Where to stay in Switzerland in winter
During winter in Switzerland, towns at high altitude are the most attractive destinations. That’s where you can experience snow. Choose a famous winter sports resort for skiing and other winter activities. Or pick a beautiful snow village to enjoy the winter wonderland. Cities at lower altitude are great for a Christmas holiday.
The very best place for a winter holiday in Switzerland
The Upper Engadine is the best winter destination of Switzerland. This sunny valley is located at high altitude: about 1800 m (5900 ft). This means that the snow season lasts long. There's usually snow in the towns from December until late March. The surrounding mountains can be snow-capped from November until May or June.
The Upper Engadine is very diverse. There are classy resorts such as St. Moritz and Pontresina, but also authentic villages like Zuoz and Sils.
The region offers snow activities for everyone. The wide valley floor has easy hiking paths. Some are even suitable for push-chairs. You can enjoy snowshoe hikes, skate at the frozen lake of St. Moritz or have fun at the sled runs. Horse-sleigh rides can be made in several side valleys.
The 3 large ski areas at Corviglia-Piz Nair, Corvatsch and Diavolezza-Lagalb have 350 km of pistes. There are 5 more small ski areas. The varied runs are suitable for experienced skiers, but also for children and beginners.
The best Swiss winter cities with nearby ski resorts
Bern, Brig, Chur, Interlaken and Lucerne are the best larger towns in Switzerland for a winter holiday with nearby ski resorts.
Although they’re not in the mountains, snow fun is just a train ride away. These towns also offer shopping and cultural facilities. They’re located centrally, so you can make varied day trips: by scenic train for example.
Bern is a cosy city in winter. You can make day trips by train and bus to several ski resorts:
Brig is located at the floor of the Upper Rhone valley. It provides easy access by public transportation to these snow destinations:
- Riederalp: 0h35
- Bettmeralp: 0h45
- Crans-Montana: 0h55
- Saas-Fee: 1h05
- Zermatt: 1h20
- Oberwald: 1h25
- Verbier: 1h45
Chur is the capital of Graubünden. You can ski and sledge from the nearby mountain Brambrüesch and make beautiful train journeys, such as the Glacier Express and Bernina Express. Several ski areas can be visited by train:
- Flims-Laax-Falera: 0h40
- Lenzerheide: 0h45
- Arosa: 1h00
- Bergün: 1h15
- Disentis: 1h15
- Savognin: 1h15
- Davos: 1h20
Interlaken in the Bernese Oberland has a perfect central location for winter holidays. Public transport quickly brings you to these snow resorts:
Lucerne is a beautiful city. You can enjoy the old town and make day trips by train and bus to snow destinations, for example:
- Kriens (valley station of Pilatus): 0h30
- Engelberg (at the foot of Titlis): 0h45
- Weggis (at the foot of Rigi): 0h45
- Klewenalp-Stockhütte: 1h10
- Melchsee-Frutt: 1h50
- Hoch Ybrig (valley station Laucheren: 1h50)
The best Swiss cities in Christmas time
Basel, Montreux and Zurich are the best cities for a Christmas holiday in Switzerland.
They have attractive Christmas markets and lots of shops in illuminated town centers. They also provide good access to other Christmas towns. Visit these Swiss cities between mid-November and late December for the best holiday experience.
Basel is home to the largest Christmas market of Switzerland. To many visitors it’s also the most beautiful one. The illuminated streets are inviting for Christmas shopping.
More towns with Christmas atmosphere are within about one hour by train: Zurich, Bern and Lucerne.
Montreux is the perfect destination for a Christmas holiday along on Lake Geneva. The romantic Christmas market can be found along the lake boulevard.
The town offers Advent and Christmas activities. Many of them are great for children. Directly from town, you can visit Rochers-de-Naye where Santa’s house is located.
Other Christmas markets can be found in nearby Lausanne (0h25 by train), Yverdon-les-Bains (0h50), Gruyères (1h15) and Saanen (1h30).
