Set in the South of Switzerland, Zermatt is a mountain resort town known for outdoor adventures like skiing, hiking, and climbing. The charming village lies right below the iconic Matterhorn peak of the Swiss Alps and is easily one of the best places to visit in Switzerland.
It’s renowned for its enchanting alpine landscape that makes it a magical natural wonderland to explore. The breathtaking beauty here will blow you away with these top things to do in Zermatt.
Where is Zermatt?
Zermatt is a fabulous car free village in upper Valais, the third largest canton of Switzerland. It’s well known for being one of the best places in Europe to visit, home to the famous Matterhorn, and for having a beautiful and luxurious mountain town in both winter and summer.
Besides the iconic Matterhorn, the rest of Zermatt is surrounded by some colossal peaks and at every turn you’ll be astonished by the view.
How to Get to Zermatt?
Since Zermatt is a car free village the only way to get there is via train. Zermatt is well connected in the Swiss Railsystem.
If you have a rental car in Switzerland, the best thing to do is to drive to Täsch and park in their overnight parking facade. From there you can easily hop on a quick train journey to Zermatt.
Once in Zermatt you can walk to your accommodation, or take an electric bus, or horse carriage to your accommodation. Sometimes this transfer is included in your nightly rate so make sure and check beforehand (typically the higher-end hotels).
The Best Things to do in Zermatt
This mountain track railway is a gorgeous way to see the sights surrounding Zermatt. It was actually the world’s first fully electrified cog train and boasts an open-air design as well. It’s set in the Swiss canton of Valais and connects the charming resort village to the peak of Gornergrat.
This is an ideal starting place for many beautiful hikes in the area. The journey is about half an hour in total and has a vertical climb of almost 5,000 feet, the second highest in all of Europe.
Matterhorn Glacier Paradise
The highest cable car station in all of Europe, Matterhorn Glacier Paradise sits 12,739 feet high up in the sky. This gorgeous gondola offers sweeping 360 views looking out over the alluring alpine landscape.
It’s an unparalleled panorama of Swiss scenery, covered in glaciers and snow-capped peaks as far as the eye can see. At the top, there’s also a cinema lounge, fine dining eateries, hiking and biking trails, and some seriously superb ski slopes.
Set Out on a Hike
On the Matterhorn Glacier Trail
There are so many great hiking trails around Zermatt, and to not spend at least one day out on one would be a travesty. A few of our favorites are the Matterhorn Glacier Trail, the Edelweiss Trail, and the Furi Trail. Most hikes in the area are extremely well signposted too and cater to all abilities. See some of the best hikes in the area here.
Go Mountain Biking
In an outdoor adventure destination like Zermatt you can bet that there are some fantastic mountain biking opportunities. From beginner to advanced mountain bikers there is truly something for everyone here.
Zermatt has some fantastic cross country trails as well as flow trails. The best part is with the use of the gondolas and cable cars you don’t have to worry about the uphill pedal. You can find a detailed bike map here, and rent a mountain bike or e mountain bike at Hotel & Sport Julen AG.
Go Up the Brienzer Rothorn
The Brienezer Rothorn is the highest peak in the Emmental Alps. The vista from the top at almost 10,000 feet above sea level is truly staggering. It showcases all of the highest summits around, like Matterhorn and Weisshorn, and is the starting point for many picturesque treks in the warmer season and snowy ski pistes in the winter. Take the cable car up and then enjoy any kind of outdoor adventure you desire.
Hike to the Hörnli Hut
Hiking under The Matterhorn
The Hörnli hut is where you’ll find many climbers and alpinists gearing up for their ascent of the Matterhorn. However you don’t have to be a climber to hike up to the Hornli hut as anyone can visit and take in the views.
The hike up to the Hornli hut is difficult and requires a bit of scrambling. There are points of exposure but nothing too serious. Anyone with a few hikes under their belt should be able to get to the hut. We loved this hike and getting up close to the Matterhorn without actually summiting it!
Matterhorn Museum – Zermatlantis
This cultural and natural museum delves into all that is Matterhorn. It’s an entire reconstructed mountain village of authentic abodes set in the heart of Zermatt underneath the village square.
