Zermatt Tourist Attractions
The mountain village of Zermatt (from "zur Matte", "on the mountain pasture") is the leading climbing and winter sports capital in the Valais and one of Switzerland's great international resorts.
Nestling in a green valley enclosed between steeply scarped mountains, it is dominated by the "mountain of mountains", the huge and gracefully curved pyramid of the Matterhorn. The Nikolai valley, at the head of which Zermatt lies, is open to cars only as far as Täsch; Zermatt itself is without motor cars (local transport is by electric vehicles and horse-drawn cabs). Among the old timber houses, weathered brown with age, are numerous hotels, all built in a style adapted to the setting. A rack-railroad, several long cableways and numerous ski-lifts bring the various walking, climbing and winter sports areas within easy reach. There are magnificent long ski-runs of all grades of difficulty.Leisure activities include tennis, swimming, walking and mountain-climbing (mountaineering tuition).Visitors who would like to have a bird's eye view of the area can have a circular flight in a helicopter. The landing place ("heliport") is situated at the north end of the village. Since 1988, there has been a mountain trail for cyclists which runs from the Winkelmatten beyond Zermatt up to the Furi.Until the end of the Middle Ages the glaciers were higher up and the tree-line was at about 2,600 m/8,531ft so that the Theodul pass offered a fairly easy route through the mountains, and this was used from Roman times onwards. Zermatt itself is first recorded in 1218 under the Latin name of Pratoborgno. By the 17th C. its 100 or so families had purchased their freedom from the landowners of the Rhône valley and formed a citizen body, to which after 1618 only the 19th C. hotelier Alexandre Seiler was admitted.The mountains around Zermatt were first mastered from 1830 onwards almost exclusively by British climbers, who were the first to climb 31 out of the 39 principal peaks (Breithorn 1830, Monte Rosa 1855, Matterhorn 1865). The famous climbers' hotel, the Monte Rosa, was opened in 1854, the railroad from St Niklaus in 1891, the Gornergrat rack-railroad in 1898. 1898 also saw the appearance of the first skier, but Zermatt's rise into a great winter sports resort did not really begin until 1927.
The road from Visp, in the Rhône valley, is open to cars only as far as Täsch (30km/19mi), which has a large parking area (fee) at the station. In winter, depending on weather conditions, it may be advisable to take the railroad from Visp or St Niklaus. The railroad from Visp to Zermatt (the Brig-Visp-Zermatt or BVZ narrow-gauge electric line; 35km/22mi, journey time 1.25/1.5 hours) runs alongside the road into the Nikolai valley. In 7km/4mi we come to Stalden-Saas (803 m/2,635ft), at the junction of the Saas valley (through which flows the Saaser Vispa) and the Nikolai valley (Matter Vispa). The old timber houses in Valais style cluster around the white parish church on high ground. A cableway ascends the east side of the valley to Staldenried and the Gspon plateau (1,893 m/6,211ft); a road on the west side leads to the mountain village of Törbel (1,491 m/4,892ft, 8km/5mi northwest). The Zermatt road now climbs up the Nikolai valley through the Kipfen gorge and in another 8km/5mi reaches St Niklaus (1,130 m/3,708ft), the largest village in the Nikolai valley which is closely hemmed in by mountains. It has a fine parish church of 1964 with a medieval tower and three beautiful Baroque altars. From St Niklaus, a narrow and winding road climbs 8km/5mi northeast to Grächen (1,617 m/5,305ft), which stands on a commanding mountain terrace traversed by irrigation channels (bisses). It is a village which attracts both summer visitors and winter sports enthusiasts and it has an indoor swimming pool. There is a cableway to the Hannigalp (2,110 m/ 6,923ft; skiing). 26km/16mi further on you pass through Randa (1,410 m/ 4,626ft) at the foot of the Mischabel group, before reaching Täsch in 29km/ 18mi, a picturesque little village. The peak of the Matterhorn now comes into view.
The life of Zermatt is primarily on the main street, which runs from the station to the market square, with a charming contrast between hotels and elegant shops and old village houses.
Mont Cervin Hôtel
In Zermatt's Mont Cervin Hôtel is the very interesting Alpine Museum, with an extensive display of material concerning the climbing of the mountains around Zermatt (local guides and famous alpinists). The cartographic and folkloristic exhibits are also notable and include furniture, minerals, indigenous flora and fauna.
