have a generous souvenir budget, look for fine traditional handcrafted items such as hand-carved wooden figures in Brienz, and lace and fine linens in St. Gallen. If you have really deep pockets, or just wish you did, be sure to shop on Zurich's famed Bahnhofstrasse, one of the most exclusive shopping streets in the world. If you're looking for hip shops and thrift stores, head for the Niederdorf or the Stauffacher area.

Supermarket Chains

Swiss employment law bans working on Sundays, so shops stay closed. An exception is any business in a railway station, which is deemed to be serving travellers and so is exempt. If you want to find an open shop on a Sunday, go to the nearest big railway station. If a business is family-owned, you aren't employing anybody so you can open, hence small shops can also open on Sundays.

Swiss supermarkets can be hard to spot in big cities. They often have small entrances, but open out inside, or are located in a basement, leaving the expensive street frontages for other shops. Look for the supermarket logos above entrances between other shops.

For the "self catering":

  • Migros  - This chain of supermarkets (in fact a cooperative) provides average to good quality food and no-food products and home ware. However, they do not sell alcoholic beverages nor cigarettes. Brand name products are rare as the chain does their own brands (quality is good, which chain that you go to does not matter). Migros stores can be spotted by a big, orange Helvetica letter "M" sign. The number of "M" letters indicates the size of the store and the different services available - a single "M" is usually a smaller grocery store, a double M ("MM") may be larger and sells other goods like clothing, and a MMM is a full department store with household goods and possibly electronics and sporting goods. Offers change weekly on Tuesdays.

  • Coop  - Also a cooperative. Emphasis on quality as well as multi-buy offers, points collection scheme(s) and money off coupons. Sells many major brands. Come at the end of the day to get half-priced salads and sandwiches. Coop City is usually a department store with a Coop grocery store inside, a multi-floor layout provides space for clothing, electrical items, stationary, paperware as well as beauty products and perfume. Offers change weekly (some exceptions - fortnightly), on Tuesdays.
  • Denner - A discount grocery store, noticeable for their red signs and store interiors. Relatively low priced. Offers change weekly, usually from Wednesday. Denner was bought by Migros in late 2006, but will not be rebranded at present.

  • Coop Pronto - a convenience store branch of Coop, usually open late (at least 20:00) seven days a week. Usually has petrol, filling-station forecourt.

  • Aperto  - also a convenience store, located in the railway stations

  • Pick-Pay - another discount grocery. Yellow logo. (Sold to Denner in Sept. 05, rebranding in progress).

  • Manor - the Manor department stores often have a grocery store on the underground level.

  • Globus - in the largest cities the Globus department stores have a grocery store on the underground level.

As of March 2005, Coop launched low-price-line (Coop Prix-Garantie). In Migros, you find "M-Budget" products. Sometimes it's exactly the same product, just for cheaper price. They also offer pre-pay mobiles as cheap as 29.80 CHF, including 19 CHF money on the SIM-Card and the some of the cheapest call rates.

The German discounter, Aldi Suisse started with 5 discount shops in the eastern part of Switzerland in early 2006. The prices are a little lower than at the other supermarket chains, but still significantly higher than in Germany.

Shopping in Zurich

Zurich has the reputation of a shopping city, even if not quite that of London or Milano. Especially Bahnhofstrasse is well known around the globe as one of the most exclusive and expensive shopping streets in the world. For Swiss and urban design, the area around Langstrasse is a good spot - check out our special. In the way of shopping malls, Switzerland can’t match other European countries where huge centres are the order of the day. But maybe that’s a good thing. The Sihlcity Shopping Centre, an easily reachable mall opened in 2007, is an example of an innovative development - without being a giant. The malls and best shopping areas of the city are listed here together with other remarkable shops. Remember all shops are closed on Sundays except at the railway stations.

The main shopping areas are:

Bahnhofstrasse (E-2/5)The Bahnhofstrasse leads from the main railway station to the lake and is mostly a pedestrian area almost without traffic - but watch out for the trams! It’s world-famous for its luxury stores: find jewellery, watches and designer boutiques as well as the big department stores Jelmoli, Globus and Manor here. In recent years not to everyone’s pleasure more and more big foreign companies like Apple have opened stores on Bahnhofstrasse displacing some traditional Zurich companies - some say Bahnhofstrasse is losing its atmosphere. Nevertheless a walk down this famous street is a must for every shopping fan. Wander into the side streets as well, where shops are no less luxurious and some more unusual little gems are hidden.

Niederdorf (F-3/4) Even if Niederdorf - the part of the old town east of the River Limmat - is better known for dining and nightlife than for shopping, it’s well worth expanding your shopping tour into this quarter. Along the Limmatquai and Niederdorf streets - both pedestrian areas - you will find smaller shops with up-to-date street wear, fancy shoes and fashion stores. The smaller alleys are also well worth a peek.

