Zermatt is an idyllic mountain village tucked away in the Swiss Alps. The mighty Matterhorn dominates the skyline, creating one of the most unique alpine landscapes in Europe. Explore the hiking trails, journey up higher into the mountains by cable car and train, stroll the scenic streets of Zermatt, and go skiing all year long. Here are the best things to do in Zermatt.
Interesting Facts about Zermatt
Zermatt is a car-free town. Most people get here by train and once here, you will get around by walking or taking the e-Bus or an e-Taxi.
Skiing, hiking, and mountaineering is what brings most visitors to Zermatt. You know that this is a big hiking destination when you have an enormously long list of hiking trails right in the center of town.
There are three main mountain peaks to visit from Zermatt: Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, Gornergrat, and Rothorn. Visit all three or pick your favorite. We cover all of these later in this article.
With its unique pyramidal shape, the Matterhorn is one of the most recognizable mountains in the world. It sits right on the border between Switzerland and Italy. The summit is 4,478 meters (14,692 feet) high, making this one of the highest summits in the Alps and Europe.
If you have mountaineering experience, you can climb Matterhorn. This typically takes two days, with an overnight stay in Hornli Hut. Roughly 150 people per day climb the Matterhorn in the summer months.
Best Things to do in Zermatt
Enjoy the View of the Matterhorn
Since the Matterhorn has such a prominent position over the town of Zermatt, you can see it from almost anywhere. Whether you are walking through the city streets or riding a cable car up into the mountains, there it will be, the mighty Matterhorn.
You can even book a hotel with a view of the Matterhorn. It’s awesome to be able to start and end your day with a view like this.
At the end of this article we have hotel recommendations. We stayed at the Panorama Ski Lodge and this was not only our favorite hotel in Switzerland, but one of our favorite accommodations in Europe.
Here are our five favorite viewpoints of the Matterhorn:
- On the hiking trail from Gornergrat to Riffelberg
- From the Gornergrat railway
- The Sunnegga Viewpoint
- From Stellisee
- From our hotel room at the Panorama Ski Lodge
Note: We did not get to see the view from Rothorn, since the cable car was closed during our visit, but the view from here is also spectacular.
From the Sunnegga Viewpoint, you get a great view of the Matterhorn.
This is easy to get to and a visit here can easily be combined with Rothorn and the walk to Stellisee. If you are looking for a high alpine view of the Matterhorn without investing a lot of time or money, this is your best option.
Getting Here: The Sunnegga funicular station sits next to the Vispa River. On Google Maps, it is called Zermatt (Talstation Sunnegga). Ride the funicular to the Sunnegga viewpoint (about 8 minutes).
Cost: CHF 18.50 one way; CHF 27.50 return ticket; these prices are for the summer months (July 1 to August 31), prices are slightly cheaper the remainder of the year
Website: Get updated prices and buy your tickets online here.
The view from Rothorn is one of the most spectacular in Zermatt. It looks similar to the view from Sunnegga, only now you are much higher, so you can look out across the Alps. Unfortunately for us, the cable car was undergoing maintenance so we never got a chance to enjoy the view from here.
Getting Here: It is a 3-part journey to get here. Start with the funicular to Sunnegga. From Sunnegga, ride the gondola to Blauherd. From Blauherd, ride the cable car to Rothorn.
Cost: CHF 50.50 one way; CHF 77 return ticket; these prices are for the summer months (July 1 to August 31); prices are slightly cheaper the remainder of the year
Website: Get updated prices and buy your tickets online here.
Hike from Blauherd to Stellisee (and Skip the Five Lakes Trail)
Before our visit to Zermatt, I kept reading about a wonderful walk called the Five Lakes Trail (5-Seenweg).
This is one of the most popular hikes in Zermatt. With a visit to five alpine lakes and endless views of the Matterhorn, it sounded awesome.
So, we did it. And then wondered what all of the hype was about.
It started off great. From Blauherd (the middle station on the way up to Rothorn), we walked to Stellisee. The views of the Matterhorn from the far side of the lake were spectacular.
Stellisee and the Matterhorn
View along the Five Lakes Trail. On the opposite hillside, you can see the trail.
However, the rest of the walk was monotonous. We walked on boring, gravel roads and dirt trails through the woods and visited four more lakes. But after Stellisee, these lakes were a let-down. Honestly, once we got to third lake, we couldn’t wait for this hike to be over.
Our recommendation is to walk from Blauherd to Stellisee, turn around, and retrace your steps back to the Blauherd station. You’ll get the best views and it won’t take much of your time (3 km; 2 miles long and takes about an hour).
The Five Lakes Trail is 9.8 km (6.1 miles) long and takes 3 hours.
