This post's overview:
- 1 Useful links used in this article:
- 2 Do you need a rental car to visit Switzerland in winter?
- 3 The short overview of our 5-day itinerary for Switzerland in winter & the view on the map
- 4 5-day itinerary for Switzerland in winter
- 5 Summary of the 5-day itinerary for Switzerland in winter: Zermatt, Grindelwald & more
- 6 Here are some articles that you might find useful, too:
Heading to Switzerland soon and looking for the optimal itinerary? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! In this 5-day itinerary for Switzerland in winter, I will share all the amazing places that you should visit on your 5-day trip to this beautiful country.
Did you know that you can do plenty of things in Switzerland in winter that are not skiing? Read my article to learn more about fun things to do in Switzerland in winter that are not skiing.
If you’re new to this blog, hi, we are Liza and Jose and we regularly spend long weekends exploring different cities and regions of Europe, while working full-time in London. A few times per year, we also do longer trips outside Europe and of course, document all our itineraries on this blog. We’ve travelled to over 100 counties in total and you can see all the destinations we’ve covered on this blog here.
Swiss Pass: buy here
Grindelwald First pass: book here
Rental car: Rentalcars.com
Do you need a rental car to visit Switzerland in winter?
If you’re wondering whether you need a car to visit Switzerland in winter, the answer is no, not necessarily! Switzerland has amazing fast and efficient trains (with panoramic views), so it’s very easy to go from one destination to another. However, you might need a bit more time (e.g. this itinerary would probably extend to 7 days) to get from one destination to another. For this particular itinerary for 5 days in Switzerland, we rented a car in Basel (and turned it in in Zurich for no extra fee) using Rental Cars, as always.
However, if you prefer to travel by train, I recommend getting a Swiss Pass – not only does it include most of the panoramic trains in Switzerland, but if it doesn’t cover some – it still gives you 50% off the train fare. On top of that, you will also get free entry to the majority of museums in the country. You can check the prices of SwissPass here ->>
The short overview of our 5-day itinerary for Switzerland in winter & the view on the map
Day 1: Arriving in Basel, a night at Marriott Basel
Day 2: Lausanne and Les Bains de Lavey. Night at Grand Hotel les Bains
Day 3: Driving to Zermatt & spending a day there, night at Carina Design & Lifestyle Hotel,
Day 4: Driving to Grindelwald first thing in the morning, sledging at Grindelwald First, night at Hotel Bernerhof
Day 5: Driving to Lucerne, then to Zurich, flying back from Zurich or Basel
Without further ado, let’s get started!
5-day itinerary for Switzerland in winter
Our itinerary was a little bit different than this one – we didn’t actually explore much of Basel this time, but we did spend two wonderful days exploring Basel’s history and its Christmas markets on our previous trip a few years ago. However, I think that exploring Basel would fit amazingly in this itinerary for 5 days in Switzerland in winter, so I included a day to spend in Basel below!
Day 1: Basel
On your first day of our 5 day trip in Switzerland, I recommend exploring Basel. Switzerland has 3 main airports: Zurich, Geneva and Basel and Geneva and Basel have connections with most European cities. We usually buy multi-city flights (which means that the flight arrives in one city and departs from another), and that was the case on this trip to Switzerland, too. It’s super convenient, and I recommend it to you, too!
Basel is one of my favourite cities in Switzerland. It has a large Old Town with lots of medieval buildings, and it’s especially pretty before Christmas when multiple Christmas Markets of Basel are in full swing.
Basel is the third biggest city in Switzerland, and it’s home to over 40 museums. There is definitely A LOT to do in the city. I recommend taking a walking tour of the city (check availability online here).
One of the most famous and beautiful museums is located slightly outside the city, in Riehen, it’s called Foundation Beyeler. It has a stunning art collection and also the park around it is very beautiful.
Another museum that is worth visiting is the Fine Arts Museum in Basel.
If you’re interested in more things to do in Basel, read our article about spending a weekend in Basel in December.
Where to stay in Basel:
In Basel, we stayed at Novotel and Marriott. Both are good modern hotels, but Marriott’s location is slightly closer to the city centre. Another great options is Boutique & Designhotel Volkshaus Basel.
Day 2: Lausanne & Les Bains de Lavey
On our second day in Switzerland, we picked up our rental car (books your here) and drove to to Lausanne – a very beautiful city located in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. The drive took just over 2 hours. Lausanne is located on Lake Geneva, has a beautiful and compact old town and is home to the Olympic museum (you can book tickets online here)
Lausanne also has a lovely Christmas Market – if you’re planning to visit Switzerland before Christmas, don’t miss the market, especially the part of the market located close to the Cathedral and Château St-Maire.
Les Bains de Lavey
Got tired from walking around Lausanne and sightseeing? It’s time to relax! Did you know that Switzerland has quite a few thermal spas with stunning views? Nothing can be compared to the feeling of being in a hot thermal pool outside in winter, surrounded by snowy mountains! On our most recent trip to Switzerland, we went to Les Bains de Lavey and really loved it.
Les Bains de Lavey is very easy to reach by car or train from Lausanne – it takes around 40 minutes to get there by car or 1.5 hours by train + bus.
I recommend pre-booking your ticket in advance as sometimes it gets sold out. You can book it online on the official website here.
You can either stay at Les Bains de Lavey overnight – there is a very nice hotel called Grand Hotel Les Bains (check availability here) or drive a bit towards Zermatt and stay in one of the hotels on the way, e.g. Hotel St. Jodern in Visp (circa 1 hour driving from Les Bains de Lavey) or Martigny Boutique Hotel (circa 15 min driving).
