Thursday, July 16, 2009

Travel Guide: Zermatt, Switzerland

Pitch: The village of Zermatt delivers extreme peace and beauty on the Swiss/Italian border of the Alps. It's a famous (and oddly, German-speaking) alpine town at the base of the daunting peak of Matterhorn. Hit the slopes year-round or find adventure (like me) below 5,000 feet.

Arrive: By train or helicopter...anything BUT a car (you will be fined if you attempt to drive in). We drove and parked at the train station in Brig and took the Mattterhorn Express to and from Zermatt. Scenic hour and twenty minute train ride. Once you arrive, there are electric taxis, rental bikes, or even horse and buggies as modes of transportation.

Stay: At Hotel Bellerive (Riedstrasse 3) or at another one of the chic chateaus in the tiny village. We loved our room especially because it had the most comfortable bed we would sleep on for our entire two week trip. The spa in the basement is romantic, clean, and the perfect way to relax after a day of skiing or hiking. Hotel Monte Rosa (Bahnhofstrasse 80; 41-27-966-03-33; is a little more central and across the street is the luxurious Grand Hotel Zermatterhof.

Play: Walk up to the sports store next to the Matterhorn gondola and rent all-terrain scooters. They will give you a helmet and gloves and then it's up to you to take TWO separate gondolas to the top of the trail. I admit, it was a pain sherpa-ing these scooters in and out of gondolas, but once we arrived and found the trail, the ride down was the coolest experience I've ever had. The pictures don't do it justice. You have free rein of the mountain and can go as fast (or slow) as you want. Stop to check out the waterfalls and maybe even duck into a lodge for a coffee. And don't forget a camera!

Eat lunch:  For something a bit gourmet with a lively outdoor garden where you can drink and dine, try Ristorante Seilerhaus Molino (Bahnhofstrasse). For a casual, more traditional meal (maybe a weiner and beer) grab an outdoor table at Old Zermatt Restaurant (Steinmattenstrasse).

Shop/explore: Bahnhofstrasse is the Fifth Avenue of Zermatt. You'll find fine watch and jewelry stores, couture boutiques, and galleries, among many sports apparel shops. If you didn't come with gear, you'll leave outfitted.

Relax: Time for a massage, sauna, or maybe even an afternoon drink. Most hotels have a number for a local massage therapist or in-house specialists. The Papperla Pub (Steinmattenstrasse 34) is the locals choice for a beer or cocktail.

Eat dinner: I highly recommend Myoko Teppan-Yaki & Sushi (Bahnhofstrasse). This was by far the most internationally diverse dining experience I've had. The table across from us was 4 young French women on vacation from Paris who hit it off with the couple next to them from Australia. The couple was returning to Mykoto after one year and insisted to the Teppan-Yaki chef and rest of the staff that they had been looking forward to this dinner since their last time in. The husband and wife at our station were quiet until we asked them about the tasting menu they ordered. After we initiated the conversation, they jumped right into speaking English to us about Zermatt (they're locals) and the excellent restaurants. The food stood up to the rave reviews. Sushi is sushi (Mykoto's was fresh and delicate) and the chicken terriyaki was authentic and delicious. We can't wait to go back. 

Entertainment: Option 1: A movie at Vernissage - it's actually a bar, art gallery, restaurant, and movie theater (Hofmattstrasse 4). Option 2: Like quirky bar with live music? Head to The Hotel Post (Bahnhofstrasse). Option 3: Dancing, drinking, and debauchery at the Broken Bar Disco. Option 4: Club it til your legs collapse at Schneewittchen (next to Papperla Pub). Option 5: Get in your cozy bed and watch a DVD from the hotel's video library. Can you guess what I chose? ;)

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