Zurich has no less than 3 Christmas markets: in the old town, at the Sechseläutenplatz near the lake and at the main railway station. The town has lots of shops and is beautifully illuminated.
Romantic villages can be visited, such as Rapperswil along Lake Zurich. Larger towns with Christmas markets are close by: Lucerne (0h45 by train), Bern (1h00) and Basel (1h00).
Other Christmas towns
Other atmospheric towns in Christmas time are Geneva, Lausanne, Lucerne and Bern.
The best snow and ski resorts of Switzerland
The best destinations for winter sports and snow activities in Switzerland are Davos, Grindelwald, Saas-Fee, Samnaun, St. Moritz, Verbier and Zermatt.
All these towns are at high altitude, so snow is more or less guaranteed. The resorts can be reached by public transportation. They have easy access to ski and snow areas. And they provide all facilities for winter holidays: ski and winter gear rental, supermarkets, restaurants and accommodation in all price ranges.
Davos (1560 m / 5118 ft) is the highest larger town in Europe. It’s located in north-eastern Graubünden and it’s surrounded by many ski areas on both sides of the valley. You’ll find long ski runs, a large ice rink and lots of fun snow activities here.
Grindelwald (1034 m / 3392 ft) is not the highest resort in the Jungfrau region. It’s still a great winter destination as it’s surrounded by high mountains with snow guarantee. Grindelwald has direct access to the ski areas of First and Männlichen.
This lively village with views of the Eiger is suitable for experienced skiers, but also for families.
Saas-Fee (1792 m / 5879 ft) in southern Valais is a top snow destination. There’s snow on the high mountain peaks nearly all year round. 3 snow and ski areas can be reached directly from town. You can easily visit even more areas from the nearby villages.
Saas-Fee also offers adventurous winter activities: guided glacier tours and zip-lines for example.
Samnaun (1844 m / 6050 ft) is in a corner of eastern Graubünden, close to the Austrian border. It takes some time to get there: about 4 hours by train and bus from Zurich. You’ll travel via Landquart and Scuol-Tarasp.
From the village, you’ll have direct access to the large international ski area of Samnaun and Ischgl in Austria: the “Silvretta Ski-Arena”. The snow season lasts long: from late November to April.
There’s much more than ski pistes: winter and snowshoe hiking trails, cross-country skiing tracks, a sledging run and an ice rink are all available.
St. Moritz (1775 m / 5758 ft) is in the Upper Engadine, which is the best area in Switzerland for a winter holiday.
This classy resort has quick access to large ski areas. It also has a lake that’s frozen during the coldest months. You can enjoy ice skating, curling and other winter sports on the surface. Day trips to romantic snowy villages in the valley are possible too.
Verbier (1500 m / 4921 m) is located in the Valais, south-east of Martigny. It’s part of the “Quatre Vallées” (“Four valleys”) ski region. The snow season lasts from November to April. There are many ski pistes above Verbier and the nearby resorts.
Snow activities include heli-skiing and paragliding. Family-friendly options like dog sledding, tobogganing and pony riding are available too.
Zermatt (1605 m / 5266 ft) in southern Valais is surrounded by high mountains. You can enjoy the winter panorama from Klein Matterhorn, Gornergrat or Sunnegga-Rothorn. There are lots of ski lifts and pistes, many with views of the famous Matterhorn.
Snow activities are available from December to March. At the highest peaks, such as Klein Matterhorn, the snow season can last until late April.
Beautiful snow villages in Switzerland
Bettmeralp-Riederalp, Ftan, Guarda, Grimentz, Mürren, Sils and Zuoz are among the most charming winter villages of Switzerland.
They’re small to mid-sized, can easily be reached by public transport and provide all facilities you need. They’re beautiful and authentic. These villages are located high enough to get snow in winter, especially from January to March. You’ll have amazing views of the snowy scenery.
Bettmeralp and Riederalp
Bettmeralp and Riederalp (over 1900 m / 6234 ft) are two car-free villages at a sunny plateau above the Upper Rhone valley. You’ll have amazing views of the peaks of the Valais. The plateau is at very high altitude, so you’ll sometimes be literally above the clouds.
