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Lauterbrunnen or Zermatt: Which is Better?

(Last Updated On: December 6, 2023)

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Got a hard time deciding between Lauterbrunnen and Zermatt in Switzerland? People put Lauterbrunnen and Zermatt high on their bucket lists because they are two of the most photogenic tourist destinations in Switzerland. Lauterbrunnen and Zermatt are also ideal locations to enjoy the Swiss Alps. They’re both great options, but one might be better for you. 

You can’t go wrong with Lauterbrunnen or Zermatt. These two towns are surrounded by beautiful mountains and gorgeous scenery. Hotels and restaurants abound in both towns as well. While you can get to Lauterbrunnen by car, Zermatt is car-free and can only be reached by train.

Visitors from all over the world might wonder: Which is better: Lauterbrunnen or Zermatt

Zermatt is hands down the best place to go if you just want skiing, snowboarding, and high alpine experiences. Lauterbrunnen is a better choice for those who want to see waterfalls, lakes, museums, and other beautiful towns in addition to mountains.

So it’s just a matter of preference. Both of them are awesome, so it won’t be easy to pick one. In this article, you’ll learn about all the places we can visit nearby as well as the advantages of staying at each of them. Here’s how they compare.



Key Differences: Lauterbrunnen vs. Zermatt

The key differences between Lauterbrunnen and Zermatt are as follows:

LauterbrunnenZermatt
Population: approx.  2,300Population: approx. 5,755

Total Area: 164.4 km2 (63.5 sq mi)
Total Area: 242.67 km2
Elevation: 802 m (2,631 ft)Elevation: 1,608 m (5,276 ft)
Accessible by carAccessible by train,
Car-free
Highlights: Staubbach Waterfall, Trümmelbach Waterfalls, Wengen, Mürren, Schilthorn, Stechelberg, Mürrenbach Waterfall, Gimmelwald, Kleine Scheidegg, JungfraujochHighlights: Matterhorn, Sunnegga, Gornergrat, Klein Matterhorn, Several alpine lakes (Leisee, Riffelsee, and more)

Lauterbrunnen

Image of Lauterbrunnen by TouringSwitzerland.com

Lauterbrunnen is an idyllic village in Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland surrounded by waterfalls. As a matter of fact, the entire area is best described as a valley with 72 waterfalls. Lauterbrunnen is a great place to start exploring the Jungfrau Region.

Lauterbrunnen village is situated in the valley bottom of this magnificent U-shaped valley in Switzerland. Most of the residents of this valley are actually from Lötschental, the adjacent valley located in Valais. A road was said to have passed between the Eiger and Mönch on the way to Valais. It is said that the heights used to be much milder and more fertile.

By taking the train from Lauterbrunnen, you can reach the sunny car-free terrace of Wengen as well as Kleine Scheidegg. From Kleine Scheidegg, you can change trains to go to Jungfraujoch. You may access Mürren through Lauterbrunnen itself or via Stechelberg on the other side of Lauterbrunnen. In addition, if you keep ascending, you’ll reach Piz Gloria – the summit of Schilthorn at 2,971 meters above sea level.

Some of the other highlights of the Lauterbrunnen region include Staubbach Waterfall, Trümmelbach Waterfalls, Mürrenbach Waterfall, and Gimmelwald.

Zermatt

Image of the Matterhorn Mountain by TouringSwitzerland.com

Zermatt and Matterhorn could be considered the quintessential word, image, or definition of Switzerland. 

The mountain village of Zermatt in Valais is gorgeous and charming with its typical chalet-style houses. The wooden houses and hotels scattered throughout the car-free village give it a consistent look.  Zermatt is in the southernmost German-speaking area of the country.

Car traffic in Zermatt has been prohibited since 1961. Its streets are perfect for horse-drawn carriage rides. Walking along Bahnhofstrasse (the main street of Zermatt) is a pleasure. From here, you can explore the village’s bars, restaurants, bakeries, cake shops, and chocolate shops. There are also boutiques, sports shops, and souvenir shops. Zermatt has been a popular tourist destination for many years. 

Mountains Around Zermatt

Zermatt offers postcard views of the southwest Matterhorn from the steps of the Church of Saint Mauritius and the Kirchbrücke Bridge. The village of Zermatt is surrounded by larch forests and 38 4,000-meter mountain peaks. Among the most noteworthy mountains is the Monte Rosa with a height of 4,634 meters (the highest mountain in Switzerland) and the Dom with a height of 4,545 meters.  Of all these mountains, the Matterhorn is probably the most well-known.

