Planning a trip to Switzerland in January and need tips for weather, skiing, prices, places to visit, and things to do? We’ve got you covered!
January in Switzerland is winter and usually the coldest month of the year, but that makes it perfect for snow and winter sports. From skiing and snowboarding to ice skating and snowshoeing, January has fantastic snow conditions and quality. Mountain towns will be bustling and big cities will also have plenty going on.
Whether you’re spending your time on a mountain or a charming Swiss town, this detailed guide covers everything you need to know to have the best vacation specifically during the month of January.
Switzerland Weather in January
In January, Switzerland’s lower altitude cities like Zurich will experience average temperatures lows and highs of 28˚F to 40˚F (-2˚C to -4˚C), while higher altitude places like Zermatt will see averages of 18˚F to 32˚F (-8˚C to -0˚C). It’s very important to consider the altitude of the cities you’re visiting in Switzerland, as it will always have a significant effect on the weather.
January is the official start of the winter season in Switzerland, with endless amounts of snow covering nearly all of country. Bigger cities and streets won’t have quite as much snow as the high altitude resorts and glaciers (like Zermatt) will, but the cold temperatures have set no matter the location.
On average, you can expect January to be cold and snowy with occasional icy winds in most places. The ski resorts and mountains will definitely see the coldest temperatures, while lower regions of the country will have milder temperatures. No matter what city or mode of transportation you use, plan to bring some good walking boots for the snow and a winter coat for the cold.
Average January Temperature in Switzerland (By City)
|City||Avg Low (°F)||Avg High (°F)||Avg Low (°C)||Avg High (°C)|
Switzerland Snow & Skiing in January
Ski resorts are the luckiest when it comes to snow in January as it will be steadily flurrying down the high altitude portions of Switzerland throughout the month. The snow quality is excellent, creating fluffy drifts and well-packed pistes on the slopes. The snowfall will increase slowly over the course of January, with the best snows yet to come in February.
Farther South and in the lowland areas, snow won’t be quite as prevalent. Flurries will come and go, but the amount will not be quite as heavy as what you’ll find in the Northern areas of Switzerland.
If skiing is a major factor in your Swiss vacation, January will not disappoint. You’ll have no problem skiing the majority of runs at all major mountains, especially from the middle of the month onward.
Average January Snowfall in Switzerland (By Ski Resort)
|Resort Name||Snowfall (in)||Snowfall (cm)||Summit Depth (in)||Summit Depth (cm)||Base Depth (in)||Base Depth (cm)|
*Exact snowfall totals on-mountain versus in-town can be hard to track and differ from source to source. We have done our best to achieve accurate averages, but discrepancies can happen.
January Affordability & Crowds in Switzerland
Crowd levels begin to ramp up in Switzerland this month, as January features arguably the best skiing of the year. Throughout the month, you’ll notice more and more people are flooding the country in order to catch some of the best snow conditions. While snow sports are the top attraction in January, people will also take this time to visit major cities at the front and back ends of their ski vacations.
January rates and affordability tend to be on the higher side, as hotels and transport prepare for an influx of visitors this month. Lift passes and experiences will also have a higher cost due to demand; peak ski season will affect a lot of rates around Switzerland.
Despite the increase in price for a vacation in Switzerland, it’s good to know that all hotels and restaurants will be back open and running to accommodate all the tourists coming in this season. Planning ahead and pre-booking experiences will help you to have a much more enjoyable time on vacation – don’t leave anything up to chance!
Best Switzerland Ski Resorts in January
All the Swiss ski resorts and public ski areas are open in the month of January, allowing visitors to revel in the perfect conditions all month long. No matter where you choose to go, snow quality should be decent this time of year, but crowds will vary based on the popularity and accessibility of the resort you choose.
Zermatt is what most travelers picture when they think of Switzerland – a snowy alpine village sitting at the base of the iconic Matterhorn. With the highest altitude in the country, 200 miles of groomers and access to Cervinia, Italy, Zermatt-Matterhorn is hard to beat when it comes to planning the perfect ski vacation in Switzerland.
The slopes at Zermatt are suitable for all level of skiers, with winding freeride trails that seem to go on for miles – and they do! Zermatt has some of the longest runs from top to bottom, including connecting pathways at Breuil-Cervinia, Italy. You can access this connection point by taking the extensive gondola system all the way to the top of the Klein Matterhorn.
Some of the lifts and runs will lead skiers to one of the dozen great restaurants on the mountain that offer ski-in/ski-out access. Zermatt village also has great hospitality for a ski trip, embodying the old world feeling of Swiss tradition and culture.
