A winter weekend in Zermatt, Switzerland, with recommendations for snowshoeing at Gornergrat, visiting Matterhorn Glacier Paradise and more!
It’s hard to find words that adequately express how much I love Zermatt. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to see the Matterhorn. There’s no better place to take in its beauty than in Zermatt. This car-free resort village is nestled in a valley in between two steep mountain sides, directly in the shadow of the Matterhorn. Its dominating presence is so powerful, I swear, you can feel it.
Transportation & accommodations
You cannot drive directly into Zermatt, but you can park your car in the nearby village of Täsch and ride the train into Zermatt. We opted to take the train all the way from Kaiserslautern to Zermatt, which took roughly six and half hours and included a few changes.
People travel from around the world to ski in Zermatt. There is no shortage of epic ski runs with incredible views to choose from, and some are open 365 days a year. For that reason, it’s a very popular attraction in Switzerland and accommodations can be expensive or hard to come by at peak times. Our original plan was to visit Zermatt in late December, but we had a hard time finding somewhere to stay, so we postponed the trip to February. It ended up being the perfect time for us to visit!
My two “must-haves” for the hotel were a view of the Matterhorn from our bedroom window and an outdoor hot tub (preferably one with a view, as well!). We lucked out at Hotel Ambiance Zermatt, which gave us exactly what we wanted, plus more. We booked our stay four months in advance and asked for the room with the best Matterhorn view. They delivered.
Our room was comfortable and spacious, the staff were friendly and accommodating, and the hotel had a beautiful lobby, bar and hot tub complete with a Matterhorn view. It was a normal-sized hot tub, one that can comfortably hold about four to six people, so we typically had to get cozy with other hotel guests, but this ended up being fun as we drank, talked about our days and watched the sun go down.
Things to do
Snowshoeing at Gornergrat
The Gornergrat Bahn (train) runs from the village of Zermatt to Gornergrat station, situated at an elevation of 10,135 feet. It is the second highest railway in Europe. Along the route, passengers are rewarded with stunning views of the Matterhorn, but an even more spectacular view awaits at the top.
At the top of Gornergrat is a hotel and restaurant, along with the starting point for ski runs and hiking trails. Ben and I decided to spend our morning snowshoeing from Gornergrat to Riffelberg, a stop mid-way down the mountain.
I can honestly say this was one of the funnest things we’ve ever done. I couldn’t get enough of the views; it was like we were walking in a postcard. There were times that we were the only people as far as we could see, and having this landscape to ourselves was truly something magical.
Our snowshoeing adventure took about three hours, including many stops for photos, drone flying and a champagne toast. I would highly recommend the activity to anybody visiting Zermatt and looking for a bit of adventure and once in a lifetime photo opportunities. Be sure to rent snowshoes and poles before you arrive to Gornergrat, as they do not rent them at the top of the mountain. Luckily, sports equipment stores are a dime a dozen in Zermatt!
Worth noting, we had incredible weather for February. It was nearly 50 F and the sun was beaming down on us, hence why we’re not wearing jackets in these photos. I’m sure we got lucky, and this isn’t normally the case in February. Luckily, the Gornergrat website has the current weather displayed on it. Be sure to check and plan accordingly!
Snowshoeing trails (we did both the Challenge Trail and the Panorama Trail — note, there’s a bathroom at Rotenboden, where one trail ends and the next begins)
When we arrived at Riffelberg, we enjoyed lunch at Buffet & Bar Riffelberg on their terrace with a lovely Matterhorn view. Be warned, it’s expensive having lunch up on the mountain! Had we prepared better, we would have packed sandwiches along with our mini champagnes and had a picnic on the mountain to save a little money.
Matterhorn Glacier Paradise
Gornergrat is high at 10,135 feet. Matterhorn Glacier Paradise is even higher at 12,740 feet. It’s the highest place in Europe that can be reached by cable car, and its viewing platform offers views over Italy, France and Switzerland. Since we were already on a high from going up to Gornergrat, we continued it the following day with a trip up to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise.
You can book your tickets directly from the ticket booth at the lift in Zermatt. Pay attention to the route, as going all the way up to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise requires several lifts and a couple changes. And, yes, the ticket is expensive. It’s worth it, though!
If you can only choose one, I recommend going to Gornergrat over Matterhorn Glacier Paradise. You do have a more panoramic view from Matterhorn Glacier Paradise because it is so much higher, but it doesn’t have the iconic Matterhorn view that Gornergrat does. You can see the Matterhorn from Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, but it’s a different angle in which it is almost entirely unrecognizable!
Up at the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise is a viewing platform, a restaurant and gift shop, and an ice sculpture palace. We walked through the ice palace, had a beer at the restaurant, and enjoyed the views for a bit before beginning our descent to Zermatt.
Ski or snowboard
Although we didn’t take advantage of skiing or snowboarding during this trip to Zermatt, it’s something you can definitely take part in. As I mentioned previously, there are so many runs — all of them with spectacular views. Enjoy!
Enjoy quaint Zermatt
One of the main reasons I did not want to snowboard during this trip is because our time was so limited, and I wanted a decent amount of time to simply walk around Zermatt and enjoy its serene, picturesque presence. The snowcapped wooden chalets, the stream of the Matter Vispa carrying glacier water through the town, the restaurant terraces with fire pits and thick blankets to keep customers warm, and no cars buzzing by (except for the electric taxis and buses) — I felt so at peace here, and just wanted to soak it in as much as possible before it came time to leave.
Where to eat
First things first, make a reservation for anywhere you want to eat in Zermatt. Because the town is always full of tourists, its not uncommon for restaurants to be fully booked for dinner. We weren’t able to get into some of the places we tried to make reservations at, but we did get to enjoy dinner at the following.
Cafe Du Pont Zermatt — Oldest restaurant in Zermatt. Great fondue!
Swiss Chalet Zermatt — Romantic ambiance, friendly staff, wonderful food.
10 times out of 10, I recommend visiting Zermatt. Yes, it’s expensive. Yes, it’s worth it. The memories we took home from this incredible adventure in the Swiss Alps getting so close to the legendary Matterhorn are priceless.