This train journey was probably the closest thing I would ever get to living a fairytale. It was a winter wonderland; It felt like I had jumped into the movie Frozen. Going from Geneva to Visp is already very scenic, with large mountains covered in snow and cute little houses which look like living there would be living the dream. But the train journey from Visp to Zermatt is something else and I am so grateful to be able to experience this. I had the sun shining in my face whilst the train is almost gliding across the snow. I was surrounded by evergreen trees sprinkled with snow, little rivers and streams with icy white water sprinkling downwards and huge mountains which to me are the most beautiful kinds of scenery. I was definitely in my element.
Although you would think that being in -11 (or even -17 on top of the mountain) is massively uncomfortable, for me it is only an excitement. It was my first time in such freezing temperatures and I felt so happy, so alive!
Once arrived in Zermatt I went to the tourist office to grab a map and some interesting information I will share with you to ensure you make the most out of the trip here. Considering I did not want to be too late returning to Geneva (Also because I had an exam the following day [as you do]) my activities were quite limited but I will write everything important to do here so that if you plan on visiting Zermatt you have a complete list of things to see.
My first stop was the Gornegratt station (opposite the main train station) to grab a cog train to Gornegratt Mountain. I have read that this is the best place to get a spectacular view of the Matterhorn. Tickets are slightly expensive unless you have the half fare card : 58 CHF but I can guarantee that if there is one mountain you have to go up then this has got to be the one. The journey up to the top is magical, you go up a steep hill with the Matterhorn constantly on your right and the little village of Zermatt slowly disappearing into the valley.
Once you get to the top temperatures have fallen to -17 but you forget about the temperature when you are surrounded by the beauty of nature. You are surrounded by a duotone of white and blue shades, you are on top of the world.. or on top of the clouds for sure! The Matterhorn is there, looking right at you. The iconic Swiss mountain top, the reason for the death of numerous mountain climbers. You are surrounded by a 360-degree view of various mountains and snow.
There is a chalet at the top of the mountain where you can grab a bite to eat in both the self-service buffet and the restaurant. Then you can walk around to the panoramic spot to get an even better view of your surroundings – however bare in mind to walk slow and take some breaks as you walk up- the thin air made it quite difficult to breathe. I spent a total of two hours and a half up here (half an hour was spent charging my phone which decided to die on me at 30% presumably because the battery froze to death).
I them returned down to Zermatt village, which is a super cute place. This little, car-free village is so unique and interesting it is worth spending an hour or so having a walk around and maybe sitting down in a café for some hot chocolate, you should try Petit Royal.
Furthermore the village is filled with a lot of history. You must take a walk through the old part of the village. You take a right at Hinterdorf which is the oldest past of Zermatt. Here you will see some barns and stables built between the fifteenth and the nineteenth centuries. You can carry on walking until the river and turn right down bachstrasse. You walk until you see Kirchstrasse on your right, which is where you will find three of the most important sights in Zermatt. The first being the Mountaineer’s cemetery, which is where the many climbers who lost there lives on the Matterhorn or the surrounding mountains are buried. Since 1865 there have been more than 500 deaths. Next to the cemetery is the Anglican church of St. Peters. This majestic church is the main church of Zermatt, it Is one of the highest buildings of the village and worth seeing.
Walking up from the church back to Banhofstrasse there is the Matterhorn museum. I thought this museum was one of the most interesting end educationally enriching museums I had ever been to. I think if you go up to see the Matterhorn you should understand a bit of history behind this magnificent village, including the tragic incident of the climbers who died descending the summit. Tickets cost 10 CHF for adults and 8 CHF for students, the museum is quite small but I did learn a significant amount about the legacy Zermatt.
There is a story about 7 climbers went up the Matterhorn, Edward Whymper who was a British climber, three Swiss guides and three english tourists. However arrived at the peak it is said that the rope snapped taking down four of the climbers. Since then there has been debate on whether one of the guides cut the rope to save himself and the other two men or whether it was simply an accident. This incident has changed the life in Zermatt as it was one of the most significant events that happened
My last stop before returning home is the Focus Matterhorn Hotel – I thought that I couldn’t come to Switzerland without trying out a Spa with a view, you know one of those iconic ones you see on Instagram? So I made my way across the village, which on the map seemed like a long journey however it only took me 15 minutes. The Focus Matterhorn Hotel is located up the Schuhmattstrasse just after the cable car to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise.
This hotel is absolute luxury, you walk from taking a lift from -2 to the ground floor in and you are straightaway greeted by the reception. The spa is the most spectacular and romantic spa I have ever been to. They have both an indoor and outdoor pool facing the mountains. After my spa it was only right to have some tea by the warm fire, which again was set in such an elegant room surrounded by fur blankets and pillows. The Focus Matterhorn Hotel is really one of a kind and if I ever return to Zermatt for longer than a day I will definitely stay here.
Other things to do in Zermatt:
Sunnegga & Rothorn:
The Sunnegga is a 5 minute cable car ride. It is advised to do in the spring or summer as It is an idyllic, relaxing spot where you can go marmot-watching by the Leisee lake. Furthermore from the Rothorn you will have a spectacular view of the Matterhorn.
Matterhorn Glacier Paradise:
I was advised by the information desk that this is the best excursion; whether you are skiing or simply are here for the views. It is also the priciest excursion with tickets costing 100 CHF return. You will be taken to a height of 1.883 m but will experience a 360 degree panoramic view over 38 alpine peaks. You will have a view over the French, the Italian and the Swiss mountains.
You take the Matterhorn-Express from Zermatt which will take you to the foot of the Matterhorn in just over 10 minutes. Here you will find a lake and a chapel. This is a beautiful walk, both for a family and for couples.You will also find some interactive theme paths from where you can learn about the glaciers.