The shark’s-tooth Matterhorn (4478m) is the most famous of Switzerland’s mountains; for most people, the Matterhorn stands for Switzerland like the Eiffel Tower stands for France. One reason it’s so famous is that it stands alone, its impossibly pointy shape sticking up from an otherwise uncrowded horizon above Zermatt; another is that the quintessential Swiss chocolate, Toblerone, was modelled on it.
Zermatt’s main street is thronged year-round with an odd mix of professional climbers, glacier skiers, tour groups, backpackers and fur-clad socialites. No cars are allowed in the town; electric buses ferry people between the train station at the town’s northern end and the cable-car terminus 1km south.
All Zermatt’s cable cars and trains bring you to trailheads and spectacular views: opposite the station, Gornergrat-Bahn trains give spectacular Matterhorn views (sit on the right) as they climb all the way to the Gornergrat, a vantage point with a magnificent panorama including Switzerland’s highest peak, the Dufourspitze (4634m).
Once a week in summer, GGB trains leave Zermatt at dawn for a breathtaking Alpine sunrise and a wildlife hike. At the south end of Zermatt a cable car climbs to the Schwarzsee (2583m), in summer, the start of a zigzag walk (2hr) to the Hörnli Hut (3260m), on the flank of the mountain itself. Lifts to Trockener Steg give access to 21km of ski runs and a snowboard half-pipe that are open all summer long.