Zermatt – Things to do in 1 day

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Ever since we moved to Switzerland, Zermatt had been on top of my list of places to visit. The fairytale-like (and charmingly car-free) town, inches of snow and the magnificent Matterhorn were just some of the many reasons I wanted to pay a visit to Zermatt. 

Read on for a detailed guide on things to do in Zermatt in 1 day.

Planning a trip to Switzerland? Click here for a detailed travel guide to Switzerland – including the best time to visit, itinerary options (for 3, 5, 7 or 10 days), visa, transportation in Switzerland (including Swiss Pass), accommodation options and more!

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One day in Zermatt

Overview of Zermatt

Zermatt is a beautiful town located at an elevation of 1600 m, below the iconic Matterhorn. It’s a popular place for mountaineering, skiing and hiking. Or even a beautiful stroll in the town if you are the more laid back type.

Zermatt in March - Views from Gornergrat.
Zermatt in March – Views from Gornergrat

Best time to visit

Anytime – Ski in the winter and hike in the summer!  Even if you are not into either of these activities, the views from taking various excursions such as the trains to Gornergrat or the cable car to Sunnegga, are worth a visit.

Where to stay in Zermatt

Here are some options to consider for staying in Zermatt,

Hostel

Youth hostel Zermatt–  Well rated and located a 20 min walk from the train station.

Hotel

Resort Hotel Alex Zermatt – A mountain hut styled hotel located next to the train station. 

Hotel Butterfly Hotel Zermatt – Very well-rated and located just 5 minutes from the train station.

Apartment

Millennium – Highly rated and located very close to the train station and the Sunegga ski lift.

Click here to find more places to stay in Zermatt

Getting there

By train: From Zurich it takes about 3.5 hours to reach Zermatt, changing trains at Visp. You can also head there from Lucerne (3.15 hours changing trains at Bern & Visp) or Interlaken (2 – 2.5 hours changing trains at Spiez & Visp). From Visp, a cogwheel train takes you up to Zermatt. Sit on the left side of the train for some amazing views – snow-capped mountains and deep valleys.

Cogwheel train up to Zermatt from Visp
Cogwheel train up to Zermatt from Visp

By car: Since Zermatt is a car-free village, drive up to Tasch – that’s the last town up to which you can take your car. It’s about a 3.5-hour driveway one way from Zurich.

We deliberated taking our car but then dropped the idea since it would have been a bit of a hassle driving up the mountain (would have been fun for me but Milind would have missed the spectacular views!), leaving the car at Tasch and probably staying the night there as well since it would have been too hectic to drive back the same day. Also, would have been very expensive to stay up there – I couldn’t find anyplace reasonably priced to stay at Zermatt and Tasch didn’t have too many great options either.

So, a train trip it was gonna be. We got lucky with the SBB promotions running at the time where one of us could just buy a day pass and the other would be able to buy a companion pass for half the price of a day pass! (We both hold the SBB half-fare cards so it was a fantastic price for us).

Best things to do in Zermatt

The day of the trip, laden with our warm coats and packed lunches, we set off taking one of the earliest trains (~7 am from Zurich). The train steadily got filled to capacity with lots of skiers headed to Zermatt. We changed trains in Visp at about 9 am and headed up to Zermatt on a cogwheel train. We had nearly exhausted our food supply by then – before the trip actually began! But we were starving from having been up so early.

Side note: Both of us being vegetarians, food is a bit of a problem at times. While we love pizzas and pastas which are our go-to veg options in any country, it’s not always easy to get them. And Switzerland is pricey! So we try and take packed lunches, fruits, chocolates with us. My other favourite thing to do is to pick up croissants from Migros or Coop, they are quite cheap and I love buttery, flaky croissants!

Stepping out in Zermatt was a breath of fresh air – quite literally! Since it is a car-free town and high up in the mountains, the air felt amazing. We were greeted by welcome signs in multiple languages, including Hindi! That felt like a nice touch.

Welcome to Zermatt - in Hindi!
Welcome to Zermatt – in Hindi!

