Visiting Zermatt in the summer should be on your travel bucket list, and here’s why!
The last time I posted about Switzerland, Christina and I had just left the Aletsch Arena and were headed to Zermatt and the Matterhorn. We traveled by train from Brig to Zermatt with our Swiss Rail Passes. Christina and I were hosted by Valais-Wallis Tourism, Alex Grill, and Hotel Alex in Zermatt, Switzerland. We were also provided with Swiss Passes for rail transportation, thanks to Switzerland Tourism.
Number 6: Zermatt is accessible
Zermatt is within easy distance of many Swiss towns and cities via train on the Glacier Express train, or by car. It is less than 3 1/2 hours from Milan by car, and just under 4 hours by train via Brig. The Swiss trains are immaculate, and of course, always on time. They offer observation cars with large windows allowing for fabulous views of the countryside. Connections from other major cities are generally every 30 minutes. The time passes quickly as there are stunning views of the area no matter which side of the train you’re sitting.
Number 5: Family Owned Hotels
Most of the hotels in Zermatt seemed to be family owned, which gives it a small town feel. The Alex was founded by Alex Perren in 1960, and is still run by a second generation of Perrens. (Fun fact: He is a descendant of the first person to climb the Matterhorn!) Christina Perren is a fixture at the front desk. It’s clear that the Perren family takes great pride in the history of the Alex and the comfort of their guests. The lobby is large, but feels very intimate.
It has several small sitting arrangements tucked into cozy corners with fireplaces and reading nooks. Everywhere you look, you’ll find unique treasures, carved wood, warm fabrics, and artifacts. In the bar, the stools are carved into mountain goats. There’s even a spot to play pool or a game of cards.
Our rooms had adjoining balconies and offered spectacular views of the Matterhorn. The rooms are uniquely Swiss, with comfy beds, deluxe linens, and intricate carved wood detail throughout.
The morning after we checked in, we went down to the light and airy breakfast room, and indulged in The Alex’s extensive breakfast buffet. In addition to traditional breakfast items you’d find in an American style hotel, you’ll find a large selection of cold meats, sausages and cheeses. We both started the day with cappuccinos and croissants.
Number 4: Ideal for the adventure seeker!
The Swiss love to stay active. It seems as though they walk everywhere! Our guide, Amadé, is fit and trim, and could have out-hiked, out-biked and out-walked the both of us!
Switzerland in the summer is an adventurer’s dream. The Valais region alone, has over 45 peaks that reach over 4,000 meters, (2 1/2 miles) high, including the Matterhorn.
The Alps are the perfect setting for hiking, mountaineering, biking and trekking. Walking is easy here, and Christina and I clocked more than a dozen miles every day. Even if you aren’t into hiking, there are trams and gondolas that will take you up the mountain where you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views.
On our second day in Zermatt, we were blessed to have Amadé Perrig as our guide to Zermatt and Gornergrat. Amadé met us in the lobby of the Hotel Alex right after our breakfast. Amadé is well-known around the Valais region, and Zermatt where he lives during the summer. His family was one of the founding families of Brig. He’s also the former president of the Swiss Tourism Board, so we could not have asked for a more knowledgable and lovely guide! It just so happened to also be my birthday. It was easily one of the most memorable birthdays ever!
Number 3: Fabulous Food and Wine
The region cultivates 50 different grape varieties which grow in the varied terrain. The vineyards produce traditional wines like Syrah, and Pinot Noir, but also blends which are distinct to the region. Unlike California or French wines which are produced in vast quantities for export, the smaller crops mean that you’ll find wines in Switzerland that you might not find elsewhere. In fact, everywhere we went in Switzerland had fabulous wine.
Needless to say, the food in Zermatt is some of the best, with 17 restaurants listed in the Gault & Millau guide Switzerland which showcases excellence in food and service. If you’re looking for Michelin quality restaurants, Zermatt boasts two restaurants with Michelin stars, and several with Michelin “plates”. I just learned about Michelin “plates”, which are an indicator of “good, quality cuisine”. Considering how difficult it is to earn just ONE Michelin star, this is still quite an honor. One restaurant that has a Michelin plate, is the Alex Grill, where Christina and I ate at our first night in Zermatt.
The Alex Grill is in the Hotel Alex, which was super convenient. We both started started with the antipasto plate which had burrata, air-cured meat, and tomatoes. Christina had pasta and I had duck with cherries. I always choose duck when it’s on a menu, because it’s something I never prepare at home. For dessert, we both had the dessert trio, which was beautifully presented, and even had bits of gold leaf on one of the desserts. The restaurant is located below the breakfast room and lobby, but that’s because it’s on the ground floor. So we were fortunate to be seated right next to a window where we could enjoy the summer evening view.
On our way back down from the Matterhorn, we stopped for lunch at the Restaurant Alphitta which is located in Riffelalp, just below the Riffelalp Resort. Situated with a perfect view of the Matterhorn, we opted for the patio and the warm sun.
We started with antipasto and bread, Swiss wine, (of course!) followed by wienerschnitzel with Swiss Rosti and salad. If that weren’t enough, we had apple strudel (apfelstrudel) and boozy coffee, followed by a shot of limoncello, which I was told is a must for your birthday! I certainly wasn’t going to say no to a Swiss tradition!
We spent a leisurely lunch chatting with the charming Amadé. I love the European way of dining. Nothing is hurried. The meal and conversation is relaxed. We spent the better part of the afternoon enjoying the views of the Matterhorn and valley.
Number 2: Incredible flora and fauna
The Valais region of Switzerland, where Zermatt is located, boasts more than 4,000 species of animals and thousands of varieties of plants. We were fortunate to be there in late June and it seemed as though every flower and bush was in bloom.
The Valais Blacknose sheep, and Herens cows are all a part of Swiss landscape. This was one of the highlights. These sheep are beautiful and roam the hillsides.
Christina and I were thrilled when our guide, Amadé, took us on a hike to see these beautiful sheep. I think we would have both been happy to play in a sea of sheep for the entire afternoon.
And the Number 1 reason to visit Zermatt? The Matterhorn!
Seriously. This alone is reason enough…the Matterhorn. The Himalayas have Mr. Everest, Japan has Mt. Fuji. Tanzania has Kilimanjaro, Switzerland has the Matterhorn. While I haven’t been to the other three, what makes the Matterhorn different, is how accessible it is (see reason 6!) for non-trekking tourist. You don’t have to be an experienced hiker, or purchase special gear to get a pretty amazing view! We were there in late June. Since we’d been traveling all over Switzerland, including Lugano, which was warm, I couldn’t pack cold weather gear in my carry-on. We both had to make do with light sweaters and long sleeve t-shirts. Was it cold at the top? Yes. Would I have liked an extra layer? Yes. But we managed just fine, and if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t have brought an extra layer. The observation points offer excellent views of the valley and the peak.
I spent a lot of time soaking in the immense views and saying (to myself), “I’m at the Matterhorn!”
So when you’re booking your summer travel, I hope you’ll consider Zermatt as an excellent destination in Switzerland! If you need help booking your trip, the following sites not only sponsored this trip, but offer excellent information on all things Swiss!
Switzerland Tourism Board (My Switzerland)