The towns are full of traditional wooden chalets. They have access to ski, snowboard and sledging areas. Winter hikes can be made from town: there’s 72 km (45 mi) of prepared paths.
From viewing points Bettmerhorn (above Bettmeralp), Moosfluh and Hoohfluh (above Riederalp) you’ll see the snowy Aletsch Glacier.
Bettmeralp (1970 m / 6463 ft) has a lively town center with shops and bars. The village can be reached by cable car from Betten. Riederalp (1925 m / 6316) is a family-friendly village. It can be reached by cable car from Mörel.
Ftan (1648 m / 5407 ft) in Graubünden is all about Swiss tradition. It’s on a sunny location on a south-facing slope above the Lower Engadine. It can be reached in a 10-minute bus ride from Scuol-Tarasp. This is at 1h20 by train from St. Moritz.
Ftan has a picturesque church and beautiful houses. It’s also home to a 400-year old flour mill, a cheese factory and a grinding shop. Local crafts and products are widely available.
The views of the Lower Engadine valley, the Tarasp castle and the snow-capped peaks are magnificent. With the chair lift to Prui you’ll reach a winter sports area. There’s a sled run from Prui down to Ftan. Winter hiking is possible too.
Guarda (1653 m / 5423 ft) is one of the prettiest villages of the Lower Engadine. It’s at a nearly 2-hour journey from St. Moritz. Take a train to the rail station of Guarda (a “stop on request”) and switch to the bus. You’ll reach Guarda in a 10-minute uphill bus ride.
The entrance of the village is accessible by car too. You can park at a paid parking lot before the town center.
Guarda has a well-preserved small town center with century-old traditional houses. A supermarket is available. There are several restaurants, hotels and holiday homes.
Guarda is great for a family winter holiday. There’s a ski lift for children, an ice rink and a toboggan run. You can enjoy quiet winter hikes and cross-country tracks.
Grimentz (1553 m / 5096 ft) is a picturesque jewel in the Val d'Anniviers in the Valais. You'll get there in 1h30 from Brig: by train to Sierre and then by bus to Vissoie and Grimentz.
Grimentz is full of traditional wooden houses in the typical Valais style. There are splendid small alleys and an old flour mill. You'll find several restaurants and hotels.
You'll have direct access to two cable cars from the village. The one to Sorebois gets you to a skiing area above Grimentz and the nearby village of Zinal. Tobogganing, winter hiking and ice skating on the natural ice rink are possible too.
Mürren (1638 m / 5374 ft) is the highest town of the Jungfrau region, so snow is most likely here. The village is located at a plateau high above the Lauterbrunnen valley, amidst splendid scenery. Many hotels and apartments have rooms with mountain views.
Mürren is ideal for pedestrians as it’s car-free. Lots of traditional chalets and hotels can be found along the main street and the side streets. It’s lively in winter, but the town is still charming.
There are several winter hiking trails. The easy panorama route to Grütschalp is recommended. Snowshoe hiking, sledding and watching the views from Schilthorn are possible too.
More about Mürren
Sils (1803 m / 5915 ft) is located in the Upper Engadine. It’s an idyllic village with about 250 inhabitants. You’ll see authentic buildings with painted facades here.
Sils is on the wide valley floor between Lake Silvaplana and Lake Sils. During the coldest winter months, the lakes are frozen and snow-covered. The views of the white peaks surrounding the valley are beautiful.
You can make winter hikes directly from town. Some routes cross the frozen lakes. Hiking or making a horse-sleigh ride in the nearby Fex valley are an option too. You can ski or enjoy other snow activities on the slopes of Furtschellas-Corvatsch.
Zuoz (1716 m / 5630 ft) is in the Upper Engadine, away from the busier resort St. Moritz. It’s known as the prettiest village of the area. Zuoz has traditional plastered houses and a beautiful historic town square.
