Zermatt is a small ski village and region on the southern border of Switzerland neighbouring Italy and is the very essence of the term ‘winter wonderland.’ It’s so perfect and pristine that it resembles a film set rather than real life. Everywhere you look in Zermatt, all you can see is snowy peaks, pine trees and cosy wooden ski chalets with everyone either relaxing with a hot chocolate in hand or pounding down mountains having the time of their lives.
Most visitors heading to Zermatt will want to see the Matterhorn mountain, which is famous for several reasons, including being the mountain on the wrapper of Toblerone chocolate bars and a ride at Disneyworld but there are plenty of other Zermatt winter activities and fun things to do. Aside from all the amazing adrenaline-inducing winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding and hiking, there are some epic panoramic viewpoints, shopping streets and attractions.
Zermatt is the perfect option for an idyllic wintery break, especially if you feel like splashing out and treating yourself to a trip you’ll never forget.
This ultimate Zermatt travel guide will include a Matterhorn guide as well as what to expect when visiting Zermatt, where to stay in Zermatt and what to do in Zermatt which will help you in planning a trip to Zermatt Switzerland.
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How to get to Zermatt
The nearest airports to Zermatt in Switzerland are Geneva and Sion (though Sion is very small) or it might be convenient to fly into Milan or Turin in Italy depending on your location. Geneva has ski resort shuttle services to Zermatt for those on a budget which take around 3 hours. Others opt for private transfers, though some will only be able to take you as far as Tasch, whereas the shuttle service can take you into Zermatt.
Zermatt is a car-free region, so if you’re wondering how to get to Zermatt without a car then the answer lies in Switzerland’s uber brilliant, efficient and modern public transport and rail network, though all trains to Zermatt change at the city of Visp. If you are driving to Zermatt, you can leave your car at Tasch station. The journey from Tasch to Zermatt is very short and the scenery is beautiful.
What to expect in Zermatt
Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in the world for visitors, so definitely save as much as possible for your trip. And you might find Zermatt to be even pricier due to its remoteness.
The currency in Switzerland is the Swiss Franc and there are a few ATMs in Zermatt if you need to withdraw cash, but Switzerland is a fairly cashless country. A service charge is generally automatically added to restaurant bills in Switzerland and tipping elsewhere is welcomed but it’s not expected.
Switzerland is not a member of the EU, but it does have many agreements in place, plus it is a part of the Schengen zone. Switzerland has three main languages – Italian, German and French – spoken in different regions and Zermatt is in the German-speaking region. Fortunately, English is spoken widely in Switzerland, so you’ll have no problem communicating with locals in Zermatt.
How to get around Zermatt
As previously mentioned, Zermatt is an entirely car-free region so walking or public transport are your two options. The village of Zermatt itself is very small and walkable, especially since you won’t have to watch out for cars!
There are a few ways to get around the wider region of Zermatt. Firstly, there are a few taxi services that are able to operate within the region including electric taxis and fully accessible cabs. There is also bike rental but the most popular method of travelling around the region are the eBuses, of which there are around 500 in the area because Zermatt is very sustainability focused.
If you already have tickets to some of the bigger attractions in the area (e.g. Matterhorn Glacier Paradise or Gornergrat Valley station) then the eBus is free. Otherwise, there is a range of travel passes available to purchase from afternoon tickets to season passes.
The best time to visit Zermatt
If you want a mix of skiing or snowboarding up in the mountains (though some pistes/lifts aren’t open in summer) and strolls/bike rides around Zermatt village in the sun then peak season, from June-September, is the best time to visit. Though don’t expect summers to be too warm as temperatures usually fluctuate between 12-25 degrees Celsius.
Zermatt in December and January around Christmas and New Year is also a popular time for visitors who want to enjoy the winter sports and après ski during the holidays. Of course, ski resort prices will reflect these particularly busy periods.
There isn’t much of an off-season in Zermatt as the ski season runs from November-May and the summer crowds descend not long after. It’s just such a beautiful place to visit year-round! If you do want to visit the Swiss region in the quietest/cheapest possible period, head to Zermatt after the Easter break.
