Christmas holiday in Zermatt

Thursday, February 06, 2020

It is our first winter here in Europe, and I am excited to see some snow! (even experience white Christmas!). Unfortunately, snow in the Netherlands is unpredictable. I have been listening everywhere for hints of snow, and even asking around, but none was futile. It is zero degrees in the Netherlands with an accompaniment of chilling wind. Frost is visible in some days, but a speck of snow wouldn't show up in December. Some locals are hopeful it'll come in January or February, and most are not expecting any snow.

We decided to explore other EU countries that have visible snow forecast in December. A quick Google search shows 3: Austria, Switzerland and France. Those three countries have snow all year round. We debated and decided to go to Switzerland. Why? Well, because of the Matterhorn.


Switzerland is majestic during the winter season. It is also expensive during the Christmas holidays. Our budget a bit tight, so the option of exploring Switzerland is out of the option. We narrowed it down to one town to visit so we could experience snow for the first time. Zermatt is a unanimous choice because of the infamous Matterhorn.

Zermatt is a small town at the foot of the Matterhorn. If you are living under a rock, Matterhorn is world renown as the mountain inspired by the Toblerone logo. You can also visit the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise. It is Europe's highest and largest skiing region, even during summer season. So yeah, they have snowy Alpine mountains all year round.



HOW TO GET THERE

There are three airports in Switzerland which you can choose to fly in, Geneva, Zurich, and Basel. You can get the cheapest airfare by landing in Geneva or Basel Airport. You can opt to travel by train and overnight buses if you are reducing your carbon footprint.

Long travel time is not ideal when you have a baby/toddler, so it was a wise choice for us to fly. Flying to Geneva took less than 2 hours and the train to Zermatt took around 4 hours. Traveling by bus and train will take 15 hours with stopovers in Frankfurt and Basel, so it was not an option for us.


ACCOMMODATIONS

There are a lot of options for accommodations in Zermatt. You can choose a hostel, hotel or your chalet. A chalet would be nice if you are planning for a ski holiday. The convenience and access to the slopes are right outside your doorstep. Hotels and Hostels are situated in the town proper so it was accessible and convenient.



Accommodations in Zermatt are on the expensive side (or anywhere else in Switzerland). We chose to book one family room for four adults and one kid. We booked the Hotel Alpine Resort for it was the most affordable one at that time. Luck was on our side because we were given a family room with a gorgeous view of the Matterhorn (IKR!).


THINGS WE DID

Since Zermatt is a small town, you can explore the whole town in one whole day, plain sightseeing. Our itinerary is as follows:



The train ride going to Zermatt was an epic prelude to our anticipation for snow. It was one scenic ride with a lot of snow-capped mountains. Daxton was entertained for good 2-3 hours by admiring the snow and mountains.






We left our luggage in the hotel shortly after arriving (our room was not yet ready even though it is already 4 PM). Landing to Geneva and the train to Zermatt was a bit hectic, so we had snacks and pastries in our journey. We decided to get a proper meal and explored several restaurants. Meals are on the expensive side if you go to a restaurant. Too hungry to explore, we opted for fast food (McDonald's) for a quick bite.


We explored the town proper to check out the snowy chalets and museums. We passed by the Zermatt Matterhorn Museum, St Mauritius church, and Gemeinde Zermatt. The Matterhorn was majestic as the sun started to set in. It was a good thing that it was sunny the whole day and the skies were clear, so we got to see the Matterhorn for all its beauty.








We decided to head up to the viewpoint as soon as the sun starts to set. It was a steep flight of stairs up to the viewpoint. Cold weather and a lot of stairs to climb up is plain torture for my lungs, as my lungs expand like there was no tomorrow. But once you reached the top, the view of the town and Matterhorn was surreal.


As we started our descent, we passed by a lot of chalets, which seems to house no one. Our walk and trek to explore the town left us too famished. Good thing the viewpoint is near our hotel, so we decided to freshen up a little bit before heading to dinner.







