Europe

Visitor’s Guide to Zermatt, Switzerland

If you are into outdoor adventure, then the beautiful city of Zermatt in Southern Switzerland should be near the top of your destinations list.  World renown for its skiing, mountaineering, and hiking trails, Zermatt is an outdoor enthusiast’s playground.  Every year, people from around the world visit Zermatt to ski on its amazing slopes, hike on the many miles of beautiful alpine hiking trails, and to view and even climb the neighboring mountain peaks.

Zermatt is home to the Matterhorn, which may be one of this world’s most beautiful and enchanting mountains.  With its jagged peak, which is often made more alluring by cloud cover, the Matterhorn looks like it could have been conjured up on a Hollywood movie set.  It is only the 10th highest mountain in Switzerland, but it may be the most famous because of its sheer beauty.  But as beautiful as the mountain is, it can also be deadly.  Since 1865, roughly 500 people have died on the mountain.  This is an average of roughly 3 or 4 people a year.  So if you are going to try and climb the mountain, make sure you know what you are getting into before you set off.

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The beautiful Matterhorn mountain just outside of Zermatt

Zermatt is a beautiful place, but planning a trip to Zermatt doesn’t have to be stressful.  In this Zermatt travel guide, I give you all of the information that you will need to plan a successful trip.  I outline how to get to Zermatt and when the best times to visit are.  I also talk about where to stay and the top things to see in do while visiting.   For those who are looking for a little more adventure, I also have some great recommendations for tours and activities that will keep you busy during your visit.

Immunization, Passport, and Visa Requirements

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Before you start making any other travel plans, please make sure you review the table below so that you understand the immunization, passport, and VISA requirements for visiting Switzerland.  A failure to understand these requirements could lead to not being allowed entry into the country when you make your visit.  If you have additional questions on these requirements, please visit the US State Department website.

Passport Validity: 6-months beyond your departure from Switzerland
Blank Passport Pages: 1-page minimum
Tourist Visa: Not Required for Stays Under 90 Days
Vaccinations: None
Currency Restrictions: No restrictions; officers may question over 10,000 Swiss Francs (CHF)

How to Get There

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The Swiss Alps from the Gornergrat train station above Zermatt

Located in Southern Switzerland along the border with Italy, the city of Zermatt is located in the district of Visp and is home to roughly 5,800 people.  Zermatt is nestled into the heart of the Swiss Alps, which makes the city all the more alluring, but it also makes it a little more challenging to get to.

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Swiss airport and railroad map

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If you are visiting Zermatt from outside of Switzerland, your best bet is to fly into one of Switzerland’s larger cities with international airports.  The best bets would be either Bern or Zurich.  From there, you can take a train all the way to Zermatt.  While you can drive most of the way to Zermatt, the city itself is car-free, so you will only be able to drive so far before having to park your car and take a shuttle.  I cover this in more detail in the “traveling by car” section below.

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Zermatt region map

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One of the advantages of being located in Southern Switzerland is that Zermatt is relatively close to a number of large cities in Europe.  This makes it really easy and convenient to combine a stop in Zermatt with stops in other cities in Switzerland, France, Italy, Germany, or Austria as well.  To give you an idea of how far Zermatt is from some of the large cities in Western and Southern Europe, I have put together a transportation timetable below for you to review.

City Time by Train Time Driving
Bern, Switzerland 2hr 8min 2hr 21min
Zürich, Switzerland 3hr 45min 3hr 26min
Geneva, Switzerland 3hr 39min 2hr 40min
Milan, Italy 3hr 28min 3hr 10min
Florence, Italy 5hr 51min 6hr 9min
Venice, Italy 6hr 31min 5hr 18min
Paris, France 7hr 3min 7hr 28min
Munich, Germany 8hr 27min 6hr 27min
Graz, Austria 13hr 9min 9hr 33min

Please Note:  The times by train may vary depending on the train route you schedule.

Traveling By Train

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The Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn shuttle train that runs between Visp and Zermatt

By far, the easiest and most convenient way to travel to Zermatt is by train.  Not only will this typically get you to Zermatt in roughly the same amount of time as driving would, but it also allows you to sit back and relax without having to worry about navigating the alpine roads.  Not to mention, you won’t be able to take your car into Zermatt anyways, so there really isn’t a lot of benefit to driving it there.

