With snow-capped peaks and plenty of adventure, Zermatt is an alpine paradise set in mesmerizing landscapes. Experience all sides of this mountain playground with our guide to the best things to do in Zermatt.

By: Paul Healy | Published: 19 Oct 2023 | Last update: 21 Nov 2023

Zermatt, Switzerland is a picturesque village located at the foot of the Matterhorn, one of the most iconic mountains in the world.

The village itself is charming, but the real attractions are the outdoor activities.

Zermatt has some of the best hiking in Switzerland. Scenic cable car rides whisk you to dramatic alpine landscapes. Pristine lakes and rivers reflect the Matterhorn’s beautiful pyramidal shape.

After several visits, we’ve collected our favourite things to do in Zermatt. We’ve also included practical information to make your visit smoother.

Complete guide to visiting Zermatt Switzerland including what to see and do, the best hikes, where to stay and practical tips.

IN THIS GUIDE

ZERMATT SWITZERLAND


WHAT TO DO

GETTING THERE

HOW LONG

ITINERARY

STAY

1 – MATTERHORN VIEWPOINTS

While the mighty Matterhorn is Zermatt’s crowning feature, the town is set in a valley which curves away from the mountain. So, not every street in the car-free village has a winning view of the Matterhorn.

Some of the best Matterhorn views are on the slopes above the town. They can only be reached by hikes, funiculars, or cable cars.

OUR FAVOURITE VIEWPOINTS OF THE MATTERHORN

  • Mürini Hill – the best view of the Matterhorn from Zermatt is on this hill in the Le Petit Village area on the northeastern edge of town.
  • Riffelsee – This lake provides the perfect reflection shot of the Matterhorn.
  • Höbahlmen Meadows – These high alpine meadows with incredible views of the imposing north face can only be reached on a challenging hike.
  • Klein Matterhorn – See the Matterhorn and other 4,000m peaks from the 3,883m high Glacier Mountain Paradise viewing platform.
  • Stellisee – A short walk from Blauherd Cable Car Station this lake has another great reflection shot.
  • Trockener Steg – The terrace outside the Trockener Steg cable car station has the most triangular view of the Matterhorn.

2 – GORNERGRAT RAILWAY

The train ride from Zermatt to Gornergrat is one of the best things to do in Zermatt.

Travelling to a height of 3,100 metres, the cogwheel train winds its way up the track from Zermatt. It has almost constant views of the Matterhorn best seen by sitting on the right-hand side of the train.

From the Gornergrat Station the views are sensational. Count the twenty-nine 4,000-metre peaks and several glaciers.

There are 5 stops on the train (including Gornergrat Station). You can get off at any of them, then back on to finish your journey. However, each section can only be travelled once.

STATIONS ON THE GORNERGRAT TRAIN

  • Findelbach (1,774m) – There are some easy walks through the Larch Forest but it’s not important to stop here.
  • Riffelalp (2211m) – The starting point for several hikes, plus the luxurious Riffelalp Resort.
  • Riffelberg (2,582m) – Home to Zermatt’s oldest mountain hotel, Riffelhaus.
  • Rotenboden (2,815m) – Closest station to Riffelsee hike.
  • Gornergrat (3,089m) – Incredible views in summer and the heart of the Zermatt skiing area in winter.

3 – RIFFELSEE LAKE

The protected Riffelsee Lake is usually still, making it perfect for photographing the Matterhorn reflecting on its surface.

The alpine landscapes at this altitude, (2,582m) are barren yet beautiful.

From Rotenboden Station – Riffelsee is a 5-minute walk from the Rotenboden Station on the Gornergrat Line.

From Gornergrat Station – The hike from Gornergrat to Riffelsee is one of the best things to do in Zermatt. The 4.8-kilometre trail is mostly downhill and takes about 1 hour 30 minutes. You can find all the details on our best hikes in Zermatt article.

riffelsee hike zermat things to do
RIFFELSEE

4 – MATTERHORN GLACIER PARADISE (KLEIN MATTERHORN)

The Klein Matterhorn is a 3,883m peak overlooking Zermatt. On its summit is the highest cable car station in Europe which connects you to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise viewing platform.

