Seeing the pyramid shaped Matterhorn had been in our wishlist for a while. Did you know that the peak is the inspiration behind the shape of Toblerone candy? It has four distinct sides that align with the cardinal direction of North, South, East and West. But what we didn’t know was the abundant summer activities and things to do in Zermatt and Matterhorn that were perfect for families and soft adventure enthusiasts like us – you know the kind that loves the mountains in summer, some easy hikes, spa time and nice hotel beds!
Zermatt is not just the Matterhorn
While it’s hard to miss the Matterhorn Mountain peak when you are visiting Zermatt, there actually several mountains in the area. Zermatt is not just the Matterhorn, there is so much more to discover. You can actually visit three mountain peaks: Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, Gornergrat and Rothorn. All are accessible and easy to reach from Zermatt via trams, gondolas, funiculars, and cogwheel mountain railways.
The summit of Matterhorn is at 14692 feet (4478 meters) and you will need two days and be an experienced mountaineer to climb and summit the mountain. Which we are not, we will just cover the easy to do hikes in and other things to do in Zermatt in this article.
Map of Zermatt & Matterhorn
Map of Zermatt from the Zermatt website, where you can see more hiking trails and other things to do in Zermatt.
10 Best things to do in Zermatt
Hiking, cycling, climbing, paragliding and high-Alpine tours are some of the popular summer activities in Zermatt. While the region is legendary among mountaineers, it has several family-friendly easy to do hike around the many meadows and crystal clear lakes. Wondering what to do in Zermatt, here are ten of them…
Stroll through the Town of Zermatt
Matterhorn, the ultimate Swiss icon looming over it, Zermatt has been drawing visitors here since the 1860s. The village of Zermatt is lovely and car-free, with old-fashioned wooden chalets and winding alleys. The town is compact and while there are no cars, you will see small electric vehicles zipping people around. During summer in Zermatt, there is still a chill in the air but the window boxes are brimming with flowers and you can still see skiers walking to the ski lifts… yep even in summer! There are some fabulous hiking trails that take you through pine forests, alpine lakes and flower-filled meadows in Zermatt Switzerland. Make time to visit the Matterhorn Museum to learn more about the area.
Sunnegga & Rothorn Viewpoints
The Sunnegg and Rothorn offer some of the best viewpoints for seeing Matterhorn and the mountain ranges. From the valley station in Zermatt take the funicular to Sunnegga. The funicular ride only takes 4.5 minutes but the view is so different. The railway goes up a rock tunnel through the inside of the mountain to a sunny, scenic terrace with amazing closeup views of the Matterhorn.
Sunnegga is the starting point for many hikes including the Five Lakes Trail. The marmot-watching station is just a few minutes’ walk from Sunnegga, and fun for the whole family. There is a theme trail that reveals fascinating facts about these charming mammals, which live in burrows high in the Alps.
You can take the gondola all the way up to Rothorn before starting the hikes (which is what we did).
The Rothorn cable car carries visitors to the summit of the Rothorn – or to be precise, the Unterrothorn. In summer, this is the starting point for many popular hikes and a destination for sunrise excursions. In winter, the summit station offers direct access to the ski pistes. The Rothorn summit station offers some of the best views of Matterhorn and the highest mountains in Valais and Switzerland.
The view of the Matterhorn is just stunning from the Rothorn summit. Another attraction is the Peak Collection, an artistic exploration of the surrounding mountains. This is also a popular area for paragliding. We ran into a group that was going up the mountain and had open spots for two but unfortunately, we had plans to hike the Five Lakes Trail and couldn’t go paragliding.
Hike the Five Lakes Trail from Blauherd
Once you get to Blauherd from Rothorn you can hike the popular Five Lakes Trail. The path leads past the lakes of the Stellisee, Grindjisee, Grünsee, Moosjisee and Leisee. Each of these lakes is very different in terms of shape, color, character and size.
Leisee is good for swimming and popular with children. The Grünsee looks out over a rugged landscape, where Swiss stone pines nevertheless manage to grow among the scree and sand. The shores of the Grindjisee are home to rare flowers – each one is unique!
