Winter in Zermatt: A Guide to Visiting Switzerland's Most Charming Village
The first time I left the country was in 1996 when my German grandpa and Swiss grandma brought us to their homelands. Part of this trip included visiting Zermatt, Switzerland, a place I have since dreamt about returning to. So earlier this year when Kristen and I were working out an itinerary with Switzerland Tourism, I knew I wanted to include Zermatt on the list.
My first time around we visited during summer and this time in the dead of winter in late January. Both were fantastic and I truly think there is no bad time to visit Zermatt (or any part of Switzerland, really).
So whether you have plans to visit Zermatt already or are simply trying to decide where to head this winter, here is everything you need to know about visiting Switzerland’s most charming village, Zermatt:
Zermatt is a charming mountain resort town in Switzerland, most widely known for it's skiing, climbing and hiking as well as for it's iconic views of the famous Matterhorn. It is located in the Valais canton. The entire village is car free, making it great for walking around and shopping at the many boutiques.
WHERE TO STAY
HOTEL ALEX is a 4-star hotel located in the center of town, very close to the train station. This is where we stayed; all photos above are from here. It has good restaurants, a spa, an indoor pool, indoor tennis courts, and more. Our double room was incredibly spacious and overall I recommend staying here!
ROMANTIK HOTEL JULEN is a 4-star hotel that is home to two of my favorite restaurants, Schaeferstube and Restaurant Julen. I have not stayed here but it has great reviews. It’s also owned by the Julen family, many of whom I had the opportunity to meet at the sheepfold (more on that below). They’re great so I am confident in recommending this!
HOTEL MONT CERVIN PALACE is another popular hotel that has great reviews but I have no personally stayed at, only visited. It is 5-star, beautiful, and centrally located.
RIFFELHAUS 1853 is the place to be if you want to stay up in the mountains. It dates back to 1853 (hence the name) and was the second hotel in Zermatt! It’s a 2 minute walk from the Riffelberg railway station above Zermatt. Every room offers panoramic views of the mountains and there’s an outdoor whirlpool with a view of the Matterhorn that you have likely seen on Instagram before.
WHERE TO EAT + DRINK
ALEX GRILL — located inside the Hotel Alex, it self describes as a grill restaurant with meat and fish specialties. Since we stayed at Hotel Alex we grabbed dinner here one night and it was delicious!
SCHAEFERSTUBE — my favorite restaurant of all! Located in the Romantic Hotel Julen, it offers local fine food of the Valais including raclette, cheese and meat fondue, and Zermatt lamb specialties. I highly recommend making reservations.
RESTAURANT JULEN — more or less the same as Schaeferstube but located upstairs in a slightly less enjoyable venue. Easier to get into than Schaeferstube so try this if it’s full.
GEE’S BAR & BRASSERIE — I’m not normally one to grab a meal at a place that describes itself as a bar and brasserie but Gee’s was so good! Try the ahi salad. There’s live music, too!
BUFFET & BAR RIFFELBERG — a self-service food market up in the mountains at Riffelberg. Not exactly something to write home about but if you go tobogganing (and you should) it’s a convenient place to grab a quick lunch to enjoy outside with a marvelous view!
ROTHORN RISTORANTE PIZZERIA — a good place to grab lunch at Rothorn summit. The food is good and the view is even better!
And for drinks…
HARRY’S SKI BAR — a very popular, fun, and cute après-ski bar!
PAPPERLA PUB — another popular après-ski spot. There’s live music, too.
BAR 55 — if you are looking for a hole in the wall type of bar, this is your spot!
JOSEPH’S BAR — a fancy bar inside Mont Cervin Palace. We went at night for drinks before going out as well as one morning for a bloody mary. Great but pricey!
WHAT TO DO
Zermatt is an outdoor adventure lovers dream! There are many different options including:
Skiing, of course. People from all over the world come here to ski.
Winter snowshoeing and hiking for those looking to get their Fitbit steps in.
Tobogganing which is sledding, basically. We spent an entire afternoon doing this and had SO MUCH FUN. Highly recommend
Mountain excursion to check out the views
VISIT THE SHEEP FOLD
Visit the black nose sheep in their barn at the edge of the village of Zermatt! A member of the Julen family will personally give you a tour of the barn. During the tour they explain the interaction between bio gas plant, tourism and farm, you get to see the sheep (and possibly pet and photograph them!), and then enjoy the food produced on the farm such as cheese, dried meat and sausage. It was really interesting and a fun experience!
Check out the different tour options available here.
SHOP IN THE VILLAGE
VISIT THE MATTERHORN MUSEUM
WHAT TO PACK
LAYERS. The last thing you want is to be too cold and with layering if you get too hot you can just remove some! My go-to is HEATTECH from Uniqlo which captures your body heat and uses it to generate warmth. There are tank tops, long sleeve shirts (in regular, extra warm, or ultra warm), turtle necks (regular and extra warm), and more. I also can’t recommend this sweater from Canada Goose enough.
FLANNELS/BUTTON DOWNS. I am ride or die for Rails button downs, buying new ones each year. They are very warm and an easy way to look a little more presentable than a plain old tee. I resort to these a lot on less adventurous days (strolling around town, shopping, etc.) as well as for dinners. I love this one, this one, and this one.
CASHMERE WRAP. I actually travel with this year-round, I even have one in my purse right now as I am writing this. You never know when you’ll need an extra layer on a cold plane, train, restaurant, or something else. Here’s a great option!
CARDIGAN. Because this Barefoot Dreams cardigan is honestly life changing.
PARKAS. VERY important! Your coats will be on and visible the majority of the time and therefore, if possible, I would bring numerous coats (instead of using that space to pack more sweaters, for example). I have worked with Canada Goose over the past two years and have been lucky enough to be gifted a handful of coats, but in all honesty they are 100% worth it. The attention to detail is remarkable (even random things like the sleeves are SO warm and soft), they have a lifetime guarantee, and they are remarkably warm. If you can splurge on one I am confident you will not regret it.
SCARVES. An absolute necessity! My favorite are these from & Other Stories, available each year in a handful of the most beautiful colors.
GLOVES. One day I somehow forgot my gloves at the hotel and have never been more miserable in my life, so I would recommend bringing at least two pairs and always double checking that you have them before heading out. These are nice.
CONVERTER ADAPTER. This one is universal and work no matter where you’re going. When going to the EU I also bring along this very inexpensive 6 pack so that I have extras. So much to charge these days!
Want the full list? See HOW TO PACK FOR A SNOWY WINTER GETAWAY.