Switzerland is one of our favorite countries, and this trip gave us the opportunity to explore more of it. After flying into Zurich, we took the train to Zermatt for skiing in the Swiss Alps. Zermatt is a cute and cosy ski town where they don’t even allow cars! The beauty of the surrounding snow covered mountains and the majestic Matterhorn was absolutely surreal. From Zermatt, we took the train to Bern. The old town of Bern is perched above the river valley, offering amazing views of the city and surrounding area. Our last stop was Zurich, where we revisited some of our favorite spots from our honeymoon trip, and also spent time exploring new sites.
Getting to Zermatt from Zurich
We took the train from Zurich Airport to Zermatt, via the Lotschberger train, which is considered the scenic route. It goes over the older mountain pass which means it adds about 45 minutes to the journey. A new tunnel and route is also available, and is the quickest route. If you purchase the Half Pass, you get 50% off various trains and attractions, including the Gornergrat and the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise.
Top Things to do in Zermatt
Matterhorn Glacier Paradise
Home to the highest cable car station in Europe, the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise is located at 12,740 ft (3,883 m). Located right next to the Italian border, it offers breathtaking views from its 360 degree panoramic platform, including the highest mountains in the alps. Views of the Matterhorn are also great from this elevation and it's just simply stunning to look at the surrounding landscape from so high up. You can ski down from the top, but only if you are an expert skier as the slopes can be very challenging on the way down. There is also a cafe where you can grab drinks or food.
Tips: Tips: Dress very, very warmly and check the temperatures beforehand. The combination of altitude and high wings makes it dangerously cold in the middle of winter. Also bring sunglasses and be mindful of the elevation if you usually experience altitude sickness. It is best to go late morning, after the morning rush but before the afternoon/end of day rush. The ride up in the cable cars and gondolas can also get your palms sweaty if you are at all afraid of heights, but is totally worth it so just suck it up!
The <a href="https://www.gornergratbahn.ch/en/winter/ target="_blank">Gornergrat Train leaves from a small station across from the Zermatt train station and takes you up to the summit of Gornergrat, making it the second highest railway in Europe (10,135 ft or 1,604 m). Once at the summit, you can experience amazing views of both the Matterhorn and the surrounding alps. There is also a restaurant at the summit.
At the valley station, you take a funicular ride through the mountain up to Sunnegga, that offers incomparable views of the Matterhorn. There is a restaurant and bar with an outdoor terrace to not only enjoy great views of the Matterhorn and skiers, but a perfect place to enjoy a hot or cold drink (après-ski). There are also various cozy “ski-in” restaurants and bars along the slopes, where you can stop and get a bite to eat or drink.
Tips: Sunnegga offers lifts for beginners: “blue” runs as well as the Wolli Park to learn and practice. If you are new to skiing, definitely get the Wolli Pass as it offers access to the Wolli Park and various easy runs nearby.
Other Tips for Zermatt
Flex Rent is a family run rental shop right near the Sunnegga Paradise lift. It is perfectly convenient and they have helpful, friendly service. You can leave your rentals there overnight if you are skiing or snowboarding for multiple days.
Food and Drink in Zermatt
Restaurant Walliseratube: Head here for great food and an authentic Swiss experience. They have a really good weiner schnitzel and offer fresh fish dishes as well.
Grampi’s: Grampi’s is an Italian restaurant located in the heart of Zermatt. The pizza and pasta are excellent, especially after a day on the slopes. The restaurant is situated over multiple floors, making it feel more intimate.
Fuchs: Fuchs is a nice bakery and cafe in Zermatt (they have a couple locations). It's a great spot to get something light to eat, like a sandwich or pastry, and a coffee or tea.
Where to Stay in Zermatt
If you are planning to ski at Sunnegga, we highly recommend the Hotel National Zermatt for its proximity to the lift and reasonable prices. You can call the hotel and get picked up at the train station by the hotel shuttle.
Top Things to do in Bern
Old Town is the medieval city center of Bern, situated on a hill that juts over the River Aare. It is full of history, including its many fountains that line the streets, and cobblestone streets with green-coloured building facades, giving it a true old world charm.