You can make easy winter hikes on the wide floor of the Engadine valley. There are ski schools and easy pistes for children and beginners. A short toboggan run starts from the Chastlatsch ski lift. More snow activities are available near St. Moritz, at only 25 minutes by train.
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Small remote winter places in Switzerland
Avers, Belalp, Bellwald, Fiescheralp, Gimmelwald, Gspon, Preda, Riffelalp, Rigi Scheidegg and Spinas are tiny Swiss winter destinations.
They’re perfect if you’re looking for peace and quiet in wintry Switzerland. They’re at high altitude and receive lots of snow. Most are car-free.
Avers (1960 m / 6430 ft) is a municipality in western Graubünden, close to the Italian border. Avers consists of 11 hamlets spread over a remote valley. It gets plenty of snow in winter.
Juf is one of these hamlets. It’s at the end of the valley, at 2126 m (6975 ft) altitude. Juf is the highest all-year round inhabited settlement of Europe. It’s nearly 2 hours away from Chur. Take the postbus to Andeer and then the postbus to Avers. The bus stop is called “Avers, Juf”.
Groceries can be done in the hamlet Cresta. There are several holiday homes and a few restaurants and hotels, scattered over the settlements. You can stay in Juf as well: a hotel is located at the highest point of the hamlet.
There’s a small-scale ski area with a lift from Juppa. Winter hiking and cross-country skiing in the winter landscape are the main activities in Avers.
Belalp (2100 m / 6890 ft) is located on the slopes of the Lötschen valley. This is a side valley of the Rhone valley in the Valais. You can get there in 50 minutes from Brig. Take the bus to Blatten and the cable car to Belalp.
This car-free village has a supermarket and a few holiday homes and hotels. For the most quiet surroundings, consider Hotel Belalp or the Hamilton Lodge. Both are outside the town center and can be reached on foot. They offer breathtaking views of the mountain peaks.
Belalp is part of the UNESCO Natural World Heritage “Jungfrau – Aletsch – Bietschorn”. You can enjoy the surroundings by winter or snowshoe hikes. For even wider views, take the chair lift to Schönbiel-Hohstock. A ski area is available too.
Bellwald (1560 m / 5118 ft) is a family-friendly village with dark wooden chalets. It’s north of Fiesch, on the slopes above the Upper Rhone valley. It can be reached from Brig in less than an hour. Take the train to Fürgangen (a “stop on request”) and the cable car to Bellwald.
The small town has a supermarket, holiday homes and a couple of hotels. The town center is car-free.
You can enjoy the magnificent views over the wintry valley and the Alps of the Valais. There are many options for winter sports and snow fun. The long suspension bridge from Bellwald to Mühlebach is accessible in winter too.
Fiescheralp (2122 m / 6962 ft) is located on the sunny slopes of the Upper Rhone valley and below the Eggishorn. It’s east of the busier villages Bettmeralp and Riederalp. Fiescheralp is 50 minutes away from Brig. Take a train to Fiesch and then the cable car to Fiescheralp.
The small, car-free settlement mainly consists of chalets with views over the Valais mountains. There are a few restaurants and hotels, plus a small shop.
The views are the main reason to visit Fiescheralp. Winter hikes can be made from town. An example is the panorama path to Riederalp. The Eggishorn can be visited for views of the Aletsch glacier. There are chairlifts to Talegga and Flesch.
Ski pistes are close by. You can also enjoy paragliding or sledding at the 11 km-long run to Lax.
Gimmelwald (1367 m / 4485 ft) is a perfect small settlement in the Jungfrau region, nearly 1 hour away from Interlaken. You can enjoy winter views of the Lauterbrunnen valley and many mountains.
Gimmelwald is located above the valley, on the slopes of the Schilthorn. The village can be reached by cable car from Stechelberg, or by cable car from Mürren in only 5 minutes. Mürren is larger and more lively. You’ll find a supermarket and shops there.
Gimmelwald is car-free and quiet. There are no shops and you can choose from a handful of holiday apartments and hotels.