English Church (Monte Rosa Hotel)
Above the Zermatt Alpine Museum are the guides' and ski school office and the English church (1871), built by the Alpine Club (founded 1857), which has the graves of climbers in the churchyard. Farther up the village is the Monte Rosa Hotel (1852), for 30 years the headquarters of all climbers in Zermatt, which has preserved much of its original character. A bronze plaque (1925) commemorates Edward Whymper, who made a series of attempts on the Matterhorn between 1860 and 1865. The neat little parish church to the left of the hotel dates from 1576.
Around the Zermatt market square are the Gemeindehaus (communal council house) and six characteristic old village houses, on one of which is a tablet commemorating Whymper's guides, the two Taugwalders (father and son). Here, too, is the charming Marmot Fountain (1902). The handsome church of St Maurice, rebuilt in 1914, has a tower modeled on that of the earlier church.
At the bridge over the Vispa, on a strip of land between that river and its tributary the Triftbach, is the Zermatt cemetery, with the graves of many climbers who met their death on the mountains, including Whymper's guide Michel Croz and his companion Hadow. Higher up in the village a few of the old larch-wood storehouses still survive, with large circular slabs of stone on the supporting posts to deter mice.
The Matterhorn (14,692ft) is a peak in the Swiss Alps that is climbed by 3000 people on an annual basis.
It takes 45 minutes to climb 10km/6mi to the summit of the Gornergrat by the Gornergratbahn, the highest mountain-railroad in Europe running over open country.A cableway from the upper station (restaurant) crosses the Hohtälligrat (3,286 m/10,785ft; restaurant) to the Stockhorn (3,532 m/11,592ft; upper station 3,407 m/11,182ft).There are also cableways from Zermatt-Winkelmatten via Furri (or Furi; 1,886 m/6,190ft; restaurant; to the south at 1,955 m/6,416ft is a glacier garden) to the Schwarzsee (black lake; restaurant) and via Furri and Furgg (2,431 m/7,979ft) to the Trochenen Steg (2,939 m/9,646ft: large restaurant) at the upper Theodul Glacier.From the Trochenen Steg a ski-lift (open also in summer) goes up to the Furgg saddle (3,365 m/11,044ft) on the Italian border. Another ski-lift runs via Gandegg to the Theodul Pass (3,317 m/ 10,886ft) from where there is a further lift to the Testa Grigia (3,480 m/ 11,421ft).A funicular in a tunnel runs from the center of Zermatt to the Sunnegga sun-terrace (2,289 m/7,512ft; with restaurant) from where a cableway goes via Blauherd (2,580 m/8,468ft) to the Unterrothorn (3,103 m/10,184ft). From Blauherd, yet another cableway runs to Gant (2,180 m/6,155ft); ski-lift to the skiing-ground (2,814 m/9,236ft). You can also go down from Sunnegga by a winter chairlift to Findeln (2,164 m/ 7,102ft).
Cableway to Kleines Matterhorn
There is a spectacular trip on the highest cableway in Europe from the Trochenen Steg to the north face of the Kleines Matterhorn (3,820 m/12,537ft). From the upper station there is a lift to the summit of the Kleines Matterhorn (3,884 m/12,747ft). A cableway from Furgg leads to the Schwarzsee (restaurant).
Zermatt provides facilities for skiing throughout the year, with skiing grounds all lying at an altitude between 2,500 m/8,250ft and 3,900 m/12,800ft. They are accessible by numerous lifts: Schwarzsee-Trockener Steg-Theodul, Riffelberg-Gornergrat-Stockhorn, Sunnegga-Blauherd- Unterrothorn; in summer it is possible to ski on the Breithorn plateau (cableway to the Kleines Matterhorn) and on the Plateau Rosa (3,500 m/11,487ft) near the Theodul Pass. A special thrill can be had with heli-skiing or by taking part in a high-altitude ski-tour. There are delightful cross-country ski-runs (including a night-track of 3km/nearly 2mi, from Winkelmatten to Tutra) and about 50km/30mi of ski-tracks. In addition there are two natural-ice skating rinks and several curling rinks.Dominated by the Matterhorn, the picturesque, car-free town of Zermatt has long been a winter playground. And because it is far enough away from major centers it doesn't attract the big weekend crowds. Zermatt offers three ski areas on one pass, Switzerland's highest vertical drop (more than 7,000 feet) and the Klein Matterhorn glacier that allows skiing year-round. Descending from the glacier, skiers can stop for lunch in the Italian town of Cervinia before heading back to Switzerland for dinner.
Map of Zermatt Attractions