This is a year-round destination and views are staggering. As well as the Matterhorn, witness 38 four-thousand-metre peaks and 14 glaciers. It is an unmissable experience in Zermatt.

WHAT TO DO AT KLEIN MATTERHORN

  • Absorb breath-taking vistas from the Panoramic Viewing platform.
  • See sparkling crystals and ice sculptures in the Glacier Palace.
  • Get a guide and climb the 4,164-metre-high Breithorn Mountain.
  • Catch the film about the cable car construction in the cinema lounge.
  • Go skiing at Zermatt Ski Park.

HOW TO GET THERE

From Zermatt, take the cable car to Furi, then Schwarzsee, Trockener Steg and finally Klein Matterhorn. This forms the Swiss section of the Matterhorn Alpine Crossing which goes all the way to Italy.

5 – BREITHORN

It’s rare to be able to walk to the top of a 4,000-metre mountain with so little effort. Breithorn is the perfect way for first-timers to get an idea of what it is like to trek in high Alpine ice.

The trail begins at Klein Matterhorn (Matterhorn Glacier Paradise cable car station). It ascends just over 400 metres to the glaciated summit.

The views all along the way are sensational, including the Matterhorn and the peaks of Castor and Lyskamm.

The return journey takes just over three hours.

Although it’s only a little over three miles, the altitude and snow make it harder going than a regular hike of the same distance.

You’ll need a guide, as the route changes regularly. Book a Breithorn guided tour and have a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

6 – GO SKIING ALL YEAR

Zermatt is home to the highest and largest summer ski resort in Europe with an excellent piste system, all set against the backdrop of the mighty Matterhorn.

But it’s not just for winter, you can ski in summer too.

The Zermatt Snow Park has year-round skiing on the Theodul Glacier. Over a length of 1,200 metres, you can try one of the 6 courses with freestyle setups and obstacles on natural snow.

There are courses for beginners and pros.

Access is via the Plateau Rose ski lift from the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise.

The summer season runs from July to mid-October. The winter season is from October to mid-May.

7 – MATTERHORN GLACIER TRAIL

This hike, high up above Zermatt, explores a world between rock and ice.

Leaving from Trockener Steg cable car station it heads across a rocky wilderness left behind by a retreating glacier.

The glacier forms an imposing wall of ice on your left. To your right are views over Zermatt and the mountains that surround you.

In front is the Matterhorn, seen from its most perfect triangular side.

The walk ends at Schwarzsee where the picturesque Marie chapel sits on the shores of the lake.

It’s rare to find such an easy yet exciting hike so high up in the mountains.

ROUTE DETAILS // MATTERHORN GLACIER TRAIL


Distance – 6.6 kilometres (4.1 miles) | Time – 2 hours and 30 minutes | Elevation – 170m (560 ft) ascent and 515m (1,690 ft) descent | Difficulty – Easy to Moderate | Start – Trockener Steg | End – Schwarzsee | Map – See our best hikes in Zermatt guide.

8 – SCHWARZSEE

Schwarzsee is the closest cable car station to the Matterhorn with excellent views of the north and east faces. The landscape is beginning to get bleak and barren, and the hut is a great spot for a warm coffee and grand views.

Climbers who reach the summit of the Matterhorn, visit the Marie Chapel on the shores of Schwarzsee to give thanks for making it back in one piece.

You can stroll down to the chapel, but the Matterhorn isn’t visible from this point.

view of zermatt from schwarzsee cable car
SCHWARZSEE

9 – HIKE TO HORNLIHUTTE

This out-and-back hike is one of our favourite things to do in Zermatt.

The destination is Hörnli Hut, base camp for the Matterhorn summit climb.

The trail begins at Schwarzsee and works its way up a series of ridges to the hut. There are a few metal staircases and a very short narrow section where a head for heights is useful. Otherwise, there is nothing technically difficult.  

The 700 metres of ascent and descent requires a reasonable level of fitness, but the hut is well positioned for a midway break.

The views are sensational, but the real thrill is the sheer sense of adventure in a rugged and wild Alpine scene.

At the hut, keep an eye out for climbers preparing to summit the next day and bring some binoculars. There may be a few climbers still on the impossibly narrow-looking ridge to the top.

