Unable to decide if you should visit Zermatt or St. Moritz in Switzerland? Zermatt and St. Moritz are both known throughout the world as locations in Switzerland ideal for skiing, hiking, and sightseeing. They are both impressive and beautiful and choosing only one might be difficult.
Overview: St. Moritz or Zermatt
So if you were to choose between Zermatt and St. Moritz, which one would it be? For those who purely want skiing or snowboarding, then Zermatt is hands down the better alternative on any given day of the year.
For those who are into sightseeing and hiking, then both have their pros and cons. So it will be a matter of preference which venue to choose. I love both places, so it will be definitely tough to choose from them.
- Zermatt is in itself quite beautiful and definitely worth seeing. It is also surrounded by larch forests, 38 4,000-meter mountains, and the most beautiful mountain in the world – Matterhorn.
- Engadin Valley, where St. Moritz is located, is made up of one charming village after another and will make for interesting walks or hikes outside of St. Moritz.
My personal suggestion: You should go to Zermatt if you love high-altitude experiences, mountains, skiing, and hiking. If you want a mix of alpine experiences with water sports, easy walks, shopping, culture, and music, St. Moritz is the place to visit.
St. Moritz Village – Top of the World
St. Moritz has always stood for beauty and luxury. The town has five grand hotels and big buildings instead of the small wooden chalets present in Zermatt. It is also renowned for its skiing resorts. St. Moritz is a more upscale vacation destination. It offers modern amenities and architecture.
St. Moritz is world-famous and amongst the first winter sports resorts in the world. It sits above Lake St. Moritz (St. Moritzersee in German) which turns frozen during winter.
In the village, there are many things you can do. You can visit the following:
- Leaning Tower – was part of the St. Mauritius Church
- Via Serlas – for shopping
- Kulm Park Eispavillon – used during the Olympic Winter Games in 1928 and 1948
- Chesa Veglia – a farmhouse from back in 1658
- Segantini Museum – houses the largest and most important collection of artist Giovanni Segantini
- Badrutt’s Palace – an iconic grand hotel in St. Moritz
- Olympia Bob Run – also still used regularly for Bobsleigh, Skeleton Championships, and other events
St. Moritz has 25 crystal clear mountain lakes adding to the beautiful Alpine scenery. Some of the nearest ones are Lake Staz, Lake St. Moritz, Lake Champfèr, and Lake Silvaplana. There are forests and glaciers to enjoy. Hiking, climbing, sailing, windsurfing, horseback riding, golf, tennis, and skiing are also possible here.
Zermatt Village and the world-famous Matterhorn
If there is a quintessential word, picture, or definition of Switzerland, it would be Zermatt and Matterhorn. Zermatt is a mountain village in Valais – beautiful and charming with its typical chalet-style houses and homes. It is in the southernmost German-speaking area of the country. There is homogeneity in its look with brown houses and hotels scattered in this car-free village. It has been world-famous for a long time now.
Zermatt offers a postcard view of the southwest Matterhorn from the steps of the Church of Saint Mauritius or the Kirchbrücke Bridge. Around the village are larch forests, 38 4,000-meter mountain peaks, and the most beautiful mountain in the world – Matterhorn. To name two of the most important mountains, we have the Monte Rosa at 4,634 meters (the highest mountain in Switzerland) and Dom in the Mischabel group at 4,545 meters.
The 600-meter-long main street, Bahnhofstrasse, is perfect for strolling. Here you can begin exploring the village’s bars, restaurants, bakeries, cake, and chocolate shops. It also has boutiques, sports, and souvenir stores.
You can enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride in its streets. Zermatt has been closed to car traffic since 1961.
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.
Mountains: St. Moritz or Zermatt
The mountains in and around Zermatt are definitely higher. This is because the Pennine Alps (or Valais Alps), the mountain range in the western Alps, contains many 4,000-meter-high peaks. On the other hand, St. Moritz, which is located in the Eastern Alps, only has one 4,000-meter mountain – Piz Bernina.
The Eastern Alps in Austria, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, and Eastern Switzerland are lower than the Western Alps in Italy, France, and Western Switzerland.
So, between Zermatt and St. Moritz, Zermatt and its surroundings have more impressive mountains if we simply go with the assumption that the taller mountains are more impressive.
Mountains around St. Moritz
St. Moritz also has beautiful mountains around it which are not as high but no less beautiful than Zermatt’s. An interesting place to visit is the Free Fall, a 45-degree gradient steep slope used as the vertical start of the Alpine Skiing Men’s Downhill slope.
Some other mountains to visit in and around St. Moritz are the following:
- Muottas Muragl – a panoramic mountain in Pontresina with fantastic views of the lakes of Engadin valley
- Corvatsch – the highest mountain station in the region at 3,303 meters provides an impressive Alpine panorama. You can visit Fuorcla Surlej, one of my favorite viewpoints in Engadin, by hiking from Murtèl.
- Diavolezza – fantastic views of the highest peaks of Eastern Alps – Piz Bernina, Piz Palü, and Piz Morteratsch
Furthermore, there are other beautiful valleys and glaciers around St. Moritz. These are the following:
- Val Roseg – a beautiful side valley accessible by foot or carriage from Pontresina
- Val Fex – a protected side valley accessible by foot or carriage from Sils
- Val Trupchun – the most protected park in the country – Swiss National Park
- Morteratsch – place to see the third longest glacier on the Eastern Alps – Morteratsch Glacier
Mountains around Zermatt
Klein Matterhorn has the highest mountain railway station in the Alps. The journey to Klein Matterhorn begins in the rear part of the village of Zermatt. From Zermatt, the journey to Trockener Steg takes under half an hour. The hamlet at 1867 meters is a mountain pasture, where cows and sheep still graze today. A footpath leads to the glacier garden, as well as the hanging bridge over the Gorner Gorge (Gornerschlucht).