Verbier has some of the most intense terrain in Switzerland, drawing thousands of expert skiers to its slopes. The resort is massive, claiming over 240 miles of pistes on it’s sweeping slopes. The sheer number of runs available means that you won’t get bored on a weeklong ski vacation here.
Verbier is equipped with tons of freeriding terrain that offer a bit of a challenge. Plus, the Tortin – Europe’s steepest descent – is the thrill-seeker’s dream. In addition to the advanced terrain, Verbier is also part of the Four Valleys ski area, which means you can ski Thyon, Nendaz and Veysonnaz with the same lift pass.
The village has world class accommodations with stunning views of Mont Blanc and a wealth of shops and restaurants to complete your vacation. Verbier also happens to be a hotspot for apres ski and nightlife, which skiers should definitely consider and take part in when choosing this resort.
St. Moritz may be the ritziest resort for a ski vacation, but the intermediate terrain found here is second to none. The accommodations are stellar, the food is excellent and the atmosphere of luxury European flair is perfect for the skier who wants to see and be seen. Known as a two-time host of the winter Olympics, St. Moritz is the perfect January destination for ice skating, sledding, Nordic skiing and even Snow Polo (more on that below).
World Cup quality courses line the impeccable slopes at St. Moritz, allowing more adventurous skiers to try their hand at runs built for the pros. You can also head to Corviglia Snow Park for 30 different obstacles that will keep you busy all day long. However, any level of skier can find the right trails for them in Corvatsch and nearby Diavolezza.
Grindelwald is a quaint and beautiful small town that sits at the base of the towering Eiger mountain. Despite its size, Grindelwald has some of the most thrilling experiences in Switzerland, both winter and Summer. During January, skiing is the chief activity and there are multiple areas to do it. The Bodmi Arena offers great beginner slopes and ski lessons for children to gain confidence before joining their parents on the blues at Grindelwald ski resort. Night skiing is even available on select nights when the weather permits.
This regions is known for its reliable snow and lengthy runs from the top, giving skiers plenty of time on the snow instead of the lift. A great benefit of choosing Grindelwald as your base is the fact that your lift pass includes the connecting Wengen resort, plus you can see the Eiger glacier from the village or travel via cable car to see it up close. From Grindelwald, you also gain access to the Jungfrau region and Lauterbrunnen via train.
Engelberg is close to Lucerne and Zurich, making it an ideal choice for those who want to get one or two days of skiing into their Swiss tour. In the Summer, this area is popular for hiking and sightseeing, but it’s transformed into a winter playground during the ski season. There are a variety of pistes that accommodate beginners to experts, but advanced skiers will prefer the freeriding terrain off-piste. Powderhounds will also love the snowpack here.
The small town of Engelberg is situated at the base of Mount Titlis and hosts thousands of guests this time of year. Titlis is the main ski area and is most suitable for less experienced skiers in the beginner or intermediate category. There are nearly 50 miles of runs that fit this level, with a few expert runs dabbled in. Though skiing is the main attraction in January, there are also plenty of winter guests who make the trek up to Mount Titlis for the views.
At Andermatt, old meets new with new renovations and luxury accommodations built right alongside traditional Swiss chocolate box houses, small shops and local restaurants. The village is unique in that Andermatt maintains historic buildings and original woodwork all while keeping up to date with state-of-the-art renovations and facilities.
The resort has undergone quite extensive renovations in the last few years, helping it to skyrocket in popularity. One of the biggest highlights of the renovation is the train that runs between Andermatt and Disentis for apres ski parties.
Andermatt is a highly active mountain that appeals to advanced and expert skiers who love the steep slopes and off-piste powder. Though it’s best for highly skilled skiers, there are still plenty of families and intermediate skiers that flock to Andermatt for the season, primarily due to the great snow conditions. However, the winter storms can shut down the mountain throughout the month, so the resort isn’t as reliable as others on this list.
Gstaad-Saanen is an area that includes several villages in one, sharing a resort that is geared mostly towards beginners and cross country skiers. The resort is easily accessible by one of the many mountain railways that run through Bernese Oberland, giving visitors a magical experience. Gstaad is also home to one of the most modern gondolas, which was designed by Porsche to lift 10 passengers up Mount Eggli in record time.
Families will love this destination, since the resort is built with wide, sweeping blue runs, ski elevators and multiple learning facilities for beginners and young children. Overall, the experience at Gstaad will be more laid back, but also more luxurious than others on this list. If you want a relaxing ski trip for your family, plus excellent lodging and dining options, Gstaad-Saanen is a great choice.
Saas-Fee is also features some of the longest runs in Switzerland and boasts incredible views and snow quality thanks to the resort’s multiple glaciers nested in the mountains. Saas Fee tends to be a little less crowded than Zermatt, but it’s got a lot to offer skiers. The resort is great for learners and has a whole separate ski area where beginners can comfortably sort out their skills.
