I knew the minute I crossed the border from Italy into Switzerland. First, the train announcements switched from Italian to Swiss German. Then, the look of the houses began to change. Train station names and road signs ceased to be in Italian. The most striking change came when the drink cart vendor switched languages—he went from speaking flowery Italian to roaring by with an urgent Achtung!
Catching the Matterhorn Glacier Express
After changing trains in Brig, Switzerland I was on my way to Zermatt, the picturesque mountain village at the foot of the Matterhorn. The journey here is half the fun. You board a little red train with big picture windows called the Gotthard Bahn, or Glacier Express, which chugs along as it slowly winds its way ever upwards past sweet little swiss chalets full of carved wooden hearts.
Right outside the train window were fields of sheep and cows (wearing actual cow bells to boot), grazing in valleys dotted with waterfalls and streams. As the train emerged from each successive tunnel, the scenery seemed to grow even more beautiful: soaring mountain peaks stemming from emerald green valleys speckled with houses in the distance, complete with smoke escaping their chimneys, all surrounded by trees accented with splashes of yellow and orange leaves.
The Glacier Express line ended in Zermatt, a cute alpine village filled with charming wooden buildings decorated with colorful window shades with fun details like carved hearts. Mountains encircle the city center, soaring skywards and disappearing into the clouds, culminating in the highest peak of all: the Matterhorn.
Zermatt itself is small, comprised of a main street lined with restaurants, bars, and shops. Of course, the real highlight here is up top in the mountains, which are open year round for snow sports. When you’re not busy snuggling up to a cozy fire with a hot cocoa and watching the snow fall outside, you can head down to the center of town to the Matterhorn museum, which is the perfect primer for a corresponding jaunt up to the top of the Matterhorn. Displaying a reconstructed series of houses that give you an idea of what life up on the mountain was like in the early days of serious climbing expeditions, this museum is completely underground, except for its pointed glass peak rising from street level.
Settling in: Romantik Hotel Julen
We stayed at the lovely Romantik Hotel Julen—seriously the most adorable hotel ever! A sweet heart theme is carried out throughout, with heart candies, hearts on the doors, on your robes—everywhere. The place really looks like something out of a storybook fairytale. The rooms are the best treat with wooden ceilings and walls throughout, accented by colorful curtains with big bow ties and faux candle chandeliers.
The hotel also has its own spa with a Cleopatra theme. A tiled plunge pool changes colors as you swim, going from purples to blues to greens to yellows then reds. But the best part is upstairs where you’ll find soft lounge beds below a glass ceiling through which you can watch the snow fall. This room is surrounded by various saunas, some dry, some humid, some scented, each decked out in their own decor. One has ceilings studded with tiny star lights that change colors, while another has fountains that splash onto gold mosaics. It’s the perfect place to unwind and get out of the cold weather!
The lobby is covered in animal skins, from throws to pillows to upholstered chairs and footstools. It’s the perfect place to sink into a good book by the fire, or grab a drink at the cozy adjoining bar. Plus breakfast in the hotel restaurant is a seriously gourmet affair with a huge spread of goodies, complete with hot chocolate and smoked fish and meats alongside soft Swiss cheeses, all enjoyed in a homey alpine atmosphere. At the end of the day, you get Toblerone chocolates on your pillow, a miniature edible version of the real Matterhorn looming just outside.
Check out more Zermatt coverage, including a jaunt up the Matterhorn and a visit to a glacier palace!