Let me start by saying that Switzerland is EVERYTHING it is advertised to be in every movie you have seen showcasing the region, from the Sound of Music to James Bond. It was on both my wife Amy and my bucket lists and when we were in the region visiting Paris and the French Countryside and realized we could jump right over to Zurich we made it happen. If I could describe Switzerland in one word it would be MAJESTIC, so if you want some ideas of what to do in Switzerland and my opinions on where to go when you are in Switzerland then read on my friend because we did a lot. If you want the abridged version then check out this post I did on The 5 Coolest things we did in Switzerland.
We arrived Zurich with plans to spend all of our time outside the cities and in the Alps because we would much rather be surrounded by nature than city life. Zurich is a really convenient airport to fly into, it is small and easy to navigate and the train station is under the airport which makes it super convenient and easy to navigate. We found it easy to get around and most of the people we ran into spoke some English which makes it less stressful. We went right from the plane with our duffels down the elevators into the train station. We grabbed a couple bomb ass sandwiches on pretzel bread (AMAZING!!!) and hopped on the train out of Zurich. We got to see some beautiful lakes and the huge mountains that make up the Alps while we cruised into the sunset toward St Moritz and our next day’s adventure: The Glacier Express.
The entire reason we went to St. Moritz was to take the Glacier Express. It is a train that goes from one end of the Alps to the other, Starting in St. Moritz and ending in our destination: Zermatt. It is an entire day affair that is well worth the price of the ticket. We recommend getting reservations ahead of time, we did not and this almost ended in a tragic boring normal train ride with a lot of transfers to Zermatt. With some cool heads and smooth talking and some minor stumbles based on the language difference we made it on, had great seats, and had a wonderful time. This train is freakin’ sweet. It is a totally panoramic train with view out all sides. It was a really cool and authentic way to see the Alps and pass through some cool little towns on the way. They have good food and good coffee which makes the ride even better. Bring cash though because there is no internet on the train and their credit card machines are spotty at best. We ate some authentic Swiss food and drank espresso while watching the HUGE peaks and deep valleys pass on both sides. This experience was one of the cooler ones we had on our trip and if you want an efficient and relaxing way to see a lot while riding on a hugely famous train this is for you. You can take it either way and can actually get off and on at different points if you do not want to spend all day cruising through the Alps. We stayed on until we reached our destination and the total end of the line: Zermatt.
Let’s talk Zermatt. It is a small town perched high in the Alps not far from the Italian border at the base of the world famous Matterhorn. This is such a cool place. It is a car free village, yep, totally car free. They do not want the pollution of combustion engines to obscure the amazing views of the Matterhorn and surrounding peaks so they allow only battery powered vehicles. Even the construction workers drive these little mini golf cart pick up trucks with lumber in them. You can walk every where or flag down a golf cart. You exit the train station right on the town’s main street the Bahnhofstrasse. It has a mixture of high end clothing stores, great restaurants, inns, and outdoor outfitters. It is where it all happens in the town of the Zermatt. Right off of the Bahnhofstrasse the Vispa River runs through the town and is filled with a crazy blueish steel grey water. The streets are lined with both high end hotels and wind battered chalets. There are gondolas that run out of the town up into the mountains, to the base of the Matterhorn and to all of the other accessible ski terrain there is in the picturesque Zermatt. We were there in the summer and the weather was perfect, the gondolas were ferrying people up the mountain to take selfies in front of the Matterhorn and the hiking trails were wide open.
We were only in Zermatt for a few days and really only 1 full day without travel but we still had plenty of time to explore, eat, and hike. We planned our trip so that we could see as much of the Alps as possible and experience a couple different size towns while we were there. we did not want to do too much, where we were on the road the whole time but we did not want to stat in one place the entire time either. Again, with the train system being so extensive and easy to use you can really cover a lot of ground and be relatively stress free while you are doing it. The town is small so if you are there to just hang out and hike it is perfect, but if you are looking for some night life I doubt you will find a lot of it here, especially in the summer. We arrived in the late afternoon and just wandered around, taking in the panoramic views and wandering the Chalet lined streets. I grew up in and around the mountains and I honestly have never seen anything quite like the Alps. The sheer size of the peaks and the color of the water and vegetation is really breathtaking.
The food in Zermatt and all of Switzerland, was fantastic. Lots of cured meats and bread and pasta. They do it right, there is also the ubiquitous Fondue, we had to get our fill of some when we were there. If was fun and every little restaurant we stopped into was delicious. We just wandered up and down the Bahnhofstrasse reading menus until we found something that looked good. We are not huge planners when we travel but as I mentioned with the Glacier Express it can bite us in the ass at times. We did research things to do before we went so that we had some options but some of them were closed because of the time of year we were visiting. It really didn’t matter, we were in a village in the Swiss Alps so we did what every outdoor enthusiast would do — we hiked! There are ski lifts and runs all through the alps and when they are not being used for the winter you can take the gondolas up to the top of the mountain and hang out. We went to take the gondola up to the base of the Matterhorn but on that particular day it was extremely cloudy and crowded so we opted to go on our hike… and boy did we hike! We did a whole day jaunt up into the mountains where we just hung out, too pictures and marveled at the beauty of our surroundings. We hiked up to the mid mountain ski lodge above Zermatt and had some coffee and grabbed a snack, then we walked down. There are so many trails lacing the Mountainside that the options to hike are really endless. The locals are awesome and were a HUGE help. We just asked them where they would go and what trails were the best and they told us.
You can read on about the last half of our trip to Interlaken, the base of the Eiger and beyond in this post.