We had visited Switzerland two times before and never made it to the legendary Matterhorn. Well, the third time’s a charm, and while taking our Grand Tour around Switzerland this summer, we spent four glorious days in Zermatt, home of the mighty Matterhorn. This popular mountain destination attracts the rich and famous to its slopes where you can ski year-round. The pedestrian streets are lined with upscale boutiques selling 60 thousand dollar watches (it’s true, we saw the price tag) and the bustling downtown sits pretty as a picture in the Matter Valley surrounded by mountains waiting for you to explore.
Things to do in Zermatt Switzerland
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Like many places in Switzerland, we fell in love with Zermatt. During our time there, we barely slept a wink as we made the most of the precious moments we had in this mountain paradise. So to help you plan your future travels, we are about to blow your minds with all the amazing things to do in Zermatt, Switzerland. Are you ready?
Zermatt is located in the Canton of Valais in the southwest of Switzerland. No motorized vehicles are allowed in Zermatt but e-bikes and electric cars zip through the crowded streets as tourists scurry from one gondola or train to the next in this swanky mountain resort.
The best way to get around the mountains and to explore all the things to do in Zermatt is to purchase an all-inclusive lift package, you can search for the right one for you at the Zermatt tourism website. Downtown is quite small and easy to walk everywhere, but if you want to cover a lot of ground to explore the mountain trails, renting a mountain bike or e-bike is also a great choice.
How to Get to Zermatt
As we mentioned above, no cars are allowed in Zermatt. If you are driving, you will have to make your way to Matterhorn Terminal Täsch. There is a massive covered parking lot there where you can leave your car and board the train that takes everyone to the village of Zermatt. The Zermatt shuttle runs every 20 minutes and takes 12 minutes flat to get from Matterhorn Terminal Täsch to Bahnhofstrasse (the main pedestrian street) Zermatt. The journey from Täsch to Zermatt is included in your Swiss Travel Pass (Train Pass for Swiss Railways) find more details on the Swiss Travel Pass here.
Getting from the Train Station to Hotel
We stayed at Hotel Aristella Swissflair a boutique hotel that offers free shuttles in an electric car. We gave them a car once we boarded the train in Tasch to let them know we were on our way and they were waiting for us once we arrived at the terminal. If your hotel doesn’t offer shuttles, you can hire electric taxis or walk to your accommodation. For information on parking and trains from Matterhorn Terminal Tasch visit their website.
So, now that you are in the village, let’s check out all the things to do in Zermatt, shall we?
Where To Stay in Zermatt
The Hotel Aristella Swissflair Hotel & Apartment was superb. Located steps away from the Vispa River and walking distance to the lifts and Bahnhofstrasse make it an excellent location. The family-run 4-star hotel is inviting and welcoming. Located in the heart of all the action, there is shopping and dining nearby. But you don’t have to go far for dining, Restaurant Spycher seems to be the hottest spot in town. It was packed each evening with people ordering the flaming flambe dishes. At 3 pm there is cocktail hour serving drinks (1 each included in the half-board package) and snacks. Visit the Hotel Aristella Swissflair website for more details.
Things to do in Zermatt
1. Marvel at the Matterhorn
Okay, so no article about Zermatt would be worth its weight if it didn’t have “See the Matterhorn” as the number one thing to do. It was the Matterhorn that drew tourists to Zermatt in the first place and it continues to draw visitors to hike and bike through the glorious landscape. From Gornergrat to the 5 Lakes hike and even from down in the village, The Matterhorn stands proud overhead. There are many places to see one of the world’s most recognizable peaks so make sure to look up wherever you are. Read more at: 5 Lakes Hike Zermatt – Incredible Matterhorn Views
2. Sunrise at Lake Stellisee
One of the best ways to see the Matterhorn is to rise early for sunrise over Lake Stellisee. The Matterhorn reflecting in the lake is one of the most iconic views of the mountain. Book your ticket in advance as only a limited number of people are allotted to go up to Lake Stellisee at sunrise. In the morning, make your way to the Sunnegga-Rothorn valley station at least 30 minutes before your scheduled departure.
Times change depending on the time of sunrise. You’ll then board the underground funicular up to Sunnegga and then transfer to the gondolas further up to Blauherd. It is then a 20-30 minute hike to the lake where you will be treated to an incredible view. You can camp up at Stellisee as well and here were several campers there when we arrived.
3. Hike the Five Lake Trail
Once you have watched the sunrise over the Matterhorn, breakfast can be had at Restaurant Fluhalp just a short walk from the lake. With a full stomach, you then have the day free to hike the popular 5 Lake Trail. The five lakes consist of Stellisee, Grindjisee, Grünsee, Moosjisee, and Leisee. This hike is a pleasant and easy walk that is mostly downhill. Each lake is unique offering different perspectives to view the mighty Matterhorn and surrounding mountains. See the views below for yourself and you’ll understand why you should visit them all.
Lake Grindjisee has a lovely reflection view of the Matterhorn.