Things to do in Zermatt
Matterhorn Glacier Paradise
There’s absolutely no way you can visit Zermatt without taking the 40-minute gondola/cable car ride up to Klein Matterhorn and witness the panoramic views of Zermatt from the top at the viewing platform. At least you can if there isn’t too much fog, which unfortunately happens quite often on Matterhorn!
There are lots of things to do on Matterhorn: ski, hike and even dine at the world’s highest mountain restaurant. Definitely check out the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise where you can go inside an actual glacier on Matterhorn mountain.
Glacier Paradise has a display of beautiful ice sculptures and you could spend an entire afternoon exploring this icy maze. Don’t forget to dress warmly if you’re heading up Matterhorn as it can be very chilly, even in summer!
Though a museum about a mountain might seem a bit dull, the Matterhorn museum is actually super interesting as there are lots of fascinating stories about the people who have attempted to climb the mountain and about Matterhorn’s importance to the local people.
The underground exhibit also looks at the history of Zermatt in general, too, and how it developed from a remote farming community into a world-class ski resort town.
Monte Rosa Massif
Matterhorn Mountain may be the most notable mountain in the Zermatt region but there are other impressive peaks, too. The Monte Rosa Massif is the highest mountain range in the Swiss Alps with 10 of its peaks climbing higher than 4,000m. They’re so high that they’re pretty unscalable in winter but in summer you can take guided hikes and you can admire them from afar in any season.
Black Nose Sheep Farm
If you love local experiences when you travel and interacting with as many cute animals as possible, then you’ll love visiting this family farm and learning about how they run their businesses. The Julen family open up their barn every Wednesday from June-October and December-April so that visitors can see their 300 Alpine-raised Black Nose Sheep up close.
You can see the fields where the sheep are raised and learn about how they are specifically suited to the Alpine life. Afterwards, you can join the Shepard for an aperitif and eat some of the cured meat from the sheep themselves.
Five Lakes Walk
Hiking is one of the top activities to do in Zermatt and there are so many routes and trails with different views and for different skill levels. One of the most popular is the Five Lakes Walk because it’s an easy hike with some slightly tougher sections that you can easily complete in one day.
As the name suggests, the walk takes you past the beautiful scenery of five lakes: the Stellisee, Grindjisee, Moosjisee, Grünsee, and Leisee lakes. This walk will be especially appealing to photographers because, on clear days, the Matterhorn is perfectly reflected in no less than three of the lakes, so you’re bound to get some epic shots for your Instagram feed.
Zermatt Matterhorn Viewpoint
Within the village of Zermatt itself, there will be lots of places where you can see Matterhorn mountain perfectly, even outside your hotel window if you’re lucky. But during your trip, it’s worth visiting the specific Matterhorn viewpoint where you can see across the entire village with the mountain sitting perfectly in the centre.
The ideal time to go would be just as the sun is setting so you can still see the mountain, but all the chalets are lit up like a Christmas tree below.
Even though there is so much to see in the region of Zermatt, there’s plenty to do in the village itself. The ‘Hinter Dorf’ neighbourhood of Zermatt (meaning ‘rear village’) or Old Town is a real-life time capsule that gives you a glimpse into what Zermatt would have looked like before it developed into a ski resort town.
The charming, solid timber buildings are around 500 years old, but they still look perfectly preserved. Some of the structures were barns, stables and storehouses and they all line up against cobbled streets that only a horse and cart would be able to fit through!
An alternate universe to Hinter Dorf is the Bahnhofstrasse, which is Zermatt’s main shopping street/hub. Zermatt is such a tightly packed town that everything is close by and it’s centred around this main street which is full of restaurants, bars, cafes, ski supply and clothing shops and gift stores.
If you’re not sure where to go next or where to eat dinner, head to Bahnhofstrasse and you’re bound to find what you’re looking for.
What to eat in Zermatt
Because many of the visitors who head to Zermatt have a bit more money to spend, the village isn’t short of amazing fine-dining experiences and Michelin-starred restaurants. Though there are still many affordable restaurants and family-friendly places in Zermatt too, and everywhere offers their own version of après ski.
Du Pont is one of the best restaurants in Zermatt and not only is it one of Zermatt’s most established businesses, but it’s also budget-friendly and serves traditional Swiss food too. At Du Pont, you can tuck into an authentic fondue, raclette or Swiss sausage and order apple strudel for dessert and there really is nowhere better for value for money.
