Start planning your winter holiday with this handy travel guide to the top things to do in Zermatt, Switzerland. Oh and we’re not just talking about skiing!
Zermatt is one of the prettiest towns in Switzerland. There’s the pretty town centre, filled with wooden chalets and historic homes, peppered with adorable bakeries, smart restaurants and endless ski wear shops. Then there’s the towering mountains, including the omnipresent peak of The Matterhorn – one of the world’s most recognisable peaks.
There are plenty of great things to do in Zermatt in winter (even if you don’t ski!) including visiting the town’s relaxing spas, top restaurants, hiking to snap pics of stunning views and visiting places like the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise.
I headed to Zermatt in January. From Geneva, we travelled up to the beautiful town, also home to Europe’s highest ski resort.
Not only is it a stunning snowy village, it also sits in the shadow of one of the world’s most photographed mountains – the Matterhorn. Yes this is the famous mountain that inspired both the triangular shape and the logo for Toblerone!
With 200km of pistes, plus a chance to ski from Italy to Switzerland (yes, the border is right there), it’s easy to see why Zermatt is one of the most popular ski resorts in Europe.
While the region boasts some of the most scenic skiing around, what should you do if you weren’t born zipping down the slopes? What if you’re more of a bambi on ice than a pro? Is it possible to go on a ski trip and not ski… but still have a great time? Or, perhaps you’re looking for things to do in Zermatt in bad weather… what are your options?
Thankfully I found plenty of things to do in Zermatt, and didn’t put skis on once! I had a varied week of activities, enjoyed the snowy landscapes and came back with plenty of great memories.
So time to wrap up warm and channel your inner snow bunny as you read my guide to the top things to do in Zermatt in winter. Oh and if you’re planning a longer trip through Switzerland, be sure to look at my Switzerland itinerary.
Take The Train To Gornergrat
The train journey from Zermatt to Gornergrat is regarded as one of the most scenic train rides in the world. The journey takes around thirty minutes, stopping at a few places in the mountains along the way. We timed our trip for first light, and enjoyed some incredible window views of The Matterhorn illuminated by the sun.
The views are incredible, and while in the mornings you might be jostling with skiers (who use the train to reach the pistes), you’re likely to have it almost all to yourself on the descent. I was mesmerised by the view of The Matterhorn, barely taking my eyes off it! As you climb up the mountain you have the opportunity to see it from different angles, admiring its impressively sharp angles.
The final stop is Gornergrat at a height of 3,100m. There you can take in the panoramic views, visit the hotel, or warm up with a coffee in the café. The views are incredible and this is definitely a trip I’d recommend if you’re visiting Zermatt during your trip.
I’d recommend booking tickets in advance to make things really simple on the day.
Explore The Town
Zermatt is car free, so the only way to get around is on board one of their cute electric vehicles, or on foot.
To find out more about the village, I headed off on a tour of Zermatt, which lasted a couple of hours and taught me about the history, why the village is car free, where to go for the best fondue and stories of the brave adventurers who first summited the Matterhorn.
I loved exploring the beautiful old village, with its timber buildings dating back to the 16th century. Zermatt is reasonably pricey so alongside ski and outdoor clothing stores, you’ll find a few high-end boutiques and lingerie stores.
There are also tonnes of gorgeous cafes serving everything from coffee and indulgent hot chocolates to apple pie lattes!
I also loved hiking in Zermatt, and discovered a wonderful viewpoint a little way back from the main streets. It was lovely watching the twinkly lights start to turn on in the evening. During my trip I read about the Monte Rosa massif – the highest mountain in the Swiss Alps, which has 10 peaks higher than 4,000m! In the summer months there are some amazing guided hikes in the region to take in the views of those incredible peaks.
Visit A Spa In Zermatt
Even if you haven’t overexerted like those hitting the slopes in the morning, I still think it’s perfectly acceptable to relax and unwind in a spa.
Many hotels have spas, pools, Jacuzzis and saunas, and there’s something so relaxing about looking out at a cold snowy scene from the comfort of a bubbling Jacuzzi!
I spent an afternoon at Hotel Sonne Zermatt – a lovely family-run hotel with one of the best spas around. I booked a hot stone massage, which was by far one of the most relaxing treatments I’ve ever enjoyed.
My massage therapist’s technique was great and the surroundings made for a really memorable experience. I think I floated out of there! I also loved the outdoor Jacuzzi with a backdrop of a frozen waterfall – you don’t see one of those every day!
If there’s any bad weather during your trip to Zermatt, a spa day is a great option as there aren’t a lot of indoor activities in the town.
Walk The World’s Longest Hanging Suspension Bridge In Zermatt
This is new since my visit, and rated as one of the best things to do in Zermatt. It’s something I’d love to return to try! The 494m long bridge, called the Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge or Europabrücke (Europe Bridge), hangs 85m above the Grabengufer ravine.
It takes a mere 10 mins to cross and offers incredible views of the Matterhorn, plus other peaks – the Weisshorn and the Bernese Alps. As far as I can tell, you can only do it in the summer months, but it’s worth double checking before your visit.
