Out of all of the trips that I took while studying abroad in Europe, the one that I look back most fondly on was the weekend that I spent in Switzerland. When deciding on a place to go in Switzerland, I knew that I wanted the quintessential ski town where all of the buildings have that classic chalet style. I came across Zermatt in my online search and was immediately blown away by the photography of the surrounding Swiss Alps. Let me just say that Zermatt greatly exceeded my expectations and was even more beautiful than depicted in any picture I saw. I do not believe that many Americans know much about Zermatt or have even heard of it. However, it truly should be a destination on everyone’s bucket list regardless if you ski or not! Keep on reading to hear my travel, accommodation, and restaurant recommendations for when you book your next vacation to Zermatt, Switzerland.
Zermatt is a very small town located in the southern part of Switzerland. It’s best know as the village that sits at the base of the world famous mountain, the Matterhorn (aka the mountain on the Toblerone chocolate bars). It is filled with many ski shops, both expensive and more affordable, a few restaurants, a lot of hotels, and of course a McDonalds. One of the most unique features is that there are no cars allowed. The village itself is too small to fit cars and Switzerland in general is a very eco-friendly country. Instead they have these cute taxi-golf cart hybrids or horse drawn cabs that you can take around the town!
Traveling to Zermatt:
Getting to Zermatt is no easy task. It involves either a plane and a few trains, a car and a train, or only trains. I chose to take the train route mostly because it was the cheapest option and I was not too far from the town to begin with. I started my journey in Florence, Italy and took the Frecciarossa train from the Santa Maria Novella station to Milano Centrale. From there I traveled on another train to Domodossola from Milan. Then I took the Basel SBB train to Brig, Switzerland. You can then buy your ticket to Zermatt at the ticket machines in the Brig Bahnhofplatz station. The train ride from Brig to Zermatt was absolutely breathtaking. You wind around the sides of mountains and through tunnels, while making stops at the cutest little towns. In about an hour and half you will have reached Zermatt! Once I arrived, I was able to walk on foot as my hotel was close to the train station.
Pro Tip***You can buy the tickets for the Italian trains on Trenitalia.com; however, buy the Swiss tickets on the SBB app on your phone!! MAKE SURE YOU PURCHASE THE FULL PRICE TICKET. I accidentally purchased the half-price ticket (only for certain people). The ticket lady made me purchase the full price one from my phone on the train. I was lucky because typically if you don’t have the right ticket they will give you a hefty fine!***
Where to Stay in Zermatt:
- Best Western Hotel Butterfly. This hotel was so quaint and charming, and right in the center of town. The rooms were clean and ours even had its own balcony. There is also a complimentary breakfast buffet served in the morning. A good choice if you are looking for something more simple and affordable!
- Hotel Bellerive. If you are able to spend more money and want more amenities and a trendier atmosphere, I would definitely recommend staying at Hotel Bellerive. They also offer a complimentary breakfast buffet and a jacuzzi and sauna!
- Hotel Firefly. If you are looking for the epitome of luxury, you have to stay at the Firefly. The aesthetic of the hotel is ultra-modern and gives off serious rich vibes. It includes an indoor pool, fitness facility, spa, and even a wine cellar. Plus there are fireplaces throughout the entirety of the hotel. I don’t know about you, but a sleek looking fireplace is my Achilles heel. I will pay some serious dough if a hotel has a fireplace I can curl up in front of with a good book and a cup of tea!
What to Do in Zermatt:
Do the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise whether you ski or not! Travel to the chairlift, which is located in the opposite direction of the train station. Here you can get your tickets. They have options for both skiers and non-skiers. Once you have your ticket, you can then board the lift which takes you up to the ski lodge. It was a breath-taking experience to watch Zermatt shrink below you as you ascend higher and higher into the Swiss Alps!
From the ski lodge you can take another larger lift called the Rothorn to a higher peak. I recommend going out onto the observatory deck, which is located 12,740ft above sea level! From here you have a beautiful view of the Matterhorn.
The entrance to the glacier paradise is up here as well. You take an elevator down to a tunnel that leads inside the glacier. At the end of the tunnel there are a few rooms with many different ice sculptures for you to take pictures with. Overall, this was my favorite experience in Zermatt!
Where to Eat:
- Wallisterstube The food was fantastic. Definitely try the cheese fondue at Wallisterstube, it’s incredible and a Swiss classic. The atmosphere in both places was very cozy and intimate. Be sure to make reservations well in advance because they are pretty popular and quite small!
Zermatt was definitely a once in a lifetime experience that I will always remember. The town is nothing like I ever could have imagined. If you’re an avid skier, Zermatt is a must! If you’re not, find friends who are and tag along on their holiday!! If you have any more questions about Zermatt or my experience feel free to leave a comment.