Welcome to Zermatt
Karina, with Tom, runs Richmond Pictures, a wedding & lifestyle photography company specialising in weddings and portraits in the UK & Europe. Here she shares her love of Zermatt...
"Zermatt is the archetypal chocolate box Swiss town, and is very traditional and historical in comparison to some other Alpine resorts. It's a place of outstanding, epic natural beauty- bustling but not cramped. The town is traditionally Swiss, with some elements of modern Swiss design. Zermatt feels protected by the imposing valley surrounding it, and is a place that inspires exploration, adventure... as soon as you see the mountains, you honestly cannot wait to get up there!
The Matterhorn towers over the valley. I love the pretty church in the centre, and the beautiful wooden chalet-style shops. There are large, 18th Century hotels, and traditional wooden Stadels, all next to each other. Depending on what time of year you arrive, it can feel very bustling, or quite relaxed."
SKIING AND SNOWBOARDING
They are the main attractions in this resort. It's world famous for a reason. (See facts and figures at www.zermatt.ch). The sports are great for all levels, and there's enough terrain to please the most advanced. There's a vastly improved Ski Park for the more daring, and off-piste is also incredible. There is also heli skiing, ice climbing, ski touring, and for the less skilled, some wonderful hikes and snow shoe walks.
Everyone must do the sledging track from Sunnegga, over two miles, with mountain bars on the way down! It's best at sundown.
The mountain is rightly world famous, and utterly stunning. It's viewable from most parts of the town. It is the most photographed mountain in the world - it really is incredibly photogenic!
CABLE CAR TO KLEIN MATTERHORN
There's an unfathomably stunning view over the Swiss Alps in one direction, and Italian Alps in the other direction. (The Matterhorn lies on the border of the two countries). Also at this spot is the Ice Museum, which is carved inside the glacial ice. A must-see, to view natural ice formations, plus ice sculptures and a slide.
On bad weather days, the Vernissage is a great place to head - it has a respected art gallery with international artists showing (not a Matterhorn picture in sight!) a bar, a stunning and unique cinema (with moving chandeliers made of cutlery by Swiss favourite designer Heinz Julen). The 'Cinedinners' are a must. (The starter is served before film, then there's an intermission for the main course- it's brilliant). Also, the seating is very comfortable, and the bar serves throughout the film.
The best trip I did was taking the Gornegrat Bahn train in the evening to the Riffelalp Resort. If you call ahead (in Winter) they will pick you up from the station on a Skidoo, and take you to the door of the 5 star hotel for an aperitif. We then dined at the Al Bosco restaurant, one of three to choose from in the small, beautifully isolated resort (the hotel runs all the restaurants and Cafes).
SKIING AND SNOWBOARDING
This carries on all year round, although it takes place higher up on the glacier so travel times are longer, and the snow is best only in the morning.
It takes over as main activity and there are beautiful turquoise lakes to hike to. Paragliding is big news here too, all year round.
THE MATTERHORN MUSEUM
This is in the church square and worth a visit, for the history and geography of the mountain.
There are activities for all the family, and very good creches for children (Kinder Paradise all year round, and Stoked kindergarten in winter), but I found it difficult in the very cold months (December, January and February) with very small children, as it was too cold to go outside and the local playgrounds were covered in snow. Elderly or infirm people would definitely struggle on the roads in Winter, too, as although roads are dug out regularly, they are covered in ice.
FOR GREAT PHOTOGRAPHS, HEAD TO...
bridge over the river, Kirchstrasse. Very popular with Japanese
tourists. Get up early to see the tip of the Matterhorn appear to
platform at Klein Matterhorn. It's like the view from an aeroplane-
Take the train to Findelbach, walk through the pine trees, view the Matterhorn - you'll be spoilt for choice
The best on the mountain, to my mind, is the Stafelalp. The modern Swiss cuisine is impeccable and there's friendly service, unrivalled views (you can see the Matterhorn from the side), and pretty, modern Swiss decor. Hike there in Summer, ski there in Winter. (It's not possible to walk). It's hidden away in a strangely underused part of the mountain.
This is quiet yet relaxed and upmarket - but not poncy! Staff are welcoming, friendly and easygoing, the decor is light, wood cladding- the best decor in Zermatt. There is beautiful artwork on the walls. Sonnmatten is in the Winkelmatten area (slightly off the beaten track).