Gornergrat

Our plan in Zermatt was to first go up to Gornergrat and then come back and go around the town. Gornergrat, at 3100 m, is the best place to get a spectacular view of the Matterhorn. So soon as we stepped off the train we made our way to the Gornergrat station which is conveniently right outside the train station. The timing was great since we immediately caught the next train going up to Gornergrat (again filled with skiers and few sightseeing folks like us). Tickets are slightly expensive at 98 CHF unless you have the half fare card. Trains run throughout the year, normally every 24 minutes. You can also buy tickets online here.

My wait for seeing the Matterhorn was rewarded as soon as the train started moving. There stood the majestic mountain covered in ice and the only peak for miles around – it was an amazing sight! We couldn’t take our eyes off of it. The Matterhorn stays with the train for the entire ride up. The best side for the views is on the right. 

Matterhorn from the train. Things to do in 1 day in Zermatt
Matterhorn from the train

The views outside were completely white the whole ride up. We could see people skiing on both sides. It was a spectacular ride, to say the least.

Stunning views from the train
Stunning views from the train

We reached the top in about 30 min. As the train emptied, we could see the skiers getting their gears ready and swooshing down the slope next to the platform. (While it looks fun, I’ve never had the desire to learn it so far since given my lack of coordination I’m sure I would head off a cliff at the first chance I got!). We watched the skiers for a bit and then made our way up to the viewing points above the station. 

We were at 3100 m and the air was definitely a bit thinner so rather than walk all the way up we decided to take the elevator (the lazy me might have had a part to play in that decision as well!). We got the best views of the Matterhorn once we reached the top and spent some taking pictures. 

We trudged up to a higher viewing point as well (no elevators here, unfortunately) and the views all around were beautiful. Snow-covered mountains for as far as you could see. Extremely quiet, except for the wind. The feeling of pure, fresh air while you breathe. With very few tourists there that day, the experience was one of serenity and peace. 

Gorgergrat - At the highest view point
Gorgergrat – At the highest viewpoint
Sweeping views from Gornergrat.
Sweeping views from Gornergrat
WIth the Matterhorn - at Gornergrat; What to do in Zermatt in 24 hours
With the Matterhorn – at Gornergrat

Well, that is until I took one teeny tiny step over a piece of teeny tiny ice and slipped and fell and kept slipping while trying to get back up! My first thought as I went down was – Is my phone ok! Hahahaha, I know. But I had recently broken my phone (less than 2 months back) and I couldn’t afford to do the same to my new phone! So as Milind was trying to lift me up (I was worried I’d pull him into the ice as well and we would slip right down the cliff!), I finally managed to put my feet on solid ground and what a relief it was. Not that I needed more, but this was another reason why I do not want to try skiing! I am so afraid of snow and ice! I dusted myself off – thankfully nothing hurt much because of the multiple layers of clothes – and sat down for a rest.
The weather that day was amazing, bright and sunny with not a cloud in sight. It wasn’t very windy either so we didn’t end up freezing as well. We spent some time at the top then made our way down (very very carefully, avoiding all patches of ice and holding on to the rope on the side for dear life) to the souvenir shop. 

We had to buy a Toblerone to take some of the iconic pictures with the Matterhorn after all. So Toblerone in hand, I posed for a while and let Milind do the work. He does take amazing pictures. 

We bought a Toblerone from the souvenir shop for this picture! Things to do in 1 day in Zermatt
We bought a Toblerone from the souvenir shop for this picture!
Grand tour of Switzerland
I’m trying to cover these photo booths across Switzerland – I’ve got 4-5 I think by now

As we slowly started making our way down to the station, we saw that the next train was departing in 3 minutes! Forgetting the fall from just minutes ago, we ran all the way down and thankfully caught the train with no more injuries. The train was completely empty going down and we spent the whole time taking pictures.