In addition to the abundance of beginner slopes, there are another 26 trails set for intermediate skiers, which makes Saas-Fee most ideal for families with a range of skills. Despite this, freestyle skiers are among Saas-Fee faithfuls, getting their thrills on the Morenia snow park moguls and obstacles. Saas-Fee also has an entire mountain for snowboarders to shred.
Crans-Montana is close to Geneva and Lausanne, so it’s all but guaranteed to have a fair amount of traffic, especially on the weekends. This resort is focused on good family fun with loads of activities for children, like Snow Island snow tubing park and the Chalet Alabama indoor action sports center. Despite the accommodations for little ones, Crans-Montana terrain is actually better suited for intermediate and advanced skiers.
The 86 miles of terrain may not have the reliable snow quality as others on this list, but Crans-Montana places a high priority on snow making capabilities and covers nearly a third of their runs with snow machines. The resort is also great for apres ski and nightlife, which is always an important part of your ski vacation.
Best Things to Do in Switzerland in January
January in Switzerland has no shortage of great activities and places to go. We’ll put together a list of some of the best things you should consider on your January trip to Switzerland, including the best cities to explore and attractions to see.
Switzerland’s capital might be busier than usual this time of year, but it’s all the more exciting seeing the bustling streets and snowcapped historic buildings. A walk along the Aare River after touring the Old Town is particularly whimsical in January, especially if you’re blessed with flurries for the occasion. One thing you won’t want to miss on an Alstadt tour through Bern is the Minster Terrace, where adult and kid-friendly games and activities meet old world charm and decor.
Bern’s cultural landscape includes lots of history, science and art museums. The Einstein Museum is great place to spend your time, and a tour through the Clock Tower or the “Zytglogge” is highly recommended.
Along with the Medieval architecture and historic areas, we recommend strapping on a pair of skates and heading to Pirouettte, the city’s public ice skating rink. The Gurten mountain is also available for tobogganing in January, making Bern a family friendly haven. If you’re looking for more of a challenge, you can sign up for cross-country skiing at Nature Park Gantrisch.
January is considered one of the best months to visit Geneva for the splendor of winter. Geneva is the home of Europe’s United Nations and is very influenced by the French. Activities you won’t want to miss while in Geneva include boat cruises, museums tours, chocolate tasting and walking tours. And no trip is complete to Geneva without witnessing the grand Jet d’Eau on the shores of Lake Geneva.
Top of your list should be a walking tour through the Old Town to discover historic attractions like St. Peter’s Cathedral. After a day of walking though, you’ll want to schedule a relaxation break at one of Geneva’s many luxury spas or bathhouses. Shopping the after-Christmas sales at luxury brand stores are a favorite pastime for the locals, and we’d suggest scheduling a chocolate or fondue tasting adventure in between experiences.
If you’re spending a full week here, you’ll also want to explore the many museums on site, like the Patek Philipe Museum or walk through an art district like Quartier de Bains. Geneva is also known for a blend of cuisines and great nightlife for those who don’t shy away from experiencing the city after dark.
Walk through Lucerne
The “City of Lights” is a beautiful sight to behold especially in the winter. While the Christmas festivities may be over, that doesn’t stop Lucerne from shining brightly all winter long. In January, the Old Town’s intricately painted architecture, the Medieval Chapel Bridge, and walks along the nine towers at Musegg Wall are transformed into fairytale settings dusted with snow. Though it may be chilly, we highly suggest taking a stroll through the Glacier Garden which houses artifacts from the Little Ice Age.
Walking tours of Lucerne are a must in January, making for great photos and offering delightful souvenirs for your trip. In addition to the many things you can do in the cold, sometimes staying in your hotel is a great option. Beautiful luxury hotels in the middle of the city have warm, spacious hot tubs and gourmet chocolate and Swiss fondue on their menus. There’s nothing more romantic than a cozy evening in Lucerne.
Tour the Jungfrau Region
The Jungfrau Region of Switzerland is a small part of the greater Bernese Oberland and home to such popular destinations as Jungfraujoch (The Top of Europe), Schilthorn, Grindelwald and Interlaken. Nestled between the Bernese Alps, these attractions are even more spectacular in winter and make a great list of places to go in a weeklong vacation to Switzerland.
Jungfraujoch has the highest railway station in the continent and one of the tallest peaks in the world. It will be chilly in January but no less spectacular. On the train up the mountain, you’ll get impeccable panoramic views of the mountain tops and be treated to a delicious meal on your journey. The Sphinx Terrace viewing station is the main attraction, but there are also glacier tours, the Ice Palace and sculptures, and the most modern tricable gondola in the world.