Pro Tip:  If you are planning on taking trains in Switzerland, the rail pass in Switzerland is one of my favorites in all of Europe.  Not only will the Swiss Rail pass allow you to take any train during the duration of your pass, but it also gets you free admission onto many buses, lifts, and boats in the country as well.  For more information on the Swiss Rail pass, please check out the Swiss Travel Pass website.

From Bern

If you are traveling to Zermatt from Bern, the train ride is relatively short and only includes one change-over in Visp.  It will cost you just shy of $100 US dollars per person (or €88.27 Euros).  Below is a table of some of the earlier trains from Bern to Zermatt each day.

Departs Arrives Stops Duration Cost
6:06am 8:14am Visp 2hr 8min $91.08 USD
7:06am 9:14am Visp 2hr 8min $91.08 USD
7:34am 9:51am Visp 2hr 17min $91.08 USD
11:06am 1:14pm Visp 2hr 8min $91.08 USD
11:34am 1:51pm Visp 2hr 17min $91.08 USD

Please Note:  These are not all of the trains available for this route.  Check the www.trainline.eu website for additional trains.

From Zürich

If you are traveling to Zermatt from Zürich, the ride is a little longer than it is from Bern, but still isn’t all that bad.  Pay close attention when booking as some of the trains have stops in Bern and Visp while others just stop once in Visp.  It will cost you a bit more to travel from Zürich to Zermatt as the ticket price is $125.52 US dollars (or €110.80 Euros).  Below is a table of some of the earlier trains from Zürich to Zermatt each day.

Departs Arrives Stops Duration Cost
6:02am 9:14am Visp 3hr 12min $125.52 USD
10:32am 1:51pm Bern, Visp 3hr 19min $125.52 USD
11:02am 2:14pm Visp 3hr 12min $125.52 USD
12:02pm 3:14pm Visp 3hr 12min $125.52 USD
12:32pm 3:51pm Bern, Visp 3hr 19min $125.52 USD

Please Note:  These are not all of the trains available for this route.  Check the www.trainline.eu website for additional trains.

From Geneva

The train ride from Geneva to Zermatt is the longest of the three, with the ride taking almost 4 hours with a stop in Visp to switch trains.  On the plus side, this ride is roughly the same price as the ride from Bern, which are both cheaper than the ride from Zürich.  The cost per person is $92.21 US dollars (or €81.40 Euros).  Below is a table of some of the earlier trains from Geneva to Zermatt each day.

Departs Arrives Stops Duration Cost
6:09am 9:51am Visp 3hr 42min $92.21 USD
10:30am 2:14pm Visp 3hr 44min $92.21 USD
11:12am 2:51pm Visp 3hr 39min $92.21 USD
11:30am 3:14pm Visp 3hr 44min $92.21 USD
12:12pm 3:51pm Visp 3hr 39min $92.21 USD
12:30pm 4:14pm Visp 3hr 44min $92.21 USD

Please Note:  These are not all of the trains available for this route.  Check the www.trainline.eu website for additional trains.

Traveling By Car

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Zermatt during a snow fall

If you plan on driving to Zermatt, you should be aware that the town of Zermatt is car-free so you won’t be able to drive your vehicle all of the way to Zermatt.  Instead, you will need to drive to the nearby town of Täsch, park your vehicle, and then take the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn (MGB) shuttle train from Täsch to Zermatt.  This is the same train you would take from Visp to Zermatt, with Täsch being the last stop before you get to Zermatt.

The Matterhorn Terminal in Täsch has 2,100 covered parking spaces and an additional 1,000 uncovered parking spaces for you to store your car while you visit Zermatt.  Shuttles run roughly every 20 minutes, so the wait time for a shuttle isn’t very long.  There is room on the shuttle train for baggage, and there is transportation (ATV vehicles pictured above) available at the train station in Zermatt to bring your luggage to your hotel.

If you are still interested in driving to Zermatt despite not being able to have your vehicle with you in the city, I have included some maps below on the routes you will need to take from the three largest cities in Switzerland.  When looking at the travel times, please keep in mind that this does not include the time required to catch a shuttle train from Täsch to Zermatt.