ROUTE DETAILS // HÖRNLIHÜTTE


Distance – 8.6 kilometres (5.3 miles) | Time – 4 hours | Elevation – 695m (2,280 ft) ascent and descent | Difficulty – Moderate to Challenging | Start – Schwarzsee | End – Schwarzsee | Map – See our best hikes in Zermatt guide.

10 – FURI SUSPENSION BRIDGE (HÄNGEBRÜCKE)

Furi is the first stop on the Matterhorn Alpine Crossing from Zermatt to Italy.

It’s in a lovely position, set amongst the trees and meadows. Cattle graze beside charming wooden barns. There are several atmospheric restaurants overlooking the meadows.

The highlight is the nearby 100-metre-long suspension bridge that hangs 90 metres above the Gornerschlucht Gorge.

To get to the bridge, take the 2.9-kilometre circular hike from Furi.

11 – GORNER GORGE & BLATTEN

The Gorner Gorge is a river gorge, cut through the cliff walls by the Gornervispe River.

A series of elevated wooden walkways through the gorge provide a very accessible way to experience Gorner Gorge.

It’s a great thing to do on a cloudy day when the mountains are obscured and you’re looking for an easy activity.

The gorge is a 25-minute walk from the main train station in Zermatt, just past the Forest Fun Park.

From Blatten // You can also get to the Gorner Gorge by following the scenic trail from Furi to Zermatt. This mostly downhill trail is 3.6 kilometres long. Access to the gorge is from the village of Blatten which has a traditional alpine restaurant that you shouldn’t miss.

blatten switzerland
BLATTEN

12 – EDELWEISS TRAIL

One of the best views of the Matterhorn is from Höhbalmen Meadows. The only way to get there is on the Edelweiss trail – one of the best hikes in Switzerland.

It starts from Zermatt Village and climbs up to Edelweiss Hut. After the hut, there’s a strenuous climb (with little relief) to Trift Guesthouse.

This makes a great place to stop with two-thirds of the ascent out of the way. They also do an excellent iced tea.

From here the path continues to rise, contouring a grassy slope. Suddenly the Matterhorn appears ahead, stretching above Höhbalmen Meadow.

From here, the trail descends gradually with the Matterhorn in front of you all the way, before descending to Zmutt and then on to Zermatt.

This hike is not to be underestimated. It’s over 20 kilometres and takes about 7 hours with 1,200m of ascent and descent. All the details are on our favourite hikes in Zermatt article.

ROUTE DETAILS // EDELWEISS TRAIL


Distance – 20.7 kilometres (12.85 miles) | Time – 7 hours and 30 minutes | Elevation – 1,200m (3,940 ft) ascent and descent | Difficulty – Challenging | Start & End – Zermatt | Map – See our best hikes in Zermatt guide.

13 – ROTHORN & THE GOURMET TRAIL

The funicular and cable car up to Rothorn includes several of the best things to do in Zermatt on the one excursion.

SUNNEGGA (2,288M)

The first stop is Sunnegga at 2,288 metres. To get here, take the funicular from Valley Station in Zermatt (a 10-minute walk from the main train station).

Sunnegga provides excellent views of the Matterhorn with minimal effort.

It’s also a great place for families. In summer, take a dip in Leisee Lake or unleash the kids on the playground. In winter, there’s skiing and snowboarding.

STELLISEE (2,537M) 

Stellisee is another of Zermatt’s famous lakes with excellent reflection shots of the Matterhorn. It definitely earns its nickname as “mirror lake.”

Take the cable car from Sunnegga to Blauherd. From here, it’s a 20-minute walk to the lake.

Stellisee is one of the best locations to watch sunrise around Zermatt. Check the cable car times before you set off.

After Stellisee, either walk back to Blauherd or follow the Five Lakes walk down to Sunnegga.

ROTHORN (3,103M)

From Rothorn you can see the highest peaks in the Valais Alps.

It also has one of the best views of the Matterhorn. In winter it has direct access to the ski pistes, in summer, it’s a popular place for paragliding.

If you only do one hike in the area make it the Crystal Trail which winds its way to Fluhalp Hut, has views over the Findel Glacier, and then passes Stellisee on the way to Blauherd cable car station.