The beautiful views are the main reason to visit Gimmelwald. Winter hiking and snowshoe trails are accessible directly from the settlement. Toboggan runs, ski pistes and other winter activities can be found near Mürren.
Gspon (1893 m / 6211 ft) is a small settlement at a breathtaking location. It’s high on the eastern slopes of the Saas valley. It can be reached in 50 minutes from Brig. Take a train to Stalden. From Stalden, there’s a cable car to Staldenried, and then to Gspon.
Gspon is car-free. It has a restaurant and a small shop with limited opening hours. You’ll find charming chalets along quiet streets. You can sleep in a hotel, a group accommodation or a holiday apartment. More facilities are available in Staldenried.
You’ll mainly visit Gspon for its wide views of the Valais mountains. You can admire the scenery during winter hikes or from terraces with deck chairs.
There’s a small family-friendly ski area with a bar. Experienced locals can help beginning skiers on request.
Preda (1789 m / 5869 ft) is a small village along the Glacier Express and Bernina Express route. It’s at the northern end of the Albula tunnel, that connects the Albula valley with the Upper Engadine. Preda can be reached by train in 1h35 from Chur and in 0h30 from St. Moritz.
Preda is not visited by many tourists. It’s mainly known as the starting point of the sled run to Bergün. There are 2 hotel-restaurants. It's car free in winter.
A supermarket is not available. The larger and more popular winter villages of Bergün and Filisur are close by. You can get your groceries there.
You can enjoy peace and quiet in Preda. Winter and snowshoe hikes can be made from town. One of them leads to the frozen Lake Palpuogna near the village.
Note that the Albula tunnel is being rebuilt. The old tunnel is still used, but you can see work going on at and near the railway station. This will last until 2023-2024. You can learn about this project in the Info Arena in Preda. Guided information tours are held on request.
Riffelalp (2222 m / 7290 ft) is on the slopes of the Gornergrat near Zermatt, just above the tree line. It’s not a village, but a tiny settlement. Its main feature is the 5-star Riffelalp Resort. In winter season, it’s open from mid-December to mid-April.
The resort can be reached in 20 minutes from Zermatt. Take the cogwheel train to Riffelalp. Then make a 5-minute walk to the resort or use the hotel pick-up service.
The Riffelalp Resort has lots of luxurious amenities. But the main reason to stay here are the winter landscapes with views of Zermatt and the Matterhorn. You can start skiing, winter hiking and snowshoe hiking from the hotel. Sledding can be done from nearby Rotenboden.
A few holiday apartments are for rent near Riffelalp as well.
Rigi Scheidegg (1658 m / 5440 ft) is a tiny resort at the southern slopes of Rigi. It’s located above the towns of Vitznau and Gersau. You can reach it in 1h15 from Lucerne. Take a train to Arth-Goldau and switch to the cogwheel train to Kräbel (a “stop on request”). Then take the cable car to Rigi Scheidegg.
This car-free resort has a few holiday apartments and one hotel with a restaurant, panorama terrace and basic rooms. You’ll have beautiful views of the snowy Alps in the south.
Winter hikes can be made from town. One of them is the beautiful panorama path to Rigi Kaltbad. The Obermatt ski lift and the toboggan run from Rigi Burggeist to Schwand are close by.
Spinas (1815 m / 5955 ft) is a tiny hamlet in Val Bever, a side valley of the Upper Engadine. It’s at one end of the Albula rail tunnel. This tunnel connects the Upper Engadine and the Albula valley. Spinas can be reached in 20 minutes by train from St. Moritz. Spinas is a “stop on request”.
Spinas is car-free in winter. If you don’t arrive by train, you can get there from the nearest town Bever. You can walk or make a horse-sleigh ride.
The settlement consists of one hotel-restaurant (open from mid-December to late March) and a few more buildings, including a holiday apartment. There are no other facilities. You’ll stay here to enjoy the quiet winter nature during winter hikes or cross-country ski tours.
Until 2023-2024, constructions works are going at the railway station of Spinas. This is because a new Albula tunnel is being built.