The Five Lakes Trail goes from Blauherd – Stellisee – Grindjisee – Grünsee – Moosjisee – Leisee – Sunnegga and takes about 3 hours. The entire trail is about 7 to 8 miles and you hike downhill most of the way.
How we hiked the 5 Seenweg Trail (Five Lakes Trail)
We did most of the 5-Seenweg trail but instead of going back to Sunnegga, we hiked to Riffelap and took the train to Gornergrat from there and loved it. The 5 lakes along the 5 Seenweg are some of the most beautiful in the area and views of the Matterhorn are plentiful as you turn corner after corner to discover beautiful new vistas.
On the way, we stopped at one of the restaurants for lunch of cauliflower soup, chicken sandwiches with a fabulous view of Matterhorn.
If you don’t want to hike the entire trail, you can hike up to Stellisee (it has the best reflection of Matterhorn) and make your way back to Blauderd to take the gondola back to Sunnegga or Zermatt.
Take the train to Gornergrat
Taking the train to Gornergrat is one of the best experiences in Zermatt. Europe’s highest open-air cog railway brings you from Zermatt station (1,620 m) to the summit of the Gornergrat, 365 days a year. The ride takes 33 minutes and requires a vertical climb of 1,469 m over dramatic bridges, through galleries and tunnels, across forests of larch and Swiss stone pine, and rocky ravines and mountain lakes.
Once you get there, the panorama is among the finest in the world. Unfortunately, it was foggy when we got there. You can see Monte Rosa massif with Switzerland’s highest peak (Dufourspitze, 4,634 m); the second-largest glacier in the Alps, the Gorner Glacier, and a total of 29 mountains above 4,000 m, including, the Matterhorn in all its glory.
At the summit station on the Gornergrat, sits Europe’s highest-altitude hotel: the 3100 Kulmhotel Gornergrat where you can spend the night. Facilities include a restaurant, astronomical observatory and shops.
Visit the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise
Skiing is popular in Zermatt since it is Switzerland’s highest Ski resort. At Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, it is the highest cable car station in Europe at 3,883 m. The ski slopes on the Theodul Glacier are open year-round and many National ski team trains here.
From Matterhorn glacier paradise, mountaineers and hikers accompanied by mountain guides set off to scale the Breithorn (4,164 m), a 2.5-hour climb up. For many hikers, this is their first ascent of a 4,000-metre peak.
On clear days, the views from the observation platform are so clear that you can see all the way to Italy, France and the Mediterranean. Mont Blanc (4,810 m) in France, the highest mountain in the Alps, towers above its neighbors; the summit of the Gran Paradiso (4,061 m), Italy’s highest peak, is often also visible.
Look for the Black nose sheep
Wolli the blacknose sheep is the mascot of Zermatt. You can see them on the higher elevations when you go hiking, sometimes even hiding under the gondola stations like this guy.
Walk on the Furi Suspension Bridge
You walk on a hanging suspension bridge in Zermatt near the Furi cable car station. The suspension footbridge soars 90 meters above the Gornerschlucht gorge You can also visit the Gorner Gorge, a chasm carved by the river. Located between the Furi and Zermatt gondola stations it has a nice hiking trail perfect for families with little children.
The hike should take about an hour and is marked on the signposts as Hängebrückenweg Furi.
In fact there is another suspension bridge near Zermatt – the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the world at almost 500 m long. The Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge completes the Europaweg from Grächen to Zermatt. It is considered one of the most beautiful two-day hike in the Alps. If you hike the entire trail, you can enjoy views of the Matterhorn, Weisshorn and the Bernese Alps.
You need to hike about 6 hours from Zermatt to get to the bridge or 2 hours from Randa. We love suspension bridges and been to the highest suspension bridge in Austria but missed this one! A reason to go back.
