Our ultimate guide to Zermatt gives you the lowdown or where to eat, drink and stay and what to do in summer & winter.
Home to the majestic Matterhorn
A hub of alpinism since Edward Whymper reached the summit of the Matterhorn in 1865, Zermatt continues to attract visitors from all over the world. There are many reasons why Zermatt has become so popular, not least because it is undeniably one of the prettiest spots in the Alps. Car-free and retaining much of its original character, Zermatt has managed to transform itself into a holiday hub without compromising its authenticity. The village pulses with life, with shops, cafes and bars sitting alongside churches and houses dating back more than 500 years, whilst the ski area is one of the world’s biggest and snow-sure.
Getting to Zermatt
The nearest airports to Zermatt are Sion, Geneva, Zurich and Milan. Due to the car-free nature of the resort, the easiest way to get to the resort is by train. All of the main airports have good rail connections via Brig or Visp. If you are travelling by car you will need to park it at Tasch before joining the mountain cog railway train for the 12-minute journey into Zermatt village.
Where to eat and drink
Zermatt is one of the best mountain destinations in the world for gourmet cuisine. It currently has five Michelin-stars - no mean feat given its size. The two most recent restaurants to receive stars are the Alpine Gourmet Prato Borni and The Omnia with critics heaping praise on both restaurants. The After Seven restaurant, Ristorante Capri and Hotel Mont Cervin Palace also have stars.
On the mountain, you are spoilt for choice. One of our favourites has to be Findlerhof, a charming restaurant exuding rustic charm with superb food, courteous service and a stunning view of the Matterhorn. On a sunny day, Fluhalp is the best place to be and for live music, Alphitta often has bands playing on the terrace. For Swiss classics cooked to perfection, we recommend Paradies, Zum See and Blatten.
One of the most important parts of any skiing holiday is, without doubt, the apres-ski. There are a couple of hot spots to stop at on your way back down to the village including the Hennu Stall which often hosts live music on the terrace. Other lively spots include the Papperla (particularly on a Tuesday night) and Gees which has live music and exceedingly drinkable cocktails.
Where to stay
For a great location, fantastic service and incredible facilities to boot then the Seven Heavens is the place to be. Located just a stone’s throw from the Sunnegga funicular which whisks you up the mountain, the development is comprised of seven magnificent chalets set over three to four floors with panoramic views and spa facilities. Take your pick from Chalet Elbrus, Aconcagua, Mckinley, Kilimanjaro or Denali.
The best views, however, are from a series of chalets in the Petit Village - Chalet Grace, Les Anges and Maurice. For families Chalet Ulysse is ideal but for the heights of luxury, there is nowhere more impressive than Chalet Zermatt Peak. For slightly lower key accommodation then any of the apartments in the Nevada residence will fit the bill - these include Mount Whitney, Wheeler Peak and Mount Williamson.
Winter in Zermatt
At an altitude of around 3,883 metres, Zermatt is home to the highest ski area in Switzerland, with 360 km of pistes across three varies ski areas: the Sunnegga-Rothorn, Gornergrat-Stockhorn, Schwarzee & Matterhorn Glacier Paradise. It is also possible to cross over the Italian border into the Breuil-Cervinia ski area. The easiest pistes are located on Gornergrat which is reached by an efficient cog railway from the centre of the village or the Riffelberg Express gondola from Furi. Whilst there are some beginner areas, Zermatt is best suited to intermediates and expert skiers who can make the most of the long scenic runs and off-piste opportunities.
However, it is not just keen skiers and snowboarders who frequent Zermatt with their presence. There are plenty of activities to occupy the non-skier too, from winter hiking and snowshoeing to ice skating and paragliding. Many of the mountain restaurants are accessible on foot so you can meet up with your group for a long lunch after working up an appetite.
Zermatt hosts several events throughout the winter season, the most prominent being Zermatt Unplugged, an acoustic music festival in April which is attracting bigger names every year. 2019 saw the likes of Boy George & Culture Club, Tom Odell, James Bay and Passenger entertain the crowds and there is plenty of live music to enjoy for free around the resort and on the mountain.
Summer in Zermatt
Zermatt is glorious in summer - whether you enjoy hiking, mountain biking or even summer skiing, there is something for everyone. There are a total of 400 km of marked hiking trail to explore and several themed trails too. Keen cyclists can enjoy 170 km of tours to suit all levels and skiers have up to 21 km of perfectly prepared pistes on the glaciers at their disposal.
Children will love the Wolli Adventure Park at Sunnegga with its adventure playground and barbecue areas. While the kids are burning off their energy in the playground, the adults can relax with a marvellous view of the Matterhorn on the idyllic Lake Leisee or take a refreshing swim. Other activities include the Forest Fun Park, fly fishing, climbing and golf.
One of the highlights of the summer calendar is the Folklore Festival, a parade of Swiss folklore groups displaying their traditional dress, music and dance through the streets of Zermatt - a spectacle not to be missed.