Located high up in the Swiss Alps, Zermatt is a popular place to visit during the winter ski season, but with so many resorts and ski towns to choose from is Zermatt worth visiting? After all, Switzerland is notoriously expensive to visit, so should you opt for a cheaper alternative?
Outside of the ski season, what is there to even do in Zermatt? Well, let’s dive in and figure out if Zermatt is actually worth visiting and why.
Is Zermatt Worth Visiting?
I was a bit wary before going that it would feel over-touristy and that the charm wouldn’t still be there, but I was proven wrong! I think Zermatt is still worth visiting and they’ve done a great job keeping the town quaint and charming.
Zermatt Pros and Cons to Help You Decide
So, now that we’ve outlined a few key things to see and do, and how you can get to the beautiful mountain town of Zermatt, let’s go through a list of quick pros and cons to see if Zermatt is worth visiting.
5 Pros of Visiting Zermatt
Okay, let’s start off with all the good stuff!
1. World-class Outdoor Adventuring
There’s no getting away from the fact that Zermatt is a mecca for outdoor adventurers for a good reason. Whether you prefer skis, snowboards, crampons, ice picks, or mountain bikes, there’s going to be a trail or route that’s going to be on your adrenaline-filled bucket list.
2. Car-free Experiences
Even though it makes it tricky to get to Zermatt in the first place, the fact that Zermatt is completely car-free is pretty unique and refreshing to experience.
It means you can wander around the town safely, especially if you’re traveling with kids who have a tendency to run across a road when they see a beautiful Swiss chocolate shop…
3. Stunning Scenery
From the mighty Matterhorn to Monte Rosa to the Gorner Gorge, you’re really spoiled for choice when it comes to stunning scenery. There’s a really good reason why this region has so many viewpoints, tourist cable cars, and luxurious scenic train rides.
With all this natural beauty around, of course, you’re going to make the most of it!
4. Gorgeous Architecture
When you wander down Zermatt’s Bahnhofstrasse, you’ll be surrounded by chocolate box-looking buildings and traditional alpine chalets that are a gorgeous mix of stone and wood.
It makes you feel like you’re in a European fairytale, and in a way, you kind of are! If you’re into alpine architecture, this is a great place to stay and explore!
5. Amazing Food
It might be expensive, but let’s take a second to appreciate the amazing food and drink in Zermatt and the surrounding region. From luscious and rich fondue to cured meats to raclette and even saffron, it’s no wonder that foodies love this region.
Drinks-wise Zermatt is home to some amazing white wines, made using glacial water, and traditional Swiss pear and apricot brandy – perfect for warming you up during Apres Ski!
4 Cons of Visiting Zermatt (Reasons You Might Not Want to Visit)
So, we’ve had the positives, now it’s time to look at the downsides!
1. The Price of Everything
Okay, so I’ve spoken a lot about the high prices in Zermatt, but that’s because it’s really high, even for an Alpine ski town.
Ski towns in France and Italy are normally a lot cheaper and if you want to ski in Europe and aren’t fussy about being in the Alps, there are plenty of slopes in countries like Andorra, Bulgaria, and more that are a lot cheaper.
2. Getting to Zermatt is a Nightmare
Again, we’ve been over this, but considering that it’s a town that relies so heavily on seasonal tourism, it is a nightmare to actually get to Zermatt. The train is by far your best option.
You can’t even jump on a budget-friendly FlixBus as they only go as far as Sion – the closest airport over an hour’s train ride away.
3. Not a Lot of Indoor Things to Do
If you’re not an outdoorsy person, it’s unlikely that Zermatt is going to be the right destination for you. Other than exploring the nature around Zermatt, there aren’t a lot of indoor things to do.
There are a few spas, a couple of shops, and the Swiss Glacier Cave experience, but really, you can do all that in one day if you need a break from skiing or hiking.
4. Unreliable Weather
The weather changes really quickly in the mountains, so it might be perfect hiking conditions one second and a storm might be rolling in the next.
Although you can hedge your bets by going in peak season, if you’re trying to snag a bargain in the spring or fall months, you’re going to have to deal with unreliable weather.
The town of Zermatt is a legendary destination for outdoor adventure lovers. From world-class ski slopes to alpine climbing to mountain biking, it’s a super active location to visit.
Located in the shadow of the mighty Matterhorn mountain, the highest peak in Switzerland, Zermatt is your quintessential Swiss mountain town – it’s super busy in the winter and summer months, with low crowd levels in the spring and fall when it’s too cold, wet, or icy to hike but there isn’t enough fresh snow to enjoy winter pursuits.
As it’s in Switzerland, Zermatt is an expensive place to visit. Make no mistake about that. If you’re looking for a budget getaway, look elsewhere. The Swiss currency, the Swiss Franc (CHF) has pretty unfavorable exchange rates against essentially any other currency and the cost of living is sky-high in Switzerland.
Visiting Zermatt in Winter
If you’re visiting Zermatt in winter, you’re heading to a luxury destination in peak season so expect well-dressed crowds and be ready to splash the cash.
Chalets are probably the most common style of accommodation in Zermatt and if you’re traveling in the skiing season, you’ll need to book well in advance as it’s a small town with limited options.
