Thinking of visiting Zermatt, Switzerland, for 1 day and wondering how to best plan your time so that you can see all the best sights of Zermatt in one day? In this guide, you can find the suggested Zermatt 1-day itinerary that covers the ‘musts’ in the most efficient way.
No matter if you are visiting in summer or in winter, this itinerary will help you make the most of your Zermatt day trip. Find out!
Zermatt is one of the most popular mountain destinations in the Swiss Alps. Best known as home to the most iconic mountain in Switzerland, the Matterhorn, and the steepest open-air railway in the world, Gornergrat Railway, Zermatt is one of those places that many consider a must-see in Switzerland.
And while there is so much more to see and do in Zermatt than you could cover in a day or even two, it is possible to see the ‘musts’ if you are visiting Zermatt for one day. You won’t be able to see and experience everything, but if you plan well, you can certainly cover the two main places that make Zermatt world-famous: Gornergrat and Matterhorn Glacier Paradise. In addition – if you plan your day well – you can also see some other nice places in Zermatt.
In this article, we show you how to best plan your time so that you experience the very best that Zermatt has to offer in just one day. To make it easier to understand where everything is, we also created a map indicating all the places mentioned below. You can find it at the end of the article, together with a detailed 1-day itinerary with time indications. Take a look!
TIP: While you can make a day trip to Zermatt and still see some of the best places, we recommend staying in town for two nights and spending at least 1 full day in Zermatt. It’s located quite far away from all the main towns in Switzerland, and so just getting there and back will take a long time. Even if you can only spend one night in Zermatt, it’s still better than just visiting Zermatt as a day trip.
But yes, even a day trip to Zermatt is possible. Here are some tours and – further below- you’ll find our tips on how to best do it if you plan your own trip. Even if you start your day later or leave earlier, you can still see the same ‘must-see’ places on this itinerary. It will simply mean that you’ll have less time to explore them deeper.
Good to know: Our recommended 1-day Zermatt itinerary includes some places and short hikes that can only be done in summer. However, the main landmarks of Zermatt can be visited the whole year. And so this itinerary will work for a winter trip as well, minus the hiking.
Important: You’ll need 2 different tickets for this itinerary – the Gornergrat Railway day ticket and the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise day ticket. Or you can get a Peak Pass which – for one day – costs the same as these two separate tickets and is probably easier.
Peak Pass is really expensive if you only buy it for 1-2 days, but offers great value for a longer stay. With two days in Zermatt, it would be better to buy two tickets separately and visit one area per day. But with just one day in Zermatt (and if you want to see ALL the musts), there’s really no cheaper way to do it unless you decide to visit only Gornergrat OR Matterhorn Glacier Paradise but not both.
How to use this guide: First, you can find a detailed program with all the necessary information for the places we recommend visiting in Zermatt in one day. At the end of the article, you’ll also find a short overview of this itinerary, with time indications that will give you a good idea of how your day could look like.
We also included a shorter 1-day itinerary for those of you who are visiting Zermatt as a day trip and can’t get there early in the morning. Take a look!
Here’s how we recommend spending one day in Zermatt:
Time needed: 33 minutes for the train journey up the mountain.
Start your day in Zermatt with an early morning ride on the Gornergrat Railway. If you are staying in town, we recommend taking one of the earliest trains (7 am or 8 am). Not only will you beat the crowds, but you will also be able to enjoy some of the best scenery by going early (more info below).
Gornergrat Railway was built over 100 years ago and even today, it’s the steepest open-air cog railway in the world. It’s a very scenic ride that takes you to an altitude of 3,089 meters (10,134 ft) in just 33 minutes.
Along the way, you can admire the stunning Alpine Scenery. Depending on the season, you might start your 30-minute journey in the warm summerly weather down in the village and then step out on the snow on the mountain.