Inside the Alpin Center, you can retrieve important information regarding mountain cable cars, mountain guides, and more. Alpin Center provides tours to BreithornCastorPollux, and Matterhorn.

The mountains in and around Zermatt are definitely higher than those surrounding Lauterbrunnen. This is because the Pennine Alps (or Valais Alps), the mountain range in the western Alps, contains many 4,000-meter-high peaks. Nine of the ten highest mountain peaks in Switzerland are located in the canton of Valais, where Zermatt is.

So, between Zermatt and Lauterbrunnen, Zermatt and its surroundings have more impressive mountains if we simply go with the assumption that the taller mountains are more impressive.


Places to Visit near Lauterbrunnen and Zermatt

Places to Visit near Lauterbrunnen

  • Staubbach Waterfall – The Staubbach Waterfall is a waterfall in Switzerland located just west of Lauterbrunnen in the Bernese Highlands. It falls 297 meters from a valley overhanging the Weisse Lütschine, before the end of the overhanging cliff.
  • Trümmelbach Waterfalls – There are ten glacier-fed waterfalls in Switzerland’s Trümmelbach Falls. It is accessible by a tunnel-funicular built back in 1913. 
  • Wengen – Wengen is 1,274 meters above sea level. On a terrace with a spectacular panorama, Wengen offers views of both Lauterbrunnen village below and the surrounding high mountains above.
  • Männlichen – Männlichen is a 2,343-metre mountain easily accessible from Wengen and Grindelwald. From Männlichen, you get a fantastic view of Mönch, Eiger, and Jungfrau.
  • Mürren – Mürren is positioned a bit higher than Wengen, at 1,645 meters above sea level. There are also spectacular views of the bottom of the valley, and the town is quiet and car-free. It is smaller than Wengen.
  • Schilthorn – This is the summit above the village of Mürren and the highest mountain north of Sefinenfurgge Pass. It is around 2,970 meters above sea level.
  • Stechelberg – Stechelberg is a small village located at the base of the Schwarzmönch mountain in the Bernese Alps.
  • Mürrenbach Waterfall –  In five cascades, Mürrenbach Waterfall drops 417 meters to the ground, making it Switzerland’s highest waterfall.
  • Gimmelwald – A small car-free village, Gimmelwald is located between Stechelberg and Mürren. It is 1,363 meters above sea level.
  • Kleine Scheidegg –  Kleine Scheidegg is a mountain pass at an elevation of 2,061 meters. It is located between Eiger and Lauberhorn. Kleine Scheidegg makes a great starting point for excursions to Jungfraujoch and Lauberhorn. It is also the meeting point of two rack railways.
  • Eiger Glacier – The Eiger Glacier lies on the northwest side of the Eiger mountain.
  • Jungfraujoch –  The saddle between Jungfrau (at 4,158 m above sea level) and Mönch (at 4,110 m above sea level). It is also the location of the highest mountain railway in Europe at 3,454 meters above sea level.

Places to Visit Near Zermatt

  • Matterhorn Museum – Featuring interactive exhibits and historical photographs of Matterhorn, Zermatt, and the surrounding area, the Matterhorn Museum is one of the attractions located in the village.
  • Matterhorn Glacier Paradise – With fantastic views of the French, Italian, and Swiss Alps, the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise can be reached from Zermatt in forty minutes. This mountain station is Europe’s highest – towering at 3,883 meters above sea level. As it can be chilly and windy here, it is advisable to bring appropriate clothing.
  • Gornergrat – At 3,089 meters above sea level, Gornergrat provides awesome views of the Matterhorn mountain.
  • Trockener Steg – At 2,939 meters above sea level, Trockener Steg provides fantastic views of the surrounding mountain peaks.
  • Gorner Gorge – Gorner Gorge is open from June to October and features crystalline rocks and beautiful rock formations that have formed over millions of years. It is located near the Blatten hamlet.
  • Täschalp – With a height of about 2,200 meters, Täschalp is located along the forest edge and is home to wild animals such as chamois, stone deer, and marmots. The dairy here is also open to the public, so you can watch how cheese is made there for a small fee.
  • Forest Fun Park – Kids over the age of four to adults can enjoy zip wire courses at Forest Fun Park, featuring the Saferoller safety system.
  • Julen Sheep Barn –  Valais Blacknoses are adorable sheep and worth visiting. 
  • Breithorn Ascent – At 4,164 meters above sea level, ascending Breithorn is reserved for experienced and fit mountain hikers. You will need to get used to the high altitude.
  • Sunnegga – With its huge playground, barbecue areas, beach on the Leisee Lake, and numerous bike trails, Sunnegga is the perfect place for families with children and bike lovers.
  • Randa Suspension Bridge – Known as the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the Alps, the bridge above Randa is 500 meters long and free to cross. It is also called the Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge.
  • Furi – Furi is a hamlet above Zermatt, around 1,867 meters above sea level. It is a high Walser settlement where farmers live during summer. From here, you can check out the Furi Suspension Bridge, the Dossen Glacier Garden, the Gorner Gorge, and the Ricola Herb Garden.
  • Schalisee – Schalisee Lake in Täsch is a tiny and clean glacier lake directly located on the hiking trail between Täsch and Randa. Although it is relatively cool, you can still bathe in it. Wakeboarding is also possible on this lake.

