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Ethans Travel Guide To Zermatt, Switzerland

Ethan January 31, 2023

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In January 2023 my girlfriend Alyssa and I took a trip to Europe including both Zermatt Switzerland and Chamonix France. This was my first experience outside of The States and it was filled with no shortage of lessons. Alyssa has some experience having studied in both Italy and Spain as well as some other European travels; I was going in blind. Now I could have researched this trip a bit more before going and that may have eased some of the hardships but then what would I have to write about, right? This article features just Zermatt while another breaks down Chamonix.

I’m breaking this guide up into a few sections: Getting to the Resort, Public Transportation Within the Town & Resort, Lodging, Dining, Skiing, and TLDR; & Tips. We spent approx. 5 days in each location and only used our legs or public means of transportation. We also had no cell phone plan and relied solely on public WIFI. Here’s what I learned:

Getting to the Resort

To preface this section, we flew Air France from Boston to Geneva, Switzerland (With a short layover in Paris). We took a 5:30 pm flight out and landed around 9 am local time. I would highly recommend a red-eye flight like this to acclimate to the change in time zones. I slept about 4 hours, kept myself up till 8 pm, and was good to go the next day – No jet lag. Your experiences may vary.

Directly at the Geneva airport is access to their public railway SBB CFF FFS. You can purchase tickets there at a kiosk or pre-buy online which we did. However, we got in a little late from our flight and were rushing to make the train. We could not find the number of the train (IR 90 1715) anywhere on the signage or on the train, so we went off the time of departure. This caused some anxiety not knowing if we made the correct train or not. My Tip is to not go off departure time alone, in this case, it worked but, in my Chamonix Guide, the tides turned. Helpful tip: Download the train maps to your phone before you even embark on your trip.

Something I would have done differently is purchase my ticket once we arrived to avoid that stress, the trains run very frequently and were on time 100% of the time we took them. The train attendants check your ticket during the trip not prior to boarding like you would an airplane. Switzerland is known for its clocks and boy do they follow them. Everywhere you walk there is a sponsored clock on the wall from makers such as Rolex, Swatch, Breitling, and more.

Our train left Geneva at 9:19 am and arrived in Visp about 2.5 Hours later. The train ride was part of the adventure with beautiful views of Lake Geneva and the Swiss countryside. Arriving in Visp brings you to the base of the Zermatt Valley which takes you on an hour and 10-minute trip up to the village of Zermatt, again filled with stunning views and adventure. Both trains lacked a great place to store a rolling ski bag, try to find the bike storage areas for a decent option.

Apart from some lack of signage (a common theme), overall getting from the Geneva airport to the village of Zermatt was predictable and uneventful. Switzerland’s public transportation was top-notch, on-time, clean, and not crowded. In fact, within the first few minutes of our trip I had my feet up on the seat across from me and the ticket attendant said to me in French “put your feet down, you are not at home”. This a testament to the quality of travel experience you can expect.

Public Transportation Within the Town & Resort

You’ve arrived in Zermatt, and the first thing you will notice is there are no cars. The town relies exclusively on these small electric carts, or horse and buggy. There is an electric bus line that services some of the village as well, but we were never in a place to utilize it. Prior to leaving the states we printed out walking instructions to our hotel, so we elected to walk. It was about .75 Miles straight through the center of town. This proved to be a mistake, if you’ve ever traveled with a rolling ski bag and rolling suitcase you will feel my pain. Just pay for a taxi, the roads are cobblestone, you’re low on sleep, maybe a little hangry, and the street signs I still am unsure if they exist. We got lost and walked up and down hills, man do I wish we got a taxi that night. Just trust me here. Also remember, almost everything is NOT in English, more on this later.


Once you’ve spent time in the village you will understand it’s very logical, easy to navigate, and almost entirely walkable. Our hotel was about half a mile from the base of the Zermatt ski area so each day we walked to and from with our ski gear already on. Some hotels provide transport on those electric carts and some areas are serviced by busses, check your hotel’s proximity when booking so you can plan ahead. Seriously Zermatt gets a 10/10 for walkability to all the restaurants and ski area.


Now we only stayed at one hotel so I can’t say a whole lot but there are a few things I can point out that may help you decide when booking your stay.

  1. The buildings are mostly old, so lighting and water pressure may vary.
  2. You may have a scary elevator with no doors, at least our hotel did…Feel free to take the stairs
  3. Proximity to a church: The bells ring every 15 minutes, sometimes for a minute, sometimes for 10. If you are a light sleeper this could be a problem.
  4. This applies to the entirety of Zermatt, but nothing has smooth transitions, and what I mean by that is a lot of the village is probably not handicap accessible, and you’ll likely trip more than once.
  5. Proximity to the resort base & restaurants. Zermatt has one main road that almost everything is on, being close to the action makes everything a whole lot easier.
  6. Price: Zermatt is expensive, there is no other way to put it. Hotels per night start around $300/night and go up, up, and up from there. More on the high costs in the Dining section.


