Hey fellow explorers! Are you planning a trip to Zermatt, Switzerland? I went there this past December with a group of friends, and it was an absolute winter wonderland. Let me share some specific tips and spots to make your trip unforgettable in Zermatt.
Getting to Zermatt: A Train Adventure Like No Other
Switzerland has 2 major International Airports that are in Zurich and Geneva. You can fly into either airport to take the train to Zermatt. If you’ve traveled with skis, there’s a ski transport service at the airport, which allows you to drop your skis off and meet up with them upon arrival in Zermatt.
The journey to Zermatt! Let me tell you, this is not just a train ride; it’s the start of your epic Swiss adventure.
Booking the Train
We used the Trainline App to book our tickets, which was super convenient and user-friendly. Since our group stayed a few nights in Zurich, we boarded the train at Zurich HB instead of the Zurich airport.
If you take the train from Zurich HB, and you’re there for the first time, take a moment to admire this bustling station – it’s quite the sight! They even have an amazing Christmas Market where you can get yourself something to eat or drink before your train ride.
The Scenic Route
The journey to Zermatt took about 3.5 hours, but it didn’t feel that long, thanks to the stunning views. The scenes were straight out of a postcard – snowy mountains, serene lakes, and even waterfalls along the way. I was glued to the window the entire time!
A Little Detour is Possible
We had a little twist in our journey – when we reached Visp, we had to change trains. Can you guess why? Due to an avalanche blocking the tracks (a real Swiss experience!), an area of train rails was closed. So, we had to hop on a bus from Visp to Saint Nicholas. It was an unexpected detour but added to the adventure.
From Saint Nicholas, we caught another train to Zermatt. This change might sound confusing, but it was pretty straightforward. The key is to keep an eye on the train display system for updates, review your train ticket, and check the platform number.
Arriving in Zermatt
Finally, Zermatt! The train station is smack in the center of the town, which is super convenient. Now, Zermatt is a carless town (yep, no cars are permitted!), so from here, you can either walk to your accommodation, catch the free bus that runs every 15 minutes or take an electric taxi. I’d skip the electric taxi – it’s pricey and honestly, you won’t need it, unless you are carrying a lot of weight. If you prefer to go in style, a horse and carriage are also available for hire.
Car Note: If you rent a car and drive to Zermatt, you’ll need to park in the covered parking garage in Tasch, which is the town next to Zermatt. From there, connect to the shuttle train for the last 20 minutes to Zermatt’s train station.
A Couple of Tips:
- Comfy Shoes are a Must: Since you’ll be walking a lot, comfy shoes are your best friend. If you go in wintertime, wear boots or waterproof shoes to keep your feet warm and your socks from getting wet.
- Dress Warmly: It can be warm inside the train, but still bring a cozy coat with you, especially in the winter months.
When to Visit Zermatt
December Magic: Visiting in December is magical. The town is festive, and the skiing conditions are prime. If you love winter sports and cozy vibes, this is your time.
During December, Zermatt has no Christmas Market. However, if you’re in Zermatt at the start of December, they encourage visitors to attend the Zermatt Christmas Tree Lighting. The event is full of Christmas cheer and offers music, drinks, and baked goods!
Attractions & Activities
Zermatt is a playground for winter activities and more.
- Ski/Snowboard Lover’s Paradise: If carving down snowy slopes is your idea of fun, Zermatt, is your dream destination. You can ski all year round, even in summer! The ski conditions are top-notch – we were shredding it on the slopes daily! Here’s the Zermatt Ski Map.
- Pro Tip: Your ski pass grants access to all chair lifts, except for the Matterhorn Paradise Glacier cable car. However, it does include access to the Matterhorn Express cable car.
- Town Vibes: There’s this cool, lively buzz in Zermatt during December. Though there aren’t Christmas markets, the town itself has a festive air that’s just captivating.
- Chill Yet Cozy: There’s something about the chilly air contrasted with the warm, inviting cafes, cabins, restaurants, and bars. It’s the perfect backdrop for those post-ski relaxation sessions.
- Gornergrat Railway: A must-do!! We caught a sunset here, and the views of the Matterhorn, Swiss, and Italian Alps were surreal. There’s no other open-air train that climbs higher in all of Europe!
