Zermatt, Switzerland Travel Guide: Hiking the Matterhorn

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Kim Chwalek

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Tucked away in southern Switzerland’s Valais canton, Zermatt is situated next to the Matterhorn Peak at an elevation of 5,310 feet. Famous for its skiing and mountaineering activities, this mountain resort town is brimming with boutique shops and chalets to escape to for a weekend. With a population of only 5,800 people, the town is built around tourism. Nearly 2 million people visit Zermatt each year, fueling the small town’s restaurant and hotel industries. If you’re interested in reading more about my summer in Switzerland, check out my article on Studying Abroad in Geneva, Switzerland: Summer, 2019.

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Since I was based in Geneva, Switzerland for a study abroad program from June to July, I was able to take the 5-hour train from Geneva to Zermatt. Although my group nearly missed the train’s transfer (delaying our trip by an hour), I managed to book a last-minute hotel on Hotwire and settle in a lodge close two minutes from the city center. The lodge had an incredible view of the mountains and its close proximity enabled my group to explore the town, hike near the Matterhorn, and get a taste of Zermatt’s nightlife within a 24-hour timespan.




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Zermatt Village is jam-packed with delicious food and lively bars! The town is small and it’s easy to visit everything you want to see within a few days. If you go out at night, visit Little Bar to tape your country’s currency to the wall or take a walk to Papperla Pub to listen to the local bands perform. If you want to stop and relax in the heart of the city, visit the Parish Church of St. Mauritius, the Matterhorn Museum, or the Kirchbrucke Bridge to capture a photo of the Matterhorn in the distance.

Traveling to Zermatt was a special opportunity for me to follow in the footsteps of my grandma, who visited the Matterhorn when she was my age (21) in 1959. Tourists can take the Gornergrat Bahn train up to 10,170 feet to see stunning panoramic views. While the ticket can easily set you back $100 roundtrip, seeing and experiencing Switzerland’s mountainous terrain is worth steep price-tag. The train takes about a half an hour and has several stops along the way, offering tourists a chance to get out and explore different areas of the mountain.

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The Matterhorn is open 365 days a year. Often referred to as the “Jewel of the Swiss Alps,” the mountain is pyramid-shaped and has an elevation of 14,692 feet. Since the Matterhorn does not have a cable car, those who want to visit it firsthand must attempt to hike for two-days with a guide. Over 3,000 per year summit the Matterhorn and hiring a guide can set you back about 1,500 dollars. For the average tourist, riding the Gornergrat Bahn train to the summit is more than enough to take in the beauty of the Swiss Alps. The summit contains a variety of shops, restaurants, and viewing platforms, and offers tourists the chance to hike down to previous train platforms.

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The Gorner Glacier south-east of Zermatt.

The Gorner Glacier south-east of Zermatt.

Zermatt is every skier’s dream with its charming atmosphere, incredible slopes, and fresh mountain air. It’s one of my favorite travel destinations – I would love to have the chance to go back one day. If you have been or want to go to Zermatt to visit the Matterhorn, let me know what you think of the town in the comments section below!

XO, Kim

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