Zermatt is known for one major attraction. And in my opinion, it’s one of the most popular attractions in the world, at least for mountaineers (or mouseketeers). THE MATTERHORN! Zermatt wasn’t in our original itinerary for Europe, but my parents were heading there after Cinque Terra so we decided to tag along.
The train ride to Zermatt is a treat in itself. A little pricey, but the only option unless you have a car. Riding through the valley, surrounded by giant snow covered peaks, passing by quaint towns with sheep grazing in the most perfectly green grass landscape, rolling hills, and excitement in everyone’s eyes. I believe Switzerland is one of the most beautiful countries in Europe.
We arrived the day before my parents, lucked out with the best AirBnb of our entire trip (complete with a view of the Matterhorn), and explored the adorable alpine town. The main street is lined with shops, restaurants, and flowers on every windowsill. The faint sound of bells ringing are the nearby sheep and cows in the countryside. Very picturesque!
You don’t have to be a big outdoorsman, or even break a sweat for that matter, to enjoy the views of the Matterhorn. They can be seen from all over town. It’s enormous, and so humbling to be so close. Actually feels quite surreal when you see it in person for the first time. Kinda like seeing the Matterhorn ride at Disneyland from the I-5 for the first time too 🙂
Zermatt is a great home base to venture out on day hikes throughout the surrounding Swiss Alps. If you’re only in town for a couple days, there are two MUST-DO hikes with stunning views of the Matterhorn.
For those looking for a challenging hike and a good workout, I can’t speak more highly of Schwarzsee. Taking the gondola up to the Schwarzsee look-out point where this hike begins, it’s approximately four hours roundtrip, two hours straight up. We definitely underestimated the difficulty of this “walk”. The final hour takes the longest, as it’s filled with switch-backs, ice/snow, and a little rope climbing. We were in a bit of a hurry to make it to the hut at the top, take a picture, chug a beer, and race back down for the last gondola. It was rushed and we probably should have allowed for another hour, but it was still an incredible experience. The feeling of standing at the base of the Matterhorn, towering over you, is a feeling I’ll never forget.
Tip: Check when the last gondola leaves so you don’t miss it. BUT, if you do miss it, don’t fret. You won’t have to stay the night in the wilderness (unless you want to); there is a trail that will take you all the way back to Zermatt in about two hours.
Con: Expensive — $80 to take the gondola up to the trailhead; $100 if you want to go all the way to the top of the Matterhorn Express
To give your legs a break, hike the five lakes or 5-Seenweg for more immaculate views of the Matterhorn from across the valley. Grab the funicular up to Sunnegga, then the gondola to Blauherd to begin your hike/walk. 9k roundtrip, 2h30m. My parents joined us for this one and we took our time, stopped for lunch and pictures, and finished around three hours.
The route is as follows: Blauherd – Stellisee – Grindjisee – Grunser – Moosjisee – Leisee – Sunnegga. This is the easier direction. You begin near the top of the mountain and walk down, with just one section of uphill. If you want a more challenging route, start at Sunnegga and hike up to Blauherd.
Just a heads up, the five lakes throughout the hike aren’t very impressive. The first is nice for a walk around with a view of the Matterhorn in the background, the third is good for a lunch/snack stop (people even packed wine), and the fifth is right next to Sunnegga and has activities for kids, benches to lay on, etc. After the hike, grab a beer from the Sunnegga Lodge and don’t miss the photo op on the sundeck. Maybe if you’re lucky, you’ll even catch a photo of the paragliders with the Matterhorn!
Two full days in Zermatt is perfect, but if you have more time take the gondola up to the Glacier Paradise for stunning panaromic views of the Swiss Alps.
Zermatt, you’re absolutely perfect. I’ll definitely be back!
Tip: To get to Sunnegga, you have to take a different funicular/gondola than the one to Schwarzsee. It’s further down the road from town.
Con: Expensive — $40 to take the funicular and gondola up to begin the hike.
- Hiked to the Matterhorn
- Ate fondue – Swiss tradition – at Cafe du Pont. The cheese one was good, but rich. Also, they only give you bread and potatoes to dip in. Next time: order the meat and chocolate one for desert. But keep in mind, it’s VERY expensive (i.e. $26 per person)
- 150 Year Anniversary of the first ascent of the Matterhorn was on September 9th – As a celebration and memorial, they lit up the first ascent route once night fell and everyone gathered in town to watch – Very moving. Read more about it here.
- Absolutely picturesque, beautiful alpine town
- Matterhorn Express is expensive
- Everything is expensive
- Book early – might get lucky with Airbnb
- Upon arriving in Zermatt, pop into the tourist office by the train station and ask for a map and hike recommendations.
- The most beautiful cemetery I’ve ever seen, flowers and candles. The plots are rented and if you don’t pay your remains are removed. Kinda morbid, I know. Climbers are buried there
- Large golf carts are the town taxis – They sneak up on you so watch out!
- Horse drawn carriages everywhere
- Train from Vernazza (Cinque Terra) to Zermatt was 7hr with three train changes. The views once in Switzerland were absolutely breathtaking.