Bern to Zermatt Zürich to Zermatt Geneva to Zermatt
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Best Time to Visit

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The beautiful Zermatt Valley

The best time to visit Zermatt really depends on what you are coming to Zermatt to do.  With mountains high enough to support skiing year-round and well-maintained alpine hiking trails, there really isn’t a bad time to visit Zermatt.  To give you an idea of what you can expect in Zermatt during the different times of the year, I have included some seasonal summaries and charts below for you to review.

Spring

The Spring season is a great time to visit Zermatt.  There is typically still a lot of snow on the ski slopes, but temperatures aren’t as cold as they are in the Winter.  If you visit between April and May, the trails at the lower elevations begin to clear of snow for hiking.

Summer

The Summer months (between the beginning of July and the beginning of September) are the best months of the year for hiking and climbing in Zermatt.  The warmest months of the year are July and August.  While you can still find snow at the highest elevations, this is the off-season for skiing.  If you visit around the end of May, you will see the wildflowers start to bloom on the hills surrounding Zermatt.  This can be an incredibly beautiful time to visit if you are a photographer.

Fall

Fall might be the best time of year all-around to visit Zermatt.  During the early fall months (between the end of August and early October), most of the hiking trails are still without snow, but many of the ski slopes are still open.  It also has the added benefit of being less crowded than the peak summer hiking and climbing season and the peak winter ski season.  Not to mention, you get to see all of the beautiful fall tree colors.

Winter

The winter months (between November and March) is the peak ski season in Zermatt.  During this time all of the ski slopes have an ample amount of snow, even at lower elevations, and are open.  If you are going to visit during the winter, keep in mind that hotel prices can be much higher during December, especially around Christmas.  You should also keep in mind that the months of November thru January can be quite chilly, so make sure you have enough warm weather gear.

Temperature (°F)

The city of Zermatt and the mountains that surround it are at a high elevation, so temperatures can be quite chilly during the winter.    The months of November thru January tend to be the coldest and the months of July and August typically have the warmest temperatures.

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Precipitation (Millimeters)

Zermatt gets quite a bit of precipitation throughout the year, with most of it coming as rain and snow between the months of May thru November.  This can be a great thing if you are coming to Zermatt to ski and are hoping for some fresh snow to ski on.  However, if you are visiting during the summer months to do some hiking or climbing it may not be as exciting.

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Tourism Numbers

There are two peak seasons for tourism in Zermatt.  The first is the Winter ski season, which typically lasts between November and March.  The busiest months for skiing are December and January.  The other season in Zermatt is the Summer hiking and climbing season, which tends to peak during the months of July and August.  If you are looking for smaller crowds, your best bet for skiing is to visit during the Spring ski season (between March and April).  For less crowded hiking trails, your best bet is to visit during the Fall months of September and October.

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Where to Stay

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The beautiful Omnia Hotel in Zermatt

Because Zermatt is such a popular skiing and climbing destination, there are quite a few nice hotels and hostels in Zermatt that have been built to accommodate the large numbers of people that flock to the city each year to enjoy the mountains.  When we visited a few years ago, we splurged and stayed at the Omnia Hotel, which is one of the nicer hotels in Zermatt.  Because we visited during the fall shoulder months, it was much more affordable than it is during the peak skiing or climbing and hiking months.  It really is a stunning hotel.

To give you some options to look at when you are planning your trip to Zermatt, I have included some hotels and hostels at different price points for you to review below.  Please keep in mind that this list is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to accommodations in Zermatt, but this list includes ones that I have either stayed at and liked or have reviewed and liked.

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Map of my recommended hotels and hostels in Zermatt

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The Matterhorn Hostel ($)
Hotel Bahnhof Zermatt ($)
Hotel Helvetia ($$)
Hotel Alfa ($$)
Hotel Bella Vista Zermatt ($$$)
Hotel Antika ($$$)
Sunstar Hotel Zermatt ($$$)
Schlosshotel Life & Style Zermatt ($$$$)
Alpenhotel Fleurs de Zermatt ($$$$)
The Omnia ($$$$$)

Where to Eat

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The Omnia Restaurant in the Omnia Hotel

In addition to being one of the world’s premier outdoor adventure locations, the town of Zermatt has some really wonderful restaurant options as well.  If you are looking for a good seafood meal, then the Zum See restaurant is one of the only places in the interior of the Swiss Alps where you will find fresh seafood.   For those nights when you are in the mood for Italian, then the Ristorante Capri serves a fabulous Italian menu.  When cravings call for some grilled meats, the Restaurant Stockhorn does an amazing job with the grill.

