Sunday, 22 October 2017

A Winter Guide to Zermatt

Zermatt, a small charming village in the heart of the Swiss Alps plays host to some of the best skiing in the world. With the Matterhorn sitting proudly like a king high above, unique ski areas offering a challenge to all levels of skiers and snowboarders and Michelin-starred restaurants on the slopes, it's not hard to understand why this winter resort is loved by so many. Beyond skiing, there is plenty of adventure to be had from winter hiking to paragliding. And with the winter season soon approaching, there seems no better time to write a complete guide on where best to stay, ski, eat, dance and drink.

I am by no means an expert on Zermatt but considering I've been going almost every year (mostly during summer, I'll admit) since I was born, I certainly know a thing or two on what's good. Zermatt is the most beautiful town I've ever seen, and everything you can expect from a winter resort with chocolate-box chalets, breathtaking views, Swiss fine-dining, all topped off with iridescent, powdery snow. I love hiking here in the summer, but Zermatt certainly comes to life in the colder months, with so much to offer in every possible way.

If you're all booked up or still considering a winter adventure to Zermatt, follow me.


Before we get stuck in, it's probably worth noting the obvious that Zermatt is not a cheap holiday destination, even more so in winter. There are ways of keeping costs down which I will explain, but largely, everything is a huge expense and will require a lot of consideration. But a holiday to Zermatt is a trip of a lifetime, so why not indulge?

Where To Stay

There are so many different types of accommodation in Zermatt, making it an extremely accessible place to visit for differing ages and budgets. In the winter, I would suggest staying in an apartment as, while it's not necessarily cheaper, it's a lot more cosy, intimate and fun. Lighting the fire whilst you all sit around playing a board game over mulled wine can only be done within the comfort of an apartment. Moreover, hotels will generally offer you a large breakfast and a three-course meal of an evening, however this would mean you wouldn't get to really enjoy the incredible food on offer in the mountain restaurants. By all means, pick what suits you but here are some recommendations below. For all of Zermatt's accommodation, click here.

La Boheme Apartments - Cheap to mid-range/ good value for money
Charming alpine-chic interior with a fantastic view of the town and the Matterhorn. Wellness area is great too. Location is a stone's throw from the centre of town but can only be accessed via a steep hill across the train track.

Hornligrat Apartments - Mid-range
Bright, chic, Scandi-style interiors with a beautiful wellness area. Family-owned and a two-minute walk from the centre of town.

Chalet Zermatt Peak - Luxury
These 5* luxury apartments are ultra-glam, ultra-luxurious and a serious splurge. Fully staffed and serviced. Sleeps up to 13 guests.

Chalet Les Anges - High-end
Oozing with warmth, serenity and light, this elegant chalet in the heart of the town sleeps up to 14 guests. The power-jet plunge pool and integrated music system are real bonuses for a fun-loving, young crowd.

Hotel Admiral - Cheap
Comfortable and welcoming, this hotel is perfect for families. A stone's throw from the centre of town.

Boutique Hotel Coeur Des Alpes - High-end
Exquisite hotel with an intimate, contemporary design. The hotel offers a wide variety of accommodation from generic rooms and suites, to lofts and "sky" and "river" apartments. All accommodation is within a ten minute walk from the centre of town.

Cervo Hotel - High-end/ good value for money
One of my favourites, this ultra-contemporary boutique hotel is complete with an authentic Swiss design. The food is more than exceptional, and their apres-ski sun terrace is the place to be for drinks and live music. 10-15 minute walk into town.

The Parkhotel Beau-Site, Hotel Firefly and Omnia Hotel are also worth looking into.

Trockner Steg

Where To Ski

As the highest ski resort in Europe, it's safe to say Zermatt offers some pretty amazing skiing opportunities. The Klein Matterhon at 3,883m allows you to see the Matterhorn at an extreme close up while other pistes can lead you down into Italy. More or less, red-runs in Zermatt are on the scale and diversity of black runs, so don't be fooled into thinking skiing here is easy. However, there are lots of blue runs on offer for beginners or those who fancy taking in the vistas at their own leisure. Competent and adventurous skiiers can ski down the many orange off-piste runs too.

