'''Zermatt''' [http://www.zermatt.ch] is a car-free village in the upper [[Valais]], one of the alpine cantons of [[Switzerland]]. It's probably best known as a platform for skiing and mountaineering, especially on the mountain which towers above the village, the [
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matterhorn Matterhorn]. The surroundings are breathtaking but this comes at a price: Accommodation in Zermatt is among the most expensive in Switzerland.
[[Image:Zermatt small.jpg|thumb|200px|The Matterhorn in winter as seen from Zermatt]]
Zermatt is surrounded by a range of fabulous mountains, but it is famous for the Matterhorn. It was one of the last alpine mountains to be conquered (in 1865), and the first expedition that reached the top ended dramatically (only 3 of the 7 climbers survived).
If you've never experienced a car-free city of any size then Zermatt could be a bit of a surprise: during the high season nearly 20,000 people living in a town with only 5 or 6 streets and more significantly almost no internal combustion vehicles except very occasional outside delivery and specialist services. This means that you can leave a noisy bar or party, and a few minutes later ''on foot'' find yourself in utter tranquility. You can sit on the hotel balcony and listen to dozens of varieties of songbirds while watching the sun set on one of the most striking mountains in the western world. Wake up with the sun in a four or five-star room or a canvas tent to the sound of the aforementioned birds, crickets, church bells, and children's laughter.
Almost all vehicles in Zermatt are battery driven and almost completely silent. Taxi drivers have a habit of assuming that pedestrians have eyes in the backs of their heads, with occasional alarming though seldom injurious consequences. Horse drawn vehicles are equipped with bells and many startled pedestrians might well wish taxis were similarly provided.
You can cycle or stroll in complete safety
. Really unless you are in love with your car you'll be tempted to look at the real-estate ads offering the rare but occasional opportunity to own a restaurant on one of the side streets, just hire one Swiss (and show that you have capital to operate for a year) and you are good to go.
Incidentally there is a version of the standard Zermatt skimap/summer walking map in English although for some reason the lift stations only seem to hand out the German/French versions with tickets. The map is free - you can generally find it on one of the stands in the lift stations or in the Tourist Information centre.
The name "Zermatt" is a contraction of the local dialect words "zer", which means "to", and "matta", which means "field" or "meadow". Therefore: "to the field", although many of the fields have since had hotels of apartment houses built on them.
Probably the best way to reach Zermatt is by train, since you won't be able to drive once you get there anyway.
Around half of the trains are operated by a private company, but the tickets are available through the Swiss Federal Railway [http://www.rail.ch]. For a holiday to a specific destination the cheapest option is most likely a Swiss Transfer Ticket. In general rail passes ''are'' valid on the train, but there is a surcharge.
Private cars can only drive as far as Täsch. The last 7 km must be travelled by train or by taxi.
In winter it is necessary to reserve your parking space well in advance (tel: +41 27 967 33 66). List of park & ride companies.[http://www.zermatt.ch/ e/ access/ by-car .html]
If it's in line with your budget Air Zermatt [http://www.airzermatt.ch] will fly you in from major airports
It's also possible to book a airport transfer by limousine or van to get to Zermatt.
Around==Be aware that if you inadvertently drive your car into Zermatt, you will be fined 100CHF on the spot. The Swiss German policemen will not accept an excuse that you didn't see the sign (he will show you a photocopy of a photo of the sign and tell you that he is only doing his job).
If you have never been to Zermatt before and are not a skier or walker and are not aware that it is a car free zone, it is easy to miss the sign.
[[Image:Zermatt_river_matt.jpg|thumb|250px|The river Vispa runs right through town]]
The village of Zermatt, while dense, is geographically very small. There are three main streets which run along the banks of the river Vispa, and numerous cross-streets, especially around the station and the church which forms the center of the village. In general anything is at most a twenty minute walk away if you are fit.
There is no motor traffic to worry about, so walking right down the middle of the street is not only possible but advisable, though do watch out for the occasional mess left by horses (or goats).
During the summer there are roads and hiking trails leading up to a number of year-round restaurants in the direction of the Matterhorn.
Many of the higher-end hotels have porters who will meet you at the station with a small electric car/truck and will ferry you directly to check in, depositing the luggage in your room. A few of the really exclusive ones still use horse-drawn carriages.
Bus===There is a small fleet of electric or solar powered busses that go from one end of town to the other and to all the ski stations every 8 to 10 minutes. They are included in the ski-pass and are a good way of easily getting around town, though they don't go down the main street (Bahnhofstrasse).
Cable Car===There are a series of cable car runs leading all the way to the summit of the Klein Matterhorn (3883m), presenting the highest scenic outlook platform in Europe. A ride along the entire series costs 82CHF (about 55EUR) round trip.