Day 3: Zermatt
On our third day of our 5-day itinerary for Switzerland, we headed to Zermatt. Zermatt is a car-free town, which means you can’t drive there. Instead, you need to drive to Täsch, leave your car at the official parking lot or one of the private ones, and get a ticket for a train that goes to Zermatt every 20 minutes (less frequently in early mornings and late evenings). If you have a Swiss Pass, you get 50% off this train, which is a small but nice discount. The train ride takes less than 15 minutes, and the train brings you right to the heart of Zermatt!
Zermatt is one of the most iconic ski towns in Switzerland, and it’s also one of the most beautiful places in the country. However, there are plenty of things to do there, even if you don’t ski. Well, if you do – I recommend leaving your luggage in the hotel where you’ll be staying overnight and going skiing. If you don’t ski, you can head to the panoramic viewpoint to see the postcard-perfect view of the town or take the Gornergrat Bahn (Europe’s highest open-air cog railway) to the 3,089m high panoramic viewpoint of Matterhorn.
There is also Matterhorn Museum you can visit in the afternoon-early evening (from 4pm to 6pm). Besides that, Zermatt has a gorgeous town centre full of restaurants and shops. Our favourite restaurant in Zermatt was the Cheese Factory located at the Schweizerhof Hotel – hands down, it was the best fondue we had in Switzerland (make sure to try the truffle fondue).
Where to stay in Zermatt:
Day 4: Grindelwald
On day 4 of 5 days in Switzerland in winter, we headed to Grindelwald for a very exciting activity and one of the reasons we came to Switzerland in winter. In order to get to Grindelwald on time, we needed to wake up and leave very early – I recommend getting to Täsch no later than 8am, so it’s possible to get to Grindelwald by 11am at the latest. There is a car transporter train (Lötschberg train) that you need to take from Goppenstein to Kandersteg. We were very unlucky as we were 1 minute late for the train and had to wait 30 minutes for another one! The train costs around 30 Franks, and you enter it by car (a bit like Eurotunnel but it’s an open platform train). The train ride takes just 15 minutes.
Once you exit the train, it’s easy to drive to Grindelwald, and you will be there almost in no time.
Sledging in Grindelwald – Grindelwald First
The main reason we went to Grindelwald was sledging or sledding, however you call it. Grindelwald is home to the world’s longest sledge run (15 km), which takes over 2 hours to complete, and it’s super fun! To get to the start of the run, you need to buy a day pass to Grindelwald First and take a cable car up to the top (First station). Our pass for the day was kindly provided by the Grindelwald Eiger tourism board – so huge thanks to them for it.
If you want to go sledging in Grindelwald, all you need to do is rent a sledge (you can do it at Intersport up at the First station) for a fee (we paid something like 19 franks per person), wear appropriate clothes (I recommend a warm jacket, ski glasses, gloves, a hat and ski pants and winter boots – that’s mandatory). These winter boots are a great option.
Before sledging in Grindelwald, I was under the impression that it’s a family activity and we would be the only couple there. However, I couldn’t be more wrong! Some segments of the run were actually quite challenging and we’ve seen very few kids on the sledge run! Most people were couples like us or groups of friends.
With a day cable car pass in Grindelwald, you can make an unlimited number of trips to the First station, and you can take different routes. Keep in mind that the cable car stops running pretty early (depending on the month). Hence, I recommend arriving early to take advantage of the day!
Where to stay in Grindelwald
After the entire day of sledging, you will probably be very tired. It’s probably the best decision to stay in Grindelwald for the night. Some of the best hotels include:
Day 5: Lucerne & Zurich
On our last day of 5 days in Switzerland in winter, we explored Lucerne before heading to Zurich. It takes just 1.5 hours to drive to Lucerne from Grindelwald, but to take advantage of the daylight, as always, I recommend waking up and departing early!
Lucerne is one of the prettiest cities in Switzerland. It’s famous for its wooden bridges across the Reuss River. It’s a lovely city to explore on a day trip. One of the best things to do in Lucerne in winter is explore the Old Town and watch people sitting in one of the cafes facing the promenade & the bridges. We also had lunch in Lucerne – at a place called Opus – they have a great salad bar that was perfect for lunch.
If you’re visiting Lucerne in February or March, you can have a chance to see the famous Swiss carnival, Fasnacht. Lucerne has the second biggest carnival after Basel!
Our next stop was Zurich. Located just 40 minutes away from Lucerne, it’s a much bigger city that has plenty of things to do. My favourite things to do in Zurich in winter are eating fondue and relaxing at one of the best spas in Switzerland, Zurich Hürlimann Bad & Spa, which has a top-floor outdoor infinity pool overlooking the city.
Zurich has a very pretty Old Town – I recommend spending some time just walking around the city. Keep in mind that Zurich is a big city, and it’s much better to come there for a weekend, but on a half-day trip, these are the places I would recommend (the spa & the Old Town). We have a separate article about Zurich on the blog (the best things to do in Zurich when it rains).
We were flying back from Zurich airport, so we returned our car there; however, if you decided to travel by train, getting to the airport by train is also super fast and easy!
Summary of the 5-day itinerary for Switzerland in winter: Zermatt, Grindelwald & more
I hope you enjoyed this winter itinerary for Switzerland. You can easily extend it to 7 days if you’d like to spend more time in Switzerland during the cold months. If you’re interested in other things you can do in Switzerland in winter, I have an article that you might find useful – things to do in Switzerland for non-skiers!
Disclaimer: we collaborated with the Switzerland Tourism Board & Grindelwald Tourism Board for the Swiss Pass & Grindelwald First Pass (they were provided to us in exchange for a review). However, all the opinions are, as always, our own!