This Adorable Swiss Town Looks Straight Out of a Dr. Seuss Book

Summer dreams just north of Italy.

When trying to picture an ideal mountain-town scene—villages full of matching wooden homes surrounded by dramatically jagged, claw-like peaks—nothing compares to Switzerland. And one of the country’s most epitomized towns, which is almost a caricature of itself it’s so darn cute, is Zermatt.

Looking like something Dr. Seuss dreamed up, this village located just north of the Swiss-Italian border has become a booming tourist destination. Zermatt has earned serious acclaim for its car-free streets, stellar Matterhorn views, and incredible mountain adventures no matter the season. And then there’s the cheese, of course—not just the Swiss kind with cartoonishly big holes, but tons of fondues and melty cheesy goodness galore.

While winter brings an abundance of skiers and snowboarders to the surrounding slopes, when the snow melts, Zermatt’s many hiking trails spring to life, providing visitors with an awe-inspiring array of lush valleys, rock faces, and alpine lakes to explore. Whether you’re planning on trekking dawn-to-dusk across the Valais countryside or just kicking back under the Matterhorn with a spritz in hand, it’s tough to find a more relaxing destination in all of the Alps. Here’s what to do while in Zermatt.

Tradition Julen

Eat gooey cheeses and hearty dishes

In spite of its small size, Zermatt is equipped with a king-sized food and drink scene, offering refreshing craft brews, international wines, and more melted cheese than you could possibly dream of scarfing down. For a crash course on the traditional cuisine of Valais—Zermatt’s home canton—a trip to the abundantly-charming Schäferstube is certainly in order. Housed within the storied Hotel Julen, this restaurant offers ample opportunity to try some of the region’s most flavorful dishes, with Valais rarebit, lamb fondue, and all-you-can-eat raclette all gracing the menu.

Elsie's Wine & Champagne Bar

Meanwhile, a haven for drink aficionados sits just down the road in the form of Restaurant Rosstall. Decadent Swiss classics abound here, ranging from truffle-loaded fondue to crispy Wienerschnitzel—but the real prize can be found on the inn’s beverage menu. During dinner, patrons can sample a wealth of whites and reds produced right here in Valais, or grab a crisp Zermatt Bier for a little taste of the local brewing scene.

And if you’re planning on keeping the train rolling after a few brews? Elsie’s Wine & Champagne Bar is a must-visit for a nightcap, equipped with an impressive array of digestifs served right in the center of the village.

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Hike your way through the Swiss Alps

A veritable skiers' paradise in the dead of winter, Zermatt’s landscape undergoes a dramatic shift during the warmer months with ample opportunity for outdoor adventure. For hardcore hikers, one of the area’s most conquer-worthy routes kicks off right in the heart of the village. Running 12.3 miles in total, the Hohbalm loop trail features some of the finest alpine scenery available in the region, with no shortage of challenging elevation fluctuations to keep things interesting along the way.

If the above hike sounds a little too ambitious, have no fear—there’s a far simpler route that offers fine dining as an added bonus. Beginning in the center of Zermatt, participants can follow the Blatten hiking trail south, taking a leisurely uphill stroll for about 1.2 miles before arriving at the beloved Bergrestaurant Blatten. There’s ample space for outdoor dining around here, allowing diners to snap a perfect photo of their rösti with the Matterhorn serving as a stellar backdrop.


Soar to new heights on the Gornergrat Railway

There’s no shortage of spectacular mountain vistas to be found all throughout the Visp district, but if you’re hoping to capture a truly incredible perspective of the Matterhorn, there’s no beating Gornergrat. Fortunately, modern technology has eliminated the need for a multi-hour climb to its summit, with the Gornergrat Railway providing a comfortable 30-minute cruise to the top.

Serving as the tallest open-air cog railway in the entire continent, this marvel of mechanics climbs just under 5,000 feet as it winds its way up to Gornergrat, with stunning forest and lakeside views along the way. Upon arrival, visitors are welcome to bask in the panoramic views, grab an Hugo Spritz from Restaurant vis-à-vis, or scan the mountainside for native Valais ibex, a European wild goat that’s famed for its long curved horns.


Treat yourself to a lavish hotel stay

Zermatt’s stellar potential for skiing has ushered in a seriously lavish hospitality scene, and these resorts aren’t just in business when the snow is surging. There’s a wide array of options to choose from across town, but if you’re planning a splurge-worthy, once-in-a-lifetime trip, there’s just one place to keep in mind.

Known as The Omnia, this palatial property serves as the crown jewel of Zermatt accommodations, seamlessly blending top-of-the-line luxury with the rustic charm of an old-school alpine lodge. Amenities around here range from the property’s sun-soaked outdoor terrace to one of Zermatt’s coziest hangout spots—namely, the outdoor hot tub, which is perfectly positioned to give bathers a spectacular view of the entire village with the Matterhorn looming overhead. For a truly memorable stay, spring for the Omnia Tower Suite, a spacious abode that includes a massive Matterhorn-facing patio, a fully-functional fireplace, and a Swarovski Optik telescope that’s perfect for finding native Swiss wildlife in the distance.

If you’re planning a more budget-conscious trip, there’s a plethora of perfectly cozy accommodations that won’t break the bank. Just outside the train station, the Hotel Butterfly offers tasty Italian cuisine, afternoon tea, and an abundance of freshly-renovated bedrooms. Meanwhile the riverside Hotel Bristol is home to plush Matterhorn-facing suites and a spa complete with a traditional Finnish sauna.

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Explore Zermatt’s neighboring villages

Though Zermatt is spectacularly beautiful on its own, it's far from the only idyllic alpine village found within the region. In addition to abundant natural beauty, Switzerland is also blessed with a highly-useful rail system that provides quick and simple transport to a wealth of other Valais gems.

Located one hour north of Zermatt, the district capital of Visp may not be quite as picturesque as its neighbor, but there’s still a wealth of charming bars and restaurants to explore around town. If you’re in the mood for a little alpine bar crawl, Visper Pinta is a top spot located just outside the train station. Upon arrival, guests are welcome to snag a fresh local ale on draft, then follow it up with a pour of Valais schnapps. After a couple drinks, nearby Swiss-Thai is a top-tier spot for flavorful Southeast Asian dining, while Old Dublin offers a tiny slice of the Emerald Isle if you need a little change from the alpine scenery.

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Jared Ranahan is a freelance writer focusing on travel, wildlife, and food & beverage.