Rothorn - Beginner to advanced
There are plenty of routes to take down from Rothorn and range from beginner to advanced pistes. For expert skiers take the "National", a famous and notoriously difficult black run from Blauherd to Patrullarve. The long Kumme run down to Tuftern is a great blue run through the trees right back to the village, passing cafes and restaurants in the bottom half. Book a table at Chez Vrony in Findeln (just below Sunnegga) for the best burger in town.

Stockhorn - Advanced
This tends to only open in late January when the snowfall has been sufficient and should be reserved for skiing experts. Pistes up here are steep, bumpy and cover rocks.


Shwarzee - Stafelalp - Furi - Zermatt - Intermediate
My sister's favourite run when we last visited. It's a thrilling red run all the way down and good for confident, intermediate skiers. Plus, Stafelp is one corker of a restaurant for both food and apres-ski (did I mention there's also a hot tub outside in the snow?).

Furggsattel - Trockner Steg - Furgg - Intermediate
There are lots of blue and red runs from Furggsattel down to Trockner Steg, all with wide slopes and rewarding vistas. Some relatively mild parts mixed with steep drops and bumpy terrain, so suitable for intermediate skiers. Stop by at The Ice Bar at Trockner Steg to sip on Gluhwein while you sunbathe. Clip in your skis once more and ski down to Furgg on the two red runs available. If you're feeling extra confident, head down further to Furi on the black run for an extreme experience.

The "National"

Matterhorn Glacier Paradise and Cervinia (Italy) - Beginner to advanced
The top of the Klein Matterhorn area and Cervinia offers little challenge but be weary of crevasses as skiers are at risk simply by stopping abruptly or falling in the wrong place due to the high-mountain terrain. There are plenty of fun blue and red runs around these areas and it is utter bliss for those that sit in between beginner and advanced.

Gornergrat - Beginner to intermediate
The blue pistes running through Rotenboden to Riffelberg bask in afternoon sun but retain exceptional snow. The well-groomed pistes up here are relatively quiet and so ideal for either cruising or blasting as you please. Ski a little further towards Riffelalp (more intermediate level) for an incredible lunch at the hotel restaurant, before setting off on the red run along the railway towards Zermatt. This is a big journey with both easy intermediate and slightly tougher options.

Book your ski pass here.

Lastly, if you want to learn to ski in Zermatt or fancy sharpening your skills, there are lots of ski and snowboard schools available. Stoked are child-friendly, but Alpine Swiss School is a great option for new and old skiers alike, whilst Matterhorn Diamonds is a private ski school and so suitable for those wanting a tailored and exclusive session.

Restaurant Blatten

Where To Eat

The Swiss sure know how to cook, and my family and I have tried virtually all of the restaurants in the mountains and village all in the name of research (obviously). Zermatt is the only Swiss alpine village that offers the largest selection of culinary delights. Here, you can expect traditional cheese fondue and meats, to haute cuisine or simple alpine food. And its a rather heart-warming fact that almost every restaurant is family run. Either way, you're certainly in for a delicious meal, albeit at somewhat hefty prices. Here's where's best to eat in the mountains, whether accessed by skiing or winter hiking, or in the town. Book well in advance for everywhere.

Chez Vrony, Findeln - Expensive
One of my absolute favourites in Zermatt in the summer and winter. In the colder months, the atmosphere is insanely energetic, lively and fun. This mountain gem, high up at 2130m, serves up local specialties and delicious classics. Their famous " Chez Vrony Burger" is a must try (picture below)!

Findlerof, Findeln - Expensive
Traditional cuisine offering various rostis, meats, racelette and pasta. Here, the vis-a-vis views of the Matterhorn are spectacular and the atmosphere and friendly staff all make this restaurant worthwhile visiting.