This train journey was one of the best parts of the day
This train journey was one of the best parts of the day

Zermatt village

Back in the village, we started our stroll along the Bahnhofplatz next to the station. There were horse-drawn carriages and electric vehicles waiting there to pick up guests. It was lovely to hear the clip-clop of the carriages going down the road. We walked past storefronts, taking in the beautiful buildings. Down the street, we found Zermatt’s pretty church and the Matterhorn Museum. We took a few minutes to pay our respects to the climbers who had been killed in the mountains surrounding Zermatt, many of whom are buried in a small graveyard between the church and the river. 

Zermatt - outside the Bahnof. Horse driven carriages waiting for hotel guests!
Zermatt – outside the Bahnof. Horse driven carriages waiting for hotel guests!
Bahnhofplatz Zermatt. Things to do in 1 day in Zermatt
Bahnhofplatz

We crossed the Kirchbrücke and walked alongside the river for a bit – it was a beautiful river, bluish-grey in colour, rapidly flowing over its rocky bed. We could also see the Matterhorn from here. No matter how many times we had already seen it, it always felt awe-inspiring to look at.

The Kirchbrücke Zermatt. Things to do in 1 day in Zermatt
The Kirchbrücke
Strolling along the river
Strolling along the river

We had bought croissants from a Coop nearby and ate as we walked. (Sitting down for lunch for me is at times a waste of the lovely sunshine hours and of course too expensive!). Our plan was to head up to Sunnegga, a cable car ride away, which we had read was an idyllic, relaxing spot where you can go marmot-watching by the Leisee lake. 

However, all the amazing train rides so far had given us another idea – an impromptu Glacier Express! For context, The Glacier Express is a train connecting railway stations of the two major mountain resorts of Zermatt and St. Moritz in the centre of the Swiss Alps. The train is not an “express” in the sense of being a high-speed train, but rather, in the sense that it provides a one-seat ride for an eight-hours-long journey through the glaciers. It is one of the famous train/ mountain excursions here in Switzerland but it’s very expensive (150 CHF+ one way). 

We already had the day passes for the day and knew the route the Glacier Express takes – didn’t take a genius on how to make the most of it! 

Read more soon on how to do the Glacier Express without paying for the expensive tickets!

Practical tips for travelling to Zermatt

  • If you are planning a night stay, plan ahead. It’s a small village and good places can get filled up quickly
  • If you are planning a day trip, check out the weather cams before visiting

Other things to do in Zermatt

  • Sunnegga – Take a cable car up to Sunnegga and relax at the Leisee Lake
  • Do the 5 lakes hike – we’ve been wanting to do this one for so long!
  • Check out more hikes here – there are more than 70 hikes that can be done in Zermatt!
  • Matterhorn glacier paradise – The highest cable car station in Europe. It offers fantastic views. You can buy tickets at the station or online.
  • Here’s a list of viewpoints to take in the stunning Matterhorn

Have you been to Zermatt? Let me know what you loved the most about the place?

If you found this useful, please share and spread the word.

Ciao!

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Planning a trip? Here are some of my go-to travel resources to make it more efficient for you, while staying within budget!

ACCOMMODATIONBooking.com is my favourite platform for hotel or apartment bookings. I love their map interface (I prefer to stay within walking distance of major attractions!) and they have an excellent customer service

FLIGHTS – I prefer to use Skyscanner to find the cheapest flights. I often use their monthly view of prices to decide my travel dates!

TOURS & ACTIVITIESGet Your Guide is my go-to choice for fun tours and activities. They have a wide range of options and a great interface.

TRAVEL INSURANCE – Travel insurance is absolutely essential for all your international travels. I’ve been saved by it a few times when I fell sick while travelling and I swear by it since then! World Nomads is an excellent choice for travel insurance.

22 Comments

  1. Carol Colborn

    I would live to do this (minus the fall!). Matterhorn is so picturesque and you got such wonderful.shots! The Glaciers so Express sounds like a good excursion, too!

    Reply
    • Smita

      Thanks Carol! Matterhorn is really one of the most photogenic mountains I’ve ever seen!

      Reply
  2. Ann

    I really want to visit Switzerland and see the beautiful mountains. I love that you can take the train up and get a view of the Matterhorn. Glad you didn’t hurt yourself when you fell, that would have put a damper on your trip for sure.

