Winter tourism originated in Switzerland exactly 150 years ago. Back then, a Swiss hotelier named Badrutt made a bet with his summer guests. He promised them a dry climate, brilliant snow and sunny days if they returned in winter.

5 Not to miss experiences for the ultimate winter vacation in Switzerland

But one of the many pleasures to be had in Switzerland – anytime of year!

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Winter Switzerland

If they didn’t find themselves tanned and relaxed at the end of their stay, he’d foot their entire trip. Several families took Mr. Badrutt up on his offer and the rest is history. If you’re going to go anywhere with snow in winter, Switzerland is as good as it gets.

The English flocked to Switzerland in winter, Swiss guides ventured into North America, and they started many of our ski hills in Canada in the US. And Mr. Badrutt’s lodge is now Badrutt’s Palace, which you can stay at!

I just returned from a week in the Alps, experiencing for myself these winter activities that so captivated those early tourists. Here’s a look at the top things to do in winter in Switzerland.

Titlis engelberg brunni

So much sunshine you don’t have to wear your ski jacket on the patio.

Things to Do in Engelberg, Switzerland

As soon as I landed in Zurich, I hoped on a train and hightailed it to the middle of the Swiss Alps. (You definitely don’t want to travel without a Swiss Travel Pass!) We began our journey in Engelberg, a sweet mountain town the central Alps. There are so many things to do in Engelberg, Switzerland, it’s a natural starting point.

Engel means angel in German and you’ll spot several angel monuments and knick knacks around town. (I didn’t make the connection at first and thought the citizens were slackers who hadn’t put away their holiday decorations yet.)

 

Mt Titlis

You can do loads of winter activities in and around Engelberg. One of the most famous spots is Mt. Titlis, where you’ll find plenty of things to do. From snowshoeing to electric snowmobiling to sledding, t’s not just about skiing on Titlis. (But there’s plenty to do at Mt. Titlis in summer, too.)

My favourite anytime of year, is the walk across Europe’s highest suspension bridge. Slightly scary, but the views are spectacular – all frosty white – in winter.

Suspension bridge in alps

Did I mention I hate suspension bridges?

Where to stay in Engelberg

There are quite a few hotel options if you’re looking for where to stay in Engelberg. I stayed at Hotel Terrace and it was quit good for being mid-range. Rooms are small, elevators even smaller, but it was comfortable, clean and not a crazy expensive as many other hotels.

You can request half board where dinner is included. The dinner buffet wasn’t great (dried roast chicken), so I don’t recommend doing that, but breakfast was good.

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Lucerne Carnival

If you time it right, you can take part in the annual Carnival. Switzerland’s most famous is the Lucerne Carnival, which kicks off with a bang at 5 a.m. sharp when throngs of locals make their way to the Chapel Square, as do dozens of marching bands.

Everyone is dressed up in full costumes and shredded phone books turned into confetti rain down on the crowd of thousands.

Lucerne carnival

All this at 4 a.m.

Lucerne is a city of bridges and it is laced with lovely medieval squares and a historic city center. For an added bonus, there are also a lot of confectionary shops, which is why I came home with 6 pounds of chocolate bars.

Even if you’re in Switzerland for a short time, and not during winter, you’ll still want to do a day trip to Lucerne. Any time of year, you can take a historical tour with a night watchman

covered bridge

Lucerne is one of the prettiest cities in Switzerland.

Winter Horse Races

You know you’re in a surreal landscape when you stop counting those wearing full length furs, because it’s more striking to spot the odd gal who isn’t wearing one. Yes, friends, I made it to the St. Moritz White Turf horse races!

Ever since I watched the mini-series Lace in the 80s, I’d fantasized about mingling with the jet set in the alps, and this was the event to do that at.

jet set winter

So much fur!

The White Turf horse race take place on this frozen lake, that I just happened to have a great view of from my room at the swish Klum Hotel.

St. Moritz winter

Yep, that’s a race track.

White Turf is one of those events that’s on the circuit, if you’re a gazillionaire. Lots of champagne tents, sponsors and old money swanning about with their non-hat-head hair and gorgeously groomed dogs.

White turf tent

As you can see, important research was conducted in the Laurent Perrier tent.

Bobsleigh St. Moritz

One of the best places in the world to take a bobsleigh ride is in St. Moritz. Here, it’s full on. Visitors jump into the back of a real bobsleigh and complete a full course – G-forces and all.

If I’m being honest, at one point I thought I was going to die! My heart was in my throat the whole time – especially when I was introduced to our pilot.

This guy looked like your quintessential European playboy: good looking, incredibly charming, impeccable manners. You can see how thrilled I am when we met. You couldn’t wipe the grin off my face.

Bob sled St. Moritz

What a rush!

And I made sure we got a cute couple shot at the end of the ride.

Bobsledding run

Who needs Botox when you can gather G forces down the bob run?

Naturally, I ate my weight in cheese (and chocolate) the entire trip. Besides dunking cubes of bread and boiled potatoes into the cheese fondue, we also speared apple and pineapple.

Gotta say pineapple and melted cheese is not a pairing I’d recommend, but the apple was a refreshing alternative to all the carbs. Not that I cared what I ate this trip.

 Fondue ghluwein

Pro tip: Don’t come here if you’re on a cleanse.

I returned home jeans much tighter, heart a little lighter. Europeans really know how to enjoy life. The week was a true tonic and covered such a wide range of activities, I didn’t for once wish I was at tropical resort.

 

Because Switzerland is actually a sun destination, just without the beaches. Still if you’re headed there in winter, you’ll want to make sure you pack the right gear. For that, check out this packing list for Europe in winter

Do you go for winter holidays (in snowy destinations)? What’s your favourite spot or activity?