Munster Kirche (Bern Minster)
The Munster Kirche is the Cathedral of Bern, with its construction beginning in 1421 and today is the tallest cathedral in Switzerland. Largely Gothic style, this cathedral faces Munsterplatz and runs parallel to the River Aare.
Tips: Grab a drink and watch the sunset from the Munsterplattform next to the cathedral.
Clock Tower (Zytglogge)
Located in Old Town, this medieval Clock Tower was built in the 13th century. In the 15th century, the astronomical clock was added. Since then, it has served as a fun tourist attraction. Watch what happens when the hour changes!
Schutzenbrunnen and Old Town Fountains
Old Town Bern is lined with fountains (at least 100 of them), some of which date back to the 16th century. They each depict interesting illustrations and symbols of Bern’s past and historical figures, fun to read about as you visit them. One of the most famous is of a child-eating ogre!*
Bear Pit Park
Interestingly enough, there are bears that live in Bern in a secured park along the river bank. They bears were still hibernating when we visited, but worth a visit in the spring and summer months!
Einstein Haus is a small museum about the life of Einstein, located in one of his past homes. It provides an interesting recount of his life and good only takes about 45 minutes. The cost is 6 CHF for an adult.
Bern is the capital city of Switzerland and Bundesplatz is the city’s Government Plaza, located in Old Town. The plaza is surrounded by nice architecture, restaurants and pretty views overlooking the River Aare valley.
*Tips: Head to the back of the Bundeshaus (Parliament Building) for the terrace and views overlooking the river.
Food and Drink in Bern
Wein Kabinet Bergdorf
A cute and cosy wine bar in Old Town with a good wine selection and small bites to eat. Fun spot to hang with some locals.
Great authentic Swiss food in the Kirchenfeld neighborhood, just over the bridge from Old Town. Nice wine list and good ambiance!
Don’t forget to get a butter pretzel at one of the many places throughout town!
Where to Stay in Bern
Although located across the river from Old Town, Hotel Allegro Bern offers nice rooms and great views of Bern (if your room does not have a view, check out the panorama terrace on the top floor). They also offer a free tram pass during your stay and there is a stop right outside the hotel entrance. Hotel Allegro Bern also boasts one of the city’s casinos if you want to try your luck at the tables.
Top Things to do in Zurich
The city of Zurich lines the river Limmat that connects to Lake Zurich. A great area to have an afternoon stroll, including the Arboretum botanical garden and park, or even take one of the ferry boats out on the water. It is also a great spot to watch the sunset over the neighboring mountains.
Taking a trip up to Uetliberg Mountain is one of our favorite things to do in Zurich. We have visited in Autumn and Winter, both recommended for the beautiful landscape (amazing fall foliage or snow covered trees). The mountain offers great walks and amazing views of Zurich on one side, and the countryside on the other. There is also a restaurant at the top with an outdoor terrace to enjoy the views when the weather is nice.
Tips: Take the tram from the main train station. Give yourself a few minutes and be sure to buy the proper return tickets as the Swiss take incorrect or missing tickets quite seriously (the first time we went we had purchased the wrong tickets and the ticket lady was not happy!).
We discovered Lindenhofplatz on our trip and are glad we did! This square and park offer great views of the river Limmat and Zurich’s characteristic architecture - a perfect spot to bring an afternoon picnic. The area is the historic site of the original Roman settlement, making it one of the oldest parts of the city.
Food and Drink in Zurich
Quite possibly the most famous patisserie in Zurich, they boast an amazing variety of macarons and truffles that are absolutely exquisite.
Tips: Visit one of the main cafes and shops, such as the one on Lowenstrasse for the full experience.
Jules Verne Panoramabar
This lively bar offers panoramic views of Zurich, including the old town. It is a great spot to grab a few drinks before dinner and watch the sun go down.
A very traditional Swiss restaurant experience offering authentic variety of homemade sausages and draft house beer. Be mindful that the tables are communal style, so you may be sharing space with another party.
Although we were not able to eat here, Walliserkeller offers a dining experience in a refurbished Swiss cable car, which seems like a very cool experience!
A small takeaway chain that offers pretty amazing pretzels, including pretzel sandwiches and pretzel dogs. A must if you find yourself in the train station!