Chez Vrony, Findeln
Chez Vrony, Findeln

Restaurant Blatten, Blatten (Furi) - Mid-range/ expensive
Also a favourite of ours. Whilst the outside of this charming chalet is lively and buzzy, the inside is a romantic and cosy affair. Their mushroom soup and vegetable platter are skiers favourites, but save room for the hot berries with vanilla ice cream or the warm cinnamon doughnuts. Serving traditional cuisine at its finest since 1850, Blatten is open from 10:00am-18:00pm.

Restaurant Alexandre or Alphitta, Riffelalp - Mid-range/ expensive
Both located in Riffelap, these two restaurants offer traditional Swiss cuisine. Restaurant Alexandre is a glamourous and expensive spot to dine in but somewhere to visit if you fancy haute mountain cuisine and an extensive wine list. Alphitta is much more mid-range and suitable for young people and families. Live music is on offer whilst you nibble at traditional plates of corden bleu and veal sausage with rosti.

Restaurant Stafelalp, Stafelalp - Expensive
Incredible restaurant for food and atmosphere (make sure to book a seat outside for the most fun). Indulge in their famous Argentinian steak...and take a wild dip in their outdoor hot tub!


Cervo Puro, Zermatt - Expensive
Although part of a hotel, this restaurant terrace has the same charm as any chalet. It has an exquisite view of the town and the Matterhorn (not to mention the best apres-ski, more on this later) and amazing food too. Their Parmesan and truffle fries are insane and a definite must-try. Best for tapas and light meals.

Chez Gaby, Zermatt - Expensive
Rustic, quaint and cosy, this cute little chalet in the heart of Zermatt offers a variety of fondues, local meat and fish specialties from the charcoal grill, and an extensive wine list. Perfect for families or couples looking for a romantic evening. Very expensive.

Stockhorn Grill, Zermatt - Mid-range
Wonderfully relaxed and authentic, the meats on offer in this grill restaurant are utterly mouth-watering. A raneg of fondues are also available - chinose, bourguignonne, cheese and raclettes.

Les Marmottes, Furi - Mid-range
Serving meat from their own farm and game from their own hunting, Les Mamottes is a great place to rest your ski-worn legs and refuel. Great for families and large groups.

Restaurant Blatten

Cafe du Pont, Zermatt - Cheap
Zermatt's oldest café and restaurant, there is not a more rustic and authentic setting to enjoy a cheese fondue or raclette than here. Friendly staff. Suitable for all.

Filet et Fils - Mid-range/ Expensive
Expect local meats with a cosmopolitan flair. Wonderfully traditional with local meats, but with a modern, cosmopolitan flair. Chic and modern interiors. Suitable for small, sophisticated groups and couples.

The Parkhotel Beau Site (Zermatt - expensive) and Brasserie Luci (Zermatt - mid-range) are also worth dining in. And if you fancy self-catering, Migros and Coop supermarkets will be your best friends, as will local bakeries and delicatessens.

Hennu Stall, Furi

Where To Apres-Ski, Drink and Dance

The nightlife in Zermatt is pretty legendary. Locals and tourists come together in the name of beer to celebrate a good day had on the slopes. Whilst the Royals love to let loose at The Cuckoo Club (Kate and Wills, as well as Pippa, love skiing in Zermatt), it's a well-known fact among regulars that you haven't truly experienced the nightlife of Zermatt if you haven't danced on the barrel at the Broken. Clubs aside, bars and pubs are plentiful and stay open well into the morning. Up in the mountains, there are also many places to stop for booming music, crazy atmosphere and bucket loads of Gluhwein. That said, no Folie Douce exists here...

Cervo Puro, Zermatt
As Zermatt's only ski-in ski-out resort, this is the place to reward your hard skiing efforts. With live music, a cracking, fun crowd and a beautiful view, this stylish outdoor terrace of the Cervo Hotel will not disappoint. You'll most likely end up dancing on the tables like everyone else.

