Indulge in an all-you-can-drink wine tasting at Switzerland’s caves ouvertes, the best way to get a crash course in one of the country’s lesser-known products. This annual tradition sees thousands flock to the countryside to sample winemakers’ latest wares. It’s pretty simple, you pay for a glass and then taste as much wine as you like (some wineries are more generous than others). The caves ouvertes are a great excuse to get some fresh, country air and also find a good bottle or two to take home.
To catch the spring blooms in all splendour, head to the Italian-speaking Canton of Ticino in southern Switzerland. With its warm temperatures and continuous days of sunshine, Ticino is not only a pleasant place to visit, but it’s also beautiful in spring. Around Lake Maggiore, azaleas, magnolias and camellias come into full bloom and make for a wonderful time to go for a trek.
Switzerland’s narcissi blooms, best seen in the countryside near Montreux, are one of the country’s understated natural wonders. Overshadowed by the dramatic scenery of the surrounding Alps, these gentle white flowers turn green meadows into a beautiful white, and for good reason, they are known as the snow of May. Sadly, narcissi are under threat due to agricultural expansion and it is becoming harder and harder to see them bloom en masse. Learn how you can be a respectful traveller and not add to the danger that they face.
Although the hiking season doesn’t kick off in earnest until around June, there are still some great trails to be explored. You can reach areas like the Aare Gorge, one of the most beautiful spots in the entire country, and the Trummelbach Falls, which open in April. Although many trails begin to open, the weather in Switzerland is highly unpredictable, particularly around April, so be sure to check the forecast ahead of time.
Some of Switzerland’s high altitude resorts, like Zermatt and Verbier, offer almost year-round skiing. Most of the lower altitude resorts close up shop as winter comes to an end, particularly in recent years as there have been difficulties with snow surety and this is only expected to get worse. Wherever you decide to go, be sure to check ahead of time for snow cover.
While summertime is still the best time to enjoy some of Switzerland’s famous train rides, spring offers up some pretty spectacular sunrises and sunsets that can be enjoyed in the comfort of a train seat. The ever-dramatic Bernina Express, which crosses 196 bridges and passes through 55 tunnels, on its way through the Bernina Pass from St. Moritz, is a definite highlight, whatever the time of year. Take a look at some of the most scenic train rides in Switzerland for more inspiration.
In the Geneva region, the return of spring is heralded by children wreathed in floral headdresses who sing their way through the streets following the May King and Queen. In Zurich, locals celebrate the longer days and the warmth of sunshine with a festival, known as the Sechseläuten, that culminates in the burning of a giant Böögg, or snowman. Some of the Swiss cantons enjoy a good old-fashioned Eierläset, or egg race, with super competitive participants (some representing winter and others spring) lining up to fill a basket with eggs. In short, as spring returns, there are dozens of festivals and celebrations to enjoy across Switzerland that will give you more than just a glimpse of the fascinating and perplexing Swiss culture that lies behind the ski resorts and fondue.