- Matterhorn Glacier Paradise: Europe’s highest cable car! It takes you over 12,000 feet (3,883 meters) above sea level into the Alps, where a viewing platform offers endless views of mountain peaks and glaciers. Attractions include the Glacier Palace, featuring a walk-through experience with ice sculptures, as well as a bar and restaurant.
- Mountaineers’ Cemetery: The mountaineers’ cemetery is a moving reminder of the accidents that have occurred in the mountains around Zermatt. This peaceful memorial honors the lives of climbers lost in these challenging terrains.
Wellness & Health
Spa Day: After skiing all day, thermal baths with mountain views are a game-changer for tired muscles.
Our Favorite Spas:
- SchlossSpa Zermatt – Switzerland’s 1st CBD Spa: Unique to Zermatt, this spa features a hemp sauna along with massages and treatments using cannabidiol, a natural active ingredient. In addition, enjoy classic saunas, steam baths, and more.
- Capricorn Spa: Indulge in an evening of relaxation and let go of the day-to-day for a while – because sometimes, a little break is all you need.
- Alpen Resort & Spa: Featuring various pools (both indoor and outdoor), a spa, a fitness center, and massage services – available throughout the year.
DIY Travel Tips
Traveling to Zermatt with friends on a budget? Here’s how we did it:
- Download the Zermatt Matterhorn App on your phone.
- Get live updates including the weather forecast, live webcam pictures, and opened ski lifts and cables.
- Purchase tickets for available experiences and activities.
- Accommodation: We booked a charming Airbnb near the town center. Affordable and convenient.
- Dining: Cooking meals together saved us a lot, but we also indulged in local eateries, pubs, and cafes.
Where to Stay
The Perfect Spot: We stayed in an Airbnb close to Bahnhofstrasse, the main street. It was walking distance from everything – shops, restaurants, and the train station.
Dining in Zermatt
Our Favorite Eats:
- Republic Zermatt: I had the best burger ever at Republic Zermatt! For truffle and mushroom lovers, ‘Le Burger’ is a must-try!
- Zermatt Kitchen: The best-poached eggs I’ve ever tasted were at Zermatt Kitchen. It quickly became our go-to place for breakfast and dinner in town.
- The North Wall Bar & Restaurant: Pizza enthusiasts should definitely check out The North Wall for great food and drinks.
- Findlerhof: Both the food and service are top-notch, a solid 10/10. Plus, the views are simply breathtaking, adding to the overall amazing dining experience.
- Soupi Street Food Kitchen: Craving something warm? Stop by Soupi for a cup of their delicious soup.
- Whymper-Stube: Cozy spot for traditional Swiss fondue.
Bars & Nightlife in Zermatt
Our Favorite Bars and Nightlife:
- Hennu Stall Apres-Ski Bar: Relax with a cozy drink at Hennu Stall, situated on the lower part of the Furi-Zermatt slope. It’s a spot where you can unwind and watch the world go by or dance the night away. Reach it by a 30-minute walk from Zermatt or a quick ski down from Furi after a 15-minute gondola ride.
- Outdoor Bar at Trockener Steg: Head up on the Matterhorn Express to visit the Outdoor Bar at Trockener Steg. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a drink and relax in lounge chairs amidst the snow, with a stunning view of the Matterhorn. Don’t miss their amazing mac and cheese!
- Mamasita: For a night of dancing, make your way to Mamasita. Enjoy live music on the top floor, or hit the bottom floor for some techno beats from local DJs.
- Papperla Pub: In winter, the pub is the perfect meeting place to round off a perfect day’s skiing. Party on the terrace or inside with live music until the soles of your ski boots are burning. In summer, the sun terrace invites you to a cozy get-together. Of course, the cool drinks are not to be missed!
- Adler Hitta: Adler Hitta offers delicious food and a vibrant rooftop party experience.
- Budget Travel in December? Yes! Sharing an Airbnb and cooking meals helped us manage costs.
- Health Tips for Winter? Dress warmly and stay hydrated. The dry, cold air can be a surprise.
- Local Culture in Winter? It’s festive and welcoming. There are streetlights all around town to give it a Christmas cheer and cozy vibe feel.
Wrapping It Up
Zermatt in December with friends was a dream. From the scenic train rides to the exhilarating ski slopes and cozy evenings in local restaurants, every moment was a treasure. I can’t recommend it enough – pack your warmest clothes and dive into the winter magic of Zermatt.
For more detailed travel stories and tips, make sure to visit the AquaApple Blog. I’ve got loads more to share!