TIP: Sit on the right side of the train when going up (the side of the Matterhorn) for the best views. Also, be sure to choose a seat where the windows can be opened – that way you can take nicer pictures from the train. On the other hand, the views to the other side are also nice, especially when the views of the Matter Valley open up. A good thing is that if you take the train early in the morning, you’ll probably be almost alone and will be able to enjoy the views in any direction.
Time needed: If you only visit Riffelsee, count 20-30 minutes. This will give you plenty of time to walk to the lake, enjoy the views, and take some nice pictures.
Riffelsee is a tiny mountain lake best known for the picture-perfect mirror image of the Matterhorn. When there’s no wind and the water is calm, you can see the most beautiful reflections of the Matterhorn and the other mountains on the surface of this lake.
TIP: The best time for reflections is early morning. Therefore, we recommend that you visit Riffelsee first, before going all the way to Gorngergrat.
Good to know: Riffelsee lake is just a short 5 minutes walk from the Rotenboden train station, which is one before the last station on the Zermatt – Gornergrat railway line. For more practical tips and info, please see our detailed guide to visiting Riffelsee.
LEARN MORE: Riffelsee Lake
An additional tip for early birds & in summer only. If you have 1 hour to spare, take a short and easy hike from Riffelsee to Riffelberg before continuing to Gornergrat. However, with just one day in Zermatt, you may have to be very selective where you go, so only do this if you start your day early in the morning.
Time needed: 30-60 minutes, depending on what exactly you choose to do.
After visiting Riffelsee, walk back to Rotenboden and take the next train to Gornergrat. During the peak season and after 8 am, trains run every 24 minutes, so you won’t have to wait long.
At Gornergrat, explore all the viewing platforms, do the short 360° Scenic Loop hike (just 20 minutes), visit Zooom the Matterhorn experience, a small chapel, and check out the shops at Gornergrat Kulmhotel. There’s also a restaurant here where you could also have some coffee.
LEARN MORE: What to See & Do at Gornergrat
Gornergrat Scenic Trail to Rotenboden
Time needed: 40-60 minutes.
After visiting Gornergrat, you could take a train back down towards Zermatt. However, if the weather is nice and you want to enjoy more of the spectacular views of this area, we recommend that you do some hiking here.
One of the nicest short hikes that you can do in Zermatt is a downhill trail from Gornergrat to Rotenboden, aka Gornergrat Scenic Trail, or hike nr. 15.
This short hike offers spectacular views of the glaciers, the Matterhorn, and also of the Gornergrat Railway. If you want to take some nice pictures of the train and the Matterhorn in the background, this is an excellent place for that.
This hike goes to the Rotenboden railway station. So if you want to, you can also stop at Riffelsee Lake once again (or if you haven’t done it first thing in the morning).
LEARN MORE: Gornergrat Scenic Trail to Rotenboden
Make Your Way to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise (& Quick Lunch)
Time needed: 40-90 minutes.
After visiting the Gornergrat area, you have two options for how to get to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise at Klein Matterhorn: via Furi or via Zermatt town. The first option will only work in the high season when the Furi gondola is running and only if you have the Peak Pass. Whereas the second option will work the whole year and can be done if you have two separate tickets for the Gornergrat and the Matterhorn areas.
1. Take a train to Riffelberg, which is just one station lower from Rotenboden or two stations from Gornergrat. From Riffelberg, you can take a gondola to Furi, where you can jump directly on the gondola to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise. If you didn’t pack a picnic lunch, you’ll find plenty of restaurants at all bigger gondola stations, just keep in mind that it will take some more time.
Also, the Furi – Riffelberg gondola only runs during the ski season and on the weekends in summer. No worries if it’s not running, though – you can still get to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise; but it will take a bit longer. See the second option below.
2. The second option – available in any season – is to take the train all the way down to Zermatt, walk through town, and then take the gondola to Klein Matterhorn from there. This will take you at least 40 minutes longer, so keep that in mind, but you could save time for lunch, so all in all it might be about the same.
