FUN ZERMATT WINTER ACTIVITIES IN WINTER
Do you plan to spend some time in Zermatt in winter? First of all, lucky you. Switzerland in the winter is so rich in beautiful and stunning places – Zermatt in the winter is probably one of the best places to visit! Though I am not a winter sports enthusiast (but I might get there), I was blown away by its beauty in the winter months.
If you are wondering about the best things to do in the winter, then this post is for you. Find out about fun Zermatt winter activities and many more travel tips.
Located in the southern part of Switzerland – in the canton of Valais – this little town is famous as a winter sports destination. At an elevation of 1,620 meters, Zermatt lies at the base of Switzerland’s highest peaks. With such proximity to the Swiss Alps and guaranteed snow throughout the winter, it’s no wonder Zermatt is one of the most popular winter vacation spots in the world.
From mountain excursions to skiing to tobogganing and paragliding, there is something for every winter sports enthusiast. But there are also many outdoor activities for those who are not into winter sports though they enjoy winter wonderland scenery – for those who like it quieter and more relaxed. And if you prefer to stay inside, there are many cute restaurants and bars as well as a museum to enjoy. Winter – and not only December in Zermatt – has something for everyone.
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WINTER TRAVEL TIPS FOR ZERMATT
Let´s start with how to get to Zermatt because it is not as easily accessible as other towns in Switzerland.
Swiss Travel Pass
If you use public transportation, I recommend getting a Swiss Travel Pass.
- It allows you to use trains and buses without any extra costs.
The scenic train rides are also free with your Swiss Travel Pass. For some scenic train rides, you have to make a reservation and pay a fee, but most can be used without any extra costs.
- You can also do boat cruises without additional costs – there are no lakes in Zermatt to cruise but if you create a Switzerland itinerary, then you might enjoy those boat cruises.
It also gives you a 50% discount on most mountain rides (you can get up via cable car/funicular for half of the price). You can use it for all the mountain rides mentioned here.
- The Matterhorn Museum (Zermatlantis) is free with a Swiss Travel Pass.
How to Get to Zermatt
PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: Zermatt does not have an airport. Most likely, you will fly to Geneva or Zurich. Take a train to Zermatt. Train rides in Switzerland are mostly amazing, but not always. It is worth asking for scenic train rides – those are fantastic ones.
CAR + PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: Driving in Switzerland is fun, but in the winter, it is probably only for more experienced drivers. Especially with all the snow and mountain roads. However, Zermatt is car-free. You have to drive to Taesch (a little village close to Zermatt) and leave your car in a big car park which charges about 16 CHF for 24 hours of parking. From there, take a train to Zermatt.
- With a Swiss Travel Pass, can take the train for free. Without a Swiss Travel Pass, you pay around 16 CHF for a return ticket from Taesch to Zermatt.
Where to Stay in Zermatt
Zermatt is known for being an extremely luxurious destination. Prices in the winter are higher than in the summer (or fall and spring). You can find out about my best tips on saving money in Switzerland. If you visit Zermatt in December, prices might be even higher. Especially around Christmas, Zermatt is popular. However, it is probably worth it.
- Luxury hotels in Zermatt: Grand Hotel Zermatterhof – This hotel defines luxury at its best in Zermatt.
- Mid-range hotels in Zermatt: Sunstar Style Hotel. I stayed here. The prices were very reasonable and the location was great. I even had a great room view of the Matterhorn. If you get the chance, I definitely recommend booking a hotel room with a view of the Matterhorn even though the room might cost a bit more.
- Click here to find my accommodation guide for Zermatt.
What to Pack for Zermatt in Winter
Though Zermatt in December is not as cold as many think, it is still important to dress warmly. Or better to dress in layers.
- A warm, waterproof jacket should be one of the very first items that you think to pack. Avoid choosing a bulky jacket that takes up a lot of space. This can make you feel uncomfortable when you have layers underneath. Instead, opt for a lightweight, trench raincoat that will keep you warm, dry, and comfortable.
- A knitted beanie is a perfect solution for keeping the warmth in while you venture out. A hat will keep you toasty warm wherever you are.
- A pair of gloves can do wonders for your mobility, dexterity, and comfort. When selecting your options, it’s worth investing in a pair that can dry quickly and are touch-screen compatible.
- A warm scarf and/or turtleneck sweater are key items for keeping your neck covered. A turtleneck sweater is perfect as a garment to wear underneath your jacket, while the scarf can be removed easily.