Accessibility: Lauterbrunnen or Zermatt

It’s easier to get to Lauterbrunnen from most major Swiss cities than Zermatt. To start with, you can drive there. To get to Zermatt, you will have to leave your car at Matterhorn Terminal Täsch.

Furthermore, Lauterbrunnen is faster to reach by train from Zurich, Geneva, or Bern than Zermatt. With most international flights landing in Zurich, Lauterbrunnen may be easier to reach.

The comparison table below shows how long it would take you to reach Zermatt and Lauterbrunnen from Zurich, Geneva, and Bern.

Estimated Travel TimeLauterbrunnenZermatt
Travel time from Zurich (fastest)2 hours and 23 minutes3 hours and 10 minutes
Travel time from Geneva (fastest)3 hours and 13 minutes3 hours and 40 minutes
Travel time from Bern (fastest)1 hour and 21 minutes2 hours and 7 minutes
Estimated Travel Times to Zermatt and Lauterbrunnen from Swiss Cities

Advantages: Lauterbrunnen vs. Zermatt

Advantages of Staying in Lauterbrunnen

Image of Lauterbrunnen Valley by TouringSwitzerland.com
  • Lauterbrunnen is not car-free. Choose Lauterbrunnen over Zermatt if you prefer to come by car.
  • Lauterbrunnen is easier to get to compared to Zermatt. If you’re pressed for time, go for it. 
  • Lauterbrunnen is much smaller than Zermatt. You’ll find fewer restaurants, hotels, and facilities there. Choose it over Zermatt if you want to stay somewhere more peaceful.
  • The village of Lauterbrunnen has only a handful of hotels and some apartments. Those who prefer quiet and peaceful surroundings might like that. There are so many tourists in Zermatt, especially on the main street.
  • Despite Matterhorn’s majestic and imposing appearance, you can’t deny how incredibly pretty it is in Lauterbrunnen, especially with all the waterfalls all around. It is hard to describe how beautiful it is with words; you need to see it for yourself.
  • Lauterbrunnen is closer to the Bernese Alps. Choose it if you want to visit the mountains near and around the Bernese Highlands and/or Jungfrau Region.
  • The Jungfrau Ski Region Grindelwald – Wengen is a large ski resort with 160 kilometers of slopes. Choose it over Zermatt if you want to ski amidst Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau.

Advantages of Staying in Zermatt

Zermatt
  • Zermatt is car-free. Stay here if you prefer to stay in a traditional Swiss mountain village that is car-free.
  • Zermatt is larger than Lauterbrunnen. There are more restaurants, hotels, and facilities there.
  • From luxurious 5-star hotels to more affordable options, Zermatt has something for everyone.
  • Zermatt is a better choice than Lauterbrunnen if you like Matterhorn and all its beautiful views.
  • Zermatt is closer to the Pennine Alps. Choose it if you want to visit the mountains near and around Valais.
  • Zermatt is better if you plan to ski a lot. Zermatt ski area is one of the largest in Switzerland and borders the Breuil-Cervinia Ski area of Italy. The ski season in Zermatt is also one of the longest in the world, with the possibility to ski even in summer.
  • Zermatt is better if you plan to spend most of your time outdoors. Some of the most gorgeous scenery in the high-alpine region of Valais can be found here. Zermatt is surrounded by glaciers and many peaks higher than 4,000 meters.

Hotels: Lauterbrunnen or Zermatt

The hotels in Zermatt are more numerous than those in Lauterbrunnen. The lodgings in Lauterbrunnen tend to be very basic, but there are also a couple of nice apartments. Nonetheless, Lauterbrunnen apartments get snapped up pretty quickly, so book early if you want to stay there. Booking.com is an excellent choice when it comes to booking a hotel.