If you do want an all-expenses-spared experience, then you’ll definitely get that at After Seven, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Zermatt that offers diners a set movie and dinner menu where you can actually watch a film in the restaurant while you eat.
And don’t forget to nibble on a Toblerone bar or another kind of local Swiss chocolate, too!
Where to stay in Zermatt
Budget – Thankfully, even a village as small as Zermatt has a few fantastic hostels for travellers on a budget. From the outside, Youth Hostel Zermatt looks just like any other ski resort and inside there are cosy yet spacious dorms with all the amenities and no bunk beds.
Alternatively, The Matterhorn Hostel is situated right on the river running through Zermatt so it’s extremely well-located and it has its own bar for après ski.
Mid-range – Zermatt can be quite pricey, so while hostel rooms are approximately €50-75 a night, midrange hotels are around €150 per night. The Hotel Excelsior is a great mid-range option because it’s really near Zermatt train station and has bright, colourful rooms, some even have views of the Matterhorn!
The Hotel Parnass, literally across the river from The Hotel Excelsior, is great for families with huge rooms, some even have outside decks and dining tables and it has a rustic vibe with wooden ceiling and wall panels.
Luxury – And if you have a bit more to spend, you’ve chosen the right place for a ski holiday. One fantastic option is Hotel La Ginabelle Zermatt which is an absolutely gorgeous 4-star hotel with a spa, swimming pools and a dining room which wouldn’t have looked out of place on the Titanic.
Or if you’re celebrating a special occasion like a honeymoon, you should check into CERVO Mountain Boutique Resort, a 5-star hotel with separate chalets for every guest and every amenity you could possibly want. Hot tubs, bike hire, huge windows and they even allow dogs!
Tours to do in Zermatt
One of the most enjoyable ways to get to know a region is through its food and drink, and this winery tour set in the heart of the Valais Alps has some breath-taking scenery as well as some fantastic wines. Tour around a local winery and learn all about the regions’ local grapes and wines with a tasting session.
Zermatt has some amazing internationally renowned chefs and restaurants, so many that you can’t possibly visit them all in one trip. If you love tasting new dishes when you travel, then this food tour (which is more of a ‘behind the scenes’ experience) of some of the best restaurants in Zermatt is a can’t-miss.
Try dishes from at least four different kitchens, serving both international and local cuisine, allowing you to make the most out of your limited time in Zermatt. Hardcore foodies will love being able to talk to the chefs and learn their secrets.
Sure, you can see the epic views of the mountain ranges that encircle Zermatt from viewing platforms and cable cars, but nothing beats an adrenaline rush like paragliding from those mountains where you’ll be able to see 360-degree panoramic views. It’s an awesome, bucket list-worthy activity that you’ll never forget, and you’ll definitely get your money’s worth in a place as stunning as Zermatt.
Day trips from Zermatt
Mix a local, Swiss food tour experience with visiting Grimentz, a remote village in the Swiss Alps. You will be treated to some phenomenal scenery as you travel through Zermatt, but you’ll be able to make your own local rye bread in a rustic, communal oven that is actually booked and used by the entire community! You can then use the rye bread to eat Swiss cheese fondue with a knowledgeable, local guide.
The only downside to ascending Matterhorn is that you’re not able to see Matterhorn or include this iconic pyramid-shaped mountain in any of your photos. This is just one of the reasons why so many travellers want to head up to the summit of Gornergrat, and this day trip is an ideal way to head up Gornergrat on the mountain railway and learn more about the whole area.
Day Hike around Zermatt
For those who are short on time or simply don’t want the hassle of planning and navigating a day hike themselves and want the safety and knowledge that comes with a local guide, then this day hike around the outskirts of Zermatt is perfect for large groups and families.
Recommended tours in Zermatt
- Matterhorn Glacier Paradise
- Zermatt – Rothorn: Enjoy the classical view of the Matterhorn
- Private Ski & Snowboard Zermatt
- Cellar visit and tasting
- Sion Wine Tour / Valais Wine tour – from vineyard to bottle
- Vacation Photographer in Zermatt
- Long fly in Zermatt 35 min
- Skip the Line: Admission Ticket to Alter Gasthof
- Standard fly Zermatt 20 min. Matterhorn view