Zermatt, the small town located at the base of the Matterhorn, is famous for being the highest ski resort in Switzerland. The snowy slopes of Zermatt can and should be explored outside of wintertime. In fact, the summer season is a great time to visit this charming car-free town as the weather is balmy and there is plenty to see and do. Outdoor adventure seekers can spend their days hiking, mountain biking, paragliding, and fly fishing before heading back to town for a hearty dinner. If you just can’t wait until winter to hit the slopes, you are in luck as there are over 20 kilometers of pistes available at Klein Matterhorn during the summer months. Even if you are not keen on a super active getaway, you should consider heading to Zermatt just for its breathtaking views.

WEEKEND BUCKET LIST

HIKING & MOUNTAIN BIKING

In order to get up to the Five Lakes Trail, and many other trails for hiking and mountain biking, take the funicular up to Sunnegga. Tickets can be bought on site and the ride takes less than 5 minutes. I recommend hiking 5-Seenweg, or the Five Lakes Trail. It is a fairly easy hike with unforgettable views of the Matterhorn. The trail is nearly 6 miles long and takes you along a path where you can see five lakes — Stellisee, Grindjisee, Grünsee, Mosjesee, and Leisee.

With over 200 kilometers of trails up in the mountains surrounding Zermatt, you will also find a variety of trails for all levels of mountain bikers.

LUNCH AT CHEZ VRONY

After hiking the Five Lakes Trail, take the Findeln trail and be sure to stop at Chez Vrony before heading back to the village. Grab lunch or stop by for drinks and enjoy the breathtaking views from the idyllic restaurant. This was one of my favorite places on this trip and I highly recommend it. We arrived a little too late for lunch, but we enjoyed drinks and plum cake while lounging on the terrace. You can walk back down to the village from the restaurant (45-60 minutes), or walk back up to the funicular and take the funicular back down. If you are not hiking the Five Lakes Trail, you can head here directly from Sunnegga. It is roughly at 15 minute walk on flat and downhill terrain. You can also hike up the mountain from town if you are looking for a workout - this takes roughly 1.5 hours on an uphill terrain.

EXPLORING THE CAR-FREE VILLAGE

No matter where your accommodation in Zermatt is located, you will not be too far from the action as everything is relatively close to each other. Spend a few hours walking through the village and check out the shops, cafés, and bakeries. You can’t leave Switzerland without trying fondue. Some of the best fondue restaurants in Zermatt include Whymper-Stube, Du Pont, and saycheese. Afterwards, head to the sports complex in the center of town to play a game of beach volleyball or tennis to burn some calories. Beach volleyball in the middle of the Alps definitely makes for a unique experience!

GORNERGRAT

Take the train up to Gornergrat for incredible views of the 29 surrounding mountains. The Gornergrat Bahn was the world's first fully electrified cog railway and is now an eco-friendly railway that can generate electricity on the descent. The scenic ride takes 33 minutes from Zermatt, climbing over 1,400 meters. Once you reach the summit, you can enjoy the panoramic views of the region, including a close up view of the famous Matterhorn. Gornergrat also houses a hotel, restaurant, and observatory. Train tickets can be purchased online.

LOGISTICS

VISA REQUIREMENTS

US citizens with a valid US tourist passport can travel to Switzerland for a stay of up to 90 days within a 180-day period without having to apply or obtain a Schengen visa. A list of Schengen visa requirements by country can be found here. Citizens from other countries should refer to their country’s official sources to double check their visa requirements.

LANGUAGE & CURRENCY

Visitors will find that nearly all locals speak English, given that Zermatt is a popular vacation spot. You will also find that people here can speak German, Swiss German, French, and Italian. Switzerland's currency is the Swiss franc (CHF). $1 USD = 0.91 CHF and 1 CHF = $1.10. It is one of the more expensive destinations I have visited - on par with New York City prices.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

Unless you are in the area for winter activities, the best time to visit Zermatt is during the summer from June through September, which is also the peak season as the weather is the warm and the skies are clear, making it idea for hiking or mountain biking. Temperatures, on average, are in the high 60s to low 70s during the day and high 40s at night.

GETTING THERE

Driving and train times from nearby airports are listed below. All the trains will require one or more transfers. There are also options for hiring private airport transfer services from Geneva.

  • Geneva (GVA) Airport: 2.5-3 hours drive | 4-4.5 hours train
  • Zurich (ZRH) Airport: 3.5-4 hours drive | 4-4.5 hours train
  • Milan (MXP) Airport: 3 hours drive | 4.5-5.5 hours train
  • Sion (SIR) Airport: 1.5 hours drive | 2-2.5 hours train

If you choose to drive, you will have to park your car in Täsch and take a 12-minute train ride into Zermatt as no private vehicles are permitted in Zermatt. You can park your car in the Matterhorn Terminal itself. Tickets can be bought at the kiosk, at ticket machines, or in the Matterhorn mobile app. Trains leave every 20 minutes so you do not need to make any advance reservations.

WHERE TO STAY

The Hotel Guru lists several hotel options for various types of travelers and travel preferences (luxury, family-friendly, budget, spa facilities, etc). I suggest taking a look at the webpage to get an idea of what is available. Airbnb is also another great source to look at. We found several available apartments and hostels that were reasonably priced and ultimately booked an apartment via Airbnb. We loved our location as it was in the town center and less than a five minute walk to the Zermatt train station and seven minutes to the funicular. I would recommend others visiting in the summer look for accommodations in the town center.

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