Other great mountain scaling attractions like Schilthorn, a cable car ride to the James Bond exhibit, have mountain peak restaurants that overlook the Swiss Alps in all their wintery glory. Funiculars in the regions like Harder Kulm and Allmendhubel give you a bird’s eye view of the deepest valleys in Switzerland. While hiking this area is not permitted in the winter, visitors can still get a full range of panoramic mountain views from the mountain railways like Kleine Scheidegg which travels between Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen.
Take the Glacier Express
Speaking of mountain railways, perhaps the most famous of all is The Glacier Express. This spectacular train ride gives passengers gorgeous winter views of the snow covered mountains and scenic alpine villages. Food and beverages are served along the way to make your experience even more comfortable and relaxing.
The Glacier Express travels from St. Moritz to Zermatt, making it an excellent choice of travel if you plan to ski or visit either of these incredible towns. Along the journey you’ll have clear views of several historic castles, you’ll pass through 91 tunnels and cross 291 mountain bridges. Most passengers highly recommend the slow 8-hour journey as it’s one of the most scenic escapes in Switzerland.
Zurich is a fascinating place to be in January, with crisp winter air and occasional snow flurries. While it’s not the capital city, Zurich comes pretty close to Bern with the amount of historic districts, cultural experiences and foot traffic it has. While here, you’ll want to choose from a huge list of options and determine which is most important to you in a day or week spent in Zurich.
For example, you could opt to spend time browsing the many different museums and art galleries like the National Museum or Zoological Museum. If you follow the cultural route, book a walking tour of the Old Town where you can view Zurich’s collection of well-preserved Medieval structures dating back to the 1400s. If winter sports are more your speed, Zurich also has a public ice rink and winter hikes up Uetliberg Mountain.
No matter what you put on your list of must-do’s, we suggest making sure delicious food is in your itinerary. Cheese fondue is a staple in winter, and lots of restaurants in Zurich will be serving up this Swiss specialty. Be sure to check out the Lindt Home of Chocolate where you can experience the nine foot chocolate fountain.
January Events in Switzerland
In addition to the events and celebrations listed below, it’s important to note that most or many businesses in Switzerland will be closed on New Year’s Day (January 1) and Epiphany (January 6), so plan accordingly!
Just after New Year’s Day, Interlaken becomes a haunted village, crawling with mystery creatures called the Potschen who work for the Hardermann. This eerie tradition has been celebrated for decades with a procession of the Hardermann, his wife and his followers (all wearing elaborate masks), accompanied by live traditional music. Afterwards, the crowds gather in the local pubs for more music and drinks.
Snow Polo World Cup
Snow Polo is a unique event held in St. Moritz every January, where participants and spectators travel from all over the world. Polo has a rich history, but Snow Polo is a relatively new twist on the traditional sport. Teams gather to play on a hard snowpack that sits atop a lake of ice in the ritzy ski resort of St. Moritz, while onlookers dine on gourmet food and sip delicious local wine.
This ancient tradition is known as the “official” start of the New Year in Switzerland, taking place on January 13 instead of January 1. In Appenzell, particularly, the day is celebrated with a hive of “mummers” brilliantly dressed to represent different aspects of Swiss life, who knock on each door to sing or yodel a merry tune for the New Year.
World Snow Festival
Grindelwald is host to this artistic event, where sculptors come from far and wide to display their talents. Festival goers will have the privilege of watching each snow sculpting team construct their masterpiece over a five day period. At the end of the event, each snow sculpture is illuminated with colorful lights. Sculptures of all sorts remain on display for as long as they can last.
International Balloon Festival
This beautiful spectacle lasts for over a week, hosted by the self-proclaimed capital of hot air ballooning: Chateau d’Oex. This fun family event showcases all forms of air transportation over the course of 9 days, including airplanes, paragliders, hang gliders and more. At night, the sky is filled with colorful balloons, along with fireworks and light projections.
As you can see, Switzerland is a true winter wonderland in the month of January. Snow sports are the favorite pastime of both resident and visitor this month, but outside of skiing these gorgeous and historic European towns have much more to offer.
Walking through the Old Towns of the glittering cities of Bern, Geneva and Lucerne are a romantic and educational way to take in the beauty of Switzerland, while noshing on cheese and chocolate fondue is just good for the soul. If you add in exploring all that the Jungfrau region has to offer along with a ride on the Glacier Express, you’ve created a very full Swiss vacation in the month of January.
This article is part of Roundtript’s series of expert Switzerland travel guides for every month of the year.
Spring in Switzerland
Summer in Switzerland
Fall in Switzerland
Winter in Switzerland
For a summary of each Switzerland month & season all in one place, check out our big guide to the Best Times of the Year to Visit Switzerland.