Main Street

Zermatt is a small town located on the border between Switzerland and Italy about five hours south east of Geneva or about six hours south of Zurich. There are many ways to get to Zermatt but all pretty much end at Täsch where you have to take a train into the town since all petrol (gas) vehicle are banned from the streets of the town. This means that any motorized transport is driven by electricity, including all taxis and buses, all of which tend to be very small (and sneak up on you when walking down the streets).

Back Street

The primary language spoken in Zermatt is German (Switzerland having three official languages, German being one and the fact that Zermatt is quite close to Germany) and this is also reflected in the style of cooking and culture.

Zermatt is a tourist town with more shops selling watches and chocolate than there are people that actually live there (OK, perhaps an exaggeration – but not by much). In the summer the focus of the town shifts to farming and the occasional hiker.

Zermatt is an extremely clean town with very fresh air (as it is at such a high altitude) and serves as a base for an extensive ski area and mountain climbing since the Matterhorn is located only miles from the town. The mountain is easily visible from anywhere in town.

Being a small, exclusive, Switzerland town prices of just about everything are extremely high with the cost of an average sized meal running at about 40 SF (about $32 US). Some grocery stores in the town have prices that are more realistic but still not THAT cheap…


The winter months bring a mass of skiers to the town to challenge some of the best pistes in Europe. There are a large number of fairly advanced runs as well as extensive heli-skiing and ski guiding programs.

Klein Matterhorn Ski Area (Skiing on the Glacier, Matterhorn in Background)

There are a large number of rope tows since there are a number of runs on glaciers (where permanent structures would cost more to move as the glacier moves). Trains and gondolas take you to the top of one of the three main areas:

Rothorn Ski Area (At the Top) (Photo Courtesy Shirley Watkinson)

  • Sunnegga (Rothorn is the name of the top of the area but in town it is generally known by the name of the stop at the top of the first train leg from the town) Gornergrat Ski Area (At the Top of the Trainline) (Photo Courtesy Shirley Watkinson)
  • Gornergrat - Accessible by taking a train (almost a vernicular railway) that takes about 45 minutes to get from the town to the top, additional areas are accessed from Gornergrat via Gondola (though these areas tend to be extremely difficult and are home to the legendary – or notorious depending on your sensibilities – Triftji mogul runs). Klein Matterhorn Ski Area (The Sandiger Lift)
  • Klein Matterhorn - Highest area with tremendous off-piste and very good glacier skiing. Accessed by taking a series of gondolas, the last stage (to the actual Klein Matterhorn) peak is often closed in bad weather. Note: Tremendous views are available if you take a left turn half way down the tunnel leading from the top of the gondola to the outside you can take an elevator and then a series of stairs to the very top of the mountain (it will be windy).

There are numerous places to stop and eat (and drink) on the mountains, recommended is Fluhalp (just down from Rothorn), the restaurant just above Landtunnel (in the Gornergrat area), and the series of restaurants and bars located between Furi and Zermatt (a famous place to ski out – and get “sloshed” at the same time).

The Matterhorn

On the other side of the Matterhorn is the Italian resort of Cervinia which I have also visited and found to have fantastic food and great skiing as well.

Food and Entertainment

Eating on the Slopes (Photo Courtesy Shirley Watkinson)

Food is primarily German in style focusing on heaving (fried) meals including sausages and potatoes. One of the favourite local dishes (if not THE favourite) is the “Roastie” which is a fried shredded potato pancake (not to be confused with a typical potato pancake which includes binding agents such as eggs) typically served alone with bratwurst (sausage) and onion sauce.

There are a number of other restaurants serving everything from pizza, hamburgers (yes, there is a McDonalds right near the train station), to French formal dinners.

During ski season, the town stays awake pretty late with a large number of bars (pubs) that are jammed with tired skiers determined to have a good time.

Further Information

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