zermatt

This article in Volume 26: The Nostalgia Issue

Stepping off the train in Zermatt (and train is the only way one arrives in this car-free town), I crunch across a snowy square ringed by horse-drawn sleighs. As the horses’ breath curls into the afternoon air and fairy lights twinkle in a towering fir tree, the look of sheer wonder on my nine-month-old daughter Mathilde’s face transports me to my own first experience of arriving in this chocolate-box world aged just nine.

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For all its smart hotels, Michelin-starred restaurants and world-famous ski slopes, Zermatt is still very much the small family community it was when Edward Whymper and his climbing companions pored over maps of the Matterhorn in the parlour of the Hotel Monte Rosa back in 1865. And, just as I have returned again and again to Zermatt since my parents first brought me here, I like to think that my daughter will also fall under the spell of the town beneath the mighty mountain.

TO STAY

Mont Cervin Palace

This fantastically grand hotel oozes history and old-school glamour, yet has a surprisingly contemporary design scheme in its bedrooms. There’s a fabulous spa, excellent children’s facilities and no fewer than six restaurants.

Cervo Mountain Boutique Resort

Zermatt’s only ski-in/ski-out hotel, the Cervo offers rocking après-ski and two restaurants. The stylish rooms range from cosy doubles to the sought-after, three-bedroom Owner’s Lodge.

Gandegghütte

Set just off the pistes high above Zermatt, this cosy mountain refuge offers respite from the glitz (and mod cons) of the town. Think dinner in your thermals, snuggling up by a wood burner and waking up to frosted-shut windows.

TO EAT

Chez Vrony

One of Zermatt’s most iconic mountain restaurants, Chez Vrony has hosted skiers and hikers for over 100 years in the surrounds of the rustic-chic Julen family chalet. Signature dishes include dry-cured meats, a killer burger and truffle fondue, all sourced from the family farm.

Zum See

Another Zermatt classic situated in a centuries-old farm, Zum See delivers rustic charm by the bucketload. Work up an appetite for hearty mountain favourites such as rösti, barley soup and croûte au fromage.

Whymper Stube

Named after the English mountaineer and author Edward Whymper, who dined in this cosy restaurant before and after his first ascent of the Matterhorn, the Whymper Stube delivers classic Swiss dishes including fondues, raclettes, pepper steak and Bratwurst sausage.

DRINK + DANCE

Champagne Tent

Set on the piste just above the Sunnegga lift, the tiny Champagne Tent serves Veuve Cliquot al fresco from beneath mustard- yellow parasols and on fur-topped stools, with views of the Matterhorn abounding from all sides. Remember to bring cash as credit cards are not accepted.

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Gee's Bar & Brasserie

A stylish 1920s-style cocktail bar and brasserie, Gee’s is the place to be seen. Open 11am to 2am (stretching to 3.30am for the Cuckoo Club downstairs), it serves up pan-Asian food, cocktails and live music daily.

The Snowboat

Owned by man about town Gee – of Gee’s Bar fame – this boat- shaped bar sits near the base of the Sunnegga lift, making it a prime après-ski spot. The three-storey building is also home to the Zermatt Yacht Club restaurant, which works in partnership with London’s Billingsgate Fish Market.

TO DO

Gornergrat Railway

Once a month through winter to coincide with the full moon, you can travel up from Zermatt to the 3100 Kulmhotel and restaurant (perched 3,100 metres above sea level) aboard the Gornergrat funicular railway for a magical evening of fondue and star-spotting.

Horu Käserei

Named after the local nickname for the Matterhorn, the family- run Horu-Käserei is Zermatt’s sole dairy, producing cheeses and yoghurt from cows that graze in the pastures above town. Stock up for when the cheese withdrawal symptoms hit back home.

Klein Matterhorn

Follow in the footsteps of mountaineers like Edward Whymper by tackling Zermatt’s iconic slopes. Skiing a top-to-bottom is no mean feat – make it from the peak of the Klein Matterhorn into town and you’ll have descended 2,263 vertical metres along some 15 kilometres of scenic pistes.

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