I’ve been enjoying “off season” travel to Europe since I retired in 2015. I like the generally fewer crowds, cooler weather and lower prices. I’m starting to think of post-pandemic travel and am thinking of Switzerland next. Would early November or late February/early March be better? Any advantages/disadvantages to either? I read somewhere March can be very windy? The trip I’m looking at includes Zurich, Montreux, Berne, Lucerne and Lugano. Thank-you.
I think it would depend on what you want to do. We've skied in the Austrian Alps during the late Feb/March time period, so it's definitely winter in the ski resorts still. The lower elevations and valleys were mostly bare, and I suspect that the cities would be snow free in your interested time periods. You're looking at shorter days, abbreviated opening hours, and maybe some locations would be closed. On the other hand, you have less tourists, cheaper prices, and most museums to yourself - all a plus in my books. I'm not aware that March would be especially windy...
If you are not skiing you should go in May. That is off-season. And if you want lower prices skip Zurich and head straight to Luzern.
How many days do you have for the trip?
I would say you should go in mid-September although you can hit a bad day or two any time of the year. We have been in May once, July twice and September five times. Summer is high season and is too busy. The year we went in May, we were disappointed because the colors were not at all well developed in the flowers and vegetation ... a late spring will do that. In September, the colors have always been well developed, the scenery is very good, temperatures are reasonable and there aren't any big crowds.
Late February/Early March is prime ski season and hardly off-season in Switzerland.
Your proposed dates have the downside of having short daylight hours and 'good weather' would be a dry day that topped 50F.
The weather will be the wild card that puts outdoor activity at risk.
I should clarify I do not ski. I will be on a sightseeing tour (9 days) that is offered from November thru March so September and May are out of the question. I’m an older single woman so group tours work for me. After doing Italy/France in season (too crowded) I started doing these “off season” tours and really enjoyed them. (Much cheaper so I can do two a year.) So far I’ve done Ireland in March and Spain in November. I was thinking it would be nice to see Switzerland in winter so was leaning towards late February but November may work better with another trip I’m planning. Would there likely be snow in the mountains in November? When do the Christmas markets start, would they be open first week of November?
sboh, I can't tell if you are asking about this year (2020) or next year (2021).
There are not nearly so many Christmas markets in Switzerland as in Germany.
Of the very few, none are open until the very end of November at the earliest.
Luzern 3 December, Bern 1 December, and both Basel and Montreux 26 November.
If they happen at all. Several of the ones in Germany have been cancelled already and the Swiss ones may follow - nobody knows how things will change.
As long as you are prepared for awful weather possibilities in November you should be OK then.
There is some snow at altitude already now.