Switzerland is well known for its diverse nature and range of different landscapes, which has led to its weather being very varied. Blessed with the snowy winter climate of Northern Europe, and the warm summers of Southern Europe, the country often seems to have the best of both worlds.
What is the Swiss climate like?
Switzerland’s unique terrain makes it difficult to forecast across the whole country. While the weather is like many other parts of Europe in that it is highly seasonal, it is also very dependent on location and altitude. Switzerland’s mountains and lakes not only divide the country into geographical regions, but they also divide the country into different weather spheres - while one mountain village may see snow, another village on the other side of the mountain may see clear blue skies. Here’s how the weather typically looks across Switzerland’s regions:
The weather in Switzerland is largely regionalised, though there are some patterns throughout the country. One part of the country that is important to pay attention to is the Swiss Alps, with cantons north of the mountain range being warmer than the alpine regions to the south and southeast. Cities in the Swiss Plateau like Geneva, St. Gallen and Zurich have warmer temperatures than in the rest of the country due to the low elevation of the region.
In the east of Switzerland, the country is very mountainous and thus temperatures can vary greatly between valleys and mountains. As a general rule, south-facing mountain slopes, which get sunlight for much of the day, will be warmer than those facing any other direction, and wide valleys will see more sunlight than narrow ones.
In the Southernmost part of Switzerland in Canton Ticino, the weather can be particularly warm during the summer months. Many of the valleys in Southern Switzerland can trap the summer sun, remaining dry and warm even into the early autumn while the weather in the rest of the country cools down. Temperatures are far closer to a Mediterranean climate, leading to milder winters and hot summers.
Alpine and mountainous regions
In the mountains, the temperature is much cooler than elsewhere in the country due to the high altitude. Some mountainous areas, such as the South-eastern part of the Alps are drier than other mountains in the west of the country. Often, precipitation from the Atlantic falls on the Western mountains before the weather front even hits the east, which is what makes it drier.
Swiss weather per season
Switzerland has a mild climate, but it’s certainly not a boring one! The country is lucky enough to have four beautiful seasons, each with their own distinct features to enjoy.
Spring in Switzerland
Spring in Switzerland can be a lovely time of year, but that’s not to say it isn’t cold. The spring runs through March, April and May, and can see almost all types of weather - bright sunshine, cold snow, powerful wind, and even heavy rain!
Average temperature in spring
The average temperature in spring in Switzerland can be anywhere between 8 and 15 degrees Celsius. With this in mind, it’s best to keep your winter clothes out for just a little while longer if you’re in Switzerland throughout the spring!
Coldest spring ever
Switzerland’s spring is often cold at the beginning, and gets warmer as the season goes on. In 2021, however, the country experienced the coldest spring for 30 years. Spring 2021 also saw the wettest May since records began in the country.
Warmest spring ever
The warmest spring in Switzerland took place in 2007, though temperatures also hit similar highs in 2011 as well. In the south of the country, temperatures soared to over 30 degrees Celsius in the daytime and more than 20 degrees Celsius at night - an impressive record!
Despite perceptions of Switzerland being dominated by images of thick snow and the ski-season, summer can be hot for much of the country. The season is the perfect time to visit some of the country's historical sites, or for driving out to some of Switzerland's best nature hotspots.
Average summer temperature
The average summer temperature in Switzerland is between 18 and 28 degrees Celsius. Of course, in the mountains, the slopes in the shade may still be covered in snow, and summer temperatures may be much cooler because of the altitude. For most of Switzerland, the average temperature across the country during the summer makes Switzerland perfect for hiking and water sports on or around some of the country’s stunning lakes.
Coldest summer ever
While summer is the warmest season in Switzerland, some of the high-altitude regions are still very cold. Jungfraujoch, one of the most popular mountain tourist spots, can see average temperatures of -2 degrees Celsius every July!
Warmest summer ever
The modern-day benchmark for hot summers in Switzerland is that of 2003, where temperatures in the country soared above average for the whole season. The country managed to record its highest temperature ever of 41,5 degrees Celsius in the canton of Graubunden.
Autumn in Switzerland
Autumn can bring unreliable weather conditions in Switzerland, much like spring, but it can also be a truly beautiful season to celebrate in the country. As the leaves turn brown and fall to the ground, the nation becomes stunningly colourful before the winter draws in.