Enjoy Cosy Mountain Delicacies At A Restaurant In Zermatt
Food and travel go hand in hand, and when it’s cold you’re totally entitled to eat more indulgently! From rich cheese fondue, to raclette, and rostis as big as your face, the restaurant experience is one of my favourite parts of snowy trip.
Restaurants in ski resorts are always super cosy with their alpine décor, furry rugs and plenty of candles. Once the wine and beer are flowing you’ll forget that temperatures are in the minus numbers.
In Zermatt, be sure to visit Restaurant Du Pont, a great value, cosy eatery with a menu of tasty cheese-based options!
Après-Ski In Zermatt, Switzerland
The perfect place to reunite with your ski pals is at one of the après ski bars. This was one of the highlights of my last ski trip to Tignes. Where else is it acceptable to be on your third drink or knocking back a few jägerbombs at 4.30pm?!
The liveliest après ski bars in Zermatt are Snowboat and Harry’s Bar, which is run by a young, friendly, lederhosen-clad Swiss-Austrian couple. As day turns to night you can hear the music pumping out of both of them.
If you’re visiting Zermatt as a big group or would like the option to self-cater some of your trip, I’d recommend taking a look at Airbnb. Usually the properties are owned by locals so you can enjoy an authentic experience and ask for lots of expert tips for the area. You can claim £35 off your first trip by clicking here.
Catch A Cable Car In Zermatt
You don’t have to ski to catch a cable car… just make sure you don’t accidentally join the wrong queue and end up teetering on a chairlift.
As mentioned, something that sets Zermatt apart from many ski resorts is its incredible scenery with the stunning white peak of the Matterhorn standing tall in the background. Skiing in Zermatt is totally incredible, but watching is pretty good too!
One of the best attractions in Zermatt for non-skiers is Matterhorn Glacier Paradise. At 3,883m, it’s the highest mountain lift station In Europe and offers incredible panoramic views not only of the iconic mountain, but also the surrounding ski slopes.
Expect blue skies and sunshine but remember that this is serious altitude, so pace yourself and give your body some time to adjust.
Also part of Matterhorn Glacier Paradise is the Glacier Palace. Take the lift down inside the glacier and you’ll emerge in a magical walkway carved through the ice and filled with ice sculptures.
With colourfully illuminated ice cars, dragons, and even an ice throne and slide, the mystical palace is a lovely contrast from the snowy views outside.
Before catching the cable car back down the mountain, stop off at the restaurant for a warming hot chocolate or a bowl of soup.
Learn More About The Matterhorn
There are plenty of incredible stories surrounding Zermatt’s most famous landmark – The Matterhorn. The Matterhorn Museum – Zermatlantis offers insight into the brave mountaineers and mountain guides who have attempted the climb over the years.
Find out all about the first ascent, the treacherous conditions on Theodul Glacier and Gorner Glacier, and more about the mountain town’s historic past. There are stories of tragedy, triumph, and plenty of heartwarming tales that will inspire you to try something challenging in the future.
Zermatt: Helicopter Tours and Paragliding
I didn’t have time to squeeze either of these in but I spotted plenty of helicopter tours buzzing around the Matterhorn. It’s a breathtaking view from the ground and I can only imagine how magical it is from the skies!
I also saw a few daredevils each day paragliding close to the Matterhorn – wow how brave must they be?
Be A Big Kid In The Snow In Zermatt
I loved wrapping up warm and heading out to play in the snow! From making snow angels to having competitive snowball fights, it was a fun, liberating experience – in fact I completely forgot I was an adult as I picked up that first handful of snow!
If you decide you do fancy having a go at skiing, consider the Zermatt Beginner Ski Experience.
Zermatt: Know Before You Go & How To Travel To Zermatt
It’s worth noting that Zermatt, along with the rest of Switzerland, is pretty pricey. Expect to pay between 23 and 35 CHF (£18 – £27) for a main course in a restaurant and around 4.50 CHF (£4) for a coffee.
If you’re on a budget, head to the supermarket in town for snacks and alcoholic drinks, and at lunchtime head to one of the excellent bakeries for a sandwich or pastry.
While there are over 300 hotels, if you’re on a budget, they may be out of your price range. Check out Airbnb for great self-catering options in the village. If you fancy booking the holiday of a lifetime, there are some incredible luxury properties to stay in. How about a Zermatt luxury chalet?
As Zermatt is car free, take a taxi or catch the Zermatt train to the nearby town of Tasch. From there you can organise a transfer or catch the train to Zermatt for 8.80 CHF (£7).
Even if you’re not planning to ski, dress as if you are! Thermals, gloves, a hat, snow boots or hiking boots, and a decent ski jacket are all essential. It can be quite warm during the day but as the sun disappears, you’ll really feel the chill.
Around 6,000 people live in Zermatt but that inflates to approximately 30,000 in peak times. Bear that in mind when planning your activities and meals. It’s advised to book at many restaurants, and ski lifts will be very busy in the mornings during high season.
Thanks to Jet2 for inviting me to explore Switzerland on this lovely non-ski ski trip! Considering skiing in Zermatt? Read Macca’s blog: Learning To Ski In Zermatt. lPanning a longer trip through Switzerland? Be sure to look at my Switzerland itinerary.
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