This post's overview:
- 1 Should you go to Switzerland in winter if you don’t ski?
- 2 Fun things to do in Switzerland in winter that are not skiing
- 2.1 Go on the world’s longest sledge run
- 2.2 Explore Zermatt
- 2.3 Take one of the panoramic trains
- 2.4 Visit one of many great Christmas Markets in Switzerland
- 2.5 Visit an outdoor thermal spa
- 2.6 Try cheese & visit a castle in Gruyere
- 2.7 Explore one of many chocolate factories
- 2.8 Go ice skating
- 2.9 Visit Glacier 3000
- 2.10 Bonus: go cross-country skiing
- 3 Summary of fun things to do in Switzerland in winter besides skiing
- 4 Here are some other posts you might enjoy reading:
Planning a trip to Switzerland in winter but not sure if you want to ski? Don’t worry, there are plenty of fun things to do in Switzerland in winter for non-skiers and I will tell you all about them in this article.
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 take 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.
Should you go to Switzerland in winter if you don’t ski?
Skiing is fun, but let’s be honest – unless you’ve been going on yearly ski trips since childhood or spent weeks learning how to ski properly, skiing on real slopes can be intimidating. I’ve only done skiing a couple of times before, and so did Jose, so we were definitely not ready for the slopes of Zermatt or Grindelwald yet. But there is more – not everyone loves skiing or snowboarding. Both are extreme sports, and lots of people are just not into them. Does that mean that people shouldn’t travel to Switzerland in winter? Absolutely not! Switzerland in winter is fun even without skiing! And there are plenty of things to do in Switzerland in winter for non-skiers!
From exciting museums to winter sports that are not skiing, there are plenty of things to do in Switzerland during the cold season. Let’s explore them in this article.
Fun things to do in Switzerland in winter that are not skiing
Go on the world’s longest sledge run
Our absolute favourite thing to do in winter in Switzerland for non-skiers is slegding (sledding or tobogganing, however you call it). On our last trip to Switzerland, we actually teamed up with Grindelwald First and tried sledging in Switzerland for the first time. Grindelwald is home to the longest sledge run in the world – it’s over 15km long and takes around 2.5 hours to complete.
We couldn’t do all 15km, as there was not enough snow between Bort and Grindelwald (we were tobogganing in December), so instead, we did two different routes – the one over Wildspitz that included a bit of hiking (the long, steep incline was a bit of challenge at the start, but the views were well worth it) and another, much shorter one between Grindelwald First and Bort station.
Before doing the sledging in Grindelwald, I was under the impression that it was 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. So, if you were like us and thought that sledging is only for families – be rest assured that it’s not! It’s a fun activity for everyone.
How to get there?
To get to the sledge run, you can either take a train to Grindelwald or drive there and then pick one of the parking lots next to Grindelwald First cable car. You can bring your own sledge or rent one in Grindelwald – the most convenient rental is located up Grindelwald First – there’s a big Intersport that rents sledges for 18 Swiss Franks per person and you can return them either in Bort or below in Grindelwald. You also need to purchase a day pass for the cable car online here.
Where to stay in Grindelwald:
While Zermatt is undoubtedly a ski resort, not everyone comes there to ski. Zermatt is a beautiful town that is especially magical in winter. Besides just enjoying the town, I recommend heading to the panoramic viewpoint to see the postcard-perfect view of the town, visiting the Matterhorn museum and taking the Gornergrat Bahn (Europe’s highest open-air cog railway) to the 3,089m high panoramic viewpoint.
Zermatt also has a very pretty town centre with a busy high street full of restaurants and shops. Our top choice for eating in Zermatt is The Cheese Factory located at the Schweizerhof Hotel – not only does this restaurant have a cosy interior, but the fondues there are the best ones we’ve tried in Switzerland.
Where to stay in Zermatt:
Take one of the panoramic trains
Switzerland is world-famous for its stunning panoramic trains. However, not everyone knows that you can also take them in winter, and the views can be even more dramatic. Switzerland has one of the best train systems in the world. Moreover, some trains provide truly unforgettable experiences – Glacier Express, Bernina Express, Pilatus Train and many others. The best way to explore Switzerland by train is by buying the Swiss Pass, which gives you free access to lots of panoramic trains and 50% off for the rest of the trains. It also gives you free access to most of the museums in Switzerland! While it’s not cheap, if you’re planning to take a lot of trains and take public transport within cities, Swiss Pass will provide substantial savings. You can buy it online here.
