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If you’re torn between visiting the car-free villages of Saas-Fee or Zermatt for your upcoming Swiss adventure, this article will provide you with valuable insights to help you make an informed decision. So which is better: Saas-Fee or Zermatt?
Overview: Saas-Fee or Zermatt
You can’t go wrong with Saas-Fee or Zermatt. There’s plenty to do, shops, and restaurants in both places. From a geographical perspective, they are also quite similar. They are both high alpine towns with easy access to many mountains and good skiing possibilities.
Visitors from all over the world might wonder: Is it better to stay in Saas-Fee or Zermatt? We’ll talk about the different places we can visit nearby as well as the advantages of staying in each.
Key Differences: Saas-Fee or Zermatt
The key differences between Saas-Fee and Zermatt are as follows:
|Population: approx. 1,563||Population: approx. 5,755|
|Total Area: 40.6 km2||Total Area: 242.67 km2|
|Elevation: 1,800 m (5,900 ft)||Elevation: 1,608 m (5,276 ft)|
|Accessible by bus and car (cars remain at the parking area),|
|Accessible by train,|
|Highlights: Mittelallalin, Spielboden, Längfluh, Plattjen, Felskinn, Several glaciers (Schwarzberg, Allalin, Fee, Hohlaub)||Highlights: Matterhorn, Sunnegga, Gornergrat, Klein Matterhorn, Several alpine lakes (Leisee, Riffelsee, and more)|
|Language: German||Language: German|
Saas-Fee or Zermatt: Which is Better?
You can’t go wrong with Saas-Fee or Zermatt. These two towns in Valais, Switzerland are surrounded by beautiful mountains, glaciers, and gorgeous scenery. Hotels and restaurants abound in both towns as well.
Both villages are car-free. One difference is that Saas-Fee allows direct access to the village entrance by car, offering a multi-level parking lot for convenience. Zermatt, on the other hand, is exclusively car-free and accessible solely by train from Täsch.
Saas-Fee is better than Zermatt if you prefer panoramic views of surrounding glaciers, an attractive mix of guests who seek a more relaxed atmosphere, and a traditional Walser Swiss mountain village with charming chalets. It is also preferable if you wish to drive directly to the village entrance. Zermatt is better than Saas-Fee if you prefer views of the famous Matterhorn mountain, a more upscale reputation and amenities, and a blend of cosmopolitan mix with mountain charm.
As for my personal preference, I find it very difficult to choose between the two. It is likely that I will alternate visiting Saas-Fee and Zermatt in the future.
Let’s take a closer look at these two places.
Located in Valais, Switzerland, Saas-Fee is renowned for its exceptional alpine landscape. The village lies within the Saas Valley, a breathtaking expanse carved by the meandering river Saaser Vispa. The Mischabel massif acts as a natural divide, separating Saas-Fee from the Matter Valley, where the famous destination of Zermatt is located. The main language here is German.
This enchanting village boasts an impressive accolade – it is surrounded by an astonishing 13 peaks soaring above 4,000 meters. This remarkable concentration of high peaks is among the highest in the entire Swiss Alps, setting the stage for breathtaking panoramic views and endless outdoor adventures.
The village lies within the Saas Valley, a breathtaking expanse carved by the meandering river Saaser Vispa. The Mischabel massif acts as a natural divide, separating Saas-Fee from the Matter Valley, where the famous destination of Zermatt is located. The main language here is German.
Close to the glaciers of Dom and Allalinhorn, Saas-Fee is a haven for nature enthusiasts and adventurers. The village’s car-free status adds to its appeal, creating an oasis of tranquility.
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 Breithorn, Castor, Pollux, and Matterhorn.
Places to Visit near Saas-Fee and Zermatt
Places to Visit Near Saas-Fee
- Mittelallalin – At 3,500 meters above sea level, Mittelallalin is one of the highest viewpoints in Switzerland. Here, you can enjoy a breathtaking experience in the world’s highest-revolving restaurant. Sunrise skiing is sometimes possible if the weather permits (reservations recommended).
