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Wondering what to bring to Switzerland in summer or winter? Read this post to learn the best clothing, shoes, and accessories for your European adventure!
What to Bring to Switzerland
Written By: Ali O’Neill
Renowned for its snow-capped mountains, sinfully good chocolate, and state-of-the-art watches, Switzerland is a destination that delights year-round.
Whether it’s city sightseeing, world-class skiing, hiking, sailing, or fine dining you’re after (or a little bit of each), there’s something for everyone in this charming European country. Let’s find out what to bring to Switzerland!
What to Bring to Switzerland: Winter
Winters in Switzerland are typically cold and dry; from January to February the daytime temperature range is 28°-45°F / -2-7°C. In other words, it’s likely to be chilly during your visit but not so cold that you can’t go out and take in the sights enjoyably.
Always check the weather forecast before your trip. Once you’ve researched the weather, you can focus on creating a travel capsule wardrobe, which should easily fit in a carryon suitcase with the help of packing cubes to compress your clothing.
This winter guide focuses on the packing necessities for a city getaway that may include a light hike. (Obviously, a ski trip will require a whole different set of must-bring items!)
Start by reading these general tips on packing for winter travel:
- How to Pack for Cold Weather
- How to Stay Warm in Cold Weather (without the bulk)
- Extreme Cold Weather Clothing Strategies
- The Secret to Packing Light in Winter
To enjoy your time in Switzerland to the fullest, ensure that you’ve packed to perfection; it’s an expensive country for shopping, so you don’t want to have to buy something simply because you didn’t bring it with you.
As a rule, Swiss women tend to dress in a chic, conservative way, favoring high-quality, classic pieces in neutral colors. To fit in with the locals and stay cozy, here are some tips on what to bring to Switzerland.
Traveling for the holidays? Read What to Pack for Switzerland holidays for more tips!
A Warm, Waterproof Coat
Switzerland, as you may have guessed, can be pretty frosty during the winter months, so a warm (preferably waterproof) coat is an absolute must.
A puffer-style coat has the bonus of being as toasty as it is trendy—opt for one in a chic black, navy, cream, or khaki. Fur-trimmed hoods and waist-cinching drawcords are small touches that can elevate a coat from safe to stylish.
Take a look at these bold winter coats to infuse life into a neutral travel wardrobe!
A Cozy Hat
Fact: whether you’re planning on hitting up the streets for some shopping or the slopes for some skiing during your time in Switzerland during the winter, chances are your ears are going to get seriously cold unless you’ve got them well covered.
These are the ski essentials you need if you plan on hitting the slopes!
Thick wool mittens are great, but when you’re sightseeing you’ll probably want to have easy access to your phone for snapping pics and checking directions. Look for a pair of gloves with touch-screen fingertips or mittens with a flap.
Add these stylish winter accessories for the finishing touch!
A Neutral Turtleneck
A turtleneck is a timeless item that will keep you warm and add a dose of Euro chic to your look. Black, camel, cream, and gray are great neutrals that will play nice with everything in your wardrobe.
Jeans are also an option for a day of city sightseeing or a bit of light hiking, but I personally find they don’t retain heat well on a chilly day. Opt for a cozier alternative like a pair of thermal or wool leggings—keep it sleek with a simple black pair or more playful with a pattern.
Find out the best leggings for women as voted for by our readers!
I’m a big fan of the snood (also known as a circle scarf); it offers a pop of color and texture to your look while serving the practical purpose of warming your neck. And unlike a traditional scarf, there’s no fussing around with tying it just right—simply pop it on and you’re good to go!
For more ideas, take a look at these stylish winter scarves!
A Foldable Umbrella
People typically associate Switzerland with snow, but you may very likely experience rain during your trip—be prepared with a foldable umbrella that can easily be stashed into your handbag.
Here’s what to wear on a rainy day!
Comfortable Walking Shoes/Boots
If you’re planning on combining a city break with a bit of light hiking, as I did, bring along shoes that will work for both of those environments–something with good ankle support and a solid grip would be perfect.
This goes without saying, but your footwear can truly make or break your travel experience. Be sure to break them in well before your trip!
These are the waterproof leather boots our readers recommend!
If you’re coming from a warm and/or humid climate, you may find the cold, dry Swiss air a bit of a shock to the system. Bring a chapstick or two to prevent discomfort.
Follow these winter skin care tips to stay moisturized!
A Nice Dress
When planning what to bring to Switzerland, keep in mind that European cities tend to be a bit more “dressy” than those in North America, so bring along a nice dress to wear for an evening out or a meal at a special restaurant (especially if you’re heading to Geneva, known for being a bit more formal than other cities in Switzerland).
What to Bring to Switzerland: Summer
While skiing might not be on the cards in summer, there’s plenty else to do, activity-wise—everything from sailing, biking, and hiking for sporty types, and wine tasting, cheesemaking, and alfresco dining for gourmands.
(Not to mention all the incredible museums and art galleries the country has to offer!)
Like most Europeans, the Swiss tend to dress in a conservative yet chic manner—think classic pieces in neutral colors. However, this varies from city to city and region to region; Geneva will be decidedly more “formal” than a small alpine village, for example.
I also noticed that there was definitely more of a sporty, athletic vibe to what locals wore on an everyday basis, in contrast to other European countries.
What are neutral colors? Find out here!
Here are my suggestions for what to bring to Switzerland in the summer, all while staying stylish and comfortable.
A Waterproof Jacket with Hood
This might seem like a surprising item to bring on a summer vacation, but I feel I should warn prospective visitors to Switzerland that the climate can be extremely unpredictable in summer, with out-of-the-blue thunderstorms a frequent occurrence.
