April 11, 2013

24 Hours in… Zermatt, Switzerland

Those who can’t pick a favourite ski resort simply haven’t been to Zermatt. An enchanting, chocolate-box pretty village nestled high in the German-speaking area of the Swiss Alps, it’s cocooned by the highest concentration of mountains and glacial ice in the Alpine region (a statistic that spells exceptional skiing and summer hiking terrain).

A Swiss-red train swoops you on a scenic journey from Visp right up to the resort. A strictly car-free zone, Zermatt’s quiet and idyllic village vibe is a huge part of its cachet. But no need to panic for a porter: hotel and rented chalet personnel will zip to the station to pick you up in special electric luggage cars or romantic horse-drawn carriages.

A cluster of grand, 19th-century hotels line the main village street, and several have spas, pools and outdoor hot tubs. Friends and families should consider hiring a catered chalet: the chalet girls pride themselves on gourmet culinary skills and will organise the mundane minutiae of lift passes and lunch bookings.

Sensibly, the Swiss won’t tolerate lousy food, so even the farmhouse restaurants alongside the slopes are staggeringly good. With a gooey truffle-infused fondue, a little wine and a lot of spring sunshine, it’s often a struggle to clip up those ski boots again.

The cuisine in the village runs the gamut from Swiss raclette and rösti to Japanese sushi. Add to that a clutch of bustling aprés-ski bars and glitzy clothes stores, and it’s unsurprising that Zermatt is consistently hyped as one of Europe’s most elegant (and expensive) resorts. Remote but not removed, it has everything a discerning clientele could hanker after.


8am – Wake up at the Omnia Hotel, a contemporary mountain retreat that channels James Bond. Or click on to rent a catered chalet and be spoiled rotten.

9.30am – With skis in tow, either take the Sunnegga cable car up the mountain or go by the traditional Gornergrat Railway, the highest of its kind in the world. The magnificent Matterhorn peak—the most photographed mountain on earth—dominates the wide landscape. Italian slopes are accessible, but Zermatt has an abundant 360km of piste action all to itself, as well as the infamous Triftji mogul field. In true Zermatt style, some chairlifts are even heated!

11.30am – By now you should be hankering for hot chocolate and StafelAlp—a sleek Alpine restaurant off of piste 52—has an enormous deck for basking in the sunshine. Or try the Igloo Bar in the Gornergrat area—you can even stay the night in the Igloo Village.

12pm – The Matterhorn Glacier Paradise is the highest cable car station in Europe at 3,883m. Work up an appetite on the slopes before taking lunch at Chez Vrony in the Findeln ski area—a cosy farmhouse serving a spectacular gourmet burger with crispy rösti potatoes.

5pm – Burn off those burger calories in the afternoon, and then stop by the rather raucous Hennu Stall on the Klein Matterhorn for some après-ski shots and sundown dancing in ski boots. If that’s a preposterous idea, then you might be the type for a unique spa circuit back in the village: Backstage Hotel has seven treatment cubes representing the days of Creation (think themed hammam, flotation pool, aromatherapy room and waterbed chamber. For retail therapy, the cutting edge skiwear shop Bogner just opened, proving fashion and subzero clothing aren’t mutually exclusive. A history nut? The Matterhorn Museum is a sunken, faux ‘archaeological site’ that pays homage to the mountain and those who have climbed her.

8pm – Skiing requires serial sustenance! In the centre of Zermatt, Whymper Stube rolls out the meat and cheese varieties of the typically Swiss dish, fondue.

10pmVernissage is the chicest cocktail bar in town—part cinema, part gallery and fully fabulous. Or try The Cavern at the Omnia Hotel: it’s like Bruce Wayne’s Batcave with live music. And your bed is just upstairs!


Stephanie Plentl is a London-based travel, culture and lifestyle journalist.
Illustration by Guillaume Briere for