When walking to the Matterhorn gondola through town, you could grab something small for lunch. There are supermarkets in Zermatt center and also bakeries, cafes, etc. With just a day in Zermatt, I wouldn’t recommend having lunch at a restaurant as that would take up too much of your precious time.
TIP: It’s better to take a picnic for lunch or buy something small and eat it along the way, and then have a relaxing dinner in Zermatt after all the sightseeing.
Matterhorn Glacier Paradise
Time needed: 1 hour.
Located at Klein Matterhorn, Matterhorn Glacier Paradise is another must-see in Zermatt. It’s a totally different experience than Gornergrat, but equally impressive. It would be really difficult to choose just one or the other, and that’s why we recommend visiting both these places, even if you only have a day in Zermatt.
Matterhorn Glacier Paradise is the highest easily accessible mountain peak that you can visit in Zermatt. No matter what time of the year you visit, there is always snow here. People come to ski at Klein Matterhorn in summer!
There are several things to do at Matterhorn, including shops, restaurants, etc. The musts are the viewing platform and the Glacier Palace.
From the viewing platform, you have the most amazing views of the Matterhorn and countless other mountain peaks including the Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps.
Glacier Palace is located inside the glacier and deep under the eternal ice. You can walk through man-made ice tunnels and see all kinds of spectacular ice carvings and ice sculptures. There’s also a slide inside an ice tunnel – fun for young and old.
Good to know: Also in summer, you’ll need a warm sweater here. A windproof rain jacket is also good to have because you never know how the weather will be in the mountains.
TIP: On your way to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, you can upgrade your ticket for the last section of the gondola ride, from Trocknersteg. For a small additional fee, you can then take the Crystal Ride – a glass-bottomed luxury cable car that offers unparalleled views of the glacier right under your feet. It’s one of the most impressive things we have done in Zermatt and well worth a small extra fee.
LEARN MORE: What to See & Do at Matterhorn Glacier Paradise
Time needed: 30 minutes.
After visiting the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, take the same cable car one stop down and disembark at Trockenersteg. Before continuing your journey further down to Zermatt, we recommend that you walk to a small glacier lake right next to the cable car station.
This is where the Matterhorn Glacier Trail starts, one of the most beautiful hikes in Zermatt. With just a day in Zermatt, you won’t have time for this 3-hour hike, but you can at least see some of the best scenery at the beginning of this iconic hike.
Just a few decennia ago, this area was covered by a retreating glacier and the scenery here is really unique. Plus, you are really close to the Matterhorn and can get some nice pictures of the mountain and the lake.
After visiting the lake, return back to the cable car and take it one stop further down the mountain – to Schwarzsee.
Schwarzsee & ZERMATT Sign
Time needed: 30 minutes.
Schwarzsee is one of the many small mountain lakes in Zermatt where you can also see reflections of the Matterhorn. However, you’ll likely be here in the afternoon, so the chances for reflections are low. Not even to mention that people will likely be swimming here if you visit on a warm summer day.
Nevertheless, Schwarzsee lake is worth a quick visit. You can also see a small chapel where the Matterhorn climbers come to pray before their ascent.
Another reason to stop at Schwarzsee is the ZERMATT sign. It’s a nice place to take some cool souvenir pictures of your day in Zermatt.
By the time you’ve seen all the places mentioned above, it will likely be late afternoon. Time to head to Zermatt and explore the town just a little bit. You can take a cable car from Schwarzsee all the way down to Zermatt town.
Time needed: ideally at least 1-1.5 hours.
It would be a pity to visit the Zermatt area and not see the town itself. So even if you only have a day in Zermatt, in addition to the Gornergrat and the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, we recommend that you plan to spend some time in town as well.
One of the nicest things to do in Zermatt is to simply walk down the main street that leads to the railway station. It’s called Bahnhofstrasse (Station Street) and is lined with shops, restaurants, and hotels. You can find pretty much everything here – from Swiss chocolates to the most expensive watches, and from McDonald’s to fancy gourmet restaurants.
