The highlight of our visit to Zermatt was a train trip up to the top of the Gornergrat. The Gornergrat is a rocky ridge that sits at an altitude of 3,089 m in the Pennine Alps, Switzerland. The rim can be reached from Zermatt by the Gornergrat railway, the highest open-air railway in Europe.
A trip to the to of Gornergrat is one of the best things to do in Zermatt. From up there you can enjoy the stunning views of almost 30 peaks, including the famous Matterhorn. If seeing the Matterhorn is a once in a lifetime experience, admiring the sleepy giant from different angles and altitudes is even more fascinating.
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What to Expect on the Train Ride from Zermatt to Gornergrat
The cogwheel train ride from Zermatt to the viewing platform on the Gornergrat is an experience in itself. The train leaves from a yellow building (station) just across the main train station in Zermatt.
The ride takes a little over half an hour, but it’s really beautiful. As you leave the station, the track climbs around the back side of Zermatt leaving the village behind in the deep valley.
While the train continues to climb going through small wooden tunnels and wiggling through the curves, you may see cute marmots, mountain sheep, or goats and enjoy some of the best views of the Matterhorn.
The scenery changes continually, taking you first through beautiful woods and meadows with lots of wild flowers, then passing by ski slops and snow covered mountain peaks.
There are five stops along the way and your ticket allows you to get off at any of them and then re-join the train, if you decide to stop for photos or just to walk for a while.
Things to Do Atop the Gornergrat
Once the train arrives at its final destination atop the Gornergrat, you can walk up the short, snowy path that leads first to a little chapel, then to the hotel/restaurant and the observatory whose domes are visible for miles.
Further up there are some more steps that lead to a wider viewing platform where you get a 360-degree view of the entire Monte Rosa range of mountains, including the iconic Matterhorn.
Hiking Down to Zermatt from Gornergrat
After admiring the stunning panoramic views from the top of the Gornergrat, you can then take the train back to Zermatt, or you may choose to come down on foot.
We took the cogwheel half way and then hiked all the way down to our hotel in Zermatt. The hiking was not difficult, but it took longer than we expected. What was estimated to be a 4 hour hike ended up being about 6 hours, even though we walked pretty fast.
Hiking down to Zermatt was the best part of the trip. The road goes parallel with the railway for a while, but then it turns to the left and goes through the woods.
Interested in riding a train in Switzerland? Read about our experience riding the cogwheel train to the top of Jungfraujoch.
Tips for Riding the Train from Zermatt to Gornergrat
To fully enjoy this trip, consider these tips:
- Take the earliest train to Gornergrat
- On the way up the mountain sit on the right side in the direction of the train. This is where you’ll have the best, unobstructed views to the valley without having to look over the other passengers’ heads.
- Sit in the last car of the train if you want to take pictures of the train during the curves. The train windows can be opened, so you’ll come home with some fantastic pictures.
- Dress warmly as it’s windy and sometimes quite cold at the top of the Gornergrat. Also wear good hiking boots because you’ll have to hike a little to reach the viewing platform.
- Luggage space is limited on the train, but there are luggage lockers in Zermatt to store you large luggage.
- If you have a Swiss Rail Pass you get a 50% discount on the cogwheel tickets, but they are still expensive.
In summer, as the snow melts revealing a lush scenery with beautiful lakes and mountain springs. Unless the weather is bad, I would encourage you to walk from the Gornergrat all the way down to Zermatt. It’s the best part of the trip!
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