Switzerland’s Most Beautiful Winter Villages

Switzerland

Switzerland completely transforms in winter, from a lush mountainous eden, to an absolute winter wonderland fairytale. While the colder weather certainly hinders some activities and experiences in Switzerland, there are some places that become even dreamier under the snow. Here are the best castles and villages to visit in Switzerland in winter.

Appenzell

Appenzell is a small alpine village located about 20 minutes from St. Gallen the city. The actual village is extremely picturesque, with its beautifully painted facades adorning the traditional buildings.

But what makes this village special are the surrounding areas, which are among the most beautiful in Switzerland.

Picture low rolling hills, and quaint tiny wooden alpine huts against the mountains.

While I would definitely recommend coming back here in summer since it’s a completely different world, winter here offers something truly spectacular.

Things to Do

Snow Hiking

Appenzell makes a great starting point to embark on a number of winter hiking trails that take you through breathtaking scenery, and even to a frozen lake. These trails are pretty easy too, I did a few of these walks without hiking boots or snow shoes.

Yes, my feet were cold, but it goes to show that anyone of any fitness level can hike here.

St. Martin Schwende

the church in appenzell on of the best villages to visit in switzerland

Be sure to check out the iconic St. Martin Schwende Church, which can be reached by car for those who don’t want to hike.

This church makes a great photo spot, and place of refuge from the snow. Although this church is small, it had a very warm and comforting feeling inside. Maybe it was the fact that it was bright and painted white, giving off a positive vibe.

Frozen Lake

After that, you can drive just a bit further to park next to Hotel Alpenrose. Here, you will be at the trailhead for hiking to the Seealpsee Lake. You’ll walk along the trail for about an hour before reaching the lake. It’s a wonderful and easy hike, and I did it in Timberland style shoes. While it’s very doable in any footwear or gear, going back can be slippery so be careful.

of course, depending just how cold the winter is, or what month you visit, you may get lucky and the lake will have frozen over.

When we went it was in fact frozen solid, allowing people to freely walk, and even ski, across.

Stein am Rhein

stein am rhein village colorful historic frescos in switzerland

This historic town resembles something straight out of a fairy tale. It’s a medieval town located right where the Constance Lake joins the Rhine River, not far from the German border. A visit here is truly like stepping into a time machine. It’s perfectly preserved in its original structures, making a visit here feel like a step into the past.

Things to See

Painted Frescos

a girl in stein am rhein village colorful historic frescos in switzerland

What really sets Stein Am Rhein apart from any other village in Switzerland, and maybe even all of Europe, are the intricately detailed paintings on the facades of the buildings. I kid you not, each building tells a different story, and no two are alike. You could easily spend an entire day getting lost in the untold stories of the frescos on these buildings.

The area with the most artwork to admire, is in Rathausplatz (the main square).

Christmas Market

Stein Am Rhein comes to life in the month leading up to Christmas, when the entire town is lavishly decorated to match the season. There is a very traditional style Christmas market held here, as well as a huge Christmas tree in the square, and all throughout the town. The entire town of Stein Am Rhein itself feels like walking into one giant Christmas card.

Rapperswil

If you are in Zurich, then it’s all too easy to make a day trip to Rapperswil by train or car. This is more of a small city (by Swiss standards) than a village, and there is a lot to see in the area.

Historically, Rapperswil was comprised of just its iconic castle on the hill, and the town below. The surrounding area outside of this was farmland, which was controlled by those ruling from the castle. However, today, the surrounding areas are considered part of Rapperswil, in a newly conjoined city called Rapperswil-Jona.

You’ll find the best of history and nature here, as it’s located right on Lake Zurich. If you walk along the lake’s edge out of the old town, it will take you into what was the farmland of this area in the past.

rapperswil old town and castle under the snow in switzerland

Things to See

Rapperswil Castle Park

You can’t go inside the castle, but a visit in the surrounding park is easily much better. You’ll even find deer here, to comemorate the legend of how this castle was founded. You’ll have beautiful views of the lake below, and the best sunsets over the Zurich Lake.

Old Town

The Old Town in Rapperswil is compact, making it easy to take in all its historic, cobbled streets on foot. You’ll come across some historic churches, buildings and fountains. Be sure to visit the main square, easily the most photogenic part of the town.

rapperswil church under the snow in switzerland

Lucerne

Although this is definitely a city and not a village, I will include it on this list as a must visit during winter in Switzerland.

Lucerne is easily the most beautiful city in Switzerland, regardless of season. However this city is known to be home to the best Christmas market in Switzerland. In Christmas, the city transforms and it seems not a single street, window, or alleyway goes undecorated. It’s the best place to get into the Christmas spirit.

Lucerne is also in the center of many mountains, making it an ideal base for exploring more of the snowy peaks in the surroundings.

a church on the river in Lucerne in winter in switzerland

painted facades on the historic buildings in lucerne in switzerland

Things to See

The Old Town

They city itself is also very historic in appearance, also boasting its own many painted facades on buildings, and some historic wooden bridges.

There are many alleyways to wander down, with shops and cafes to browse.

Chateau Gütsch

You can see this castle from the old town of Lucerne, but it’s actually a hotel. The biggest feature of climbing the many stairs to get up here is to take in the view of Lucerne from above.

This is the best viewpoint that is very close to Lucerne, offering amazing views and a great photo spot.

Mt. Pilatus

Lucerne is also in the center of many mountains, making it an ideal base for exploring more of the snowy peaks in the surroundings. One of the best ones is Mt. Pilatus, which can be reached by cable car, or for the mosre adventurous, by hiking.