Try Raclette and Tomato Fondue
When you look up the best restaurants in Zermatt, Chez Vrony is the one that pops up. In summer it is a 30 walk from Sunegga in the direction of Findeln ZeGassen, you would need skis to get there in winter. Findlerhof is another place that serves Swiss cuisine and Italian specialties with a side of Matterhorn view.
We didn’t plan well and missed out but tried a couple of other restaurants in Zermatt. We were craving Asian food and had dinner at Rua Thai. Somehow after a few days on the road, you craved some good fried rice, noodles and a beer to wash it down.
Our dinner at Restaurant Julen made up for it, the menu has a large selection of local delicacies from raclette, fillets of beef and lamb to cheese fondue. Their desserts were amazing! Located inside Romantik Hotel Julen, it came highly recommended by the concierge at our hotel.
Another dish to try Zermatt is Tomato fondue. It is native to the Valais region and consists of tomatoes or tomato paste, white wine, garlic, butter, shallots, and grated cheeses such as Gruyère and Emmental. Paired with potatoes, rather than the usual pieces of bread used for dipping, it is delicious and a must-try.
Stay at a Zermatt Hotel with a view of Matterhorn
There are many accommodation options in and around Zermatt, from hiking huts to cozy chalets. For the best experience choose a hotel with a view of the Matterhorn.
We stayed at Hotel FireFly, a luxurious family owned property part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World. It was a spacious suite with a nice kitchen, two bedrooms and two bathrooms. The best part was the view from the living area where we could see the top of the Matterhorn Mountain.
Breakfast was served à la carte, you choose the night before and a delicious meal, made mostly from local products, was delivered to our room at the time requested. Perfected for fueling up before heading out for hikes adventures and other things to do in Zermatt.
Catch a sunrise when the peak is glowing
Wake up early to see the tip of the Matterhorn glow. You can see it right from the little bridge in Zermatt. The Kirchbrücke bridge offers the perfect location for photographing the Matterhorn at any time of day or night. If you go around sunrise you will see photographers lined up to take that money shot!
Haute Route, a popular and demanding multi-day hike
The Haute Route is a spectacular and demanding summer hike that is on my wishlist. It is a strenuous high-level traverse in the French and Swiss Alps, starting from Chamonix (France) to Zermatt (Switzerland) in 10 to 12 days. The route traverses below the summits of 10 out of the 12 of the highest peaks in the Alps, and crosses several high passes meanders through green alpine valleys with flower-covered meadows and picture-book villages.
The Haute Route Chamonix to Zermatt is a remote trek. You can take a tent, or sleep in a mountain hut or a refuge. A couple of nights could be spent in valley hotels to catch up on hot showers. The mountain huts and refuges are open from mid-June until the first or second week in September. It is advisable to reserve a bed, particularly in the high season of mid July to mid August.
I’m dreaming of a trip back and hopefully get a do a trek/hike with Alpenwild who organizes some of the best treks and hikes in the Alps. Keeping my fingers crossed that we get to do this multi-day hike and also visit the Dolomites someday!
How to get to Zermatt
The car-free Zermatt can be reached by train, taxi or helicopter. The train is probably the most popular way to get to Zermatt. We were driving from Vienna through the Alps and parked our car in the parking garage in Täsch. The train to Zermatt took about 12 minutes and there were trains that depart every 20 minutes.
If you are flying into Switzerland then you can reach Zermatt in 3½ hours from Zurich and in 4 hours from Geneva. Or you can take the Glacier Express to Zermatt from St.Moritz. Once you arrive in Zermatt, you can arrange for your hotel’s cool little electric car to pick you up.
How much time do you need in Zermatt?
We spend 3 full days and two nights in Zermatt. With so many hiking trails and things to do in Zermatt, I could easily see families wanting to spend a week here exploring the region. If you have good weather 2 full days in Zermatt is perfect to visit the three peaks and explore the town. 3 days in Zermatt lets you enjoy the town and the area at leisure.
We loved this little mountain resort and can’t wait to go back and spend more time in Zermatt and hike the Haute route. I hope you find this guide helpful in planning your trip and things to do in Zermatt.
See this post if you need some help packing for a mountain adventure.
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