    Reply
    • Smita

      Thanks Ann – yeah, I don’t get along well with ice! ?

      Reply
  3. Summer

    I’ve been wanting to see the mountains in Switzerland and your photos are very inspiring! The view of Matterhorn from the train is incredible. I would definitely want to sit on the right side and get the same shot. As an avid skier and snowboarder this looks like paradise. I understand your fear, but I encourage you to try winter sports! If you do try it, make sure to take a lesson!! You can also get padded/impact leggings to cushion you for any falls. However, it’s great to know about other things to do in Zermatt besides skiing.

    Reply
    • Smita

      Thanks! Good idea about the impact leggings – I’ll definitely need them if I give it a go!

      Reply
  4. Nitin Singhal

    Switzerland is my bucket list destination but the cost always stops me from making the plan. Views from Matterhorn is incredible.

    Reply
    • Smita

      Yes, it is insanely expensive. Even after living here I’m not able to get used to the high costs! 😛

      Reply
  5. Natasha

    Switzerland is definitely on my bucket list! I can’t wait to visit some day! Thanks for the awesome information

    Reply
    • Smita

      It is definitely the place bucket lists are made for! 🙂

      Reply
  6. Aditi Sharma

    We absolutely loved Zermatt when we visited it over the summer and I’d love to head back there in the winter season and probably ride the Glacier Express from St Moritz to Zermatt during that visit. Your post brought back some lovely memories – walking along the river and taking in the views from Kirchbrücke and also from Gornergrat was such a delight. Lovely post.

    Reply
    • Smita

      Thanks, Aditi! We did the glacier express too but not the expensive one which you have to book in advance. We just mapped out the route and took the normal trains – just as stunning an experience and at a fraction of the cost!

      Reply
  7. Mei and Kerstin

    We’ve heard a lot about Zermatt but have never been to, mainly because we’re not into winter sports. It looks beautiful though, and reminds us a lot of Chamonix located just on the other side of the Alps in France. Have you been?

    Reply
    • Smita

      Zermatt has a lot more to offer – give it a chance 🙂 Chamonix has been on my travel list for a while now – maybe this winter!

      Reply
  8. TravelByMaya

    These views are breathtaking! I really want to visit Switzerland, it has been on my bucket list for a while, but for some reason I never got around to visit there.
    I am not a huge fan of cold weather, even though I love snow, but when I’ll visit Zurich, I will definitely not miss visiting Zermatt !

    Reply
    • Smita

      Try Zermatt in the summer – it’s just as stunning and there are a ton of hikes with beautiful views.

      Reply
  9. Josephine Austin

    Squeee Zermatt is just sooo beautiful! You were so lucky to have such gorgeous blue skies while you were up in the alpine!

    p.s. While you live in Switzerland, if you want to give skiing a chance, you should totally go for it! I started learning 2 years ago when we moved to Canada. I have terrible balance and coordination, but if you have lessons I promise it can be sooo fun! Starting as an adult, was less scary than I expected.

    In the end, I was really surprised that I started to love it, especially because it allows you to see amazing mountain views.

    Reply
    • Smita

      This gives me a lot of hope! Maybe I should give skiing a chance!

      Reply
  10. Catherine

    I’ve always wanted to visit Zermatt. It’s an absolutely gorgeous village and your pictures are so beautiful. Europe has so many picturesque destinations and I cannot wait to explore them all!

    Reply
    • Smita

      It really is a stunning village, even without the staggering Matterhorn!

      Reply
  11. Jordan

    What a great day trip. I love that it’s car-free too. And great pictures!

    Reply
    • Smita

      Thanks! I love the car-free characteristic of this village too!

      Reply

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About me

Gruezi! My name is Smita, a part time traveller and a novice travel writer, currently living in Switzerland. So far I’ve been what you might call a serendipitous traveller! I got a chance to visit several amazing places more by chance than by design. I would love to put all my extensive travel planning to good use by sharing it with you and hope that these inspire you to visit all those famous, and not-so-famous locations! Read More

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