During our time in Lucerne, my sister and I decided to go for a light hike on what was a beautiful, sunny afternoon; midway through, however, we got caught in a torrential downpour that came out of nowhere!
Lesson of the story: be well-prepared for the elements before embarking on any excursion during your time in Switzerland, no matter how deceptively perfect the weather may seem. As someone who’s always relied on an umbrella to tide me over when conditions are rainy, I will say that when it comes to hiking, a waterproof jacket with a decent hood is by far the best way to go.
Check out the best waterproof jackets for travel!
Sunglasses & Sunscreen
Switzerland can be bright! Make sure your sunglasses have adequate UVA/UVB protection.
Sunscreen is a must-have year-round, but especially when you’re spending a significant amount of time outdoors. I always bring along two sunblocks: one specifically for my face to be worn under makeup, and one for the rest of my body.
Read these tips for fashionable summer accessories!
A Maxi Dress
A stylish maxi dress is an absolute must for me during the summer months. Super comfortable, effortlessly chic, and light to pack—what more could you ask for from an item of clothing?
For added versatility, these are popular convertible travel dress styles!
Comfortable Walking Shoes
A trip to Switzerland isn’t complete without some time spent in nature, so bring along a pair of shoes suitable for a light hike, at the very least. (And make sure they’re decently waterproof!)
These are the most cute and comfortable ballet flats for travel!
A Lightweight Backpack
Even if you’re not planning on having a hardcore, outdoorsy experience during your time in Switzerland, you’ll probably still want to do a bit of gentle exploring, and with hiking trails to suit all levels of fitness, there’s definitely something for everyone.
For these excursions, a small, lightweight backpack is ideal for carrying all your necessities, such as extra layers, sunscreen, your camera, and a picnic lunch.
Read these tips for gorgeously-designed cute backpacks for travel!
A Casual Jacket
Be warned: summer evenings in Switzerland can be a little chilly, especially if you’re by the water. A chic, lightweight jacket that you can toss on when the temperature dips is a necessity! Suede or leather are two stylish options that look great over a dress or jeans and a t-shirt.
Find out why we love these lightweight jackets for summer travel!
One item I never travel without is a scarf! In the summer months, a lightweight scarf in a neutral color (consider blush pink or soft gray for a classic, chic look) is what I opt for. Scarves are incredibly versatile—they add a pop of color and texture to even the most basic outfits, serve as a shawl when you’re chilly, and can even be used as a makeshift picnic blanket if necessary.
Contrary to what some people may think, Europeans are just as fond of their jeans as their North American counterparts, but they tend to favor trendier styles paired with a chic pair of shoes.
Because summer days can be chillier in Switzerland than in other parts of Europe, jeans are often a good bet for a day of city sightseeing. Consider bringing along a pair in an unexpected shade, like gray, for a trendy take on a classic.
Here are a few key points helping you choose the best jeans for travel!
T-Shirts in Neutral Hues
A staple of any summer vacation, t-shirts are the backbone of your wardrobe. For your trip, pack a few in a range of neutral shades (white, gray, black, navy) to go with everything else you’re bringing.
Here’s a list of summer tunics that you can shop now and wear all season long!
Switzerland may be a landlocked country, but that doesn’t mean it’s short on beaches! Its countless crystal-clear lakes are the perfect place for a dip, so have a swimsuit on hand.
Here are the best one-piece swimsuits of the season!
A Sun Hat
Another summer staple for me is a hat. A light straw fedora or panama style hat is the ideal finishing touch to any warm-weather outfit—it’s both stylish and protects you from the sun.
Want some cute summer hair ideas, accessories, and hats to bring along on your summer trips? Read these tips!
- Remember that this country is quite pricy when it comes to shopping, so when deciding what to bring to Switzerland, pack carefully to ensure you don’t have to make any emergency buys during your time there!
- The higher the altitude, the colder the temperature—this is something you need to take into account if you’re planning a day trip to an alpine village from your city base in winter. On average, you can expect temperatures to drop 1°C/2°F for every 150m/500 ft increase in altitude.
- If you’re visiting Switzerland on a trip that will take in other European countries such as France, Germany, or Austria, bear in mind that the currency is the Swiss franc (CHF), not the euro. Make it easy on yourself by keeping your francs and euros in separate compartments of your wallet to avoid confusion.
- Wondering where to buy the best Swiss chocolate? Look no further than the grocery store. There’s no need to splash out on expensive chocolate in Switzerland; just find a supermarket and stock up on familiar Swiss brands such as Toblerone and Lindt as well as many others you may not have heard of. You’ll be totally spoilt for choice, as even the brands you’ve heard of will have flavors you don’t see at home.
- Most stores are closed on Sundays. This may seem strange to someone from North America or the British Isles, but it’s fairly common in many parts of Europe. Plan accordingly!
What are your tips on what to bring to Switzerland in winter and summer? Share in the comments below!
For more tips and ideas for Europe packing lists, please read:
- The Only Backpacking Packing List for Europe You’ll Ever Need
- Best Walking Shoes for Europe
- Ski Essentials for a Winter Vacation
- 10-Step Packing Guide for Europe
Suggested travel resources:
- Lonely Planet Europe on a Shoestring
- Lonely Planet Switzerland (Country Guide)
- Travel Shoes for Europe
- The Best Carry-on Suitcases for Europe
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Author Bio: Ali O’Neill is an Irish-born, Canadian-bred writer who recently moved from Vancouver to Dublin. Passionate about travel, books, fashion, and beauty, she writes about her interests at Alison Genevieve. You can follow her adventures on Instagram.