Best known for great skiing, hiking, beautiful scenery (including Switzerland’s highest mountain – Monte Rosa) and the ultimate icon of Switzerland – the Matterhorn, Zermatt is also known for being a car-free city. The absence of vehicle noise and traffic in this busy tourist town is a noticeable and pleasant experience. One major revelation is the silence – there’s no need to try to speak above the sound of car motors. Another benefit is that pedestrians and bikers can fearlessly and safely navigate through the town with the minor exception of occasionally being startled by the silent electric vehicles sneaking up. Bikers take note, though, that you must walk your bike on the main street in town or be subject to a fine.
How to go: So how does one arrive in a car-free city? Driving into the town will immediately cost you several hundred dollars in fines – so don’t do that. The best option is to arrive by train either directly from another city or you can park your car at the parking lot in Täsch and take the frequently scheduled (every 20 minutes) shuttle train for the last 4 miles or so to Zermatt. Once in town, the best way to get around town is on foot. However, there are electric taxis and buses throughout the town if desired.
When to go: If you enjoy all that winter has to offer, that is the season to visit Zermatt. But even if you visit at other times of the year (Spring is usually the season for my visits), you’ll find plenty to keep you busy.
What to do: Yes, this is a big ski resort area so you will have plenty of trails for selection, some of which allow you start in Switzerland and end in Italy. The nearby town of Täsch also makes a good base for skiing adventures. This is also a very mountain biking-friendly area with specific trains for this purpose and bikes welcome on certain ski lifts. Bikes can be rented and there are maps for sale that indicate the difficulty level of the trails. As you would expect, there are numerous options for advanced bikers but there are also options that allow beginners to practice and enjoy their skills. Another obvious item on your list of “to-do’s” here, is a visit to the Matterhorn. For experienced climbers, this could mean actually hiking up the Matterhorn or one of its neighboring mountains like the “Breithorn” or Monte Rosa. Some of these hikes require excellent physical condition, prior acclimatization to the altitude and serious climbing equipment like crampons, ropes and a guide. For those wishing to take in the beauty of the mountains close up in a less physical way, the Gornergrat Railway is a fantastic option. This train leaves from the station in the center of Zermatt and will take you on a lovely ride up to the Gornergrat viewing platform (altitude 3,089 meters) where you will have the most spectacular view of the Matterhorn and the surrounding Alps – a highlight not to be missed!
What to eat/drink: Traditional Swiss dishes are plentiful in and around Zermatt. You’ll have no trouble finding fondue or raclette, so enjoy!