Even if you don’t know what the Matterhorn is, chances are you’ve seen a photo of it on the internet before. It’s exactly what you would picture for a massive rocky mountain with snowcap top, and microscopic climbers trying to scale its unforgiving façade. This is one of the most famous spots in the Swiss Alps, and Zermatt is the town at the base of it where people come to stare at it’s magnificent and natural glory. Zermatt is therefore a very special place to visit, a real treat that you should take advantage of if you can afford an excursion up here! I loved it – even though my wallet didn’t! – so I want to share with you my Zermatt travel guide in order to help you experience the very best of the Swiss Alps!
My Zermatt Travel Guide
When To Go
Zermatt is amenable to travel in just about any season. If you want to go for hiking, the summer is the best time to be there, but if you want to go for skiing there’s plenty of that in winter too! I actually visited Zermatt in September, which is surprisingly the off-peak season. Normally I would find that it’s the shoulder season since it’s just off-peak. But here many businesses shut down in spring and fall because it’s their only chance for a break during the year. It was still an entirely lovely time to be there, because I was able to go hiking, it wasn’t crowded, and all of the trains and gondolas were running like normal!
How To Get There
As with anywhere in Switzerland, I would recommend that you travel by train. It’s an experience in and of itself, because it’s fast and efficient, and it offers your stunning scenery! Zermatt will be the final destination on any train line that runs here, so it’s easy to sort it on the map to navigate here from wherever you are in Switzerland. Also, don’t be deterred if there are connections to make along the way because it’s very straightforward and you really won’t have any trouble making the connections.
If you are driving in Switzerland, you should note that you’ll have to leave your car parked outside of town. No cars are allowed into Zermatt, and you’ll only see the electric utility cars on the streets. These are used to transport deliveries and deliver public services. Just something to consider!
What To Do
Hiking and skiing are the top activities in Zermatt! People are drawn to this remote mountain village because it has the best and easiest access to the Matterhorn, which is the massively impressive mountain peak that the world’s best climbers try to ascend. The rest of us settle for a hike somewhere in the region that affords us nice views of the Matterhorn.
There are lots of hiking trails you can take, and you can even take one of the gondolas up into the mountains to then start your hike from a higher altitude. There are a lot of options, but one that I really liked started at the top of Schwarzsee. The gondola ticket up was pretty inexpensive compared to those that go all the way to the top of the mountain. And then I hiked back down to town, which meant I got a nice 3 hour hike in, with some great views of the Matterhorn!
The options in this region are really limitless though, and also depend on your skill level. You can easily fill every day of your itinerary if you stay in Zermatt, so feel free to allot it some extra time in your itinerary. I hadn’t planned ahead of time which hike I would do, and it’s just as easy as looking at a map and picking which trail you’ll do that day. As long as you have some basic hiking knowledge you’ll be fine hiking here. And if you want to do a more challenging hike, just book a guide for the day, it’s safer and easier than trying to go it alone!
I would also recommend making a day trip over to the World’s longest suspension bridge, which recently opened in the next town over from Zermatt. I wrote up a whole guide for how to get there, which you can see here!
Where To Stay
Zermatt is expensive. It’s expensive even by Switzerland’s standards. And that will really be the only reason you have to cut short your time here. Even the youth hostel I stayed in, The Matterhorn Hostel, cost me $89 for a dorm bed! But you can stay at much nicer places, and just chalk it up to a vacation well-spent. In that case, I would recommend Grand Hotel Zermatterhof, or Hotel The Omnia, which are some gorgeous and highly-acclaimed options!
Where To Eat
As with the accommodations, the restaurants in Zermatt are expensive too. But some of them are really quite fantastic. So since you’ll be hungry after a day filled with hiking, here are some suggestions of where to get your fill. I like Restaurant 1818, Gee’s Bar & Restaurant, Restaurant Whymper-Stube, and Brown Cow Pub. And for breakfast, I like to get my pastry and espresso from Backerei Fuchs or Petit Royal. At any opportunity, be sure to grab some Swiss chocolate, because you’ll never have it fresher or more delicious than it is here! My favorite chocolate shops are Laderach, Lindt, and Backerei Fuchs.
Need To Know
Hopefully I’ve made this clear by now, but I’ll say it again: Zermatt is expensive. Every bit of it is, so make sure you budget accordingly. As I mentioned before it’s also a car-free town, so keep that in mind as you plan. It’s also very cold here because it’s in the mountains so I suggest packing very warm clothing in layers. Internet and phone service is very accessible in town, though not as much in the mountains of course. And overall it’s an exceptionally beautiful town, so I hope you’ll be able to visit! I’m sure you’ll love it like I do!