- Leggings are an essential item to pack as you can dress them up or down. You can even wear them underneath your denim as an extra layer of warmth.
- When it comes to packing socks for your Iceland trip – the thicker the better. Chances are that you’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors in the snow, and you’ll want your feet to be warm and cozy.
- My favorite winter clothes are thermals. A quality set of thermals is your key to enjoying the winter weather in Iceland. You have to wear them on a cold day to believe what a wonderful invention it is!
- If you can only pack one pair of shoes, then make sure that they are a trusty pair of waterproof snowshoes. You’ll want your shoes to be as versatile as possible. Snowshoes allow you to enjoy a variety of activities while keeping your feet warm and dry.
If you do winter sports, you might also want to pack the following items.
- When choosing the perfect ski jacket, you need to consider warmth, level of waterproofing, and freedom of movement. A jacket that is adjustable in fit, seals effectively, and dries quickly is the perfect apparel for snowboarding, skiing, and other winter outdoor sports.
- A trusty pair of insulated ski pants are the next essential item for all winter sports fans. Make sure that your choice of pants is breathable, warm, and waterproof. These details will keep you dry, warm, and comfortable on the slopes.
- Visiting Switzerland in winter will most likely find you spending hours of fun on the snow-covered slopes. This can quickly dry out your lips and burn your skin. In this instance, you’re going to be grateful that you’ve packed your moisturizing stick of chapstick.
- The best days on the slopes are the ones accompanied by clear, sunny skies and good conditions. These circumstances also increase the glare of the sun on the white snow, making it close to unbearable for your eyes. A pair of polarized sunglasses or ski goggles can protect your eyes from the wind and bright light.
You can rent all kinds of equipment at one of the rental shops.
WINTER FUN IN ZERMATT – WHAT TO DO
I will start with the winter sports activities, before talking about unique winter activities in Zermatt and then I will also talk about some amazing mountain excursions you can take.
Skiing and Snowboarding
What is the most popular winter activity in Zermatt? You guessed it – skiing and snowboarding. There’s nowhere better suited for ski and snowboard lovers.
Right next to town, you’ll find one of the highest ski areas in Switzerland and in the Alps. Sitting at an altitude of 3,883 meters, the Matterhorn ski paradise offers amazing runs for even the most experienced skier.
For this, get up to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise (also known as Klein Matterhorn) first with the chair lifts and cable cars to get you to the top.
There are 360 kilometers of run for various experience levels – blue, red, black, and yellow. Zermatt also offers nine ski schools with multilingual instructors to teach beginners and help more experienced skiers improve.
Winter Hiking and Snowshoeing
Hiking isn’t just for summer. If you prefer to be on your feet rather than skis, consider a winter hike and snowshoeing. This is a great way to experience Zermatt in December, January, February, or even in early March or November.
The options of snowshoe hiking in and around Zermatt are endless. Your winter hike will give you a chance to really explore the natural beauty of the area – including overhanging terraces that allow for picture-perfect views of Zermatt, Täsch, and Randa.
There are guided hikes as well as self-guided trails you can take. Don’t forget to stop for a bite at the mountain restaurant before heading back.
How about ice sports? Whether you visit Zermatt in January or any other winter month – it has a lot to offer, including ice skating, hockey, curling, and ice falls climbs.
Right in the center of Zermatt, you will find ice rinks that are perfect for families and groups of various ages. Besides ice skating, these rinks are very popular for both Bavarian and Scottish curling. The Obere Matten Sports and Recreation Arena is perfect for ice sports of all kinds. If you step outside the village proper, you will experience the gorgeous ice falls. There you can climb huge icicles while watching this beautiful display of nature.
- If you need any equipment, many of the nearby sports stores in Zermatt have some for rent.
Sledding and tobogganing are other popular pastimes in Zermatt. If you love the excitement of going down steep trails, then you might want to spend some of your vacations on these runs. There are three to choose from, ranging from easy to medium levels.
- The easiest is the Randa run, which is gentle and slow, and located in town – perfect for beginners and families with children.
- The medium-level one is the Täsch run, which you can only access on foot. Once you trek up the slope, you’ll be able to speed down 3.6 kilometers of the snow-covered hill for an exhilarating ride.
- The Rotenboden run is slightly longer and more exciting. Over the course of ten minutes, you will see the beauty of the Matterhorn as you sled down from Gornergrat (and Gornergrat again it is).
