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Zermatt or Davos: Which is Better?

Last Updated on October 20, 2023 by Admin

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:

ZermattDavos
Population: approx. 5,755Population: approx.  10,898
Total Area: 242.67 km2Total Area: 284 km²
Elevation: 1,608 m (5,276 ft)Elevation: 1,560 meters (5,118 ft)
Accessible by train,
Car-free
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

Image of Matterhorn 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 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

Image of Davos by TouringSwitzerland.com

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 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.

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. You can also visit the National Park Center here.
  • Lenzerheide – Lenzerheide is a mountain biking paradise in Graubünden. The Bike Kingdom has 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.

ZermattDavos Platz
Travel time from Zurich (fastest)3 hours and 10 minutes2 hours and 19 minutes
Travel time from Geneva (fastest)3 hours and 40 minutes5 hours and 16 minutes
Travel time from Bern (fastest)2 hours and 7 minutes3 hours and 26 minutes
Estimated Travel Times to Zermatt and Davos from Swiss Cities

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, 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)ZermattDavos Klosters ParsennDavos RinerhornDavos Jakobshorn
Easy7417.315.626
Medium22760.523.113
Difficult2017.712.83
Freeride386613
Total360101.551.542
Ski seasonAll-year-roundmid-November to mid-Aprilmid-December to the end of Marchearly December to mid-April
Pistes Comparison Zermatt and Davos

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

Image of the mountains around Zermatt by TouringSwitzerland.com
  • 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

Image of the mountains around Davos by TouringSwitzerland.com
  • 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 in 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 the 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.

Hotels: Zermatt or Davos

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 Zermatt

Image of Mont Cervin Palace, Zermatt by TouringSwitzerland.com
  • 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.

Hotels in Davos

Image of Davos by TouringSwitzerland.com
  • Steigenberger Grandhotel Belvedere (5-star) – The 5-star Steigenberger Grandhotel Belvedere, located in the heart of Davos, is just a 3-minute walk from the convention center. Originally opened in 1875 as the Grand Hotel Davos, it has a fantastic wellness area, fitness facilities, saunas, and a steam bath. It also offers guests the choice of enjoying international and local specialties. Additionally, a free shuttle service from the train station is available.
  • Precise Tale Seehof Davos (5-star) – Located adjacent to the Parsenn Cable Car, the Precise Tale Seehof is a luxurious 5-star hotel that provides direct access to skiing and hiking trails in Davos. With a choice of several restaurants, a rich breakfast buffet, and spa facilities, it’s an elegant yet practical choice for a stay in the area.
  • AlpenGold Hotel Davos (5-star) – The AlpenGold Hotel Davos, formerly known as Hotel Intercontinental, offers an array of amenities that make it the ideal family hotel in Davos. Guests can take advantage of both indoor and outdoor pools, a spa and wellness center, ski storage, and an on-site ski school. With three a-la-carte restaurants to choose from and a kid’s and teenager’s club, there’s something for everyone in the family to enjoy.
  • AMERON Davos Swiss Mountain Resort (4-star) – The AMERON Davos Swiss Mountain Resort is an excellent value-for-money hotel with an indoor pool, fitness facilities, and a large spa center. Rooms feature furnished balconies with mountain views, while dining options include on-site restaurants and nearby venues in Davos. Families can take advantage of the free kids club and small playground, and the hotel offers tour and luggage storage, as well as ski storage facilities. Overall, it’s a top pick and my personal favorite for its amenities and affordability.
  • Grischa – Das Hotel Davos (4-star*) – The 4-star superior Hotel Grischa in Davos boasts the best location for both skiing and exploring the city, with the Jakobshorn Cable Car just 100 meters away and the center of Davos just 200 meters away. The hotel offers five restaurants, and the Davos-Platz Train Station is conveniently located across the street. Guests will find everything they need within walking distance, including ski rentals and a small grocery store. The hotel staff is friendly and welcoming, and the rooms feature a small balcony and offer great value for the price.
  • ALPINE INN Davos (3-star) – ALPINE INN Davos is ideally located in the heart of the city with easy access to ski lifts and other attractions. The ski room was excellent, equipped with proper ventilation and boot dryers to keep ski gear in top condition, while the breakfast was outstanding with a wide variety of high-quality products.

  • 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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    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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