If you have at least half an hour to an hour to spare, we highly recommend visiting the Matterhorn Museum – Zermatlantis as well. It’s located on the main town square and its entrance looks like a giant glass igloo – you can’t really miss it.
The museum itself is hidden under the ground and is presented as a mid-19th century village of Zermatt. It’s a great place to learn more about Zermatt’s history, the first mountaineers that climbed the Matterhorn, and see how a small village transformed into a world-famous mountain resort.
Right next to the museum, there’s also a big church. Behind it, you can find Mountaineers Cemetery. It’s just a small graveyard, where some of the famous mountain climbers are buried, but it’s really interesting to see. Ideally, you visit the museum first and then the cemetery.
One more place that’s really worth seeing and only takes a few minutes is the old part of town, aka Hinterdorf. This is where you can see some of the traditional wooden houses on stilts, typical to the Valais region in southern Switzerland.
TIP: You can find more information about all these places in our guide to the best things to do in Zermatt.
And that’s enough sightseeing for the day – time for dinner!
By now, you’ll probably want to sit down, rest your legs, and have a nice meal to end your day in Zermatt.
There are lots of really good restaurants in town. However, it can also get very busy and some of the nicest hotel restaurants will often be fully booked in high season. So if you want to dine at a specific restaurant, be sure to reserve a table in advance, before you arrive!
But no worries if you didn’t plan anything upfront – there is plenty of choices, and you can find pretty much any cuisine here too.
TIP: We recommend looking for a nice local restaurant that serves Swiss dishes and trying some Swiss fondue, raclette, or other regional specialties. After all, you don’t travel all the way to Switzerland to eat pizza, hamburgers, or Asian food…
Suggested Zermatt 1 Day Itinerary & Map
So, this is our recommended Zermatt 1-day itinerary. Here’s a short recap once again, with hours indicated just for your reference (and based on the current summer train schedule). This is just meant to give you a better idea of how you could plan your time.
Here’s what your 1 day in Zermatt could look like:
- 8:00 Gornergrat Railway – from Zermatt to Rotenboden.
- 8:30 Riffelsee (#1 on the map).
- 8:52 Take a train to Gornergrat.
- 8:57 Gornergrat (#2 on the map).
- 10:00 Hike from Gornergrat to Rotenboden (#3 on the map).
- 11:12 Take a train from Rotenboden to Zermatt (OR – if possible a cable car from Riffelberg to Furi).
- 11:51 Arrive in Zermatt, get something small for lunch & walk to the Matterhorn cable car (walk from #4 to #5).
- 13:00 Take a cable car to Klein Matterhorn (gondolas run continuously).
- 14:00 Explore the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise (#6 on the map).
- 15:00 Take a cable car to Trockenersteg and walk to the lake (#7 on the map).
- 15:45 Take a gondola to Schwarzsee, visit the lake, and take pictures with the ZERMATT sign (#8 on the map).
- 16:30 Take a gondola to Zermatt (#9 on the map).
- 17:00 Visit the Matterhorn Museum – Zermatlantis, Mountaineer’s Cemetery, and Hinterdorfstrasse.
- 18:30 Dinner.
TIP: If you can start your day at 7 am, I recommend also doing the short hike from Riffelsee to Riffelberg, then on to Gornergrat. For the rest, follow the same itinerary as above.
Good to know: Here you can find the timetable for the Zermatt – Gornergrat railway. As already mentioned, the first train is at 7 am and after 8 am and before 4-5 pm in the high season, the trains run every 24 minutes. So even if you miss a train here or there, it’s not a big deal. During the low season, trains run every 48 minutes, so you’ll need to plan a bit more carefully.
Further below, you can also find an alternative itinerary if you are planning an even shorter day trip to Zermatt.
And here is a map of Zermatt indicating all the places mentioned above.
SHORTER ITINERARY – if you arrive in Zermatt later and HAVE LESS TIME, I recommend starting with the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise first and leaving the Gornergrat area for later.
