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WorldTempus on Tour  - Zermatt, at the Foot of the Matterhorn

WorldTempus on Tour Zermatt, at the Foot of the Matterhorn

Travellers come to Zermatt from around the world for its fabulous vistas, endless ski slopes and authentic mountain charm. The WorldTempus team spent a few days at the foot of the Matterhorn

It may peak at 400 metres below Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn’s familiar silhouette is the only distinction it needs. This majestic pyramid of rock culminates at 4,478 metres to form an instantly recognisable landmark on the border between Italy and Switzerland, separating the Aoste Valley from the Canton of Valais, escorted by a string of 37 Alpine summits that reach more than 4,000 metres skywards. This stunning sight is no doubt one of the reasons why, ever since the mid-1800s, tourists and mountaineers have travelled from all over the world to the village of Zermatt, at the foot of the mighty Matterhorn.

Zermatt, at the Foot of the Matterhorn

Cervin © WorldTempus/Jordy Bellido

Mountaineering in its blood

Zermatt’s history can be traced back to 1280 and the first mention of the village in documents, as Pratobornum. The present-day name is derived from the German translation of its original Latin name, Prato Borni. Its proximity to the Matterhorn made it an attraction for alpinists and numerous attempts were made to scale its rocky neighbour, in vain… until July 14, 1865 when a party of seven, led by the British climber Edward Whymper, finally succeeded in conquering the Matterhorn’s summit. Their exploit was nonetheless tainted by tragedy, as the first four climbers fell to their death during the descent. 

Zermatt by rail

Whymper’s expedition having cost the lives of several of her subjects, Queen Victoria banned any further attempts to scale the Matterhorn’s slopes. This was all it took to pique interest and put Zermatt well and truly on the map. British travellers and mountaineers came in their droves to admire and ascend the Matterhorn, at the same time as two projects to conquer its slopes by rail were announced. The first – intended to carry tourists to the mountain’s summit – was shelved. The second, the Gornergrat Bahn, opened in 1898. This cog railway still carries passengers to an altitude of 3,100 metres for a breathtaking view of the Matterhorn and surrounding summits. 

Zermatt, aux pieds du Cervin

Zermatt © WorldTempus/Jordy Bellido

Skiing, hiking… and cheese

Zermatt has an international reputation as one of the most attractive ski resorts in the world, with an incredible 360 kilometres of runs zig-zagging between Switzerland and Italy. In the summer months, there are endless possibilities for hikes through forests, meadows, high plateaux and around mountain lakes. Hikers can trek for days without ever following the same trail twice. Back at the village, Zermatt turns on its Alpine charm. Silence reigns in the car-free streets; at most you’ll hear the hum of the small electric buses that ferry guests around. Window-shopping is a delight, from souvenir shops to luxury boutiques, the likes of Breitling, Hublot and Omega. It’s no wonder that Zermatt is as beloved of tourists as of the Swiss themselves, who come here to enjoy its wide open spaces. 

Zermatt, aux pieds du Cervin

© Christopher Shand/Luxaltius

A taste of luxury

Zermatt is filled with wonderful hotels and restaurants. Here are our favourites :

Hotel Carina
A stunning view of the Matterhorn, contemporary interiors that retain a cosy feel, a slow-food restaurant celebrating regional produce, a spa to relax in après-ski, rooms that range from wood-panelled dorms to luxury penthouses… and of course the warm welcome of the hotel’s staff. Enjoy an enchanted interlude at Hotel Carina, handily located just a few minutes’ walk from Zermatt railway station and from the Sunnegga-Rothorn funicular station. www.carinazermatt.ch 

Zermatt, at the Foot of the Matterhorn

Hotel Carina © Hotel Carina

Chez Vrony
For a high-altitude coffee or a spot of lunch while gazing across at the magnificent Matterhorn, head for Chez Vrony where the view is truly out of this world. From Alpine cheeses to traditional regional dishes, the farm-to-table menu is a gourmet delight. Perched on the slopes, at 2,100 metres altitude, you can walk or ski right up to the door from the Sunnegga funicular. www.chezvrony.ch 

Restaurant Schäferstube
Raclette, cheese fondue or a Zermatt lamb speciality… the menu of this delightful restaurant, with its cosy chalet decor, will make your tastebuds tingle. Everything here is delicious and locally produced, starting with the meat from the Valais blacknose sheep farmed by the restaurant’s owner, Paul Julen. You can even wrap up in a sheepskin blanket from the same herd which, if you stop by in summer, you’ll see grazing in the surrounding meadows at more than 2,400 metres altitude. www.julen.ch