It’s a staged archeological excavation that explores the history of the Zermatt area, including the development of tourism and the first ever ascent to the summit. The thrilling exhibits display historical artifacts and interesting Switzerland facts in an immersive subterranean environment.
The Glacier Palace at Matterhorn is the highest cave of its kind and a uniquely enchanting attraction. It can be found 50 feet below the surface surrounded by meticulously carved ice sculptures and magical frozen formations. Soft lighting and relaxing music make for an even more ethereal experience here, as you wander the floor of a real crevasse.
Hit the Slopes
One of the main reasons people flock to Zermatt from all over the world is the incredible ski and snowboarding. Zermatt Ski Resort is the highest ski resort in Europe, envelops two countries, has 99% guaranteed snow, and is open 365 days a year. If you are a ski or snowboard enthusiast a ski trip to Zermatt should be on your European winter bucket list.
We spent three jam-packed days skiing in Zermatt and I can say with certainty that the area is one of the most jaw-dropping and extensive ski areas in the world. It’s not common to be intimidated by ski resorts, but the mountains here are huge and butterflies in the stomach are common for every skill level.
Never fear though Zermatt Ski Resort boasts 360 km of groomed pistes, suitable for every level and showcasing a wide range of terrain. The Snowpark Zermatt is accessible via cable car and offers freestyle skiers and snowboarders unparalleled views of the Matterhorn with a world-class park. Ski touring, free-riding and heliskiing are all also popular activities in Switzerland’s most famous town.
Zermatt Ski Resort is world-famous for its long ski runs, and at some point between 2500 and 3900 meters I wondered if I would ever reach the bottom of the run. It is a skier’s dream with so many freeride possibilities and pistes. All of this unfolds under the watchful gaze of the Matterhorn that dominates the landscape. Skiing and snowboarding here is one of the best things to do in Zermatt in winter.
Revel in the Apres Ski Scene
If it’s not the Matterhorn, the car-free town, or the pistes that draw you to Zermatt then let me introduce you to the world of Apres Ski. According to Dictionary.com, the definition of Apres Ski is “social activities and entertainment following a day’s skiing.” And there are not many places in Europe that do Apres Ski better than Zermatt.
The village is known for its fun crowds and live bands. It’s considered one of the best party ski resorts in Switzerland. At the end of every day on the mountain skiers and boarders from everywhere come to gather at some of the many mountain huts at the base of the Matterhorn. Try out Hennu Stall, Cervo, or Elsie’s Bar!
Zermatt Village Tour
A stroll through the streets of the charming Swiss village of Zermatt is an absolute must. It’s an enchanting environment, molded by time-honored tradition and modern amenities that beautifully balance each other out.
Thirty ancient buildings show off the authentic architectural style of the area, and it feels like a little piece of living history to explore. It’s also home to many chalets with cute bars and the main street is full of boutiques and bakeries as well. Its no cars allowed policy makes it a paradise for pedestrians to wander at their leisure.
5 Lakes Walk
This spectacular hiking trail takes you on a trek through the majestic mountains of Zermatt. It connects Stellisee, Grindjisee, Grünsee, Moosjisee and Leisee lakes with awe-inspiring views of surrounding peaks, like the Matterhorn, reflected in their shimmering waters.
Each one has a unique allure, from wildflowers to stone pines. The route in its entirety is just under six miles long with a few adorable spots to stop and grab a bite along the way. It’s fairly flat and easy to navigate for all skill levels as well.
Paragliding / Tandem Flights
There’s an abundance of paragliding outfitters in Zermatt and it’s an ideal endeavor if you’re looking for an adventure with a little bit of thrill. It’s an eco-friendly and safe way to experience the breathtaking beauty of the Alps from a birds eye view.
The majority of Switzerland’s 13,000 foot peaks are in this region. Highly trained professionals fly with you in tandem for a one-of-a-kind exciting ride you’ll never forget.
Monte Rosa Hut
A mountain hut set on the Monte Rosa massif right above Grenzgletscher, this is a popular hotspot for hikers in Zermatt. At an altitude of 9,500 feet, it offers sweeping views of the stunning glacial surroundings. The building itself has a distinct crystal shape.