While all of those options are outstanding, my favorite restaurants in Zermatt are undoubtedly the Omnia Restaurant at the Omnia Hotel and the After Seven restaurant.  I loved the Omnia Restaurant because they had a really great variety of great food and outstanding service.  Not to mention, the hotel is drop-dead gorgeous.  However, my pick for the best restaurant in Zermatt is After Seven, which combines Michelin-starred food with a movie experience.  The “Cinedinner” experience you have at After Seven is unlike anything I have seen while traveling and is a must do for all travelers to Zermatt.

Recommended Tours

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The beautiful Swiss Alps near Zermatt

The Zermatt area offers a lot of really fun outdoor activities for outdoor enthusiasts.  If you are interested in hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, snow tubing, or just enjoying the amazing views of the beautiful Swiss Alps, then there are activities for you.  Below are just some of the popular tour packages, admissions, and equipment rentals that you can take advantage of when you visit Zermatt.

Top Things to See

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The Matterhorn mountain is a stunning backdrop to the village of Zermatt

If you love spending time outdoors, then Zermatt has a lot of activities to keep you busy.  In addition to being one of this world’s premier ski destinations, it is also a very popular hiking and climbing destination as well.  I have included a summary of what the top attractions and activities to see and do in Zermatt are below.

Trains and Lifts

The biggest draw in coming to Zermatt is to see and explore the beautiful Swiss Alps that surround the city.  In order to get a better view of the mountains, you will want to take advantage of some of the trains and lifts in the city that take you up into the mountains.  Below is a map that summarizes some of the more popular train and lift routes into the Swiss Alps surrounding Zermatt.

Zermatt Train and Lift Map

Popular train and lift routes in Zermatt

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Popular Attractions

To give you a better sense of what the top attractions and activities in Zermatt are and how to access these activities, I have included a map and description of the top attractions and activities below.

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Zermatt attractions map

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The Matterhorn
Gornergrat
Gorner Glacier
Klein Matterhorn
The Matterhorn Museum
Downhill Skiing
The Ibex Fountain

The Matterhorn

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The beautiful Matterhorn mountain at sunrise

Arguably the biggest draw for tourists coming to Zermatt is to see the mighty Matterhorn Mountain.  With its jagged, four-sided face, the Matterhorn is one of this world’s most beautiful and widely recognized mountains.  At 14,692 feet (or 4,478 meters), the Matterhorn is only the 12th tallest peak in Europe, but it is just shy of 200 feet taller than Mount Whitney, which is the tallest peak in the continental United States. The Matterhorn straddles the border between Switzerland and Italy, with popular climbing routes to the top of the mountain on both sides. Each year, roughly 3,000 people try and make the ascent to the top of the Matterhorn, but an average of 3 or 4 climbers a year don’t make it back down alive.

If you are looking to visit Zermatt to climb the Matterhorn, then I would suggest that you start by reading backcountry.com’s tips on climbing the Matterhorn right before you start making your plans.  If you are just planning to visit to do some hiking or skiing and want to enjoy the mountain’s beauty, then I would strongly suggest you visit the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise observation center, which is accessible by cable car.

Gornergrat

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The Gornergrat observation center

Another of the amazing viewpoints in the Swiss Alps surrounding Zermatt that is an absolute must-see for visitors is the Gornergrat observation center.  Located on a rocky ridge in the Pennine Alps, south-east of Zermatt, the Gornergrat observation center overlooks the stunning Gorner Glacier.  Situated at roughly 10,134 feet (or 3,089 meters), the Gornergrat observation center is accessible year-round and includes a restaurant and Europe’s highest hotel, the 3100 Kulmhotel Gornergrat.

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Gornergrat Bahn train to Gornergrat

In order to access the Gornergrat observation center, you need to take the Gornergrat Bahn train, which was the world’s first fully electrified cog railway and Europe’s highest open-air railway to this day.  The views from the train on the ride up are stunning and are alone worth the ride up.

