I wrote about keeping warm in the snow last week while in Zermatt, Switzerland, with our family visiting from the Philippines. Ever since discovering this place five or six years ago, my husband and I (of course with Sophie) come here every year.
Zermatt is just so amazingly beautiful — the charming wooden houses, the car-free streets (only tiny electric cars are allowed here), the quaint restaurants, and the impressive view of the Matterhorn, the famous Swiss mountain peak adorning the packaging of Toblerone chocolates. Better yet, Zermatt doesn’t have that schicky micky pretentiousness and botox crowd as St. Moritz. It is an authentic Alpine village where you can simply relax, hike, ski, ice skate and savour the local (albeit touristy) culture.
If you’re a train and landscape buff, you’ll also enjoy riding the Glacier Express, the slowest express train in the world that takes you on a trip around the Swiss Alps, which starts (or ends depending which direction you boarded the train) in Zermatt. In fact, my parents were so bewitched by this little town and the view from the Glacier Express when they visited a few years back that it was their wish to bring the whole family, most especially their three grandchildren, here. I would highly recommend this train ride and if you can splurge a little bit, meaning CHF 50 (USD 55) more, please upgrade to first class where the wagons have fantastic panoramic views. Plus, the staff even serves you lunch and snacks, at an extra cost, right at your seat like in a proper restaurant. And if you don’t want to eat, that’s fine too. The panoramic wagons are so worth it!
where to stay
Chesa Valese — ♥♥♥♥♥
Steinmattstrasse 30, 3920 Zermatt
* I’ve stayed at three hotels in Zermatt and this is my favorite. I’m actually not sure if it has three or four stars but I don’t really care because this place had everything I needed. The staff were friendly, the rooms were clean, and it had that quaint and charming feel that you’d want from an Alpine hotel. Guests could also indulge in a hearty breakfast, included in the rate, for that much-needed energy boost before hitting the slopes. I’ve recommended this hotel to many of my friends and they all came back with very good impressions.
Hotel Excelsior — ♥♥♥
Hofmattstrasse 38, 3920 Zermatt
* This three-star hotel is conveniently located close to the train station and the main street. The local ice rink is even just a block away. We also appreciated that the staff managed to have all three rooms we booked located next to each other on the same floor. Nevertheless, while our rooms and bathrooms were newly renovated, and we had a nice balcony with an amazing view of the Matterhorn, we didn’t enjoy being engulfed in cigarette smoke every time we entered the hotel. They really need to up their ventilation system or move the “smoking” bar out of the entrance/reception area.
Alex Schlosshotel Zermatt — ♥♥♥
Bodmenstrasse 12, 3920 Zermatt
* A bit more luxurious than the two above, this hotel has an indoor pool and spa. I think it has also been renovated since we stayed here in 2010 because the website pictures look different. At that time, while our room was bright and spacious with some intricate Art Nouveau detailing, the rest of the hotel just felt dark, dark and dark. But breakfast was good and the staff were very friendly, especially to our daughter who was only one then.
where to eat
Whymper-Stube — ♥♥♥♥♥
Bahnhofstrasse 80, 3920 Zermatt
* You’ve got to try this place offering the best fondue in town, but do reserve in advance. Cheese, chinoise, or bourguignonne, whichever you fancy and all served with a variety of salads. My favorite is cheese fondue “Hausart” with pear. Surprisingly, the pear really lightens up the meal and you don’t feel so bloated and stuffed after eating all that cheese. We’ve eaten here several times, with children, and were always treated very well by the staff.
The Lounge at Grand Hotel Zermatterhof — ♥♥♥♥♥
Bahnhofstrasse 55, 3920 Zermatt
* We didn’t want to splurge on the going rate of CHF 750 (USD 800) per room/night offered to us in January 2013. But even if we didn’t stay here, well, why not have afternoon “Kaffee & Kuchen” (coffee and cakes) at the lounge? We, especially the kids, enjoyed it very much and the staff were very friendly. For a five-star hotel, the food at the lounge was also reasonably priced (for Swiss standards). If you do decide to spend the night here, they’ll even pick you up with a horse-drawn carriage from the train station. I’ll definitely keep an eye for hotel deals for future stays.
Until my next post … take care!