We had our dinner at Grampi's, a pizzeria with notable Google reviews. Reservations are mandatory at the best restaurants in Zermatt. Most of them are at the chalets up in the mountain ridges . I am aware of the European cuisine and customer service in the Horeca industry so my expectations are a bit low. We had a good meal of pizza and pasta and decided to head back to the hotel to rest and chill.

Our room's view during the night

We bought snacks and booze from Denner, the nearest supermarket from the hotel. The prices in the supermarket are also a bit steep, compared to the Netherlands. We hanged and talked and drank at our room while admiring the Matterhorn.



We did not expect the view of our room. Imagine sleeping and waking up top the view of the Matterhorn smiling at you. IT WAS PHANTASMAGORICAL!! It was expensive, but the view was so worth it.

This is the view that greeted us in the morning.. WOW!

The next day, we decided to head up to the mountains to visit the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise. Unfortunately due to weather conditions, it was closed that day. We did not do the Gornegrat Bahn due to time limitations. Instead, we decided to head up to Trockener Steg instead to have a glimpse of the snowy Alpine ridges upclose.

Trockener Steg is 2,939m high and has a large sun terrace. You have an up-close view of the Matterhorn and all its glory. An Ice Bar and Ice Buffet in the station is perfect for famished people from skiing or hiking up the mountains. The weather that day was cloudy with strong winds (100++kph!!). Good thing that the cable cars are still working, though you can hear how ferocious the winds are.


After our trip up to the mountains, we decided to head back to town to check out from our hotel. We spent the rest of our hours exploring the town and buying souvenirs while waiting for our train to Milan. It was one tiring 2D1N trip because of the weather, which is always below 5degC. Imagine wearing layers of (heavy and puffy) clothing to keep warm, then trekking the mountains and walking through snowy paths. It was a test of endurance and stamina for our bodies.


TIPID (FRUGAL) TIPS:


  • Dress appropriately for the weather. It is wise to check the weather ahead so you can plan your outfits (and luggage space) accordingly. There is a saying "There's no bad weather, just inappropriate clothing". Which was true because you need to feel comfortable to truly your vacation. I recommend to layer wisely, avoid bulky and heavy clothing. For the top, I was wearing thin thermal base, thin knit turtle neck, fleece second layer and a trendy trench coat. For the bottoms, a thin thermal base, denim pants and thermal socks under my Doc Marten boots. I have a chunky knit scarf to cover my neck and a bit of my face. It was not the wisest outfit, but it did warm me up a bit even though I was feeling stuffy from all the clothing I have.

  • Winter Sport activities such as skiing, sled riding, and snowboarding are expensive. And the cost tends to pile up. Aside from snow specific clothing, you need different gears for different activities. There are also passes to cable cars, different ski areas, and resorts. Renting gears is convenient if you want to try it for fun. But if you want to make it as a hobby, it is sensible to buy/bring your gears.

  • Meals in Zermatt ranges from 15CHF and above. You will be tempted to have a hot meal/drink all the time because of the frosty weather. Affordable food is a sandwich if you don't mind eating cold sandwiches and pastries. If you want to try traditional Swedish cuisine, you might want to book in advance and place a reservation.

  • Pray to the heavens for clear skies so you can adore the beauty of Matterhorn. They say that the Matterhorn is a bit shy and often hiding in the clouds. But the probability of seeing its beauty is around 60%, which is pretty high. But will involve some luck and prayers.

  • If you plan to hike and explore around in the snowy countryside, make sure you prep your body. Increase your stamina and endurance for there are a lot of slopes and hike up. But if ever your body decided to betray you (and give up), you can ride the electric buses that go around the town. It may be a bit costly, for it is around 2-5CHF depending on your stop.


Our dear family, freezing but was grinning from ear to ear ^_^

Generally, Zermatt is magical and I would want to see its beauty during the summer. Here's a quick video recap of our adventure:





I hope this "semi" guide had inspired you to go and travel Zermatt.


WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SPOT IN ZERMATT?

Share in the comments below! 
I would love to read your experiences as well. 


DISCLAIMER:
We paid for everything on this trip. I inserted some Agoda affiliate links in this post. It will cost you nothing if you click on it. But if you do feel you want to use the link to book your accommodations, I get a small amount from Agoda.

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