Getting Here: Ride the funicular to Sunnegga and the gondola to Blauherd. The hike starts at the Blauherd station.
Pro Travel Tip: For the best Rothorn experience, I recommend visiting Sunnegga, the Rothorn summit, and the hike to Stellisee all on the same visit. Purchase return tickets to Rothorn (CHF 77 in the summer) and visit these three places in any order you like. A visit to all three will take roughly 3 hours.
Gornergrat and the Hike to Riffelberg
This was our favorite experience in Zermatt. If you only have time for one alpine excursion and you want jaw-dropping views of the Matterhorn, put Gornergrat on your list.
From start to finish, this is an amazing experience.
From the town of Zermatt, ride the very scenic Gornergrat railway to Gornergrat. Along the way, you are treated to some of the best views of the town (sit on the right side of the train for the best view).
Once in Gornergrat, enjoy the view. Not only can you see the Matterhorn but you can see the second largest glacier in the Alps (Gorner Glacier) and Switzerland’s highest peak (Dufourspitze).
From Gornergrat, you can take the train back to Zermatt, or you can walk the amazing trail to Riffelberg. It’s an easy, downhill walk so it’s great for all ages and ability levels.
Here are the views along the trail.
Once in Riffelberg, take the cable car (Riffelberg Express) or the Gornergrat railway back to Zermatt.
The visit to Gornergrat and the hike to Riffelberg takes 3 to 3.5 hours. Your transportation will cost CHF 92 in the summer months.
Matterhorn Glacier Paradise
Matterhorn Glacier Paradise is an alpine wonderland of ski slopes, panoramic vistas, ice carvings, and a unique view of the Matterhorn.
This is the location of the highest cable car station in Europe, at 3,883 meters (12,739 feet). This is considerably higher than Jungfraujoch, Top of Europe in the Jungfrau region of Switzerland (3,566 meters, 11,371 feet).
From here, enjoy the views from the viewing platform. You get 360° views of the Alps and on a crystal-clear day you can see Mont Blanc in France and Gran Paradiso in Italy. Now that you are looking at the south face of the Matterhorn, it looks totally different from the classic views from Zermatt and Gornergrat.
Matterhorn is the triangular shaped mountain…it looks a lot different from this perspective, right?
Other things to do include seeing the ice carvings in Glacier Palace, skiing, or joining a guided hike of Breithorn.
Getting Here: It’s a series of gondolas and cable cars to get to Glacier Paradise. From Zermatt, on the southern end of town, ride the gondola to Furi, stay on the gondola to continue to Schwarzsee, and take a second gondola to Trockener Steg. From here, ride the almost brand new cable car to the summit.
Cost: CHF 75 one way; CHF 114.50 round trip; these prices are for the summer months (July 1 to August 31); prices are slightly cheaper the remainder of the year
Website: Get updated prices and buy your tickets online here.
Pro Travel Tip: For another view of the Matterhorn, consider getting off at the Schwarzsee station.
Riding the cable car from Furi to Schwarzsee.
If you are looking to add a real adventure onto your trip to Zermatt, hike to the summit of Breithorn. This is considered to be one of the easiest 4,000-meter mountains to climb in the region. To do this, you do need to be in excellent shape and have prior mountain hiking experience.
This hike starts and ends at Matterhorn Glacier Paradise. It takes roughly 3 hours. The hike is 5.4 km long with an elevation gain of 374 meters.
Click here for more information.
Go Skiing 365 Days of the Year
Zermatt is Switzerland’s highest ski resort. With slopes that are open year round, you can even ski during the warmest days in summer.
At Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, the ski slopes remain open 365 days per year, making this a very popular place for the world’s national ski teams to train during the summer months.
View from Kleine Matterhorn. Below, you can see the ski slopes.
During the winter months, many more slopes around Zermatt are open. The main ski season runs from early December through the end of April.
Stroll through the Town of Zermatt
With its car-free streets, Swiss-style chalets, and small shops and restaurants, the town of Zermatt is perfect for wandering.
Walk across the Hängebrücke
The Hängebrücke is a hanging suspension bridge located near the Furi cable car. From the bridge you get a nice view of the town of Zermatt.
To get here, hike the trail that starts next to the Furi gondola station. You can either walk out and back to the bridge on the same trail or continue across the bridge and hike down the other side.
Note: This bridge is not to be confused with the Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge. This bridge is 494 meters long and according to Zermatt Tourism, it is the longest suspension bridge in the world. It is located near Randa, a town that is located north of Zermatt. Many people visit this bridge from Randa or cross it on 2-day hike from Grächen to Zermatt.
Visit the Gorner Gorge
The Gorner Gorge is a chasm that has been carved out by the Gornervispa river. You can explore this gorge by walking on a series of boardwalks and hiking trails.
