Zermatt in the winter time can only be described as a magical winter wonderland. This chocolate box alpine village, under its blanket of snow, is set against the backdrop of the iconic Matterhorn and is a must on anyone’s Swiss itinerary. Children and adults alike will fall under the spell of this charming, fairytale village – visiting Zermatt with kids is a must! The excitement starts with the scenic journey on the narrow-gauge and cog railway from Tasch.
Zermatt with Kids – Activities
There are many activities on and off the slopes that will keep children (and adults!) entertained.
There are 360 kilometres of ski slopes catering to all levels. You can get a pass that covers both Switzerland and Italy – it can be fun to pop across to the land of pasta and pizza. Switzerland does its bit to encourage children to take up skiing from a young age with free ski passes for the under-9s and half-price passes for the under-16s.
Zermatt is very well served in terms of ski schools – there are plenty to choose from and we recommend you check out the tourist office’s website for a comprehensive list. Generally younger children go for mornings only and older ones stay for the whole day.
The ski schools normally have a dedicated beginners area and non-customers can also take their little ones for some practice runs at the likes of the Wolli park at Sunnegga.
Alternatives to Skiing
Maybe you’re not into skiing? Maybe your children are too little to hit the slopes? Or maybe the weather conditions are rubbish!
Here are some suggestions to keep the little ones busy:
There are many of the hotels which allow non-resident guests to use their swimming pools (for a fee)
You can hire a sledge from most ski hire shops and pull your kids round the village or venture further out of town to find some gentle slopes – the Winkelmatten area is great for this. If you’re feeling brave, check out the Rotenboden sledging toboggan run at the Gornergrat – only suitable for older children.
There are two ice-rinks in the village. One is more suitable to little ones with its pushalong penguins to help prop up the tiny tots. You can hire ice-skates at the sports shop in the Coop complex right next to the icerink.
There is a sweet little museum towards the top end of the village. You’ll discover the history of the village and learn all there is to know about climbers who took on the majestic Matterhorn.
Horse & Carriage
If you’re feeling flush then take a ride on the horse and carriage which leaves from the train station. We recommend doing this when it’s dark so you can fully enjoy the lit up version of Zermatt.
There are a number of playgrounds dotted about the village with one of the best ones just behind the Coop and next to the ice rink.
Why not go for a train ride on the famous Gornergrat – it takes about 35 minutes to reach the top. You can check their online timetable for departure times.
Loop Around Zermatt
Zermatt is such a picture-postcard village and well worth a walk round. Here’s a suggestion for an itinerary that takes in the main sites that will interest children. The loop is 1.35km, however, with stops you could easily spend a couple of hours getting round. Click into the map below and zoom in or out as required.
Travel Back in Time Walk
If you want to travel back in time, do not miss our favourite oldy worldy street – the Hinterdorfstrasse. This short stretch of lost-in-time road links the river to the Bahnofstrasse (main street) and gives you an idea of what Zermatt must have been like before glitz, skiing and climbing heroes took over. You will see the traditional Swiss chalets, les Racards, perched on their large flint stone bases (to keep vermin out).
For the Foodies
If you’re on a budget, buy your groceries at the local supermarket, Migros or the Coop, both of which are situated in very central locations. If you’re staying in self-catering accomodation, then buy cheese from the supermarket or specialist cheese shop and have either fondue or raclette at home.
Eating Out In the Village
You might want to splash out and head out for a family dinner. There’s a great choice of restaurants tailoring to all tastes from traditional Swiss fayre to Japanese, Chinese, Italian and more. One of our favourite family-friendly places is The Factory – it’s a really fun, quirky place with great service. The décor is funky and the restaurant is set out over several floors. You can also find reasonably-priced wood-fired pizzas at the Walliserkanne on the main street.
Eating On The Slopes
The main ski stations have the typical cafeteria style restaurants serving wienerli frites, bratwurst, rosti and such like. However, there are some absolute gems that we can’t recommend highly enough.
Our absolute favourite is Chez Vrony – from the décor, the ambience, the staff and of course the food, it’s a must – we love to treat ourselves when the kids are at ski school.
Babysitting: Nights Out For the Grown Ups
Children are welcome in most restaurants and many often offer early dining if you have little ones. However, you might fancy a grown up night out during your stay in Zermatt. The tourist office has a list of babysitters they can provide you with. We have used the Alpine Nanny on a few occasions and she was brilliant.
There’s a lively après-ski scene in Zermatt. Depending on your kids’ age, you may have to wait a few more years to indulge in some proper après-ski as these bars tend to get very noisy. Here are some of the more popular ones:
Iglu dorf – snow bar bar on the slopes!
The Snowboat – a fun, boat-shaped building by the river.
Harry’s Ski Bar – a tiny pub next to the river
Alternatively, head for a yummy hot chocolate with the kiddos in one of the local bakeries – Fuchs bakery – your coffee will be served with a tiny chocolate cup filled with cream. Or, go for a walk around the village and make sure you pick up some roasted chestnuts by the ski school building on the main street.
We usually stay in self-catering accommodation as this suits our family’s needs perfectly. Our absolute favourite is The Mischabel apartment: it’s located right in the centre of the town and is only a 2 minute walk to the closest supermarket and a short walk to all the ski lifts.
There is an amazing variety of hotels on offer – traditional, modern, trendy catering to every wallet size – some including half board/full board.
- Make sure you have a CHF 5 (franc) coin when you arrive in Tasch’s/Zermatt’s train station so that you can use one of the trolley’s.
- Be aware that babies and young toddlers will struggle with high altitudes so be mindful of how far up the mountain you take them and consider consulting with your doctor
- Zermatt is a ‘car free’ village, however, this doesn’t stop some of the electric vehicles from driving at top speed so make sure you keep an eye on your little ones and keep them on the pavement.
- Look out for wildlife during trips on gondolas, ski lifts as there are usually quite a few mountain goats to be spotted.
- The cost of things in Zermatt (and Switzerland for that matter) is pretty eye-watering and if you find your little one has lost his scarf or his mittens, head to the discounted shop to pick up a ‘bargain’ (relatively speaking!). It’s located on the street that leads from the Gornergrat train station down to the river.
- It can get very cold and windy on the slopes so make sure you pack a skiing balaclava. They’re so useful for both children and adults. We love ours!
- Why not buy your kids a toblerone and see if they can spot the resemblance, lol.
So are you sold yet? It’s not a bargain holiday by any means, but it’s definitely something for the bucket list! Do let us know if you have any other tips for visiting Zermatt with kids.
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