GOURMET TRAIL

Another highlight on the Sunnegga-Rothorn Cable Car line is the Gourmet Trail.

This 9-kilometre hike starts from Sunnegga and finishes in Zermatt. Along the way, the trail passes several excellent restaurants.

Start by heading from Sunnegga down to Findeln, following the signs marked Gourmetweg.

14 – ZMUTT

Zmutt is a tiny hamlet in the valley west of Zermatt, set among lush alpine pastures.

Made up of around 20 traditional wooden houses in a beautiful location, it’s one of our favourite places to visit in Zermatt.

To get to Zmutt from Zermatt, take the path that heads south from the main street, Bahnhofstrasse, on the west side of the Zmutt River.

The well-marked path meanders through beautiful alpine scenery. The gentle echo of cowbells accompanies meadows dotted with wildflowers and pristine streams.

Another great option is to hike down from the Furi cable car station.

Zmutt has a few restaurants which are a great place to stop for lunch.

15 – ZERMATT VILLAGE

Although many of the star attractions are outside the town, the village of Zermatt has some great things worth checking out.

  • Kirchbrücke Viewpoint – Arrive just before sunrise to catch the first rays of light hitting the Matterhorn.
  • Matterhorn Museum (Zermatlantis) – Learn about the development of Zermatt and the first ascent of the Matterhorn.
  • Mountaineers’ Cemetery – A sobering reminder of the dangers of mountaineering.
  • Hinterdorf – This is the oldest part of Zermatt with 30 traditional wooden buildings and ancient barns.
  • Bahnhofstrasse – Check out the designer shops on the main pedestrian street.

HOW TO GET TO ZERMATT?

The most convenient airports to Zermatt are Zurich (254 kilometres away) and Geneva (230 kilometres away).

By Train — There are direct trains to Zermatt from Zurich and Geneva airports. From Zurich, the fastest train takes 3 hours and 12 minutes. From Geneva, the fastest train is 3 hours, 32 minutes. Trains run every hour.

By Car — Zermatt is car-free, so to get here, you need to park at Täsch which is 5 kilometres away. There are regular shuttle train services from Täsch and plenty of parking at the station.

HOW MANY DAYS IN ZERMATT?

We suggest spending a minimum of 2 full days in Zermatt. That way you can visit most of the iconic viewpoints and hike several of the best short to medium-length trails.

Ideally, we recommend spending 3 full days. This would allow you to complete most of our best things to do in Zermatt without having to rush around.

If you are a walking enthusiast, 5 days gives you enough time to see the best sights and hike the more challenging trails in in the area.

edelweiss trail zermatt hiking

ITINERARY FOR A VACATION IN ZERMATT

Here is our suggested Itinerary for Zermatt.

If you are trying to cram everything into two days, then combine days 2 and 3 by heading up the Gornergrat in the morning and Rothorn-Sunnegga in the afternoon.

  • Day 1 – Visit the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise at Klein Matterhorn and hike either the Matterhorn Glacier Trail or the Hörnlihütte. Assuming conditions hold up, you could do both.
  • Day 2 – Take the train to Gornergrat and hike the Riffelsee Trail.
  • Day 3 – See all the sights on the Rothorn-Sunnegga Cable Car including Stellisee and the Gourmet Trail.  
  • Day 4 – Hike the challenging Edelweiss Trail that heads over Höhbalmen Meadows.
  • Day 5 – Organise a guide to conquer 4,164m high Breithorn. If you don’t want to climb Breithorn, explore the Gorner Gorge, Hanging Bridge, and lovely restaurants around Furi.

WHERE TO STAY?

Zermatt is a car-free village with access via train from Täsch.

Most accommodation is easy to get to from the Zermatt train station, either on foot or by porter transport arranged via your hotel.

There are four main areas you’ll want to consider when deciding where to stay.

  • Zermatt Village 
  • Zermatt Matterhorn Express 
  • Zermatt Mountain Hotels 
  • Zermatt Mountain Huts 

All the details, along with hotel recommendations, are in our guide to the best places to stay in Zermatt.

MORE SWITZERLAND GUIDES

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