It is located near the Forest Fun Park, between the Furi and Zermatt gondola stations.
Pro Travel Tip: The best time to visit the gorge is in the afternoon in October, when the sunlight hits the gorge just right to light up the turquoise water.
Click here to learn more.
Get a history lesson about Zermatt and the attempts to summit the Matterhorn at this museum.
See Them All on a Map
How to Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left hand corner of the map to view the layers (best things to do, transportation, and where to stay). You can click the check marks to hide or show layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest.
If you click the star next to the title of the map, this map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.
Here is a map of Zermatt from the official Zermatt website.
How to Get to Zermatt
The most popular way to get to Zermatt is by train. If you are coming from Geneva, Zürich, Lucerne, or Interlaken, you will first travel to Visp. From Visp, take the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn to Zermatt. This is a slow but scenic journey through a valley in Switzerland (about 1 hour).
By train, you can also get to Zermatt on the Glacier Express. This scenic train journey starts in St. Moritz and ends at Zermatt (or you can ride it in the opposite direction).
You can also get here by helicopter or by taxi from Täsch.
If you have a car, you cannot drive to Zermatt. Park your car in the parking garage at Täsch and take a taxi or shuttle train to Zermatt. Learn more here.
How Much Time do You Need in Zermatt?
With two full days you can visit all three peaks, do a little hiking, explore the town, and visit Gorner Gorge. Just keep your fingers crossed that you have good weather so you can see the Matterhorn.
Three days gives you more leisurely time. You need two clear days to visit all three peaks, so three days gives you an extra day, just in case the weather is bad.
What We Did: We spent almost two full days in Zermatt. On day 1, we took train from Mürren, in the Bernese Oberland, to Zermatt, arriving late morning. After lunch in town, we visited Gornergrat and hiked to Riffelberg. On the way back to Zermatt, we visited the Hängebrücke. That evening, we ate dinner in Zermatt. On day 2, we visited Matterhorn Glacier Paradise in the morning and hiked the Five Lakes Trail in the afternoon. On the morning of day 3, we took the train to Lausanne.
Money Saving Passes
There are several passes that might help you save some money while visiting Zermatt.
The Peak Pass gives you unlimited access to all three alpine regions (Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, Rothorn, and Gornergrat). You purchase the pass for the number of days you plan to visit Zermatt.
For July and August 2020, a 1-day pass is CHF 202, a 2-day pass is CHF 225, and a 3-day pass is CHF 254. Passes are available for up to one full month.
There is also the option to buy non-consecutive passes. For example, you can buy a pass that is valid for 3 of 5 days (CHF 265). If you are planning a longer stay in Zermatt but want flexibility for the days you travel up into the mountains, this is a nice option.
For more information on pricing, restrictions, and where to purchase the pass, click here.
This pass is a one-day pass to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise and Gornergrat. Prices start at CHF 140. Click here to learn more.
Swiss Travel Pass
If you have the Swiss Travel Pass, you get a 50% discount on individual tickets to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise and Gornergrat.
If you have the Swiss Travel Pass, you get a 25% reduction on the price of the Peak Pass.
Verdict: If you plan to visit Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, Gornergrat, and Rothorn, purchase the Peak Pass (a 3-day Peak Pass is cheaper than buying these tickets individually; you will save even more money if you visit all three peaks in two days). If you have the Swiss Travel Pass, save another 25%.
Where to Stay
LUXURY: The Omnia. This hotel is located on a cliff above the town of Zermatt, so you not only get a spectacular view of the town but some rooms offer views of the Matterhorn as well. Dine in the onsite restaurant, relax in the hot tub with views of the Matterhorn, or go to the spa.
UPSCALE: Panorama Ski Lodge. This is where we stayed and it was phenomenal. We had a two-bedroom apartment with a full kitchen, large living room, and unbelievable views of the Matterhorn. This was our favorite hotel in Switzerland and probably one of our favorite stays in all of Europe. On a return visit to Zermatt, we would stay here again. This hotel is located on hill (which is why the views are unbeatable). To walk into Zermatt, it is a 15-minute downhill walk. To get back to the hotel, it’s a very steep uphill walk. However, you can hire a taxi to take you back to the hotel to avoid this strenuous walk.
MIDRANGE: Hotel Romantica. This hotel is located in a quiet, central area of Zermatt (it’s just a 5-minute walk to the train station). Stay in rooms decorated with Swiss décor and you can even stay in your own private, rustic cottage.
BUDGET: Hotel Dufour Alpin Superior. Stay in a Swiss-style chalet with traditional décor. Some rooms offer views of the Matterhorn.
If you have plans to visit Zermatt and have any questions, let us know in the comment section below.
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