Zermatt is the ultimate ski resort for the winter holidays. And for an expat, there is no bigger dream than to ski with the iconic Matterhorn as a backdrop. Zermatt is a charming, car-free ski village that has it all while still feeling small. And with so much amazing skiing available for the entire family, it’s truly a winter wonderland.
A wonderful perk of living in Switzerland is being able to send our ski equipment and luggage ahead to meet us at our destination. We simply took all our gear to the local train station and had it sent ahead to meet us at the Zermatt station. So on the Saturday morning of school holidays, we woke up, made our pancakes, and walked down to the train station without having to lug our wheeled bags and ski gear. This is absolutely a must for any family going on a ski holiday by train in Switzerland.
The approximately three-hour train trip from the Zurich main station to Zermatt is absolutely gorgeous. Zurich to Visp included a playground train compartment that our girls loved. The second train from Visp to Zermatt was smaller and the girls colored and worked on sticker books while my husband and I gasped and took pictures of the scenery.
We were lucky enough to spend a week at the Best Western Hotel Butterfly over the Christmas holiday. The hotel is just a minute’s walk from the train station and the ski school lesson meeting point each morning. The service was amazing from the moment we checked in. We had booked two single rooms online, as it looked like the cheapest option in all of Zermatt.
When we arrived, they said they could put us in a family room, bring in a bed for the girls, and charge us for only one room. Phew! Money saved! (Top tip: they said to book by phone or email them next year to get the family room, as it is not listed online.) The owners knew the girls’ names and talked with them each day at the lovely happy hour (free food and plenty of board games). There is a gem of a man named Franco hosting the happy hour and he loved making sure everyone was completely satisfied with food, drinks, and laughter.
We were doing Zermatt as cheaply as possible, so the first two nights we grabbed food from Coop and had sandwiches and fruit for dinner. Breakfast was included at our hotel. It was a wonderful experience and I would recommend it, especially if you are looking for an affordable holiday in Zermatt. And the location can’t be beat.
Next, we set out to explore the village and stretch our legs after the train journey. We stopped at an outdoor ice bar in the center of town for two steamy mugs of Glühwein, with a spectacular view of the Matterhorn. This was our first glimpse of it all together as a family. The girls played in the snow while we adults warmed up.
We took the Gornergratbahn each morning from the train station in town and ate at the Riffleberg ski lodge for lunch. For dinner, we usually grabbed food at Coop. A few nights we ate out with friends and the food was fantastic. We loved Swiss Chalet with their all-you-can-eat fondue. And a family favorite was The Factory. And for the ultimate splurge with an epic view, make sure to book ahead at Chez Vrony. When we went, they had a bouncy castle out front and the girls played in there for hours. It’s a wonderful casual atmosphere with fantastic food.
The girls took ski lessons that I would highly recommend, as the instructors taught in English and were super child-friendly.
For lunch and coffee breaks on the days we did not ski, we stopped at bakeries and ate on the upper floor and watched the people and the horses in the street below. We loved the soups and salads at the bakeries. The most fun for me was drinking Glühwein at the ice bar in the center of town, next to the Matterhorn Museum. Zermatt is a such fabulous place to spend a ski week.
Also, Zermatt is a fantastic resort any time of the year. We went over the summer and had the most amazing weekend. We lucked out with a great summer deal at the Schweizerhof Residence, which has a pool and an amazing breakfast. By the way, there is a spectacular playground up at Sunnegga.
Text and photos by Kate Prinsloo
Originally from a small farm town in the U.S., Kate moved with her family to Zurich in 2014 after having lived in London. She runs Mom In Zurich and is a social media contributor with Mothering Matters. Kate enjoys traveling with her family, the Bürkliplatz farmers’ market, and having Instagram meetups at the wonderful cafés in Zurich. She is currently struggling through A1 German lessons.