Cheese, Cheese, and more cheese. Okay but seriously, everything for dining is based around cheeses. Specifically, Raclette and Fondue, it’s imperative that you get both dishes at some point during your trip, almost every restaurant serves both. Besides that, here are a few takeaways from our dining experiences:

  1. Food is expensive. It’s a touristy town and a generally expensive place to be, so expect the food to be too. Every place we went to was delicious and a great experience, so we never felt ripped off.
  2. Free water. What is a basic expectation for US dining is not so common in Europe. I learned this lesson on day 1 after paying $12 for a liter of water at a fancy restaurant. Additionally, carbonated water is seemingly more common that in the US. My recommendation is, Ask for Still Tap Water. Some places may not offer this, some may and will still charge you, and some provide it for free. If you just ask for water, you will most likely get a bottle and it may even be carbonated.
  3. You may be more versed in other languages than I am, however, Zermatt is an interesting place when it comes to language. Depending on the person, restaurant, etc., you may be trying to read a French menu while talking to a German-speaking server. German, French, and Italian are all well-mixed throughout the village and will undoubtedly give you a run for your money when ordering. Most servers however speak decent English and can help you out. I will say that a certain restaurant labeled their restrooms with only words…words that I did not understand, and yes, I did enter the women’s room briefly. This is a good time to mention another tip: Download Google translate and make the above-mentioned languages available for offline use.
  4. Tipping is not required, this is a common theme across Europe as I now know, however, I did not know going into this adventure. There were only two occasions throughout our entire trip when a server asked if we wanted to add a tip. It is not expected, however, we did leave a few CHFs (Swiss Francs) to some of our more memorable dining experiences.
  5. Restaurants are not in a rush for you to leave. In fact, most places we visited took reservations and only planned on filling that table one time during the night. I would highly recommend making reservations at the more notable restaurants in the village like Du Pont if you want the opportunity to eat there.
    To add to this point, your server likely will not bring you a check unless you specifically ask for one. So, if you are in a rush, plan accordingly. When they do bring you a check, they will also bring a little portable card reader with them and will process it on the spot.
  1. Resort food is not like the resort food you are used to. Everything on Zermatt was excellent from Pasta dishes, sandwiches, gourmet desserts, soups, and the list goes on. Finally, no more $20 chicken tenders! You can pretty much eat anywhere without being disappointed.
  2. A lot of restaurants don’t open until 7 pm, I know I typically eat dinner around 6 so this took keeping some snacks in stock to hold off. I guess Europeans tend to eat later! The local grocery stores are also a great spot to grab a cheap lunch if you are looking to save a few dollars as well.
  3. When it comes to breakfast, simply put, it’s different. Our hotel’s buffet featured bread you can toast with Nutella at the ready, pastries, some fruits, cheese, sliced meats, and a yogurt bar. Eggs, Bacon, Sausage, and the other breakfast items we are accustomed to you won’t find here. On the street, you will mostly find bakeries with fresh pastries, no IHOPS here!


Man, I thought I was going to get here a lot quicker. This is the most important part, right? I would categorize skiing as moderate. There are plenty of on-piste ski trails throughout the resort ranging from mellow beginner to intermediate and up to more challenging red runs. There was a nice mix of terrain for all levels. The general populations who seem to be here are families and people who prefer skiing on the trail.

However, Zermatt also has a lot to offer for off-piste skiing as well for more advanced skiers. Unfortunately, I can’t speak much on this as this season has been a bit dry and most terrain would do a number on a ski base. We did find an area near the base of the Matterhorn that featured some powder where we were able to take some great photos.

Zermatt is made up of multiple peaks, all are connected by either Train, Gondola, Chairlift, or Cat-track. Note the last one – CAT-TRACK – I’m talking to you snowboarders, you will have to unbind more than once to make it across some of these things. In fact, a tip for everyone is to take advantage of the ability to download on certain lifts to avoid having to make some of the treks. Results may vary.

Overall, the ski area is vast, with seemingly unlimited terrain, and there was never a line for a lift…cough cough, Vail… it’s easy to get around, and the scenery is to die for. The Swiss are extremely optimized and efficient. Best of all you will never have trouble figuring out what time it is, you guessed it – Sponsored clocks everywhere.

TLDR; & Tips

This article is really dragging on, or maybe you just skipped the whole thing and are here. Here are my key takeaways from my first time in Europe and Zermatt.

  1. Take red-eye from the US to Geneva and SLEEP on the plane
  2. Take the train from the Geneva airport to Zermatt, it’s beautiful and easy to follow – Make sure to VERIFY what train you are on. Signage may be lacking, and by maybe I mean it is 100% lacking.
  3. Don’t put your feet on the seats or you WILL be yelled at in a foreign language.
  4. There are no cars in Zermatt and there are cobblestone roads, if you have ski bags pay for an electric taxi cart to save aggravation.
  5. After you lose your baggage (not your girlfriend, your ski bags come on) everything is walkable, enjoy the village. Transit does exist if your hotel is further from the city center.
  6. Zermatt is expensive to stay in, you’ll probably trip, elevators don’t all have doors (keep limbs inside), the church bells ring…a lot, and hot water may not be in high supply.
  7. The food is covered in cheese, and you may be charged $12 for water so say you want Still Tap Water. You probably can’t read the menus so take a guess and hope for the best.
  8. You don’t tip the servers…unless you really want to. And they are not in a rush for you to leave, so ask for the check if you are.
  9. Resort food SLAPS. Breakfast is lackluster.
  10. The views skiing are incredible, and the actual skiing is great for all abilities, there wasn’t a lot of snow this season, so I got screwed.
  11. Switzerland is always on time, and there’s no shortage of clocks.
  12. A piece I didn’t mention in the article is, The resort has great public WIFI the town does not, plan accordingly if you need to work remotely.
  13. Get a VPN if you need to access US websites. Like Hulu. And download episodes for offline use.
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