How to dress for the Swiss Climate

I’ve lived in Switzerland for over a year now, and during that time I’ve experienced a variety of different weather from summer storms to winter snow; with the temperature ranging from blistering heat to well-below freezing, so I thought I would share my tips for how to dress for the Swiss climate, throughout the seasons. Hopefully it will give you a useful idea for what you will need if you’re planning a visit, or even if you want to relocate! I should note that I live near Zürich in the North-East of Switzerland, so I can’t generalise for the whole of Switzerland, and also people from really hot countries might find it far colder than I do, but here’s a rough idea of what to expect:

spring

I personally find Swiss springs to be quite warm, so I would bring a lot of the same stuff I would for summer, and early autumn. That said, it did snow here last March, so if you come in early spring check the forecast beforehand your trip, and if it is going to snow, then follow the advice for Winter instead! From April onwards though, temperatures often reach 20 ° centigrade.

You will need:

  • A raincoat (I pretty much recommend bringing a raincoat, no matter the season, as you don’t want to be caught out)
  • Light cardigans and jumpers (you may not even need them after April!)
  • thin t-shirts to layer
  • Waterproof shoes
  • light pyjamas so you don’t overheat at night
  • jeans and trousers
  • Tights for chilly mornings if you’re planning on wearing a dress or skirt
in bloom
Beautiful spring flowers

summer

A lot of people assume that Switzerland doesn’t get hot summers (the climate websites I’ve seen say that Switzerland has a moderate climate), but for me at least, it is lot hotter than the UK, where I grew up, and everyone who has visited me has commented on how hot it is. This summer it was so hot, I felt a bit faint a few times, so do bear that in mind if you’re not a fan of the heat.

You will need:

  • Your swim-suit – once it gets to June, the locals all jump into the lake to cool off!
  • Your sun-glasses (you will be blind without them)
  • Cool breathable clothes – my first summer here, I felt so uncomfortable in my polyester tees and jeans. This summer I actually bought some cooler clothes as I couldn’t bear the heat any longer. If you can, bring linens, and flowy, light outfits  such as dresses and skirts – you will thank me.
  • Strong sun protection – I’m dismayed to say that having got burnt one particularly hot day in Switzerland’s South, I now have a few permanent faint lines across my neck. Avoid the wrinkled old lady look and make sure you have proper sun protection on everyday, even when it’s cloudy.
  • Also bring a very light rain jacket as summer storms are frequent here (usually at night) and you don’t want to get caught out!
  • Inscet-repellant – mosquitoes are everywhere. I believe the risk of malaria is low, but it’s still good to put some on as bites are annoying.
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When it’s hot, head to the lake

autumn

Autumns are disappointingly short here, I personally think it stays quite warm until October, but the mornings and evenings can be chilly, and it can also rain quite often, so if you’re someone who feels the cold easily, bring more layers.

You will need:

  • A light waterproof jacket or coat
  • Hiking boots – autumn is hiking season!
  • a light cardigan or jumper (nothing too heavy, the temperature is often still in the 20s during autumn) for wearing beneath the jacket.
  • Normal jeans or trousers
  • Comfy socks (again, nothing too heavy, otherwise you will be sweating)
  • Waterproof shoes – it does rain quite a bit in Autumn here
  • Thin tops or t-shirts that you can layer with
  • A light scarf if you’re someone who feels the cold
autumn
You might need a few more clothes than this to survive a Swiss autumn!

winter

Swiss winters can be a bit extreme, last winter it got as low as -18, and there was a lot of snow for a week or so. On average though, temperatures don’t usually dip below -5, so it’s not unbearable (at least not for me) the majority of the time:

You will need:

  • Proper winter boots, and by that, I mean boots that are waterproof and can grip onto icy surfaces. Uggs won’t cut it  in the Snow; your feet will probably get wet. Having said that, if it’s a dry winter’s day, then I always wear trainers and my feet stay warm enough.
  • A decent coat – one that is waterproof and well-insulated. Bonus points if it’s long and has a hood!
  • A warm hat and scarf
  • waterproof gloves – I personally don’t mind my gloves getting wet, but if you hate cold, clammy hands then ski gloves are a good option.
  • The Swiss like to dress their kids in waterproof clothing, I don’t think this is necessary for adults, but I think it could be a good idea to bring some along if you have little ones.
  • If you feel the cold a lot, then thermal underwear can be useful, but be warned it can get very hot indoors, so only bring them if you will be outside a lot. I never wear thermal underwear, but then it takes a lot for me to feel really cold.
  • Proper pyjamas (just because there’s nothing cosier!)
  • Proper socks – now you can bring out the wool socks to face the icy temperatures
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Do as I say and not as I do, don’t wear trainers in the snow

In conclusion, Switzerland’s weather might be more extreme than you think. This is just a guideline though, do check the weather report before your visit, as I don’t want to be responsible for anyone bringing the wrong clothing, as the weather can change quite quickly here!

5 thoughts on “How to dress for the Swiss Climate

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