Visit one of many great Christmas Markets in Switzerland
If you’re visiting Switzerland between the start of November and Christmas, you will have an opportunity to visit some of Switzerland’s best Christmas markets. My personal favourite is the Christmas market in Basel. Basel is definitely one of my favourite cities in Switzerland, and it’s especially magical during Christmas. You can learn more about Basel Christmas Markets and the best things to do in Basel in this article on our blog.
Some other cities that have great Christmas Markets include, of course, the capital, Zurich, Lausanne and Lucerne.
Visit an outdoor thermal spa
One of our favourite things to do in winter is visit thermal spas or thermes, especially if they have outdoor pools. There is nothing better than chilling in a hot outdoor pool with stunning mountain views when there is snow all around you. The two spas that we have visited and can definitely recommend are Les Bains de Lavey (buy tickets) and Zurich Hürlimann Bad & Spa (buy tickets)
The first one is a short drive from Lausanne and has plenty of different pools (indoor and outdoor), saunas, hammams and relaxation areas. The second one is located in the heart of Zurich and has multiple floors, including an outdoor terrace swimming pool with stunning panoramic views.
Of course, Switzerland has more than 2 spas with outdoor pools! These are just the two we have visited so far (we will hopefully visit more in the future).
Try cheese & visit a castle in Gruyere
Swiss are very proud of their cheese, and one of the best (and most famous) cheeses in Gruyere is named after the Gruyeres town. Gruyere cheese is ancient – its production started at the beginning of the 12th century! You can visit the factory & cheese shop – La Maison du Gruyère, and go on a tour that will tell you more about the history of the famous cheese. There is also a nice restaurant where you can eat a hearty fondue in case you don’t feel like taking a tour.
Besides La Maison du Gruyère, you can find a stunning Gruyeres castle in the town. Gruyeres Castle is one of the most impressive castles in Switzerland. It was built in the 13th century and has an impressive art collection that you can see as part of the tour.
Explore one of many chocolate factories
It feels so good to indulge in a piece (or maybe even a bit more than a piece) of chocolate on a cold winter day. It’s even better to go on a chocolate factory tour or do a proper chocolate tasting! There are two chocolate places that definitely stand out in Switzerland – Lindt Home of Chocolate Museum in Zurich and Maison Cailler near Lausanne. Make sure to book them in advance, as the tours tend to sell out!
Go ice skating
One of the best things to do in Switzerland in winter besides skiing is actually… ice skating! Some of the best ice skating rinks in Switzerland are the natural ones. You can skate on plenty of frozen natural lakes all around Switzerland. Some of the best natural rinks include Lac de Joux, Alp Raguta in Feldis, Öschinensee in Kandersteg and many others!
Visit Glacier 3000
Another excellent location for winter fun in Switzerland that is not just skiing is Glacier 3000. Home to the only suspension bridge in the world that connects two mountain peaks, Glacier 3000 is a must-visit attraction for breathtaking views! Besides walking around and enjoying the views, you can also go on a hike (yes, it’s actually fun to hike in winter) and even a dogsled ride.
And of course, you will need to go all the way up to 3000m above the sea level – in a panoramic cable car, so that’s already an activity by itself.
To buy a day pass, visit the official website of Glacier 3000.
Bonus: go cross-country skiing
I know, I know, we promised an article that doesn’t revolve around skiing, but cross-country skiing is very different from mountain skiing. First of all, it doesn’t require extensive training (if you’re planning to ski “running style” or classic style, all you need to do is move your legs forward and back and use the poles in your hands to push yourself forward. Skate style is harder (I could never master it, but then again, I didn’t try very hard) but also achievable. Skate-style cross country allows you to go up and down small hills, while classic style is about skiing on a flat surface (which is much easier).
One of the most impressive cross-country tracks that I’ve seen was actually in Goms! The scenery was fantastic, and the track didn’t look too hard! You can learn more about it and this type of skiing here.
Summary of fun things to do in Switzerland in winter besides skiing
As you see now, there are plenty of amazing things to do in Switzerland in winter besides skiing. From sledging (my personal favourite) to chocolate tastings, every non-skier can find something they enjoy doing. Even if you don’t feel like trying mountain skiing in Switzerland (especially if you haven’t skied before), you can try classic cross-country skiing on a flat surface that is very easy to learn and way less injury-prone (and also much cheaper to do).
Disclaimer: we received free Swiss travel passes and day passes for Grindelwald First as part of our collaboration with Visit Switzerland, but this article is not sponsored, and all opinions are our own!