Lake Grünsee is popular for swimming with a sandy beach and sandy bottom. During our hike, we made this our stop for a snack while taking in the panoramic views and reflections.
Moosjisee is a storage reservoir that is a perfect place for a picnic. The milky blue waters are a beautiful contrast to the green trees and white cap mountains.
Most people continue on to Leisee for the 5 lake trail and end their day there, but we had other plans to make our way to Gornergrat for the afternoon, so instead, we made our way to Riffelalp where we caught the train to Gornergrat. Gornergrat is one of the most awe-inspiring views in the world. (And we’ve been to the Himalayas!) Tickets to Gornergrat start at 40 CHF per person purchase them in advance here.
5. Cogwheel Railway
While going to Stellisee is amazing to see the Matterhorn, and you must do it, Gornergrat takes the scenery to an entirely new level. The train to Gornergrat was the first fully electric cogwheel train in the world. When visiting the Swiss Alps, getting on a cogwheel train is a must. The 9.4 km train takes 33 minutes from Zermatt Station, but you can hop on at other stops as we did. It goes through tunnels, past mountain lakes, and offers gorgeous views of the surrounding mountain peaks.
At the top, you are treated to a scene of glaciers and 29 mountains reaching over 4000 meters (13000 feet) including The Matterhorn Switzerland’s highest peak, Dufourspitze at 4,634 meters and the second largest glacier, Gorner Glacier.
Watch our video of our visit to Gornergrat
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7. Zooom The Matterhorn
Besides the views, there is also Europe’s highest hotel, an interactive display called Zooom The Matterhorn where you can immersive in the Alps experiences, and you can grab a bite at the restaurant before starting your hike down. This really was worth checking out, we didn’t think we’d care much for a museum, but it is very state of the art with virtual reality and an IMAX movie that takes you soaring through the Alps
8. Hike to Rotenboden – Toblerone Viewpoint
The hike to the Toblerone Viewpoint in Rotenboden from Gornergrat is about 30 minutes will take you longer because you are going to want to stop a lot to take in the views. The hiking opportunities are endless and you can walk all the way back down to Zermatt, but we couldn’t get enough of this view and stopped every five minutes to see the glaciers and mountain vistas.
9. Famous Zermatt Blacknose Sheep
It is also on this hike that you can search for the famous Zermatt Blacknose Sheep. They are scattered throughout the mountains, but Zermatt is clever and put collars on them so that people can track them via GPS. We found the herd just under a bridge at Rotenboden with their sheepherder Debra. She let us pat the friendly and extremely cute sheep who were relaxing there for the afternoon. Find the sheep through GPS here.
10. Matterhorn Glacier Paradise
Another spectacular day trip from Zermatt is to make your way up to Glacier Paradise. We went up the morning of our last day and it was the only day in Zermatt where we experienced terrible weather. At the top of Glacier Paradise, you can usually view a whopping 38 four-thousand-meter peaks (13,000 feet) and 14 glaciers! We arrived in the clouds and only caught glimpses of the mountains of Italy and France but it was still worth going up.
11. Matterhorn Glacier Ride
The gondola ride itself is worth the experience. This is the world’s highest cableway and lucky for us, the weather was clear on our way up. It gave us a birds-eye and close-up view of the glacier 170 metres (500 feet) below. Dave and I commented that we would normally need to be in a helicopter to see these views, but the gondola lets you experience it without having to step foot in a chopper. This ride alone makes the price worth it. Tickets start at 53 CHF.
12. Glacier Palace
We didn’t realize that there was a glacier palace above Zermatt similar to the ice palace we saw in Grindelwald, but to our surprise and delight, we had the opportunity to go 15 meters below the icefield to walk through an ice cave at 3883 meters (12,739 feet) above sea level. With a labyrinth of ice tunnels and sculptures, it is a great adventure. They even have an ice bar and an ice slide!
13. Matterhorn Glacier Paradise Attractions
Besides the Glacier Palace and the viewing platform, there are plenty of things to keep you busy up at Glacier Paradise. For one, it is the highest ski area in the Alps where you can ski 365 days a year! There is a restaurant and a cinema lounge. So take your time at the top. We went out to the viewing platform three times in between looking at the sights in hopes that the weather would lift. Alas, it never did, but we did have an awesome time. And as we said, the gondola ride up was worth it!
Watch our Video
14. Go Downhill Mountain Biking in Zermatt
Our favourite day in Zermatt by far was hopping on the train at the Sunnegga-Rothorn valley station with our mountain bikes and making our way up once again to Sunnegga via the gondola. We had e-bikes for this day, but the trip from Sunnegga is all downhill so you don’t really need them. Although since we booked the bikes for the entire day, we were happy to have them once we were off the mountain so we could ride through the hilly town of Zermatt quickly to see more on the other side. We covered a lot of ground. You can rent mountain bikes at Slalom Sport – Intersport.