Old Town (E-3/4) The old town between Bahnhofstrasse and the River Limmat is another shopping area not to miss. Try the pedestrian street Rennweg for example with its international clothing brands and boutiques or Storchengasse with its luxury designer stores, a genuine Zurich toys shop as well as cutlery and souvenir shops.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

  1. Passports & Visas

    Every traveler must have a valid passport. Visa are required for a continuous stay of more than three months. If your stay is shorter than three months you only need to bring your valid passport with you. This applies to citizens of the following countries: countries of the American Continent (except Belize, Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Peru), Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

    For information on visa, permanent residence as well as on work permits and business matters, please contact the Swiss Consulate.
    Switzerland is one of the Schengen states, travellers holding valid Schengen visas will be accepted to enter Switzerland.


    Currency
    Please note that Switzerland remains with the Swiss franc, usually indicated as CHF. While Switzerland is not part of the European Union and thus is not obliged to convert to the Euro, many prices are nonetheless indicated in euros so that visitors may compare prices. Merchants may accept euros but are not obliged to do so. Change given back to the client will most likely be in Swiss francs.

    The Swiss franc comes in the following denominations:

    Coins
    5, 10, 20, 50 Cents and 1, 2, 5 Francs

    Bank notes
    10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 1000 Francs

    Creditcards
    The safest and easiest form of money are traveler's checks and credit cards. The cards most used are American Express, MasterCard and Visa. Many banks in Switzerland have equipped their ATM machines with the CIRRUS or MAESTRO system. Many other Swiss banks offer ATM machines for cash advances with your credit card. It is recommended to have a small amount of cash on hand upon arrival in Switzerland for immediate expenses, i.e. taxies, city transportation etc.

    Money exchange places

    • any Swiss bank
    • airport
    • main railway stations (western union)
    • major hotels

    Swiss banks offer the best exchange rates for your traveler's checks or cash for foreign currencies (only bank notes). Official exchange offices and hotels may charge a fee for their services

    Shopping
    Switzerland's superb products make it a shopper's paradise. English is spoken in most shops and department stores. Any stay in Switzerland is incomplete without buying a famous Swiss watch. Fine watches come in an infinite variety and are generally less expensive than in others countries. Bucherer is the country's biggest and most famous watch retailer offering a wide range of watches from CHF 50 to 100'000.

    Chocolates come in a variety of sizes, shapes and flavors. Excellent buys are: textiles, embroideries, fine handkerchiefs, linen, precision instruments, drafting sets, multiblade pocket knives, music boxes, woodcarvings, ceramics and other handmade items as well as antiques and art books.

    The VAT tax you pay on purchased goods in Switzerland is 8.0%. You may ask at the shops for your Global Blue Cheque and reclaim the VAT. Global Blue offers you a swift and save cash refund system at Zurich and Geneva airports as well as at all major airport in Europe and all major road exit points. All major Credit Cards are accepted in fine shops and most department stores.

    Shops are usually open from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. Once a week they extend their hours to 9 p.m. They are closed on Sundays except for those at airports, at some railway stations and highway rest stops.

    Business Hours
    Generally, offices are open 8 am to 12 noon and 2 pm to 5 pm on weekdays and closed on weekends.

    Banks
    Banks are usually open Monday to Friday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. Once a week they extend their hours. Please check locally. They are closed Saturdays, Sundays and on public holidays. However, money can also be changed at major train stations. Look for the "Change/Cambio" signs.
    Many banks have automated teller machines (ATMs) that accept overseas bank cards. please check with your local bank before leaving if your bank card is valid in Switzerland.

    Post Offices
    Post offices are usually open from 8 am to 12 noon and 2 pm to 5 pm on weekdays, whereas some branches that are located in shopping centers are usually open the same hours as the shopping centers, including the extended business times that are often offered once a week. On Saturdays, post offices in large cities are opern from 8.30 am till 12 noon, in villages they may be closed. please inform yourself locally. All post offices are closed on Sundays.

    Shops
    Shops in smaller towns and villages are generally open from 8.30 am - 12 noon and again from 2 - 6.30 pm. In larger cities they do not close for lunch. In larger cities, shops generally extend their hours till 8 pm on one evening of the week, usually on Thursdays.

    Climate
    The climate is moderate with no excessive heat, cold or humidity. From July to August the daytime temperature range is 18 to 28 °C (65° - 82° F) and from January to February the range is -2 to 7 °C (28° - 45° F). In spring and autumn, the daytime temperature range is 8 to 15 °C (46° - 59° F). Depending on the altitude the temperature range may vary. It is highly recommended to visitors to pack a sweater, good walking shoes, sunscreen, sunglasses, a compact umbrella and/or a light rain coat.