The views are incredibly from up here, from the mountains to the lake, even to a little chapel perched on a cliffs edge. Mt. Pilatus is a must visit for those visiting Lucerne.

Solothorn

Many people haven’t heard of Solothorn. In fact, the name even drew some puzzled expressions from Swiss people when I told them where I was headed.

But for those in the know, this is considered Switzerland’s finest baroque town. While it flies under the radar, this intriguing and beautiful town deserves a visit.

a view of the old town of solothorn across the river with snow in switzerland

Baroque Old Town

Truly, Solothorn is home to possibly one of the most beautiful clock tower in Switzerland (and believe me, there are many) which you can admire by walking through the old town.

However, the entire old town is worth exploring, as it hold many beautiful alleyways and surprises along the way.

Discover the Number 11

Interestingly, you’ll also find some very quirky aspects of this city. For one, whoever designed the city is obsessed with the number 11. Somewhere in the city you’ll find a clock with only 11 hours on its face. It’s also homes to 11 museums, 11 chapels, and 11 water fountains. The local beers name also translates to “eleven” in the local dialect.

Weekly Street Market

Oddities aside, Solothorn is also home to a wonder street market. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, the streets are filled with local vendors selling all types of regional and local goods. From cheese, to cured meats to beauty products, all locally produced, you’ll find the best of the region here.

If you’d like to visit the street market, check for updated hours and days of operation here.

La Neuveville

la nueveville village in switzerland in winter

This village is the definition of a hidden gem, but one that won’t disappoint.

La Neuveville can be found right next to lake Bienne, with mountains and vineyards just behind. This colorful, medieval town has a rich and long history since its founding in the 1300s. While small in size, and very quiet on the streets, it’s a wonderful place to explore and dive into the past.

Historic Old Town

The best part of visiting La Nueveville is just walking around the historic streets and exploring its small cobbled alleyways. Easily the most beautiful structure in the village is Tour Rouge (Red Tower), which is a unique clock tower at the end of the main street.

Visit a Winery

This area of Switzerland is home to a number of wine producers and vineyards. In fact just a short drive away, and up the hills, and you’ll find yourself among the vineyards overlooking the lake itself.

In the village, you can find a number of wine cellars that will be happy to allow you to taste some locally produced wine from the area.

Learn About the Witches

There is a dark side to the history of this little village, and it involves witches, mysterious fires, and some magic herbs. While I found it hard to learn more (the tours of the day were only in German), there is also a witch hunt trail that you can follow to retrace the legend of these witches. The path starts from one of the village gates.

Thun

thun a town in switzerland in winter overlooking the thun lake

While large enough to be considered a small city in Switzerland, Thun’s location in the center of an immense amount of natural beauty sets it apart from a typical cityscape.

Located on the edge of Lake Thun, this city is a wonder for both history and nature. A river runs right through the heart of the city, and from almost anywhere in town all you have to do is look up to see the impressive mountains above you.

Things to See

Old Town

thun old town with a christmas tree in switzerland in winter

The old town in Thun is a wonderful place to get lost in. Going up, and down the hill, through narrow alleys and tunnels steps, finding beauty at every turn! Be sure you wander into the squares, which will be beautifully decorated during Christmas time.

Wooden Bridges

Thun is a small town that is sprawled across banks of a river. There are a couple historic wooden bridges that connect each bank, that are still standing in original form.

One of the bridges has a unique function which you can still see today. It was built to regulate the flow of the river water from one side to the other. Talk about multifunctional!

Thun Castle

thun castle in thun in switzerland

Surprisingly, this castle is truly beautiful and I was surprised to find it in Switzerland and not Germany next door! Somehow, Switzerland seems to fly under the radar as a country with fairy tale castles. However, Thun Castle is living proof that there are some stunning castles to be found in Switzerland.

Entrance fee: 10 CHF ($12 USD)

For more info and opening hours, click here.

Oberhofen Castle

oberhofen castle and thun lake in winter in switzerland

Just a short drive from Thun, you’ll find what is in my opinion, the most beautiful castle in Switzerland.

Built in the 1300s, this medieval castle is unlike any other. It’s built partly right over Thun Lake itself, with the mountains in the background making this an absolute postcard perfect scenery.

You can visit the interiors of the castle, which were designed pulling from a range of styles, from Neo-gothic to Turkish influences.

Entrance fee: 10 CHF ($12 USD)

For more info and opening hours, click here.

Grindelwald

grindelwald and a girl in the snow in winter in switzerland

My personal top pick among best villages to visit in Switzerland in winter, is Grindelwald (no relation to Harry Potter unfortunately). This alpine village has something to offer in any season. But winter truly brings out the best of Grindelwald.

Grindelwald is located at the base of not one, but three different ski resorts, making it the perfect base for a ski trip. However, even if snow sports don’t interest you, there are endless things to love about Grindelwald in the winter.

For a full list of things to do in Grindelwald, click here.

Things to See

grindelwald village under snow

The Village

The village itself has become quite popular, and even in the era of COVID-19, it remains a busy town in the winter season. However, it maintains some of it’s original alpine village charms. A walk around the village will have you passing a historic church, views of the iconic wooden chalets on the mountain and lots of place to stop for some fondue.

Go to the Highest Peak in Europe

The highest peak in Europe can be reached easily from Grindelwald.

You can take a train ride from Grindelwald even further into the mountains. In winter, this will take you through the very impressive scenery up through the mighty mountains.

You’ll need to take a gondola for the final stretch to reach Jungfraujoch, the highest peak in all of Europe.

And that wraps up this list of the best villages to visit in winter in Switzerland. Whats your favorite place in Switzerland? Let me know below!

Source: yourtravelflamingo.com