Having trouble deciding between Zermatt and Davos? There is no doubt that Zermatt and Davos are the perfect locations in Switzerland to enjoy the Swiss Alps. Both are excellent options, but one may be more suitable for you.
You can’t go wrong with Zermatt or Davos. 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 Davos by car, Zermatt is car-free and can only be reached by train.
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.
Overview: Zermatt or Davos
You can’t go wrong with Zermatt or Davos. 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.
Key Differences: Zermatt vs. Davos
The key differences between Zermatt and Davos are as follows:
|Population: approx. 5,755||Population: approx. 10,898|
|Total Area: 242.67 km2||Total Area: 284 km²|
|Elevation: 1,608 m (5,276 ft)||Elevation: 1,560 meters (5,118 ft)|
|Accessible by train,|
|Accessible by car and train|
|Highlights: Matterhorn, Sunnegga, Gornergrat, Klein Matterhorn, Several alpine lakes (Leisee, Riffelsee, and more)||Highlights: Jakobshorn, Pischa, Parsenn, Rinerhorn, Schatzalp, Davos Sertig, Davos Monstein, Flüelapass|
Which is better: Zermatt or Davos?
Zermatt is hands down the best place to go if you want skiing, snowboarding, and high alpine experiences. As well as a prettier town, Zermatt often gets more snow compared to Davos. Those who want a mix of mountains and other activities should go to Davos. In Davos, you can enjoy numerous activities such as wakeboarding, paddle surfing, mountain biking, trail runs, sailing, paragliding, golf, and horseback riding. You can also visit nearby villages like Davos Monstein and Davos Sertig.
It’s true that Zermatt is prettier than Davos due to its prettier town center and breathtaking high alpine scenery. Davos is a practical town more than anything; it’s also close to lots of ski resorts and has a lot of block-style buildings.
My personal preference: As a Zermatt and Matterhorn fan, I recommend Zermatt over Davos without hesitation. Of course, this is just my personal preference. I’m sure there are those who would prefer it the other way around.
Let’s take a closer look at these two places.
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.
The mountains in and around Zermatt are definitely higher than those surrounding Davos. 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 Davos, Zermatt and its surroundings have more impressive mountains if we simply go with the assumption that the taller mountains are more impressive.
Davos is famous for hosting the world’s top leaders every year during the World Economic Forum. But not only that. It is also a popular ski resort and one of the highest towns in Switzerland at 1,560 meters above sea level. There are tons of ski resorts in the town, each with its own advantages.
For those who want something quieter, Davos has side valleys to visit such as Sertig Valley. In summer, Davos Lake has swimming areas, as well as possibilities to sail and surf.
Places to Visit near Zermatt and Davos
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 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 in 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.
Places to Visit near Davos
There are many places to visit near Davos. The town of Davos is perfectly located with excellent train and bus connections to many beautiful tourist attractions in Graubünden. Some places to visit near Davos are the following:
- Jakobshorn – Winter in Jakobshorn means freestyle, crazy events, and après-ski parties. In the summer, Jakobshorn is ideal for biking and hiking. From Jakobshorn, you can get to Sertig via Jatzhorn.
- Pischa – Pischa does not have any prepared slopes. A quiet and sunny mountain, Pischa has natural snow and is perfect for alternative winter sports.
- Parsenn – The biggest ski resort in Davos Klosters, Parsenn is the perfect ski area for ski fans. It also has one of the longest downhills in Europe. It’s also worth doing the panorama trail on Parsenn in the summer.
- Rinerhorn – The perfect ski resort for beginners, families, and those who want to take it slow and easy. Two nights a week they do night skiing and tobogganing. In summer, they have a petting zoo, a playground, and downhill scooters.
- Schatzalp – A small and easy mountain that is perfect for those who want to take it slow as well as families with smaller children.
- Davos Monstein – Davos Monstein is a charming little village perched above the Landwasser Valley. In addition, it’s home to the highest brewery in Switzerland.
- Davos Sertig – Davos Sertig or Sertig-Dörfli is a small and idyllic village away from the hustle and bustle of Davos town. It is incredibly picturesque and is considered one of the most beautiful villages in Graubüden.
- Flüelapass – This high mountain pass near Davos crosses the divide between the Rhine and Danube basins.
- Klosters – An alpine resort village with wooden chalets and ski areas. It is connected to Davos by the Gotschnabahn cable car.
