Autumn Travel Guide for Switzerland

What to do in Switzerland in October and November, including when to visit, where to see the best fall colors, what's open, and indoor activities.

Autumn can be a very nice time to visit Switzerland, with lots of beautiful fall colors. But it’s important to check what’s open and be flexible with your plans if bad weather moves in. Here are some tips to help with your trip planning: when to visit, where to see the best fall colors, what’s open, and indoor activities.

When is autumn in Switzerland? When is the best time to visit?

Autumn season in Switzerland is from September to November.

September is an excellent month for hiking, with mild weather and most mountain resorts open. It’s a beautiful time, but you won’t see as many wildflowers, waterfalls start to dry up, and the green meadows turn yellow. 

In October, the weather gets cooler and you’ll experience more rain and often snow at high elevations. You’ll need to check the trail status and opening times carefully. The best fall foliage is typically the second & third week of October. 

By November, most mountain resorts are closed and the leaves have fallen. Weather is unpredictable and the days are short. This is not a good time to visit.

Hike at Aletsch Arena in mid October

Is Switzerland crowded in autumn?

From late August to late September, most tourists are gone and Swiss kids are back in school. So that is a great time to travel to Switzerland.

However,  Swiss schools have fall breaks for 1-2 weeks between end of September and mid-October (see schedule by canton). Prices can be higher during these school holidays and some mountain resorts can get busy during this time.

For example, we did a day trip to Lenzerheide during the fall break and tried to rent a mountain bike. But every bike had already been reserved for weeks by families spending their autumn holiday in this popular mountain biking resort.

Hike at Wasserfallen near Basel in mid-October

Where can I see the best fall colors in Switzerland?

Leaves usually start changing colors in Switzerland in early October, with the best fall colors in mid-October. It’s helpful to check local webcams to see the state of the trees. We also suggest checking the MySwitzerland fall foliage map.
 
At lower elevations, you can enjoy birch, maple and beech trees that turn orange, yellow and red. But not everywhere in Switzerland gets the bright colors because there are many micro climates, some that are more friendly to these types of trees. The Jura region is particularly good for bright fall colors. Our favorite autumn hike near there is at Wasserfallen.
 
The most special fall tree is the larch, a conifer tree that turns bright yellow. You can see these in the Valais, Ticino and St. Moritz Engadin region. See our favorite larch tree hike at Aletsch Arena.
 
Above the tree line, you’ll see a different kind of color change in autumn, but just as beautiful. Fields turn golden, blueberry bushes turn bright red, and snow dusts the peaks. See our favorite high elevation autumn hike at Realp.
 
Here are some more autumn hikes in Switzerland that we suggest:

Where can I hike in autumn? Are cable cars running?

Most mountain resorts in Switzerland stay open through mid-October.

However, some mountains change to a limited schedule after summer holidays, open on weekends and school breaks. In addition, some high elevation resorts, like Zermatt and many in the Valais region, close earlier, starting in late September. So it’s very important to check the operating times carefully before making plans.

When mountain resorts close, this means the gondolas, restaurants, hotels, amusements (coasters, scooters) and other services are closed. Also, trails are no longer maintained and monitored for safety. Many people will still hike in these areas. They will just have to hike up the mountain and judge the trail safety themselves.

Note: If we get warm weather in late October and early November, some mountains may re-open on weekends if the weather is nice.

Hike at Zermatt Riffelsee in early October

What can I do in November in Switzerland?

Some popular tourist destinations like Pilatus, Gornergrat, and Jungfraujoch stay open year round. That means you can ride up the cable cars and mountain trains to enjoy the views. But don’t expect to hike in November as the trails are often covered in snow. 

But some of these have a short maintenance break for 1-2 weeks in November. So definitely check carefully for any schedule maintenance breaks before making plans.

If you must travel Switzerland during the off-season, you might find many mountain resorts and their transport closed. But some are open year round, allowing you to still catch gorgeous mountain views even if you can’t go hiking.

What can I do on a rainy day?

Our favorite interactive museums in Switzerland that are both entertaining and educational for all ages, from history to culture to science to food to industry. Good choice for cold rainy days.
If your kids need something a little more active on a rainy day, there are a variety of indoor sport options that don’t require a membership or weekly class to use.
During cold weather, our family loves to treat ourselves to a thermal bath, with warm pools, bubble jets, and fun extras like water slides and lazy rivers. Here are a few of our favorite thermal baths in Switzerland.

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Hi! I’m Tanya and our family has been living & hiking in Switzerland since 2005, collecting dozens of fun hikes and activities for all ages and abilities. More about us…

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