The 11 most beautiful olaces and sights in Zermatt Switzerland: from unforgettable panoramic views, adventurous descents, mountain lakes and glaciers to the rare Edelweiss. And of course one of the best places to see the Matterhorn.
Text and pictures by Marc Gottwald
Why Zermatt in Switzerland?
The Matterhorn towers imposingly above Zermatt. It is the landmark of this village, which has a long tradition. And it radiates an incredible power. A power that you will feel especially away from the crowds to recharge your batteries. Moments that you have to experience for yourself and that we can recommend to everyone. Yes, by now the “Horu”, as the locals affectionately call the peak, is the best marketed mountain in the world.
First of all: Zermatt is a dream place, but in the main seasons in summer and winter the village and the destinations are overrun. Here you can find out everything about the best times to travel as well as destinations away from the crowds
Many of these destinations are accessible by cable cars. Since these are relatively expensive, you can buy a 3-day Peak Pass from Zermatt Tourism. There all cable cars are included. Let’s get ready to see the 11 most beautiful destinations in and around the Swiss Alpen village.
The 11 most beautiful destinations & sights of Zermatt
1). Gornergrat – View of the highest mountain in Switzerland
Even though the ride up the Gornergrat costs quite a lot, it is one of the highlights in Zermatt. Not only does the mountain entice with a great restaurant. Especially the view of the many different glaciers and the famous Matterhorn is unique and unforgettable.
The Gornergrat, together with the Klein Matterhorn, is one of the most touristy areas in Zermatt. Therefore, you will meet a lot of people especially in the main season. If we had to choose between the Klein Matterhorn and the Gornergrat, we would definitely choose the Gornergrat as a destination.
Everyone will be happy on this mountain. The breathtaking view of the Matterhorn is indescribable and the panoramic platform offers guests an unforgettable 360-degree view of the glaciers and mountain world. Likewise, gourmets and connoisseurs can dine in the summit restaurant. In addition, there is an observatory on the mountain, which is generally not open to the public. However, for groups of 10 people or more, an exception is sometimes made. If you want, you can even spend the night on the Gornergrat.
Hikers and nature lovers also get their money’s worth. Two beautiful hikes start on the Gornergrat. On the one hand, it’s about a one-hour hike to the summit called Hohtälli. Although it is only 180 meters in altitude, you notice the altitude relatively strongly due to the height. But the view of the Gorner glacier as well as the Grenz glacier is unique. You can see the Dufourspitze, which is the highest mountain of Zermatt and in Switzerland. Yes, Zermatt and the Gornergrat really have a lot to offer.
The hike to Riffelberg is much more pleasant, as it’s practically all downhill in about an hour. The terrain is not massively steep and the paths are well prepared. Besides the view of various glaciers and imposing mountains, Lake Riffelsee, one of the most beautiful lakes in Zermatt Switzerland, awaits you. Especially in the morning hours until about 10 o’clock, the reflection of the Matterhorn is incredibly beautiful and popular with photographers.
The trip to the Gornergrat costs 31.50CHF from Zermatt with the Half-Fare Card. This means that with the way back you pay 73CHF. With the General Abonnement (GA) you also pay half price. If you don’t have a Half-Fare Card, Swiss Pass or GA, you pay 156CHF. If you spend a few days in Zermatt, you should consider buying the Peak Pass.
2). Lake Riffelsee – the perfect reflection of the Matterhorn
As already told before Lake Riffelsee is one of the most beautiful lakes in Zermatt, Switzerland. With the reflection of the Matterhorn in the morning and evening hours, it is the perfect power spot for bon vivants and photographers. As the winds increase towards the afternoon in the mountains of Zermatt, the morning in particular is perfect for a stunning souvenir photo. Also, the light is better in the morning because the sun comes from behind. In the afternoon, the sun is too strong.
Lake Riffelsee can be reached in a hike from Gornergrat or Riffelberg in about 30 minutes. If you want to swim and can stand the cold, you can treat yourself to a refreshment. Be aware that at the height of the lake there is still snow for a long time. Accordingly, we recommend arriving between the end of June and the end of October.
3). Riffelalp – The beautiful alp above Zermatt Switzerland
The Riffelalp is probably the most beautiful alp in Zermatt. One could think that there would be a romantic peasant idyll. But you would be wrong. Because on the Riffelalp is a traditional 5-star hotel with a total of 2 restaurants and a bar. There is also another restaurant with Swiss cuisine, but it does not belong to the hotel.
