The village of Zermatt is located high in the Valais Alps, below the incomparable legendary Matterhorn. This infamous mountain is an ever-present and exhilarating sight. All around Zermatt are great places to take pictures, where you can learn about those who conquered the mountain, or who died trying.
The Matterhorn is just one of 29 peaks above 4,000 meters in the Upper Valais region. In this Alpine playground, you can do things you never dreamed of, such as crossing glaciers, skiing in midsummer and climbing one of the highest mountains in Europe. It’s all thanks to record-breaking infrastructure, from aerial trams to funiculars, proving human ingenuity in this extreme environment.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Zermatt:
This famous sawtooth peak is as clearly etched in the world’s consciousness as Mount Fuji.
Well, unless you are a professional climber, we do not recommend trying to climb the Matterhorn.
The precipitous mountain was not conquered until 1865, and even then, 4 of the 7 climbers in the team lost their lives.
A look at Hörnli Hut’s base camp, teetering precariously on the slopes, will give you an idea of the challenges those early climbers faced.
The iconic pyramid-shaped peak is a landmark for taste from a distance, with plenty of convenient vantage points, which we’ll detail in the list.
2. Klein Matterhorn
The next mountain on the Matterhorn is the Klein Matterhorn (Little Matterhorn), which you can only call small in relative terms! The peak reaches a height of 3,883 meters, and it is amazing that you can ascend there by aerial tramway.
This is the highest point in Europe reached by this mode of transport.
At the top, you’ll reach the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, where a tunnel takes you to Brighton Plateau, a huge glacier on the south side of the summit.
In Europe’s highest summer ski area, temperatures are below zero year round, so don’t forget to dress well.
Be sure to go down to the Glacier Grotto, cut from the ice and decorated with frozen sculptures.
3. Bly Thorne
Now, if you want to tell your friends that you’ve climbed a 4,000-meter peak, you can climb the Breithorn.
What you don’t have to tell them is that this mountain is considered the easiest to climb of all the 4000m peaks.
You’ll need a qualified mountain guide, but the adventure begins with a gondola ride up the Klein Matterhorn.
From there, it takes three hours to and from the highest point of Breithorn.
While the hike is never too demanding, there are glaciers on the slopes with all the difficulty, and the air is of course much thinner at this altitude.
One of the few memorable excursions in Zermatt is Europe’s highest open-air rack railway.
The Gornergrat Bahn traverses the Gornergrat’s observation deck, which is located in a mountainous area over 3,000 meters above sea level, with no less than 29 peaks over 4,000 meters above sea level.
It may be hard to believe that the railway was laid back in 1896, when it became the world’s first fully electrified rack line.
The journey takes 33 minutes and the train passes through canyons, stone pines and larch forests.
Finally, you will reach the platform, in the center of a small tourist development, where the scenery is almost indescribable.
The Matterhorn cannot be overlooked, but you can also admire the Dufourspitze, Switzerland’s highest mountain at 4,634 meters above sea level, and the Gorner Glacier, the second largest glacier in the Alps.
In the shadow of the Matterhorn is the ultimate ski holiday destination.
Zermatt is the hub of a network of 54 funiculars, cable cars and cable cars and more than 360 km of ski runs.
As we saw on the Breithorn plateau, it is possible to ski even in the middle of summer thanks to the glaciers and the low temperatures at high altitudes.
The lower slopes are covered with snow as early as November and April, which is an extended season.
Those wanting a more intrepid skiing experience can hire a terrain-aware mountain guide who will take you off the slopes.
There are also dozens of restaurants in unexpectedly high places, and friendly après-ski slopes at stations such as the center of Zernat and Sunnegga.
Pick a clear day for another mountain tour you won’t soon forget.
In Zermatt, you will board the funicular and travel through the center of the mountain to Sunnegga.
From there you can take the cable car over the alpine pastures to Blauherd.
Finally, you can take a state-of-the-art cable car from Blauherd, with a capacity of 100 passengers per cabin, for an epic journey to the top of the Unterrothorn.
Once again, there is a restaurant on top of the mountain, and on a clear day the views of the Matterhorn, the glacier and the Monte Rosa massif are almost unbelievable.
But Unterrothorn is also a site for mountain activities.
In summer, people start strenuous hiking or paragliding from here.
In winter, the piste starts right next to the top station.
7. Zermatt Village
With so many wonders nearby, you might forget to spend some time on Zermatt’s car-free lanes.
Much of the village’s history is linked to early tourism and mountaineering, such as the Monte Rosa Hotel, Zermatt’s oldest hotel, opened in 1855, where Edmund Whymper and others from his team Members live here before they reach the summit.