15. 4 Lakes Bike Tour
The popular mountain bike tour in Zermatt takes you along mountain paths to see lakes and mountains. The 4 Lakes bike tour took us through sees some of the lakes we have already mentioned above in the 5 Lake Trail, but there is so much more to it than the lakes. The paths are steep and fun and at times very challenging but they are double-track wide so you won’t have to panic about falling into the abyss. Once you get off the hiking route (cyclists take different trails than hikers) after Moojisee, the trail gets even steeper and more narrow. There were times when I got off my bike to walk, but Dave powered through like a pro!
16. Oberer Höhenweg Bike Tour
It was when we veered off from the hiking path that we joined an awesome single-track route through the forest. At one point we thought we might have taken a wrong turn and gone beyond our limits. Especially when we came up to a rockface with a narrow path snaking along the side of the cliff. This is where we got off our bikes to push them. I’m glad we did because the view was beautiful and we stopped for some photos before moving on. (Plus, I swear we ran into Sting hiking through this path)
We didn’t know what to expect for the rest of the ride, but once we got around the rockface and away from that dizzying cliff, the single track took us through a forested path. It was a spectacular ride and we didn’t want it to end! If we were to go back to Zermatt, we’d rent mountain bikes for the full three days.
17. Window Shop on the Bahnofstrasse Pedestrian Street
We made our way back down to Zermatt following the hiking trails that eventually met up with paved roads and took our bikes downtown. No bicycles are allowed on the pedestrian-only portion of Bahnoffstrasse so we locked them up to do some exploring. The Pedestrian Street of Zermatt is filled with high-end shopping. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many watch shops! We checked out the windows seeing watches for sale from $3000 t0 $60,000!
I’m sorry but if you have 60k to spend on a watch, perhaps you should think more about where you are putting your money! After feeling completely dejected about the state of the human race, that there are people who actually will spend 4k on an ugly sweater and never blink at 30k-50k for a watch, we decided we should leave this street and get back into a bit of reality.
18. See the Old Village of Hinterdorf
Making our way to the old part of the village of Zermatt, known as the “Hinterdorf” (rear village), we stopped at the church, Pfarrkirche St. Mauritius in the main town square. Head up the stairs for one of the best views of the old houses. There are 30 old buildings that have been restored from old barns, stables, and houses dating back to the 16th century. This is what Zermatt looked like before the tourists came knocking in the 1800s.
19. Visit the Matterhorn Museum – Zermatlantis
Across from the Church is the Matterhorn Museum – Zermatlantis which you must go inside to see. It is a journey through time as you walk from room to room showcasing the history of Zermatt and how it became a tourist destination. The museum focuses on the mountain climbing history from the first ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865. There is the climbing gear on display from the early pioneering days to the modern technology used today. It really is a great way to spend a couple of hours. Visit the museum website for prices and opening hours.
20. Watch Sunset from The Zermatt Matterhorn Viewpoint
There are plenty of places to watch the sunset in Zermatt but our favourite was heading up to the Zermatt Matterhorn Viewpoint. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time before the sunsets as it is an uphill walk. We had to job our way up the stairs and it was exhausting. This view is beautiful standing high above the town with a direct view of the Matterhorn. Walk past the Sunnegga-Rothorn valley station for 10 – 15 minutes (uphill) for this classic view.
21. Take a Stroll Along the Matter Vispa
Another beautiful place to take in the views of the Matterhorn is down by the Matter Vispa. This fast-moving river is great to walk along. One of the great viewpoints of the Matterhorn is from Kirchbrücke. From Kirchbrücke (Kirch bridge) you can walk along the river out to the forest fun park where you can do some zip lining if you are up for an adventure.
22. Hike to Höhbalmen
If you are up for another hike, an easy one is out to Höhbalmen to a bench that is a popular photo point. We ran out of time and didn’t make it all the way out there, but we got close. Simply walking out to this part of Zermatt is beautiful and a pleasant way to spend the afternoon. There were quite a few hikers on the trails.
23. Glacier Express
One way to travel to Zermatt is on the Glacier Express. This legendary train trip connects Zermatt with St. Moritz. This trip is above and beyond the price of a regular Swiss Travel Pass. But it is one of the greatest train journeys in the world. The Classic trip starts at 395 CHF. You can find more information here.
- A Swiss Travel Pass includes:
- Unlimited travel by train, bus, and boat
- Public transportation in more than 90 cities and towns
- Including mountain excursions: Rigi, Schilthorn, Stanserhorn, and Stoos
- Free admission to more than 500 museums throughout Switzerland
- Get your Swiss Travel Pass Here.
- Two free informative apps to help plan your Switzerland journey are: Grand Train Tour of Switzerland app and the Swiss Travel Guide app
- For more information on traveling to Zermatt, visit Zermatt tourism for itinerary planning.
- Our trip to Switzerland is in partnership with MySwitzerland.com. Visit their website to start planning your trip today.
As you can see there are so many amazing things to do in Zermatt. Make sure to spend more than a day in this gorgeous mountain destination. Many people only pop in to see it but it requires at least three days to truly take in all its beauty. Plus, you will want to give a buffer for the weather as you never know when the mountains will be shrouded in clouds. You’d hate to miss seeing the Matterhorn if you only had one day that was overcast.