Image of Mont Cervin Palace in Zermatt by TouringSwitzerland.com

Hotels in Lauterbrunnen

  • Hotel Silberhorn, Lauterbrunnen (3-star) – Enjoy the closeness to nature and a breathtaking view of the Staubbach Fall in the light-flooded winter garden of the Silberhorn Hotel. Only 150 meters from Lauterbrunnen’s train station, the Silberhorn Hotel is located off the main street. The Alpine-style restaurant offers Swiss specialties and a rich breakfast buffet. They serve 4-course dinners from December through April.
  • Apartment Staubbach (Apartment) – This spacious apartment has three bedrooms and plenty of space for six people, making it a great choice for families or groups of friends. In addition to its impeccable views, the apartment has a fully equipped kitchen, flat-screen TV, and dining area outside.
  • Chalet Chalet am Schärm (Chalet) – Chalet with six bedrooms, three bathrooms, and a fully equipped kitchen. Additionally, it is only a short walk from the cable car that runs from Lauterbrunnen to Grütschalp.

Hotels in Zermatt

  • Mont Cervin Palace (5-star) – The 5-star Mont Cervin Palace was opened in 1851 and belongs to the “Leading Hotels of the World.” Almost all of the guest rooms have a balcony or patio with a view of the Matterhorn. There is also an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, a spa and wellness area of 18,300 square feet, an indoor play area, a game room, and a bar at the hotel.
  • Naco Aparthotel Arca (4-star) – A 5-minute walk from Zermatt’s train station, Naco Aparthotel offers spacious rooms with a fully equipped kitchen, a microwave, a dining area, a flat-screen TV, and a private bathroom with a shower and bathrobes. Guests can enjoy a continental or buffet breakfast, as well as a swimming pool.
  • Schlosshotel Zermatt Active & CBD Spa Hotel (4-star) – Just a few steps away from the Zermatt and Gornergrat train stations is this elegant hotel with an indoor pool and spa area. You can reach the Sunnega Cable Car easily and the bus to the Klein Matterhorn Ski Area is right outside the hotel.
  • Hotel Arca Solebad & Spa (3-star) – ARCA Solebad Wellness & Spa in Zermatt offers modern wellness facilities including an indoor swimming pool. It is located close to Zermatt Train Station, as well as the Gornergrat and the Sunnegga-Rothorn trains.
  • Zermatt Youth Hostel (Hostel) – It is possible to stay in Zermatt for less at a hostel. This hostel has everything you need, including internet access, laundry, board games, free breakfast, a microwave, and a security locker.

Final Thoughts: Lauterbrunnen or Zermatt

Without a doubt, Switzerland is a country with many beautiful places. And because the time and budget to tour it might be limited, it would be wise to choose a place that suits your wishes and preferences.  If you like higher mountains, hiking, and skiing, Zermatt is a great base.  Lauterbrunnen makes a good base for exploring the mountains and lakes in the Bernese Oberland.

It might be helpful to ask yourself, would you prefer to stay in a village without cars or not? If you have a clear preference about taking a car or not, then you have your answer. 

Nevertheless, if you’re ambivalent about cars, there are other factors to consider. In Zermatt, you’ll find a typical Swiss car-free mountain village with skiing and hiking. You can also visit Gornergrat. In the Lauterbrunnen valley, there are easy walks and hikes to enjoy, from Mürren to Wengen. A trip up to Jungfraujoch from Lauterbrunnen will take you to the top of Europe.

It’s really hard for me to choose between the two places. The Jungfrau Region is incredibly breathtaking and worth visiting. However, I prefer Zermatt a bit more. My favorite mountain in Switzerland is the Matterhorn. And I always find the car-free village of Zermatt amazing. The place is always nice to come back to; I’ve been there several times.

No matter what you choose, you won’t regret it. They’re both gorgeous, with majestic mountains and natural landscapes. Whether you decide to stay in Zermatt or Lauterbrunnen, I’m sure that you will have a good time.


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Darla Uhl is the owner of TouringSwitzerland.com. Her home is in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. Having lived almost 20 years in Switzerland, she's traveled extensively all over the country.

Darla's favorite regions to visit in Switzerland include Engadin, Lake Geneva, Bernese Oberland, Ticino, and Valais. She loves spending time with her family, hiking, visiting museums, and reading books.

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