Gorner Glacier

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The amazing Gorner Glacier

One of the prime attractions at the Gornergrat observation center is the stunning Gorner Glacier.  At just shy of 8 miles (or 12.4 km) long and roughly 1 mile (or 1.5 km) wide, the Gorner Glacier is absolutely amazing to see close-up.  The Gorner Glacier system is the second largest glacial system in the Alps after the Aletsch Glacier system, so the size of the glacier alone is something to behold.  It is definitely a must-see for those who are visiting Zermatt.

Klein Matterhorn

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The Klein Matterhorn, which is the highest spot in Europe accessible by lift

At 12,740 feet (or 3,883 meters) tall, the Klein Matterhorn is the second highest peak in the Swiss Alps immediately surrounding Zermatt.  It is also the highest spot in Europe that can be reached by aerial tramway or other methods of transportation.  Marketed as the “Matterhorn Glacier Paradise”, the Klein Matterhorn and adjacent ski lifts allow skiers to access some of the best slopes in the Zermatt area. Even if you aren’t visiting to ski, the views from the Klein Matterhorn are out of this world and well worth a visit.

Matterhorn Museum

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The Matterhorn Museum in Zermatt Village

A great way to learn about Zermatt, the Matterhorn, and the rest of what makes Zermatt so special is to visit the Matterhorn Museum in Zermatt village. In the museum, you can learn about how people lived in Zermatt during the 19th century and even see the actual rope that snapped during the famed first ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865. Family friendly and wheelchair accessible, the Matterhorn Museum is a fun activity for everyone to enjoy. Tours are available in German, English, French, and Japanese to accommodate many of its international visitors.

Zermatt Village

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The stunning Zermatt Valley

In addition to all of the fun activities to do outdoors in the Zermatt area, the village of Zermatt itself is something that is worth exploring.  The classic Swiss designed houses built on the hills and ridges in the Zermatt Valley are really breathtaking.

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Zermatt village is a fun place to do some shopping and sight seeing

Being that Zermatt is a world-class ski, hiking, and climbing destination, the village of Zermatt has many of the amenities that you would expect in such a popular tourist spot, with the added bonus of being situated in one of the most breathtaking landscapes in the world.  When you visit Zermatt, don’t forget to take a stroll thru the village, buy some fresh baked goods and delicious Swiss chocolate, and just enjoy this beautify city.

Skiing

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Skiing in Zermatt with the Matterhorn as a backdrop is amazing

The biggest tourism draw for the Zermatt Valley is undoubtedly the many amazing ski slopes that the Zermatt area offers.  Every year, skiing enthusiasts from around the world flock to Zermatt to hit the slopes and enjoy this skiing paradise.

  • If you are interested in more information on skiing in Zermatt, I would strongly suggest that you check out the Matterhorn Paradise Ski Guide.  You can find all of the information on ski passes and ski tours at this site.
  • If you are a beginner that is looking for some lessons before hitting the slopes, I would suggest you check out the CheckYeti website for ski lessons for kids, teens, and adults of all ages.
  • For an overview of all of the ski lifts that exist in the Zermatt area, please check out the Winter Panorama Ski Map from the Matterhorn Zermatt website.

Food and Drink

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Freshly made Swiss chocolate is popular among tourists

In addition to all of the great restaurants that Zermatt has, there are also a lot of really great bakeries and specialty food shops for you to explore.  Without a doubt, my favorite is the Swiss Chocolate shops.  The Swiss are world renown for their chocolate and I would strongly suggest you not leave Zermatt without tasting some for yourself.

Shopping

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Authentic Swiss cuckoo clocks are a popular souvenier gift

In addition to being a central place from which to explore all of Zermatt’s outdoor adventure activities, the Zermatt village is also home to a number of unique and wonderful specialty shops.  In these shops, you can find a plethora of Swiss products to purchase as souvenirs.  Whether you are interested in a Swiss cuckoo clock, a swiss army knife, a top-notch Swiss made wrist watch, a Swiss music box, your own Swiss fondue set, or one of the other beautiful gifts you can find in the shops in Zermatt, no trip to Zermatt is complete without a little shopping.

Photo Gallery

Zermatt has an abundance of beauty.  It seems like no matter where you go, there is a beautiful landscape or vista for you to photograph.  Below is a gallery of just some of the many amazing pictures I was able to take when I visited Zermatt.

Zermatt, Switzerland

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