The “Old Village” is like an open-air museum, consisting of more than 30 typical “Warsaw” houses.
During July and August, children will love seeing a herd of furry Valais Blackneck goats through the village at 09:00 and 17:00.
8. Zermatt Landis Matterhorn Museum
The Matterhorn is equally stunning and terrifying, and the Zermatt Museum should answer any questions you may have about the mountain.
The museum is laid out like a traditional Alpine village, and the galleries are contained in 14 authentic buildings that were demolished and rebuilt in this subterranean space.
Each deals with a different aspect of the infamous mountain’s nature and history.
In “The Mountain Guide’s Home”, Edward Whymper and his team’s ascent in 1865 received special attention. The grim exhibit here is the broken “broken rope” that killed four climbers.
9. Climbers Cemetery
An unfortunate fact about the Matterhorn is that it is one of the deadliest mountains in the world, with an estimated 500 climbers killed since it was first conquered in 1865. About 3,000 people attempt to climb the mountain every year, even now with regular deaths.
These days, that usually boils down to avalanches and sudden changes in the mountain’s notorious weather.
Many of those who died on the mountain were buried in the churchyard’s cemetery, including three of the four climbers who died in 1865. You can take the time to read the tombstones with detailed information about the climbers, including their age and where they died.
Some of the stones are also decorated with climbing gear such as ropes and ice axes.
10. Gorner Canyon
About a 15-minute walk from Zermatt is a fabulous landscape that descends rather than ascends.
Since the last Ice Age, Gornervispe has cut through the ancient green serpentine, creating a deepening ravine.
In the 1880s, the canyon became a navigable place on foot, with wooden footbridges offering views of the tormented rocks and crystal clear waters below.
For a few days in September, a strange natural phenomenon occurs around 15:00-16:00, with a unique light that gives the water an enchanting turquoise glow.
The Zermatt-Sunnegga cable car takes only 4.5 minutes to reach the upper station.
Sunnegga is a sun-drenched natural balcony and another of the many places where you will stop for a panoramic view of the Matterhorn.
But for Sunnegga, the vistas are much more than that: you can catch a glimpse of Alpine wildlife at the Marmots playground, a trail that leads you past caves where you’ll see these creatures if you’re patient.
Another summer activity is swimming in Leisee, which is surrounded by grass and has pristine, reflective waters.
Winter in Sunnegga means snowshoeing, snowboarding and skiing in “Sunnegga Paradise”, as well as access to the pistes of Gornergrat.
12. Findern Village
In Sunnegga, you can climb a four-seater cable car to a small group of farmhouses in the village of Findern.
It may be hard to get around, but it wasn’t until 1954 that rye and barley were grown on these 2,100-meter slopes.
Findern is uninhabited year-round, but a Maiensäss, where villagers start driving cattle to this place when summer begins.
During the season, they grow grain, make cheese or send milk back to the valley to sell.
Old barns and farmhouses still stand, as do the chapels built in the 17th century.
“Black Lake” in English, the surface of this body of water is dark because it reflects the dull surrounding rocks.
From Zermatt, the funicular takes you to the lake in just 12 minutes, and has been traveling between these locations since 1954. At Schwarzsee you will have the best vantage point for the Hörnligrat ridge on the Matterhorn, which is written into mountaineering legends.
If you have the right equipment and training, you can walk from here to that faraway place.
Just above the water is the chapel of Mary in the Snow, where climbers still come to say thanks after descending from the Matterhorn.
14. Forest Paradise
Just along the valley of the village, this treetop adventure park provides adrenaline and physical exertion in a safer environment.
In Switzerland’s longest adventure course for children, children will spend the time of their lives scrambling between platforms far from the ground.
They will wear seat belts and helmets and adhere to the highest safety standards.
Adults can also get involved, testing their strength, guts and balance on five routes, climbing nets, traversing bridges of various forms, and suspending and pulling down ziplines with ropes.
Days of mountaineering in thin air, hiking on a glacier in extreme temperatures or galloping down a ski run push even the fittest body to its limits.
So if you feel you need some pampering, you will be reasonable.
Fortunately, almost all hotels near Zermatt have excellent spa and wellness facilities.
Most of these are open to non-residents, whether you book in advance, or you can show up at dozens of Spa Hotel Perren, Spa Hotel Hemizeus, Spa Hotel Europe, Spa Hotel Bella Vista and more.
All will have saunas, steam rooms, heated swimming pools, jacuzzi (many outdoor activities) and a menu of treatments for long-term relaxation.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Zermatt, Switzerland
Lowest price guaranteed.