Average autumn temperature
Average temperatures for a Swiss autumn lie between 6 and 16 degrees Celsius, but it can be warmer during the beginning of the season as the summer drags on.
Coldest autumn ever
With average temperatures rising each year, Switzerland does not suffer from many bitingly cold autumn seasons. Much the same as the summer, the coldest autumn seasons take place at the highest altitudes, with some of the highest inhabited peaks seeing temperatures of -10 degrees Celsius.
Warmest autumn ever
Autumn highs can often be found in the “flatter” parts of Switzerland, or in the south of the country. Both Sion and Lugano have average temperatures of 17 degrees for October each year - a lovely trip to either one could extend your time in the summer sun!
Arguably the most popular season for tourists and a wonderful season for ski and snowboard enthusiasts, Switzerland’s winter season is renowned for its thick snow and general cosy feel!
Average winter temperature
Average winter temperatures in Switzerland are usually below 5 degrees Celsius, with temperatures dropping to an average of -14,5 degrees in some spots. In the mountains, extreme cold days can happen, with temperatures right down to around -25 degrees, though this is not always common during winter.
Coldest winter ever
The coldest winter temperatures are often measured in places with high altitudes, however, extremely cold winter seasons are becoming rarer due to climate change. January is typically the coldest month in the winter, with temperatures lying around just 1 degree for the whole month.
Warmest winter ever
Winters in Switzerland have been getting warmer for the past thirty years, which has meant that the country has been setting new seasonal temperature records in recent times, having had abnormally warm winters in 2007, 2016 and 2020. According to scientists and meteorologists, average winter temperatures in Switzerland will rise a further 3,5 degrees between now and 2050.
How often does it rain in Switzerland?
Switzerland sees approximately 1.500 mm of rain every year, which falls mostly between the months of May and August. Though this may sound like a lot, from a global perspective, Switzerland is actually a pretty dry country. Monsoon nations and tropical countries tend to see much more rain than those in Europe, and even out of European nations, Switzerland’s rainfall is somewhere in the middle.
How often does the sun shine in Switzerland?
The sun also shines a lot in Switzerland, but like much of the country’s weather, it is highly regionalised. In the west of the country, there is sunshine between 39 and 62 percent of the time, while in the east, it varies less, with sunshine between 42 and 56 percent of the time. The least sunny part of the country is Central and Northern Switzerland, with sunshine between 35 and 48 percent of the time - meaning that less than half the days see sunshine!
Switzerland weather: All-time records
Here are some interesting Swiss weather records:
Coldest Swiss day
The coldest temperature ever measured in Switzerland took place in January 1987 in La Brévine. The area is known for its freezing-cold microclimate which helped it to achieve Switzerland’s coldest temperature ever. On January 12, 1987, La Brévine recorded a temperature of -41,8 degrees Celsius, corrected to -42,5 degrees Celsius under modern measurements - truly freezing!
Longest heatwave in Switzerland history
In recent years, Switzerland has had more heatwaves during the summer, where many parts of the country got to experience prolonged periods of hot summer sun. In both 2018 and especially 2019, the country was hotter than usual for over one week at a time. In July 2019, the heatwave lasted around eight days, covering all of Europe. As the week went on, the heat became more dangerous and many people had to be taken to hospital. Temperatures soared above 35 degrees Celsius, and even mountainous regions saw the heat rise to around 30 degrees.
The hottest day in Switzerland ever
The hottest temperature in Switzerland was back in the summer of 2003, in Grono, in the canton of Graubunden. A shocking 41,5 degrees Celsius was recorded in the region, with health authorities being forced to ask people to hydrate, stay cool, and behave responsibly during the hot day!
Swiss weather service (MeteoSwiss)
MeteoSwiss is the official Swiss weather service in charge of making predictions and issuing warnings regarding weather conditions in Switzerland. The organisation, which is almost 140 years old, is important for safety in the country, especially in the mountains where climate conditions can put people in life-or-death situations.
Apps for accurate weather forecast in Switzerland
While MeteoSwiss has its own weather app, there are many other great apps for tracking the weather in Switzerland. Some of the other popular weather apps used in Switzerland are SRF Meteo - Wetter, Weather & Radar and LANDI Wetter.