- Felskinn – Felskinn is a rocky outcrop at almost 3,000 meters that serves as the middle station before heading over to Mittelallalin.
- Spielboden – You can discover playful marmots and a captivating alpine landscape at Spielboden. This is an enchanting spot to witness up-close these charismatic creatures in their natural habitat. You may even feed them (food can be bought from the Tourist Office) and pet them if they let you.
- Längfluh -From Längfluh at 2,870 meters above sea level, embrace sweeping vistas of towering peaks of Dom, Täschhorn, Alphubal, and Feechopf, making it a haven for mountain enthusiasts and photographers.
- Plattjen – Plattjen offers a tranquil escape with stunning vistas. Immerse yourself in the serenity of the mountains while taking in the crisp mountain air.
- Glaciers in Saas Valley – Embark on a journey through breathtaking glaciers – Fee Glacier, Allalin Glacier, Hohlaub Glacier, and more – each offering a unique, awe-inspiring spectacle of ice and majesty in the Saas Valley. Snowshoeing is possible on the Fee glacier together with a mountain guide.
- Hohsaas – Hohsaas can be reached by gondola from Saas-Grund. It enjoys fantastic views of the Saas Valley, sunshine, and 18 four-thousand-meter mountains. From here, you can easily reach Weissmies. Lagginjoch, an elevated mountain saddle, is also nearby.
- Kreuzboden – At Kreuzboden, children can enjoy the engaging playground (hanging bridge, water park, and more). A small animal park is located beside the restaurant in case you want to pet and feed goats. There is also a small lake nearby.
- Mattmark Dam – You can visit the engineering marvel of Mattmark Dam, a reservoir set against a backdrop of Rimpfischhorn and Stellihorn. While here, its pristine waters of Lake Mattmark will offer you a serene escape from the world.
- Almagelleralp – Almagelleralp is at 2,200 meters above sea level. It is in the midst of breathtaking mountains and glaciers and is an ideal destination for nature lovers. Three hiking trails can lead you to Almagelleralp. Berghotel Almagelleralp is typically open until mid-October.
- Heidbodmen – Winter and summer sports are available here despite it being a quiet area compared to other parts of the valley.
Places to Visit Near Zermatt
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 in the immediate vicinity of 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 definitely 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, and 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 lived 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: Saas-Fee or Zermatt
Saas-Fee and Zermatt are both car-free. The main difference is the direct access by car to Saas-Fee’s village entrance, which offers a multi-level parking lot.
Saas-Fee can be reached more quickly from Zurich, Geneva, and Bern. Nevertheless, the duration should not be a major consideration since it is practically the same. After all, both villages are separated by the Mischabel massif.
The comparison table below shows how long it would take you to reach Saas-Fee and Zermatt from Zurich, Geneva, and Bern.
|Travel time from Zurich (fastest)||3 hours and 6 minutes||3 hours and 10 minutes|
|Travel time from Geneva (fastest)||3 hours and 26 minutes||3 hours and 40 minutes|
|Travel time from Bern (fastest)||1 hour and 53 minutes||2 hours and 7 minutes|
Skiing: Saas-Fee or Zermatt
Saas-Fee is one of Switzerland’s biggest ski resorts offering 150 kilometers of skiing for all levels of difficulty. The village itself is situated at an elevation of 1,800 meters. Its highest peak, Mittelallalin, is located at a height of 3,500 meters.
Most of the ski slopes in Saas-Fee are intermediate runs. In addition to the easy and intermediate slopes, the ski resort has some difficult ones too. Saas-Fee has flat practice slopes that are great for beginners.
Matterhorn Ski Paradise in Zermatt at almost 4,000 m altitude is the highest winter sports area in the Alps. It has one of the best-developed and most extensive ski resorts in the world. Here you can enjoy skiing or snowboarding all year round. Yes, it is open 365 days a year.
Below we have two tables comparing the slopes of ski resorts in Saas-Fee and Zermatt.
|Pistes (in km)||Saas-Fee||Zermatt|
|Ski season||mid-July to mid-April||All-year-round|
While Zermatt boasts a larger and more expansive ski area that operates year-round, Saas-Fee also offers a substantial and delightful skiing experience, with a relatively high level of snow reliability compared to other Swiss ski resorts.