This is for a few reasons. First, the Gornergrat Railway gets very busy between 9-11 am and the trains also run later in the evening than the gondolas, so it will be more relaxed to turn it around.
Your Zermatt day trip itinerary could look something like this:
- 10:00 Arrive in Zermatt & walk or take a bus to the Matterhorn cable car (walk from #4 to #5).
- 10:15 Take a cable car to Klein Matterhorn.
- 11:00 Explore the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise (#6 on the map).
- 12:00 Take a cable car to EITHER Trockenersteg OR Schwarzee (#7 or #8 on the map).
- 13:15 Take a gondola to Zermatt, get something for lunch, walk through town, maybe also visit the Matterhorn Museum and Hinterdorfstrasse (#9 on the map).
- 15:12 Gornergrat Railway – from Zermatt to Gornergrat (#4 on the map).
- 15:45 Gornergrat (#2 on the map).
- 16:45 Hike from Gornergrat to Rotenboden (#3 on the map) & visit Riffelsee (#1 on the map). The later you come here, the more chance you have to see the reflections on the lake. The reflections are usually best early morning or late evening.
- 18:23 Take a train from Rotenboden to Zermatt. Keep an eye on the train schedule – there is just 1 train per hour after 4-5 pm, and the last train to Zermatt is usually at around 8 pm (in summer).
- 18:59 Arrive in Zermatt and dinner.
If you have even less time, you could shorten this by not doing the hike at Gornergrat and/or skipping Trockener Steg, Schwarzsee, or the museum in town. If the gondola between Furi and Riffelberg is open, that could also save you some time.
If you have more time, visit both – Trockener Steg and Schwarzsee.
Use these suggestions just as an indication and adjust the itinerary based on your own interests!
Getting to Zermatt
Zermatt is located in the Valais region in southern Switzerland. It’s separated from central Switzerland by high mountains with some serious mountain passes to cross.
So if you are just visiting Zermatt for a day from Zurich, Bern, Basel, Lucerne, or other biggest towns, it’s best to take a train. Driving to Zermatt by car for just one day would only make sense if you are already staying somewhat nearby and the drive is not more than 2 hours one-way.
Good to know: Zermatt is a car-free village and so no matter where you come from, you’ll have to take a train from Täsch to Zermatt. The train ride from Täsch to Zermatt takes 12 minutes and the trains run every 20 minutes. If you are coming by car, use the big parking garage by the Täsch railway station.
Zermatt Day Trips & Tours
You can easily get to Zermatt and see everything on your own, but there are also day tours available from some bigger cities and there are guided tours available once you get to Zermatt. See here for what’s available at the moment.
These day tours are very expensive, but so are the train tickets to get to Zermatt and so are the tickets to Gornergrat and Matterhorn Glacier Paradise. So if you add it all up, it’s a very expensive day trip, no matter how you do it.
READ ALSO: Best Day Trips from Lucerne
Where to stay
While you can visit Zermatt as a day trip, depending on where you are coming from, it will be a very long and rushed day. So if you can adjust your itinerary, we highly recommend spending at least one or two nights in Zermatt.
As already mentioned, even if you can stay just 1 night, it will already be more relaxed. But ideally, you spend at least 2-3 nights in Zermatt, so that you have 1 or 2 full days to explore.
Here are some hotel suggestions for a short stay in Zermatt:
So, this is our guide to visiting Zermatt for a day. I hope that this helps you plan your time and see the very best that this stunning mountain resort has to offer.
TIP: If you found this guide useful, be sure to check out our Switzerland travel guide. It contains an overview of all our articles about a big variety of popular destinations in Switzerland. Alternatively, see some of our favorites below!
Some of our favorite places in Switzerland:
- Jungfraujoch, Top of Europe
- Mt Titlis
- Mt Pilatus from Lucerne
- Lucerne Day Trips
- Trübsee (Engelberg)
- Schynige Platte
- Skiing in Wengen & Skiing in Engelberg
The nicest cities:
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Some of our favorite hikes in Switzerland: