As we often do, Kevin and I booked our flights to Switzerland on a whim. He found a great deal ($360 round trip per person from Chicago), and we grabbed it first and thought about it later. Only after that transaction went through and I had the confirmation email in my inbox did I start googling “What is Switzerland like in November?”
Well let me just say, there was a reason this deal was so good; apparently November is Switzerland’s “off season” in between their summer and ski high times. I was worried we had made a mistake. But while there are indeed a few cons to going to Switzerland in November, there are also some pros, and we had a great trip.
So how much of what I read was true, and what didn’t seem to matter as much?
“It will rain every day”
We found this to be only partly true. Yes, we did have a good amount of rain, but no it wasn’t every day. We had rain in Zurich on both our first and last days in the country, with one day of sun there in between.
We also had rain both of our days in the Ticino region, despite being told that this Italian-speaking part of the country was likely to have the nicest weather. What I found interesting was that when rain was in the forecast, it lasted all day. I find rain on vacation to be pretty de-motivating, so I was glad that most days for us stayed dry.
“It will be foggy”
Again, yes and no. The online advice told us to make sure our plan was flexible so that we could decide to be in places with good weather as it happened. I would second this idea. We did not really follow this tip, as we had so many regions we wanted to get to, and it did end up coming back to bite us.
We had one chance to ascend the Gornergrat in order to get the great view of the famous Matterhorn in Zermatt. Unfortunately for us, it was an abysmal day for this. We could just barely see the Matterhorn at the start of the train trip. By the time we got to the viewpoint, the mighty mountain was completely obscured by fog. We didn’t have time to stay longer in Zermatt and wait for the weather to clear.
BUT! It was the complete opposite when we went up to the Schilthorn. We passed through a thin layer of cloud on the way up in the cable car.
But the views at the top were magnificent, and the weather couldn’t have been better!
“Attractions will be closed”
Speaking of the Schilthorn… their cable car system shuts down for maintenance every November. We arrived into the country two days before it was scheduled to close, so Interlaken was our first stop so that we could get to this one in time. Other attractions shut down in October or earlier, including several things I wouldn’t have minded seeing.
But there are many that remain open as well. So we weren’t able to go inside a few castles; We still got to explore the interiors of Chateau de Chillon, Chateau de Gruyeres and Schloss Thun.
We didn’t get to explore Trummelbach Falls, but did get to stare in wonder at Staubbach Falls.
The Ballenberg open-air museum was closed, but The Swiss National Museum stays open all year.
So yes, some things are closed, but we hardly missed them.
“It will be easy to book hotels the day you arrive”
This one is true! We only booked our first and last hotels in advance, and never once did we have anyone tell us they were full. Now did we get cheaper off-season rates? That may be another matter… It certainly didn’t seem like it.
“You can enjoy all the Christmas markets”
This one was false for us, much to my dismay. I definitely regret not going more towards the end of November, as all of the Christmas markets were starting the weekend after we left (Nov 23/24) or even later. There was prep going on all over, but we didn’t get to see a single open market. I will definitely plan that better next time I travel this time of year.
“Everything is brown”
False!! I saw this comment in multiple forums before we left, and so I was extremely happy to see it was an exaggeration when we arrived.
I’m not sure if it was a normal year for Switzerland or not, but their leaves were much more colorful than the ones we were leaving behind at home. It wasn’t peak by any means, but it was not nearly as dreary as I was expecting.
Some areas even had snow too! It was actually quite beautiful!
When we got back, I got to see a coworker’s photos from Switzerland in August, and I definitely preferred my covered-in-snow Schilthorn views to their green ones.
So like anything else, there are reasons to go or not to go to Switzerland in November. There is no “one size fits all” answer. We can see why it might not be someone’s preference, but we very much enjoyed our time in this beautiful country in the off-season.
Have you been to Switzerland? Let me know about your experience in the comments!