Advantages: Saas-Fee or Zermatt
Advantages of Staying in Saas-Fee
- Panoramic Views: Mountain peaks and glaciers are visible from Saas-Fee village itself. For a comparable view, you would need to visit Gornergrat or Kleine Matterhorn from Zermatt.
- Price: Saas-Fee is generally considered more affordable in terms of accommodations, lift passes, and dining options. By using the Saastal Card, guests who stay at least one night in Saas-Fee can enjoy discounts and complimentary services during their visit.
- Ski Region: For people who are not looking for an incredibly large ski area, Saas-Fee is a better choice. Saas-Fee has a sizable ski area with a variety of slopes for all ski levels.
- Atmosphere: Saas-Fee attracts a mix of families, couples, and outdoor enthusiasts. As a traditional mountain village, its atmosphere is also cozy and inviting.
Advantages of Staying in Zermatt
- Panoramic Views: There are fantastic views of Matterhorn in Zermatt, which has been the ultimate symbol of the Swiss Alps for centuries because of its distinctive pyramid shape.
- Price: If you are willing to pay a higher price for upscale amenities and accomodations, Zermatt will appeal to you.
- Ski Region: 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.
- Atmosphere: Zermatt attracts an international crowd of luxury travelers, avid skiers, and adventurous mountaineers. The village atmosphere has this blend of cosmopolitanism (think Belle Epoque) and traditional charm.
Hotels: Saas-Fee or Zermatt
Our recommendations for hotels in Switzerland are based on our personal experiences or user reviews. I highly recommend using Booking.com. It is a fantastic way to find hotels in Switzerland.
Hotels in Saas-Fee
- The Capra Saas-Fee (5-star) – Located in the heart of Saas-Fee, this elegant mountain hotel is near many shops and restaurants, as well as ski lifts. The rooms offer fantastic panoramic views, and there is a spa and wellness center on-site.
- Walliserhof Grand-Hotel & Spa Relais & Châteaux (5-star) – This luxury hotel in the heart of Saas-Fee offers amazing service, fantastic rooms, and an exclusive spa area. There are three restaurants, fitness classes, and an airport shuttle as well.
- Boutique Lodge Spycher (4-star) – Boutique Lodge Spycher has excellent spa and wellness facilities, a convenient location near Hannig, well-appointed rooms, and a superb breakfast.
- Wellnesshotel Schweizerhof (4-star) – Located close to the village center, this amazing hotel has a spa area, a relaxation room with stunning views, and an excellent breakfast. Moreover, you can have a good dinner here if you wish.
- Boutique Hotel La Gorge (3-star) – Located right next to the Alpin Express cable car at the edge of a gorge, this boutique hotel is beautifully designed. The staff is helpful and the breakfast is delicious.
- Hotel Garni Jägerhof (3-star) – The family-run hotel is an excellent option if you want a convenient ski-in/ski-out location in Saas-Fee. Excellent breakfasts, great value, and an awesome location make this hotel a great choice.
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: Saas-Fee 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.
Saas-Fee and Zermatt, two captivating car-free mountain havens in Switzerland, draw global travelers with their undeniable charm. Saas-Fee’s magnetic appeal lies in its unique combination of close-to-village glaciers, an authentically traditional mountain ambiance, a well-sized yet approachable ski area, and favorable pricing.
On the other hand, Zermatt stands out as a premier Swiss attraction, primarily due to its iconic Matterhorn presence. The destination offers exceptional contemporary amenities, ensuring a world-class experience, and even provides the option of venturing into neighboring Italy if you wish.
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 Saas-Fee or Zermatt, I’m sure that you will have a good time.
- 12 Charming Car-Free Villages in Switzerland
- Best Zermatt Alternatives to Choose From
- Top 10 Car-Free Ski Resorts in the Swiss Alps
- Top 15 Highest Ski Resorts in Switzerland
Related Posts: Saas-Fee
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- Saas-Fee Parking: Tips and Information for Saas-Fee Visitors
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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.