These are great Zermatt winter activities if you want a few thrills.
Town of Zermatt
Seeing lovely Zermatt under the cover of snow and the bright sun is a worthwhile winter activity. Stroll the streets of this Alpine village – at this time of year, it is like a winter wonderland.
Zermatt is car-free, so you will only see a few taxis and buses, which are electric. But not to worry, it is so small that you can easily make your way around on foot.
Stroll the tiny yet beautiful town of Zermatt with its traditional wooden chalets and unique charm, go Christmas shopping (if you can afford it, this is the place to buy luxury watches), stroll along the river, or enjoy nice views of the town from vantage points close by. Stop by the ice rink, and people watch, window shop some of the boutiques, and stop for some food or a drink at one of the restaurants.
Paragliding and Heliskiing
Zermatt has plenty to offer to more adventurous tourists. If touring the town wasn’t exciting enough, there is always paragliding in winter. There are two flying schools that offer tandem paragliding and lessons for anyone wanting to go solo. If you prefer to heliski, you have the option to take a helicopter up to the top of the mountain and then ski down on untouched snow.
This way, you can experience the Matterhorn in all of its glory with a helicopter fly-around.
Matterhorn Museum – Zermatlantis
To top off this list of winter activities in Zermatt, you should definitely make a stop at the Matterhorn Museum – Zermatlantis. This museum provides the history of Zermatt, from its origins as a farming village to its current-day status as a world-renowned Alpine resort.
You can see a short film about the first ascent and see the broken rope that led to tragedy. If you are interested in history, you might also find the exhibits of the stone ax from the Neolithic Period (3000-5000 BC) and the remains of the “Söldner” mercenary from around the 16th century worth visiting.
There are original houses and interiors to be seen, which help illustrate how Zermatt was a century ago. Architecture lovers may also want to note the museum’s own design, which was the work of the famous Steiner Sarnen.
Matterhorn Glacier Paradise
Going up to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise (also known as Klein Matterhorn) at almost four thousand meters in height, you will see some stunning views all around you. It’s a breathtaking panorama. Matterhorn Glacier Paradise is one of the best places to visit in Zermatt in the winter. The views that you will get are unbeatable.
The summit lift will take you to the highest viewing platform in the Alps, which is at an elevation of 3,900 meters. You can turn full circle and see an amazing panorama of 38 peaks, including mountains in Italy, France, and Switzerland.
A restaurant at the top offers amazing views with your meal if you want to stop and relax for a bit. Afterward, you are very close to the Glacier Palace, a really cool museum of sorts. Housed inside a glacier, you’ll find ice crystals and ice sculptures once you enter.
A little cinema lounge shows videos about the Matterhorn and the Alps – quite interesting to learn more about it!
- Check out Ticket Prices for the Klein Matterhorn Glacier Paradise Entrance – these are the best prices.
- But if you have a Swiss Travel Pass, you can save money on the tickets.
Who doesn’t love a winter train ride through the mountains? This mountain rack railway will take you from the town of Zermatt up to the top of Gornergrat. But the destination is only half the fun, as the train ride is really cool.
From the Gornergrat Bahn, you can watch the breathtaking views unfold as you climb another 1,500 meters from Zermatt to 3,000 meters above sea level. Sit back, relax, and don’t forget to take some pictures. You don’t often get to climb the Alps by train!
Up at the top, the views are incredible. You can see the highest mountain of Switzerland – Mount Rosa (also known as the Dufourspitze) which stands at 4634 meters above sea level.
In June 2021, a new attraction has opened at Gornergrat – Zooom the Matterhorn. It is an interactive museum with virtual activities like paragliding.
Virtual paragliding in Zermatt is really, really great. It is just a short experience (3 minutes) but was good enough for me.
- If you have a Gornergrat ticket (one-way or return), you can visit this museum for free in 2021 and 2022. Otherwise, it costs around CHF 7.
- If you travel with a dog, you will need to put him/her in a bag.
- Tip: If you have a Swiss Travel Pass, you can save money on the ticket (50%).
DIGITAL TRAVEL PLANNER FOR SWITZERLAND
CONCLUSION: PLAN YOUR ZERMATT WINTER TRIP
So, while Zermatt is a perfect place to visit all year round, Zermatt in winter is especially charming. There is so much more to do than just winter sports – though this surely alone is reason enough to visit. If you are headed to Zermatt in the winter months, I hope this winter travel guide helps you plan your trip to this cute town.