- Zernez – Zernez is located in the Val Müstair Region in Lower Engadine. Zernez is the base for those who wish to visit the Swiss National Park.
- Lenzerheide – Lenzerheide is a mountain biking paradise in Graubünden. With the Bike Kingdom, it’s got many flow trails that go over roots, gravels, and jumps. The ski area of Lenzerheide is connected to the one of Arosa.
- Guarda – One of the most beautiful villages in Graubünden, Guarda is a small, incredibly picturesque village made famous by the children’s storybook Bell for Ursli (Schellen-Ursli). The charming houses showcase an art called sgraffiti.
- Chur – The capital of Graubünden, this alpine city has an old town dating more than 10,000 years. It has several museums and is the starting point of the Bernina Express train.
- Scuol – A beautiful and sunny village in Lower Engadine, Scuol has thermal baths and mineral water. Nearby is a famous landmark called the Tarasp Castle.
- Flims Laax Falera – One of the largest mountain resorts in Switzerland, Flims Laax Falera is a mecca for those who love snowboarding. Snow parks, the largest half-pipe in the world make it a popular destination. Its size and variety provide ample room for beginner, intermediate, and advanced skiers, snowboarders, and freeskiers.
Accessibility: Zermatt or Davos
Depending on where you are coming from, you can get to Davos or Zermatt faster. While Davos is closer to Zurich, Zermatt is closer to Geneva and Bern.
In contrast, if you’re traveling by car, Davos may be more convenient for you. Cars are not allowed in Zermatt. To get to Zermatt, you will have to leave your car at Matterhorn Terminal Täsch.
The comparison table below shows how long it would take you to reach Zermatt and Davos from Zurich, Geneva, and Bern.
|Travel time from Zurich (fastest)||3 hours and 10 minutes||2 hours and 19 minutes|
|Travel time from Geneva (fastest)||3 hours and 40 minutes||5 hours and 16 minutes|
|Travel time from Bern (fastest)||2 hours and 7 minutes||3 hour and 26 minutes|
Skiing: Zermatt or Davos
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.
There are five skiing areas near Davos – Parsenn/Gotschna, Jakobshorn, Pischa, Madrisa, Rinerhorn, and Schatzalp/Strela, or six if you add Madrisa in Klosters. It is one huge winter arena with more than 300 kilometers of slopes, 100 kilometers of cross-country ski tracks, 58 ski lifts, two ice skating rinks, and curling fields.
Below we have two tables comparing the slopes of ski resorts in Zermatt and Davos.
|Pistes (in km)||Zermatt||Davos Klosters Parsenn||Davos Rinerhorn||Davos Jakobshorn|
|Ski season||All-year-round||mid-November to mid-April||mid-December to the end of March||early December to mid-April|
Between the two ski resorts, I would recommend Zermatt hands down as it has better snow and glacier skiing than Davos. It is also open all year round whereas Davos is not.
Advantages: Zermatt or Davos
Advantages of Staying in Zermatt
- Zermatt is closer to Geneva and Bern. In case you are flying into Geneva or Bern from abroad, this might be the more convenient option for you.
- Zermatt is car-free. Stay here if you prefer to stay in a traditional Swiss mountain village that is car-free.
- Zermatt is closer to the Pennine Alps. Choose it if you want to visit the mountains near and around Valais.
- Zermatt is a better choice than Davos if you like Matterhorn and all its beautiful views.
- 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.
Advantages of Staying in Davos
- Davos is closer to Zurich and Zurich Airport. In case you are flying into Zurich from abroad, this might be the more convenient option for you.
- Unlike Zermatt, Davos is not car-free. Stay here if you prefer to come with your car.
- Davos is closer to the Bernina Range. Choose it if you want to visit the mountains in Graubünden. It is also closer to the Engadine Valley.
- There is a large lake in Davos that can be used for a variety of water activities. Davos is a better choice if you want to be able to do water sports in summer.
- Davos is a smart choice if you prefer to ski in smaller resorts periodically. For instance, Rinerhorn and Schatzalp/Strela are relatively small ski resorts.
Final Thoughts: Zermatt or Davos
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.
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. Davos has a greater variety of adventures than Zermatt, in my opinion. The mountains are not the only thing to look forward to in Davos
The two places both appeal to me and I think they’re both worth checking out. 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 Davos, I’m sure that you will have a good time.
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