It’s ultra modern and is designed to have entirely self-sufficient energy sources. The aluminum construction reflects sunlight so that it spirals inside while body heat from visitors is redistributed, an innovative feat of sustainable architecture to be sure.
Husky Sleigh Rides in Front of the Matterhorn
One of the most unique things to do in Zermatt is taking a husky sleigh ride right in front of the Matterhorn. At over 8,000 feet above sea level, it’s sure to be the thrill ride of a lifetime, and a cute one at that.
It takes place on a private trail that’s a little over a mile long for an obstacle free run. You can get to know all of the furry friends pulling the sleigh and a local guide (or musher) will control the charming snow chariot.
Soaring down snow-covered hillsides is such a fun winter sport that doesn’t require any skills! There are sledging runs all around Zermatt for any and all kinds of sledding adventure. There’s a toboggan run in Randa that’s an easy and gentle slope for the whole family.
Rotenboden boasts the tallest and arguably most beautiful run, with a thrilling slope that takes you on a 10 minute ride. Tasch is a hidden gem that will have you flying down 1,500 feet for the longest sledding journey yet.
Lake Stellisee ranks among the most famous lakes in Zermatt. It’s located at 8,322 feet high, and to see Matterhorn reflected in its mirror-like surface is magical. It’s the ideal photo op to snap the perfect Instaworthy pic. The terrain offers dramatic panoramas surrounded by towering peaks and alpine forest, and it’s especially jaw-dropping at sunrise and sunset.
See the Zermatt Blacknose Sheep
As part of a spectacular hike, you can see the largest herd of the rare and adorable Swiss species, the blacknose sheep. There are about 300 of them here in their natural and idyllic habitat. The short trek begins from Romantik Hotel Julen.
Their wool has been used in Zermatt for centuries and breeding them is a beloved and long standing tradition in the area. You can also sample some local gourmet goodies at the end, like wine, cheese, and dried meat.
Old Village of Hinterdorf
Zermatt’s oldest quarter is called Hinterdorf. It’s a charming old village that consists of a cluster of quaint homes. It will transport you back to what life would have been like in the bygone era of the 15th century with wooden facades of ancient chalets and traditional barns. The alpine setting right by the river is picturesque in its own right as well.
Mont Cervin Spa
Mont Cervin is a state-of-the-art spa at over 5,000 feet up in the mountains. It’s the best place to indulge in some revitalizing relaxation. Go for a swim in the heated outdoor pool in the crisp, cool air, take a steamy sauna to sweat out all the stress, or soak your worries away in a Jacuzzi.
There’s an array of specialty treatments ranging from massages to facials. It’s a peaceful oasis in a serene setting perfect for some well-deserved self-care.
Set just above Zermatt at 9,000 feet, Riffelsee is an alpine lake in the canton of Valais. The reflection of Matterhorn in the crystal clear waters is a natural wonder. A short trail from Gornergrat station leads straight to its shores for some serious mountain tranquility. There are also a few amazing climbing opportunities to be found here.
Schwarzsee is a small lake nestled in the canton of Fribourg. There’s a charming small chapel on its shores.
The cable car station here is the starting point for many popular hikes in the area, such as Hornli Hut and Matterhorn Trail. In the winter there’s access to several ski pistes as well. From the vantage point at 8,500 feet, you can look out over all of Zermatt.
Gorner Gorge is a gorgeous natural attraction made over millions of years in Zermatt. It’s a protected preserve that’s home to many habitats and wonders such as Swiss waterfalls, pools, and rock formations. There’s a wooden walkway that leads you through towering cliffs and awe-inspiring chasms.
Zermatt Igloo Village
Six igloo villages are nestled in the mountainside some 9,000 feet above sea level. They offer a breathtaking view of Zermatt’s most famous mountain, and it’s the (literally) coolest setting for some rest and relaxation.
A stay in a snow hotel such as this is a wholly unique experience. There’s a bar, restaurant, sun terrace, whirlpool, and sauna. Each carefully and elaborately carved ice room is equipped with thermal mats and expedition sleeping bags so you’re sure to feel nice and coziest.