In addition to all the amazing ski routes and resorts, such as the family-friendly Sunnegga area, you can also head further up these iconic peaks and ski down and around glaciers. It’s spectacular.
This region is known as the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, and it’s definitely not for beginners, but if you have the skills it’s a bucket list ski route.
One of the most popular times to tackle these more picturesque ski routes is at sunrise and sunset, but make sure you have a local guide with you as one way is going to be dark!
If for some reason you don’t want to ski or snowboard when you’re in Zermatt, there are still plenty of amazing things to see and do in and around the town.
One of the major draws is the many viewing platforms and mountain views in the area. There are numerous cable cars and gondolas crisscrossing across the region.
However, if you want to get the most popular view of the Matterhorn, head up on the Gornergrat Bahn train and sit on the right-hand side for the iconic mountain view. You can also jump on a cable car up to Stellisee Lake for a more stationary vantage point.
If you’re looking for a truly unique tourist attraction just outside Zermatt head to the Glacier Palace, otherwise known as the Swiss Glacier Cave and Ice Palace in the Klein Matterhorn area. Here you can actually take a tour inside a glacier! It’s an unforgettable experience, but remember to wrap up warm!
After a long day exploring Zermatt’s outdoor pursuits, head back to your chalet or hotel and take advantage of one of the many saunas and spas all around town. It’s the perfect antidote to the cold and it’ll help to relax all your muscles after being on the slopes!
Visiting Zermatt in Summer
If you’re opting to visit Zermatt in the summer months instead, you’ll still find it to be an outdoor lover’s paradise, but it’ll be a lot warmer and sunnier! During these months hikers, alpine climbers, and mountain bikers descend on this mountain town to tackle some seriously impressive routes.
One of the most popular areas for mountain biking and hiking is the Gornergrat area. Home to the Gorner Gorge, Gorner Glacier, and Gornergrat Railway, there are plenty of beautiful hiking trails and cycle routes with varying degrees of difficulty and length.
Another popular hike is up Monte Rosa, which can take up to 10-12 hours there and back again via the Monte Rosa Glacier. Due to the heavy snowfall in winter, it’s advised that you only hike this route in the summer months and even then, you might find snow on the peaks!
If you’re not afraid of heights, you can always challenge yourself to hike across the Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge. As the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the Alps, the main hike surrounding the bridge from the village of Randa takes two days to complete, but you’ll have stunning views pretty much all the way!
Want to stay in town? Zermatt’s main street, known as The Bahnhofstrasse is jam-packed with boutiques, souvenir shops, bakeries, cafes, and bars.
It comes alive in the summer when the sun is shining and all the flowers are out making the entire town look like a postcard!
How Expensive is Zermatt?
With the average price of a hotel room in Zermatt costing around $229, this town is an expensive place to stay, For a couple staying for a week, especially in ski season, don’t expect to see a change out of $4,000. Make sure to mention
There are exceptions to the rule of course. If you’re looking for Swiss souvenirs and kitschy mountain trinkets, WEGA Nishinaga is a reasonable place to buy them.
If you’re looking for cheap eats around Zermatt there are a few pizzerias that won’t break the bank and are really good as you’re just across the border with Italy! You can also find a Mcdonald’s in the airport in Geneva and one in Zermatt itself if you’re really stuck.
Want some traditional Swiss mountain cuisine without breaking the bank? Head to the Hotel Restaurant Derby in the heart of Zermatt. With a mix of French, Italian, and Swiss food there’s something for everyone and the prices are pretty reasonable for the area. Don’t forget to order the two-person fondue – you won’t regret it!
It’s also really expensive and inconvenient to get to Zermatt in the first place, but more on that in a minute!
Getting to Zermatt
If you’re arriving in Switzerland by air, chances are you’ll be flying into Geneva, Zurich, Bern, or Basel. The closest airport out of those are Geneva and Bern which are both around 3-4 hours away from Zermatt. I prefer flying into Geneva because you can take advantage of the super low-cost EasyJet flights.
To get from Geneva airport, you’ll need to get a train from the airport to Visp, which is the capital of the Valais canton (where Zermatt is). From there, you have to get another train to Zermatt. All in all, you’re looking at around four hours on a train with all your gear.
If you’re thinking about hiring a car so that you can get to Zermatt in just under three hours, think again. Zermatt is a car-free town which means you’ll only be able to drive as far as Täsch which is around five kilometers away.
Once you’re here you have to either get a train, taxi, or limousine to reach your final destination of Zermatt.
As you might have guessed, train travel in Switzerland can be extortionately expensive at times. However, you can buy a Swiss Travel Pass which gives you unlimited travel on trains, buses, and boats for either 3, 4, 6, 8, or 15 consecutive days.
With the pass starting at 245 Euros, it’s still not cheap, but it might be more convenient for you in the long run, if you’re traveling around Switzerland for a while.
Plan an Adventure to Zermatt As Soon As Possible!
So, all in all, the logistics of getting to Zermatt make it hard to visit on a budget, but if you’re into outdoor adventure and world-renowned mountain views, it’s well worth the effort of traveling here.
Of course, with that being said, make sure you’ve saved up before you visit because there is no way that a vacation to Zermatt is going to be a budget-friendly trip!
Have you been to Zermatt? What did you think of it and would you recommend it to other outdoorsy travelers? Let me know in the comments below!