In addition to dining and enjoying, the Riffelalp is also the starting point for fantastic hikes with a view of the Matterhorn. For example, you can hike from Riffelalp to Riffelberg and from there on towards Gornergrat. Also recommended is the Lärchenweg, which leads in about 1h 15 minutes through the forest to Zermatt. Again and again, an indescribable view of the village of Zermatt as well as the Matterhorn beckons. If you arrive in autumn, you can also enjoy the golden larch trees.
4). Zermatt Switzerland – dreamlike village tour with Matterhorn view
Another highlight is the village itself. Because Zermatt not only has good hotels and restaurants to offer. What few people know: There is culture and history behind it, which reaches back to prehistoric times. That’s why Zermatt in Switzerland is best explored on a tour of the village.
During a walk through the village, one quickly notices the many chapels and the wooden houses with the small windows. Some of these are already over 500 years old and can be found especially in the upper village. By the way, the wood is from the larch, which is omnipresent in the forests.
The best view over Zermatt
If you want to enjoy a great view over Zermatt in Switzerland, you should treat yourself to the approximately 100 meters in altitude in the direction of Bodmen. Because here you realize that for centuries people worked under harsh conditions in agriculture. And even today, various farmers can live around the village.
Zermatt has a long history of mountaineering. Climbed for the first time by a young Englishman in the 19th century, there are now around 3000 people who want to climb the “Horu” per year. About 10 to 20 climbers die every year. That is why there is a mountaineers’ cemetery, which is behind the big church of St. Mauritius.
Of course, a tour of the village is also perfect for shopping. In Zermatt there are almost no limits.
Your village walk could look like this: Train station – shopping street (old houses on the right) – church, community center, river, Matterhorn view, many hotels & restaurants
5). Mountaincart – Adventurous descent with uninterrupted view of the Matterhorn (Blauherd).
Zermatt is one of the most innovative tourist regions in Switzerland. From glacier palaces, suspension bridges and theme trails to mountain carts. They have it all. After all, what could be better than an adventurous descent including a non-stop panoramic view of the Matterhorn?
How to reach the place? From the village of Zermatt you take the train to Sunegga. There you have to change to Blauherd, where you can get the mountaincarts. Then you take the three-wheeled cart back towards Sunegga. One ride costs 15CHF and takes about 10 to 15 minutes. We recommend to take glasses with you, because when a cart is in front of you, quite a lot of dust is thrown up.
6). Lake Stellisee – the most beautiful lake in Zermatt
Lake Stellisee is probably the most photographed lake in Zermatt. But let’s be honest, it’s also one of the most beautiful in Switzerland. Since it’s only about 15 minutes away from the Blauherd mountain station, you’ll meet masses of people here during the high season. If you don’t like the crowds, I recommend arriving as early as possible.
Anyway, the light is better in the earlier morning hours until about 10 o’clock. Also it is usually less windy than towards the afternoon, which allows a perfect Matterhorn reflection.
As a little tip: With a bit luck, you will find the rare edelweiss plants, one of the symbols of Switzerland, by the wayside during the walk from Blauherd to the mountain lake. However, these are strictly protected. Picking them is therefore prohibited.
The 5-lake hike also starts with the Stellisee. Since this is relatively strenuous, we recommend it only for good hikers. For all others, however, the walk to Grindjesee and then back to Blauherd is worthwhile.
7). The Little Matterhorn above Zermatt Switzerland
The Klein Matterhorn is the little brother of the famous “Matterhorn” in Zermatt Switzerland and has an altitude of over 3800 meters. In the past, mountaineers climbed the mountain laboriously by climbing, with 1904 being the first ascent. Since 2018, the highest aerial cable car in Europe has been taking tourists up the mountain. The cable cars are modern and offer many seats. There are also several large gondolas in use. With a half-fare card, an adult pays around 58 francs. A full-paying guest a whole 114CHF (as of 2021).
Klein Matterhorn is located only 1.7km from the Italian border. Compared to other places in Zermatt, the view from this mountain is not very spectacular. But what is interesting and worth it is the artificial glacier cave with the various ice figures.
Since the summit is surrounded by ice, there are no hiking trails here. However, mountain tours start from Klein Matterhorn to the officially easiest 4000m peak in Switzerland, the Breithorn. In about 2.5 hours you can reach the mountain with a mountain guide. On nice days, the summit of the Breithorn resembles a hotspot for the masses.
If you want to ski in Zermatt, you can even ski in summer on the “Klein Matterhorn”. It is the only facility of Switzerland that is open all year round. Various skiing nations train here, such as Switzerland, Sweden, Canada, and many more.