From Schwarzsee, visitors can see the entire valley and the village of Zermatt below. In this area, they can also see the Chapel “Maria zum Schnee”. Afterward, the Matterhorn-Express gondola descends into the Furgg valley. This is the foot of Matterhorn. A 125-seat large gondola lift ascends then to the Trockener Steg station. From there, it is possible to change to the 100-seat aerial cable cars going to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, a.k.a. the Klein Matterhorn.
No other cable car brings visitors to a higher point – the highest viewing platform in Europe at 3,883 meters – Klein Matterhorn. You can stand in the middle of the snow and glacier world. 38 four-thousand-meter-high peaks, and 14 glaciers in France, Italy, and Switzerland surround you there.
Gornergrat is also a fantastic place to visit. A rocky ridge overlooking the Gorner Glacier near Zermatt, this vantage point can be reached with the Gornergrat Train (Gornergratbahn) . It is located between the Gorner Glacier and the Findel Glacier and offers fantastic views of the surrounding Pennine Alps.
Riffelalp is also a gorgeous place to visit. There is a lake called Riffelsee which mirrors the Matterhorn in its waters and makes for a beautiful picture.
Skiing: St. Moritz or Zermatt
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.
The ski resort of St. Moritz has three locations – Corviglia, Corvatsch – Furtschellas, and Diavolezza – Lagalb. Corvatsch is the highest in Graubünden. Whereas Diavolezza – Lagalb has the most freestyle slopes and is ideal for night skiing.
Below we have a table comparing the slopes available in Zermatt and St. Moritz.
|Pistes (in km)||Zermatt||St. Moritz|
|Ski season||All-year-round||end-November –|
|mid-October – |
Between the two ski resorts, I would recommend Zermatt hands down as it has better snow and glacier skiing than St. Moritz. It is also open all year round whereas St. Moritz is not.
Hotels: St. Moritz or Zermatt
There are 5 luxury hotels in St. Moritz that will certainly satisfy the most discerning travelers. As for luxury hotels, Zermatt also has them. However, there is a wider range of hotels and apartments in Zermatt suited to all budgets.
Hotels in St. Moritz
- Kulm Hotel St. Moritz (5-star) – Due to the pioneering efforts of hotel founder Johannes Badrutt, St. Moritz became a winter sports mecca. This makes the Kulm Hotel St. Moritz a special part of the city’s history. There are 5 restaurants, a spa with a pool, a whirlpool, a children’s pool, an open-air pool, and more at this elegant hotel. Also nearby, the hotel has its 9-hole golf course with pitching, chipping, and putting areas. During the winter months, guests can skate and curl at the hotel.
- Badrutt’s Palace (5-star) – There are six restaurants, an indoor pool, a spa, and fitness center, valet parking, a tennis court or ice skating rink (depending on the season), and a free shuttle service to the train station at this elegant 5-star hotel in St.Moritz. Badrutt’s Palace is a member of Leading Hotels of the World, Swiss Deluxe Hotels, and Swiss Historic Hotels.
- Suvretta House (5-star) – Skiers will love this exclusive ski-in/ski-out hotel in Suvretta-Corviglia. There’s a regular shuttle service that takes you to other ski resorts and St. Moritz. They have a huge indoor pool, a fully-equipped gym, a sauna, gourmet specialties, and a kids’ restaurant.
- Hotel Steffani (4-star) – This well-priced hotel has 3 restaurants, 3 bars, a nightclub, and a spa area with an indoor pool. Just 300 meters from Corviglia ski area, it’s in the heart of St. Moritz.
- Hotel Waldhaus am See (3-star) – The Waldhaus am See is one of the leading 3-star hotels in Switzerland. A few steps from the train station, it features a breathtaking view of the Engadin Valley and is situated on the banks of St. Moritz Lake. With over 2,500 different kinds of whiskey, the hotel has the largest whiskey bar in the world.
- St. Moritz Youth Hostel (Hostel) – An affordable option is to stay at a hostel in St. Moritz where you’ll get everything you need – free breakfast, linen, security lockers, hot showers, microwave, a play area, and free wifi.
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.
Summary: St. Moritz or Zermatt
- Zermatt ski region is bigger and is open all year round. St. Moritz has 3 ski areas – Corviglia, Corvatsch – Furtschellas, and Diavolezza. These three ski regions open from late autumn until spring but have different opening dates.
- Zermatt is located in the Western Alps where the peaks are higher (4,000 meters and higher). St. Moritz is located in the Eastern Alps where the peaks are less high (3,000 meters and higher).
- Zermatt has rustic, alpine chalets and a car-free village. St. Moritz has big grand hotels, expensive shopping boutiques, and bigger buildings. It is also not car-free.
- Zermatt is more about mountain experiences outside the village. St. Moritz has more points of interest in the village (museum, beautiful Engadin houses, grand hotels).
If you really cannot decide which of the two places to visit, you can allot 8 hours for a panoramic train journey from St. Moritz to Zermatt with the Glacier Express. Whichever town you end up with, you will surely marvel at its beauty.
- Glacier Express Route: From Zermatt to St. Moritz
- Glacier Express or Bernina Express: Which is better?
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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.