Hennu Stall, Furi
Practically Zermatt's Folie Douce, this bar will attract all of those in need of a refreshing drink and saucy dance. DJ and live bands perform here everyday and the site can be reached via the Furi-Zermatt piste on foot or skis, or up from Zermatt on foot in 30 mins. All ages are welcome here.

Harrys Ski Bar, Zermatt
A great, fun bar in the heart of Zermatt and a firm favourite of skiing regulars. Very lively, party atmosphere with good music and even outdoor heaters.

Snowboat and Yacht Club, Zermatt
Also a party-goers favourite, this enchanting boat-shaped bar by the river is a lively venue complete with a rooftop (boat-top?) jacuzzi for when skinny dipping in the snow calls. Open until midnight.

Champagner Bar, Zermatt
A sophisticated and glamourous pit-stop on the slope down from Sunnegga. Serves Veuve Cliqcot champagne only. Closes at 8pm so best visited during the day whilst skiing. Amazing views.

Papperla Pub, Zermatt
Classic, Irish-style pub with great, cheap drinks and live music. Into the night, the pub lounge becomes something of a dancefloor. Includes an outdoor terrace.

Le Gitan Bar, Zermatt
A popular place for cocktails and cosy drinks in the town before heading to a club.

Trockner Steg

Iglu-Dorf, Rotenboden
Ready for a fun, unique experience? Head to the igloo village at Rotenboden (2,727m) for tasty, warming drinks (try the White Igloo Mulled Wine) and breathtaking surroundings. The cheese fondue up here is also spectacular. Open from 10am-4pm. PS: This is also a hotel!

Stafelalp Restaurant, Stafelalp
Great stop for a drink down from Stafelalp. Their restaurant offers some of the best food in Zermatt, but their apres-ski terrace outside is perfect for lapping in the sun with good music and refreshing drinks.

Cuckoo Club, Zermatt
Stylish, glamourous and sophisticated clientele party at this venue. Dance the night away until 4am.

Broken Bar Disco, Zermatt
One of the most legendary nightclubs in the Alps, Broken is the place to be come nighttime in Zermatt. Below the Hotel Post, this underground club is a firm favourite with local and tourist revellers alike.

Loft Club, Zermatt
Strictly 25+ only. Mix of 70s, 80s and 90's chart music. Open until 3:30am.


What To Do And Experience

Adventure in Zermatt is limitless. For those looking for something a little different other than skiing or snowboarding, winter hiking is a great way to take in breathtaking panoramic views at your own pace. Moreover, paragliding is one of the best experiences you will ever encounter - I've done it several times and still remember how awe-inspiring it was to catch a birds-eye view of the village and jump off the mountain. Thrill-seekers and sports-enthusiasts pay attention, here are some incredible things to do and experience whilst in Zermatt.

Matterhorn Glacier Paradise
Admire the most breathtaking views of Switzerland at 3,883m. Take the cable car from Furi to Trockner Steg, before stepping on board the highest tramway in Europe above the glacier fields. Up here, there's a newly refurbished restaurant, shopping, an outdoor viewing platform, cinema cave and an ice palace (a true must-see). During the summer months, visitors can also go snow tubing! Be warned, it's super expensive to go up here but well worth it.

Air Zermatt
Catch a glimpse of Zermatt from a bird's perspective and fly high above the village. You will also get to fly right next to the Matterhorn for an astonishing view of the iconic mountain.

Gorner Gorge
Climb along the huge cliff walls of the Gorner Gorge while the glacier waters rage below. About one km long, this will take roughly three to four hours to complete but climbers are kept safe with a mountain guide, harness and helmet. Suitable for families.

One of the most incredible experiences I've ever completed. Literally jump off a mountain, parachute in tow, and experience the feeling of true freedom. The view above Zermatt is astonishingly beautiful.


