Fancy a ski trip or a cosy getaway in one of the most beautiful settings in Switzerland? Consider a trip to Zermatt.
How to get there?
Zermatt is a car-free village. If you come by car, you can leave it on a parking outside the village and get an electric taxi to the center. The best option to come is by train though. From Visp, you’ll be in Zermatt in one hour, including a picturesque and comfortable train ride. Visp is very easily accessible from Geneva/Lausanne or Zurich/Bern region.
When to go?
Zermatt is beautiful all year round, and since ski lifts go up all the way to 4000m. altitude, you can even ski here in summer. I went for a ski week mid January. This is perfect if you want to take advantage of the relatively little crowds, lower hotel prices and empty ski runs. January is however also very cold (we had -30°C at 4000m.), so a ski mask that covers your whole face is an absolute necessity. February is peak season, expect big crowds and high prices. March has beautiful long days, a good layer of snow, but depending on the temperatures, you can have some unpleasant spring snow.
For hiking, July until October are the best months.
Where to stay?
Zermatt has an incredible amount of hotels and rental chalets, with a concentration on chic and luxury hotels. Generally speaking, everything is super expensive in Zermatt, and the hotel will represent a big chunk of your budget. We stayed at Phoenix Hotel (http://hotel.phoenixzermatt.ch). The three-star hotel is conveniently located 10 minutes by foot from the ski lift or 5 minutes from the bus stop. The hotel is a family run business, with modern and bright rooms with a tasteful interior in wood and stone and a nice big bathroom. The breakfast is also very good and the staff very welcoming. If you come for skiing you’ll appreciate the comfortable ski room with heated boot rack. This was a great choice!
Where to ski?
When leaving from Zermatt you have the option to take the ski lift heading to Sunnegga or another ski lift heading to Furi. The latter one is closer to Italy and will allow for direct access to the glacier, but both areas are also accessible by ski once on the mountain. You can choose between a Swiss ski pass only or for an international ski pass allowing you to go to Italy (Cervinia, Valtournenche). If you plan to stay a few days, an international multi-day ticket is probably the best option. Generally speaking, the slopes are not too difficult in Zermatt: they are wide, even (I did not spot a single mogul field) and not very steep (most black ones could easily qualify for reds in other domains). My favourite pistes were probably 62 Furgg-Furi, 52 Stafelalp (take the lift after the first half though if you want to avoid a long flat run) and 19 Fluhalp (you will even spot some ibex!).
Don’t forget your ski valet! 🙂
Where to eat on piste?
Zermatt has probably the highest concentration of altitude restaurants registered in Gault&Millau. That being said, bring a full wallet to your ski day, since you won’t be able to get a sandwich for 5 francs on piste.
Chez Vrony (http://www.chezvrony.ch/): Cosy interior and big panoramic terrace. The menu is tasty and creative. Besides meat and fish dishes, chez Vrony has a nice selection of vegetarian and even vegan dishes. I had the goat cheese ravioli with braised pear while my company had the spaghetti with cherry tomatoes and lamb chorizo. The products are of top quality and they certainly know how to cook. The dessert of “drunk” cafe glacé was also super yummy. The service is very welcoming and authentic and this despite the place being absolutely packed.
Now that we spent almost all our lunch money on the first day already, we need some more budget-friendly options for the remaining days.
On day two, we had a coffee and a delicious fruit tarte at Stafelalp (part of the – dare I say – Zermatt monopoly imperium Julen, they have 9 restaurants, bars and hotels all over Zermatt) (http://www.julen.ch).
The remaining days, we ate in Italy at the Rifugio del Cervino at la Testa Grigia (http://www.rifugioguidedelcervino.com). There are two parts, a first so-called self with simple but delicious panini and a few pasta and polenta dishes and a second, the restaurant with meat, pasta and polenta dishes. The pasta was very good, perfectly al dente. I especially can recommend the penne all’arrabbiata, but avoid the carbonara because for some strange reason they make it with cream (and yes they are Italian). You can certainly eat here for under 15 euros, an absolute bargain in Zermatt!
Where to eat off piste?
Restaurant Julen (http://www.julen.ch): solid but uncreative cuisine with and extensive lamb menu from their own farm. The lamb is excellent! The service is a bit off, as in being too friendly. Good wine menu.
Pöstli Stübli (http://www.hotelpost.ch): located at the Unique Post Hotel, which is the other big imperium in Zermatt besides Julen with one hotel, three restaurants and five bar/clubs. Pöstli Stübli serves Swiss cuisine in a cosy setting. The rösti with salmon and horseradish mousse was good but a bit too greasy and I also prefer my rösti using slightly starchy potatoes so that the rösti stick together rather than falling apart. The starter salad was excellent though!
The Factory (http://www.hotelpost.ch): Italian cuisine with pizza, pasta, meat and fish dishes. Perfectly reasonable cuisine but without surprises and excellence. Friendly service.
Brown Cow Bar (http://www.hotelpost.ch): Anglo-Saxon inspired pub with moderately priced burger food such as burgers, club sandwiches, hot dogs, salads etc. Nice!
Restaurant Du Pont: avoid! They advertise themselves as the oldest restaurant in Zermatt and are specialized in Wallisian and cheese specialities. The fondue was mediocre and unusually heavy, the so-called house specialty with added herbs did only distract from the bland cheeses. But the worst was the raclette (which I fortunately did not choose): never have I ever seen a professional restaurant staff destroy the poor cheese in the way it was done here. What a shame!
Le Petit Royal (https://www.facebook.com/Le-Petit-Royal-286140944762540/): sweet coffee place in the main shopping street (Bahnhofstrasse) with good coffee and nice selection of savoury snacks and cakes.
Zermatt is a great place to be in, but please decide not to complain about the high prices all the time, as this will make you unhappy. I hope I gave you some tips and insights to make your trip more enjoyable.