Zermatt is a premier winter sports destination. In part it’s because the Matterhorn is so close, but that’s just one of the reasons. Incidentally, Zermatt is one of those rare places on the planet where you can ski or snowboard 365 days a year.
The Matterhorn’s unique, iconic shape makes it the world’s most immediately recognizable mountain. And the village of Zermatt sits right at its base.
The area around Zermatt features almost countless miles of ski and snowboard runs. Some are even on the lower slopes of the Matterhorn. Unfortunately, this mountain has also been the scene of tragic deaths – most involving mountain climbers trying to reach its angular summit. Zermatt’s Matterhorn Museum honors these mountaineers and chronicles the first successful ascent, made back in 1865.
The village has been pedestrianized (meaning no cars allowed), so travelers are free to wander its winding streets however they want. As you’re strolling, you’ll notice plenty of hotels, pubs, cafés, restaurants and shops. The Zermatt train station sits at one end of town, not much more than a stone’s throw away from several Zermatt hotels. That’s an important piece of information, as you’ll see in a minute or two.
Zermatt has several claims to fame. First of all, its location has helped it evolve from a sleepy little mountain village into one of the most renowned ski resorts in the world. But apart from being the scene of world-class skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and other winter sports, Zermatt’s train station is the starting point of the scenic Gornergrat cog railway.
The Gornergrat, a high Alpine ridge, sits about 2 miles (3 km) to the east of Zermatt. For over a century now, this mighty ridge has been the top Swiss tourist destination, surpassing not just the Matterhorn but also St. Moritz, Interlaken, Lake Maggiore and every other spot in Switzerland.
What makes the Gornergrat so special?
In a nutshell, it’s the breathtaking views from the top – more than 20 peaks towering at least 13,000 feet high (almost 4,000 meters), the stunning Monte Rosa Massif, and starkly beautiful Alpine glaciers. Many travelers report that the views from the Gornergrat’s summit are the most amazing in all of Switzerland.
The Gornergrat cog railway is the best and most enjoyable way to reach the top (actually, the trains stop slightly below the true summit). The views of the pristine mountain forests and lakes, rocky gorges and Alpine meadows you’ll pass along the way are almost as amazing as what you’ll see from the top. The Gornergrat Kulm Hotel (the highest hotel in the Alps) sits between the end of the line and the summit. The hotel’s observation platform offers spectacular sightseeing, and while you’re there you can shop in the on-premise mall or dine in the restaurant.
Trains run every day of the year, departing from Zermatt’s railway station every 24 minutes. Isn’t it time to book one of those Zermatt hotels that’s so close to the station?