*'''Gornergrat Railway''' A railway to the top of Mount Gornergrat. 36 CHF one way. Allow a few hours and enjoy the great view and the sunny place. A nice trip is to take the train up and hike down.
Mountain Biking==Zermatt is a great place to mountain bike although it doesn't appear to have really become popular there yet. Bikes can be hired from several shops around Zermatt from about 35CHF per day . For some reason helmets are not included and cost around 5CHF extra.
If you plan on cycling through town, take note that the main street (Bahnhofstrasse) is closed to bicycles(unless pushed) from the train station to the church for most of the afternoon, and the police are quick to fine anyone who does so anyway.
Make sure that you take some good quality cycling gloves since you can expect significant vibration from cycling along rocky tracks!
See== Check out the village cemetery. It's full of gravestones of people that died in the mountains, mostly on their way back.
[[Image:Matterhornnorth.jpg|thumb|250px|The Matterhorn]]* '''Breithorn''' The " Breithorn" (4150 m) is the easiest 4000er of the Alps. Using the lifts " Furri" ( 1700 m) , " Trockener Steg"( 2800 m) , " kleines Matterhorn" (3883 m) you reach the top of the little Matterhorn. Go down to the " Theodul- Gletscher" and follow the trail to left on the Breithorn. The top of the Breithorn can be reached after 2 h walking (no climbing!). A rope is necessary. You should not start the tour from the little Matterhorn after 10:00 in the morning, because the snow gets too weak and you will not reach the last lift down to Zermatt in time. The Glacier Paradise (Klein Matterhorn) ski area is at 3850m (3899m when the additional summer season drag lift is open).
*<do name="ES - European Snowsport - Zermatt Ski School" alt="ES" address="CO Azzurra Sport" directions="Left at the church over the bridge sports shop on the right" phone="+41 (0) 27 967 6787" url="http://www.europeansnowsport.com" hours="8 a.m. - 7 p.m." price="" lat="" long="">Zermatt Ski School and Snowboard School</do>
* '''YokmoK Adventures''', adventure travel company specialized in the Alps, [http://www.yokmok.com/index_e.html].
For a tiny hamlet Zermatt has more hotels than most big cities.
A rough estimate places the number of places to stay at somewhere in the range of 600-700. Apparently that's still not quite enough. If you want a good value room then perhaps you should consider booking ahead.
There are other options. You can camp, or as throughout Europe vacation apartments are the rage. Time shares are another option: if you know you want to ski one week per year, maybe go in with a friend or two on a property. Foreigners are allowed to buy up to a certain square meterage in Switzerland, and you are free to lease, rent, or otherwise assign the property any way you like, barring industrial use.
*'''Hotel Allalin''' A beautiful hotel that is in the center of the action in Zermatt. The hotel features incredible woodwork a friendly and accommodating staff and some rooms feature views of the Matterhorn.
* <sleep name="Walliserhof" alt="" address="Bahnhofstrasse, CH-3920" directions="" phone="" url="" checkin="" checkout="" price="" lat="" long="" 258="258" 98="98" email="[email protected]
" fax="+41 (0)27 966 65 50">Member of Swiss Quality Hotels International. The four star hotel built in typical Valaisan chalet style is
on the main street, 300m from the train station. Zermatt is absolutely car-free, so you need to take the train from Täsch to reach the village. Or you switch to one of the local cabs. Two-person room from 350CHF (high season as of January 2009).<br />www.reconline.ch/walliserhof/ www.SwissQualityHotels.com</sleep>
* <sleep name="Alpenroyal" alt="" address="CH-3920" directions="" phone="" url="" checkin="" checkout="" price="" lat="" long="" 258="258" 98="98" email="[email protected]
" fax="+41 (0)27 966 60 54">Member of Swiss Quality Hotels International. Three star hotel located 300m away from the train station and the city center. Zermatt is absolutely car-free, so you need to take the train from Täsch to reach the village. Or you switch to one of the local cabs. Single room from 180CHF, Two-person room from 239CHF (low season 2009).<br />www.alpenroyal.ch www.SwissQualityHotels.com</sleep>
Täsch is the next village down the mountain from Zermatt itself and shuttle trains run between the two villages approximately every 10-20 minutes during the day. The journey time is about 10 minutes and passes through some stunning scenery. The last train down the mountain to Tasch leaves Zermatt at around 11.
20 pm. The trains cost 7.60 CHF each way and tickets can be bought from automatic machines. The machines only accept coins or 20 CHF notes although you can buy tickets from the ticket office instead for most of the day. Note that the cash dispensers don't give out notes smaller than 50 CHF so don't arrive late in Tasch without any change . Taesch offers beautiful cross-country skiing trails from difficult to easy. If you don't have your own x-country skis, there is a shop in the village right by the train terminal that rents equipment. A day pass is quite cheap costing only CHF 5. which can be purchased at the train terminal (window 1) or in the ski-rental shop.