    Electricity
    The current used throughout Switzerland is 230 Volts (AC), 50 cycles. Most power sockets are designed for three pin round plugs. The standard continental type plug with two round pins, applied for many electrical travel products, may be used without problemd. Adaptors are available in most hotels.

    Public Holidays
    Regional and local holidays, such as January 2, May 1 (Labor Day), June 7 (Corpus Christi) among others, are observed in many parts of the country. 2012
    New Year
    January 1

    Good Friday
    April 6

    Easter
    April 8

    Easter Monday
    April 9

    Ascension Day
    Mai 17

    Whit Sunday
    Mai 27

    Whit Monday
    Mai 28

    National Day
    August 1

    Christmas Day
    December 25

    Boxing Day
    December 26

    Important telephone numbers
    The following numbers can be dialed for information Emergency Calls:
    117
    Police
    118
    Fire
    144
    Ambulance
    1414
    Swiss Rescue

    General inquiries:
    1811
    General inquiries, e.g. doctors, theatres, etc.
    140
    Breakdown service
    162
    Weather report
    163
    Road report
    187
    Avalanche Report


    For general inquiry calls from Germany or Austria, the number must be preceded by the following dialling code: 0041 848 800 xxx (e.g. 1811 or 162). Addresses and phone numbers can be looked very simply online at

    Nightlife
    There are night clubs, discotheques, cinemas or theatres in most of the towns, cities and holiday locations. There are also more and more casinos in Switzerland where you can try your luck. Numerous bars and restaurants offer entertainment shows.

    Security / Health / Insurance
    Switzerland has one of the lowest crime rates of all industrialized countries. But it is always wise to keep an eye on wallets and luggage in busy areas. Drinking and eating-out is hygienic and the tap water is safe. It’s no surprise that the water of the Oeschinensee coming out of the taps in Switzerland should be of drinking quality, but there aren’t many countries where you can drink the water in the city fountains. In general, if it doesn’t say you can’t, you can. So there’s no need to buy bottled water, but if you like it, Switzerland is rich in mineral springs, bottled by local companies. Still or sparkling, it’s purely a matter of taste which one you choose.

    Immunization for contagious diseases is only required if the traveller has been in an infected area within 14 days preceding arrival in Switzerland. Personal travel insurance is strongly recommended, including coverage of personal accident, sickness, loss or damage to luggage and personal effects and cancellation charges.

    Criminality
    Switzerland has one of the lowest crime rates of all industrialized countries. But it is always wise to keep an eye on wallets and luggage in busy areas.

    Gastronomy
    If variety is the spice of life, Swiss food truly presents a flavourful platter. Regional cuisine is wide and varied. Masterful local chefs create new ways to present traditional treats. Some gain international acclaim with edible artworks based on simple country fare. You just can't go wrong eating out in Switzerland. There's a match for every taste and budget.

    The Swiss Food Connection
    Find fish dishes on lake shores. Colourful salads and spicy meats almost everywhere. Ask about the specials of the day. Stop for an impulsive snack, or enjoy superb elegance in a castle. Meet the locals just down the street, where they stop for a meal. Restaurants where food and service are always superb. Some are world famous, others local stars. Look for dining secrets in unexpected places. In the quiet of an unassuming country inn. Amidst a bustling railway station. On a boat or a train. Find phenomenal vegetarian and kosher meals too. A welcome note about the tip: it's included.

    Wines both red and white
    A ruby-red Merlot or dark Nostrano are the wines of the Ticino. Sip spirited glasses of Cressier on glimmering Lake Neuchatel. Dole offers itself as the perfect choice for many traditional dishes. Taste the regions in our wines, along the seductive Swiss routes de vin. Swiss winemaking is state-of-the-art. Try Fendant from the Valais, Twanner from Biel, a dry Dezaley from the distinct chasselas grape. The rare Glacier, aged a decade or more. There are wonderful local wines that never leave their village. Sample them in their home territory, perhaps with a leisurely meal.

    Regional Specialities
    Zurich: Minced veal in cream sauce with rosti, the golden light Swiss version of hash brown potatoes. Berne: Smoked pork, sausage and sauerkraut. Geneva: Filet of perch and lake trout. Lausanne: Local sausage on a bed of leeks and potatoes. Ticino: Polenta, risotto and pasta. Generally everywhere: Crusty bread, great cheeses and preserves for breakfast... and of course real muesli. Try famous fondue, raclette, or cheese tartlets. Foods can be light the delicious taste of the Grisons- air dried meats and freshest lake fish. Or sumptious feasts - classic sausages and tender meats. Try a tray of our many cheeses, perhaps a Tete de Moine. Indulge in desserts that bring tears of delight!

    Tipping
    A service charge is normally included in hotel and restaurant bills as well as taxi fares. An extra tip is not expected but is appreciated.

Map


View Larger MapView Larger Map