8). Trockener Steg und die atemberaubende Seenplatte
If you drive up to the Klein Matterhorn, you will automatically pass by the station Trockener Steg. It is definitely worthwhile to make a stop here. Because in about a 30-minute walk, you’ll come to a breathtaking lake district with at least 15 lakes. That’s why this is the 15-lake hike for us.
Compared to other touristy places in Zermatt, there are fewer people here. Even in the high season it is ok compared to other places. Since there are so many different lakes, you are guaranteed to enjoy the peace and quiet for yourself here.
The lakes are a product of the glacier retreat of the Furg and Theodul glaciers. This is because if the glaciers melt quickly, lakes form. If glaciers melted only slowly, the lakes would fill up again with sediments, leading to rapid siltation.
It is also worthwhile to continue hiking in the direction of Schwarzsee. The hiking route from Trockener Steg to Schwarzsee takes about 2.5 hours and is peppered with many highlights. It is important to know that the path becomes increasingly rocky and adventurous from the lake plates. It feels as if you are immersed in a large stone desert, i.e. a completely different world. There is also a steep descent at the end. But for experienced hikers this is no problem at all. And all others come on the broadly developed path very well to the lake plate.
9). Schwarzsee – dreamlike lake above Zermatt
As the name suggests, Schwarzsee (translated to black lake) is relatively dark: not necessarily black, but dark blue. With the mountain panorama and the chapel, it is not only a beautiful place of power, but also the perfect place for a breathtaking photo.
By the way, the white chapel called “Maria zum Schnee” dates back to the 18th century and is a typical baroque building. According to legend, this chapel was the first “Mother of God” church in Zermatt, dedicated to Maria. The people of Zermatt Switzerland hoped for rain and since it fell, many believers still make a pilgrimage to the chapel today. In addition, on the first Sunday of October, there is a service in honor of the Matterhorn climbers who died.
You can reach the Schwarzsee either by hiking from Trockener Steg (2.5h). But you can also go up directly with the cable car from Zermatt. The prices are flexible and cost between 34 and 37CHF per ride. With the half fare card or Swisspass it’s half. A great hike goes from Schwarzsee to Furi through a beautiful larch forest. Here you have good chances to meet jays and squirrels. In autumn the larches are golden and radiate an incredible power.
Please note that the Schwarzsee is located at 2500 meters. Accordingly, it is still covered with snow for a long time. We recommend arriving only from the end of June. To be on the safe side, Zermatt Tourism can be called to find out the current status of the lake.
10). Suspension bridge Furi – short walk to the adventurous suspension bridge.
A trip to the Klein Matterhorn, Trockener Steg or Schwarzhorn can be combined with the suspension bridge Furi. The action-packed and about 65cm wide bridge leads 90 meters over the Gorner Gorge to the other side and can be reached in only 15 minutes from Furi. Honestly, it already triggers a tingle when you look down.
During the walk, besides the present Zermatt mountain farmers and the larch forest, with a little luck you can also see orchids. Also many relics remind of the past time, when the Gorner glacier advanced to Furi in 1825. The glacier flattened everything during its advance. Several barns fell victim to it.
The walk can be extended to a circular hike of about one hour, with a children’s playground, a fireplace and fountain coming directly after the suspension bridge.
11). Zmutt – one of the oldest and most beautiful hamlets in Switzerland.
Also accessible from Furi situated above Zermatt is the romantic Zmutt. The approximately 45-minute walk along a well-maintained traffic-free road leads over a bridge to Zmutt. The village is one of the oldest hamlets in Switzerland and has about 40 buildings. But looking at the hamlet, one might think that the place consists only of restaurants and a church. We counted at least three of them, which is quite a lot for such a small place. According to traditions, there are buildings that are around 800 years old. Some of the buildings are warmly decorated with flowers, which exudes a typical Valaisan charm.
If you come in summer during the high season, you will meet some people. Nevertheless, Zmutt is never crowded, even if the village is only 45 minutes from Furi or about 1h 15 minutes from Zermatt.
If you want to hike further, you can, for example, reach the Schönbühlhütte SAC in a longer hike.
Conclusion Destination Zermatt Switzerland
Zermatt in the Valais Alps is one of the most beautiful places in Switzerland. Due to the good marketing of the local Tourism agency, a lot of people come to the village, especially during the main seasons, and the destinations are overcrowded. That’s why it’s worth visiting Zermatt in Switzerland in the low season. The further away you are from the cable cars and the village, the more peace and quiet you can enjoy. Then you have the feeling of having the Matterhorn almost for yourself.