Matterhorn Museum
Should you fancy going underground for an adventure, step inside the Matterhorn Museum and learn about the death of four mountaineers during the first ascent of the mountain, and witness the broken rope. Here, you'll witness the barely-there (and barely-safe) equipment climbers used in the late-nineteenth century.

Another opportunity to fly like a bird! Dive out of the Zermatt helicopter and free fall past the Matterhorn, landing safely in the town thanks to the parachute and skydiving expert. I'm definitely completing this next year...

Igloo Village
Master your inner Eskimo by stepping into the Igloo Village at Rotenboden (2727m) - the highest in the Alps. Up here, enjoy fondue evenings or snowshoe tours under the sparkling starlit nights or bathe in the outdoor Jacuzzi. You can also stay overnight in one of the igloos that fit 2-6 people and even taking igloo building courses.

Ice Skating and Ice Hockey
In the town by the Sports Hall, an ice rink is waiting for young and old alike to have fun and skate away.


Toboggan Run (Rotenboden and Furi)
Not all the mountain fun is left to skiers. Sledge down the finest toboggan runs in the Alps at Rotenboden and Furi (latter is only open twice a week in evenings). Up at Rotenboden (2813, making this the highest run in Switzerland), descend 233m in roughly ten minutes and experience the thrill of a lifetime. Suitable for families, however it's pretty steep and some corners have no safety net so be warned! Toboggans can be hired at Rotenboden station or in the town.

Igloo Late Night Fondue
Between January to March on every Thursday evening, the Gornergrat Bahn will take you the Igloo Village at Rotenboden for a special late-night fondue. For 69CHF (adults), the price includes the railway ride to Zermatt return, a welcome Gluhwein, visit of the Igloo Village and the cheese fondue. Under the stars, I can't think of a better way to spend an evening in Zermatt. Arrive back at 11:15pm.

Moonlight Fascination Gornergrat
Discover the fascination of moonlight on the Gornergrat with 29 mountains higher than 4,000m surrounding you, glowing in the light of the full moon. Enjoy a cheese fondue at the hotel and either ski down or take the train back to Zermatt. There are set dates available for this (to ensure a full moon is present) and will cost 85CHF for adults.

Moonlight Decent Rothorn
The special snow adventure for night owls. During twilight, enjoy a cheese fondue in the romantic moonlight up at Rothorn before skiing back down towards Zermatt when the piste is closed, having it all to yourselves (and the piste control and rescue service!). With only the moon watching and in the fresh air of night, you can enjoy this experience for 73CHF (adults, but children can join too).

Winter Hiking
Enjoy the beauty of the snow and mountain vistas by walking down the many winter hiking trails. Many of the ski slopes can be walked down too, but for a full guide on where best to walk, click the link above. But, our favourite winter walks were Rotenboden-Riffelberg which is a short walk with a beautiful view and suitable for families, and mirroring the ski piste from Shwarzee to Stafelalp and then off the road down to Furi is a fantastic walk too. This one is pretty steep in places particularly on the sky piste. It's also worth noting that you don't have to be a professional hiker to walk here in Zermatt but extra care and awareness is needed, as well as good mountain shoes with excellent grip. Purchasing crampons that clip onto boots are a good investment.

A lot of the ski slopes can also be sledged down and there are also plenty of hills/ mountainous terrain that you'll have alone to yourself. Sledging in Zermatt is seriously fun for all ages and can be hired in the many sports shops in town for a small fee.

Phew! You got through it!

I cannot recommend Zermatt enough, come winter or summer, as it truly is the most special place on this earth and holds such a dear corner of my heart. I hope I've convinced you all to go or helped your winter adventure in some way but please let me know if you feel there's anything I've missed!

In the meantime, I'll leave you with this super cool photo circa 2005.

No comments

Post a Comment

Thank you so much for leaving a comment! I try to reply to all of them so be sure to come back to see! :)