Zermatt is unique in many ways. First of all, the whole town is car-free, so getting to Zermatt is a little bit different to heading to your usual ski resort. All transfer companies, including those operating from Geneva Airport to Zermatt, take you as far as Tasch, where everyone then steps onboard the fast, efficient and frequent trains that take just 10 minutes to get you to the centre of resort.
From there, it’s a very pleasant walk to where you’re going along the stunningly pretty car-free lanes. Alternatively, most hotels have electric shuttle buses that will come and pick you and your luggage up, or you can jump in one of the funky little electric taxis that whizz all around Zermatt (at a maximum speed of 20km/h, we might add!).Guide section
Zermatt made the conscious decision to be car-free to protect the incredible, non-polluted views of what has to be the world’s most visually iconic mountain – the Matterhorn. Many have said that Zermatt has a unique atmosphere, as Mother Nature is shown off at its absolute best, with exceptional views of that incredible, pyramid-shaped mountain from pretty much everywhere in town.
Indeed the Matterhorn (or Cervin to the French) that straddles Switzerland and Italy is certainly imposing. At 4478m it’s not the highest summit in Europe, but it is certainly the most impressive. Towering down on you, it’s pretty much impossible to not take a stunning photograph. She is not alone though, with no fewer than 38 of the 54 surrounding summits coming in at over 4000m, making for pretty amazing panoramas.
Zermatt and its roots in alpinism
Little wonder than, that Zermatt has a long and very deep history with mountaineering and alpinism. The Monte Rosa hotel opened in 1852 and the Zermatt guide company was founded in 1858, with that first ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865. If you don’t know the story of that first summit of the majestic Matterhorn, it’s as fascinating as it is mysterious and tragic. From their successful summit as a team of seven, only British explorer Edward Whymper and his two Zermatt guides, Peter Taugwalder father and son, returned.
This is the perfect moment to recommend a visit to the Matterhorn museum in Zermatt, right next to the very grand Zermatterhof hotel. Then wander just around the corner and you’ll get to the Mountaineer’s cemetery – a sobering and moving place, that reminds us just how small we all are.
Zermatt – the bucket-list, must visit mountain resort!
No one can deny Zermatt is humbling, yet incredibly inspiring. This is the stuff of bucket lists and when you leave the hustle and bustle of Geneva Airport behind and transfer to this charming town at the very end of the valley, we think you’ll agree Zermatt has a definite aura about it that will leave you with lasting memories.
All year skiing in Zermatt
The skiing in Zermatt is sensational, with summer glacier and winter skiing seasons. Originally the Gornergrat train (the one right opposite the main train station) only ran during the summers when it opened in 1890, as most tourists visited Zermatt in the summer. It wasn’t until 1928 when the train ran in winter, that people started strapping skis to their feet wanting those downhill skiing sensations.
By the 1940s Zermatt had developed into an impressive ski resort. Zermatt today is still pretty spread out, so it takes some effort to ski all the different areas, but it is well worth it. Here’s our pocket guide to the different skiing areas in Zermatt.
– Rothorn/Sunegga – this 1584m long underground funicular opened in 1980 and connects to the bubble and cable car that arrives at 3103m, with pistes all around. The beginner/kids area at the arrival station of the funicular is particularly impressive, with an elevator-style lift and covered ‘magic carpet’. And, of course, great across-the-valley views of that Toblerone-shaped mountain we call the Matterhorn.
– Gornergrat/Riffelberg – this impressive rack and pinion railway opens in summer and winter, running all the way to the Gornergrat plateau at 3098m, where you’ll find the 3100 Kulmhotel and observatory. If you book a night here, you can expect extraordinary sunset and sunrise views of the Matterhorn and you’ll be first on the pistes in the morning. Freeriders also head from here to Stockhorn and Hohtalli for the best off piste skiing
– Matterhorn Glacier/Schwarzee – this is at the furthest end of the town from the train station (it takes around 30 mins to walk from one end to the other) and you are whisked to the highest point of the domaine, the Petit Cervin at 3883m, in a four stage bubble and cable car. From here you can take successive pistes down to town at 1620m, covering 21km as you go, or head over to the Italian side. This is also where the summer glacier skiing takes place.
Watch out for the Gandegg drag lift – at 3899m it’s the longest in the world and a real thigh burner. Then there’s the Furggsattel if, which starts in Switzerland and arrives in Italy and is actually anchored in the glacier (eek!).
Skiing all around this area is excellent with superb lifts and trains criss-crossing all over the Zermatt valley. And of course, on Mountain Drop-offs transfers from Geneva to Zermatt, ski and snowboard carriage is free, all year round.
As well as all that mountaineering, skiing and sightseeing, Zermatt hosts a number of high-profile events throughout the year. Even if you’re not in Zermatt at the time of the events, simply breathe in that lovely fresh mountain air, wander around the delightful wooden ‘raccards’ chalets in the twisting alleyways of the old town, have a drink in one of the very cool ’boutique’ design bars and visit the Glacier Paradise.
Zermatt Unplugged – March
The annual music event has been attracting world-class musicians to Zermatt in the springtime since 2007. With gigs organised in bars and hotels around town, as well as the main event marquee on the tennis courts, everyone from Lionel Ritchie and Chris de Burgh, to Skunk Anansie and OneRepublic have featured on the impressive bill
Patrouille des Glaciers – April/May
This gruelling mountaineering ski race has been running since the Second World War and is a bi-annual event. Ski alpinists tackle the tough mountain route from Zermatt to Verbier via Arolla, covering 53km and 4000m of ascent. The record time for this team event is just 5hrs 52 minutes. Makes us feel tired just writing about it.
Zermatt Marathons – July/August
The main marathon event is in July, with the Ultra Trail events in August. Both competitions involve running up and down a lot of mountain paths and there are now several different races, including an ultra marathon and a half marathon. So pop on your lycra and your running shoes, take your pick of the races and sign up to run around the Matterhorn!
Swiss Food Festival – August
The main ‘Bahnhofstrasse’ street of Zermatt is transformed into a street food paradise with stalls and huts selling all sorts of food and drink. The whole event is combined with the annual Folklore Festival, where up to 3000 musicians play live music to accompany your eating and drinking throughout the town.
Zermatt Music Festival and Academy – September
Every year in the autumn, Zermatt hosts the unique Chamber Music academy. The festival’s aims are to encourage rising classical stars, with a full programme of concerts in hotels, bars and churches all around resort. It’s a rather lovely way to spend an evening after hiking in the mountains.
If you’ve been tempted by our guide to visiting this remarkable town, Mountain Drop-offs offers private airport transfers to Zermatt from Geneva Airport all year round. We recommend you take a look at our partner Tempest Luxury for accommodation in Zermatt. Don’t forget, Zermatt is a car-free resort, so we’ll take you as far as Tasch, then it’s the fast train into the centre of resort. Make sure you let your hotel know when you arrive – they’ll come and get you (and your luggage) in their electric shuttle buses. Do make sure you take one of the little electric taxis at least once. They’re brilliant fun.