It's not cheap, but there's a great value set menu. You get what you pay for, and it's worth every penny. Again, it's exquisite, modern Swiss cuisine, with great views, gorgeous interiors and artwork, and plenty of little treats, like an amuse bouche on arrival ('a gift from the kitchen') and a sample of desserts.
This place is bustling, picturesque, modern yet traditional. There are lots of sheepskin rugs on the sunny outside seating. It serves traditional Swiss food to high standard, with friendly efficient staff. It's location is great, and the outdoor area is lovely. It's also reasonably priced.
A busy, picturesque, traditional restaurant. There are sheepskin rugs and sun loungers, in a quiet corner of the mountain, and amazing Matterhorn views.
They serve traditional Swiss food to a high standard- there are chickens barbecuing outside- and friendly staff. Indoors isn't as good as outdoors- you can't beat sunbathing while you sip a hot chocolate with rum, and gazing at the Matterhorn in all its glory.
There are some great bars in Zermatt. Here's a few of Karina's favourites.
They serve the best cocktails in town. It's part of the Hotel Post, which has different areas catering to every possible taste. (Which sounds like it wouldn't work, but it does).
Papa Caeser is situated on the first floor, looking down on the main street (Bahnhofstrasse). The atmosphere is sophisticated but relaxed, the staff are attentive and the cocktails are gorgeous and well presented.
Bahnhofstrasse 41 CH-3920
This bar is cosy and atmospheric, with lots of dark wood- a bit like an old boat. The friendly staff offer table service unless you're seated at the bar. Whiskeys are a speciality - a great place to go for a warming hot toddy and maybe a few oysters!
Kirchplatz 16 | 3920 Zermatt
The location of this chalet is amazing – it's 5 minutes from main lift, and with a private mini lift to avoid the steep hill. There's also a private garden with the all-important uninterrupted Matterhorn view.
It's spacious, relaxing and gorgeous. There's also the option of a chef, who offers food of an incredible standard, and is very flexible over dietary requirements.
There's a wellness area in the basement, rooms are en suite, and it sleeps 10. There's plenty of relaxing seating, a huge family table, garden, patio and barbecue area.
These are a few of Karina's favourite shops:
ANTIQUITATAN - Glacier Zermatt
A large antique shop, with interesting Swiss artefacts, jewellery, paintings, postcards and antique ski equipment
I also recommend cakes from the Biner bakery, and chocolate Matterhorns (sold in most cake shops.)
There's a great poster and art shop, Andy's Music Shop, in the Viktoria centre (near the Co- Op supermarket).
There's plenty of jewellery shops and ski shops, chocolate shops and tourist shops, so if you're looking for these things, it's great for shopping- though there are no bargains until late in the season.
AROUND THE TOWN
The best restaurants get booked up at busy times (like school holidays), and slopes are busy at these times too.
Weather conditions can be hard to deal with for beginners in deep Winter (Dec/Jan) and to my mind, it's unsafe for babies to be outside too long.
Supermarkets close very early on Sundays, and no off licenses open after 7pm. No food outlets other than restaurants/ bars after 7pm, either!
If you're a skier/ snowboarder, pay for an extension on your ski pass to go to Italy for the entirety of your stay. The price of Italy extension for one day is more than for a week! And make the journey over- it's brilliant.
No cars are allowed, so it's safer and greener than most places- but the electric taxis and buses are almost silent, so watch out!
You can use Euros, but you don't get a good rate, so get Swiss Francs. Take Euros for Italy though.
Skiers and snowboarders, get up the mountain early- and take your lunch early to avoid crowds.
The railway station is small and easy to navigate. The train from Brig or Visp to Zermatt is a cog wheel train, and is very new and pleasant to be on - albeit not that fast!
The train station cafe is nothing to write home about decoratively, but it does serve the best pizzas ever. They do a delivery service too, which is great if you arrive late in the evening.
Zermatt is incredibly safe, the only common crime is bike theft and occasional ski theft. It's very well policed, with no anti social behaviour.
If you need cash when you arrive, the nearest ATMs are up the main road (Bahnhoffstrasse) a 3-4 minute walk.
Zermatt is easy to get around- most people use the Bubble cable car to get to the Matterhorn, as well as the underground mountain train, trains, electro taxis, and the electro bus.
It's all very efficient and clean- except for the bus, which is often overcrowded and runs at strange times. It also stops running at 7.30 pm, bad news if you're staying the other end of town.
Cable cars and Bubbles are must-do activities, even for those that don't ski; simply for the views.