Via Ferrata Schweifinen
Also known as the Mammoth Swiss Ropes Trail this excursion is sure to excite. It’s high above the city of Zermatt offering beautiful panoramas overlooking the verdant expanse and quaint town.
There are three different routes, each with varying degrees of difficulty: Route A being the easiest and Routes B and C geared more towards daredevils looking for a challenge. You can hike it with a guide or on your own.
Wolli Adventure Park at Sunnegga
This fun adventure playground is located at the lovely Lake Leisse. The views of Matterhorn from here are amazing, and in the warmer months, it’s a leisurely way to spend a day soaking up sunshine on the beautiful beaches. There’s a playground for any little ones in tow and barbecue sites for making the perfect picnic. Cross the cool water by raft or take a refreshing dip to relax.
There’s a wide array of eclectic eats to enjoy around Zermatt from traditional meals to contemporary creative plates. The food scene here has gained the village a reputation as the best place for a bite in all of the Alps. Top chefs come to showcase their culinary skills and each dining destination boasts a beautiful backdrop as well.
Glacier Garden Dossen
Take a walk through a wild landscape to see the drastic impacts of the last ice age. You can learn all about the vanishing glaciers and the traces of them that remain. These retreating grand formations leave rock cauldrons eroded by meltwaters flowing through crevices and forming wild whirlpools. It’s a circular walk along a suspension bridge that’s about 300 feet off the ground.
Furi Suspension Bridge
The Furi Suspension Bridge path is a breathtaking way to experience all the alpine wilderness has to offer. Wander through natural beauty 6,000 feet up in the air as it’s one of the best things to do in Zermatt.
It’s a mile trek that will ascend to peaks and take you over impressive sights like roaring ravines, shady forests, and immense glaciers. You’ll learn a lot about the exciting ecology of the area as you meander through ethereal terrain.
Ascent of the Breithorn
This is a glaciated mountain crest towering tall at 13,661 feet above sea level. For such a serious mountaineering ascent it’s considered a fairly easy route, though it’s mainly recommended for more experienced hikers and beginner alipinists.
Zermatt is the best starting point for this particular peak which lies on the border between Switzerland and Italy. You can go with a guide as well, but either way, be prepared for the alpine air and the elevation change.
Stay at the Zermatterhof
The Grand Hotel Zermatterhof is located in the center of the action of Zermatt. Right off Bahnhofstrasse, you literally cannot miss it as you explore the picturesque town. That’s because it’s the grandest hotel in Zermatt and the most recognizable. It’s right next to the Matterhorn Museum – Zermatlantis and just steps away from the river.
If you can swing a stay here, we promise you it will be one of your most memorable hotel stays to date!
The Grand Hotel Zermatterhof dates back to 1879, and every bit of its grand elegance from the 19th century still shines through. From the rooms to the foyer, every ounce of the hotel will take you back to another place and time. The Zermatterhof has just 69 rooms, creating an intimate atmosphere in the heart of Zermatt.
When is the Best Time to Visit Zermatt?
Zermatt is a great year round destination, especially for skiers and snowboarders as you can ski all year round.
That being said there are two main high seasons for Zermatt, and although they are the most expensive times, they are easily the most beautiful. This would be the height of winter and the height of summer. The best time to visit Zermatt in the winter is between December and February, while July-September has some fantastic summer weather.
Quick Switzerland Travel Tips
- ‘Hello’ and ‘Thank You’ in Swiss German:”Hallo” and “Danke” French: “Bonjour” and “Merci”Italian: “Buongiorno” (formal) “Ciao” (informal) and “Grazie”
- Currency: Swiss Franc
- Visa: Schengen Visa, 90 days in the European Union out of 180. Many nationalities are granted this on arrival for free. Check with your embassy to see if that is you.
- What to Pack: Depends highly on the season and what you are doing. Mountain and hiking clothes are always a good idea in the summer, while you will definitely need your cold-weather gear in the winter. Don’t forget the ski gear if you plan on going skiing in the majestic Swiss Alps!
- You’ll need a special adaptor for travel in Switzerland as they use the Type J or C outlet. This universal travel adaptor is the one I have and it worked well!