Zermatt or Grindelwald: Which is Better?

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Got a hard time deciding between Zermatt and Grindelwald in Switzerland? Zermatt and Grindelwald are famous for being ideal locations in Switzerland to enjoy the Swiss Alps. They’re both great options, but one might be better for you. 

You can’t go wrong with Zermatt or Grindelwald. 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 Grindelwald by car, Zermatt is car-free and can only be reached by train.

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

Zermatt is hands down the best place to go if you just want skiing, snowboarding, and high alpine experiences. Grindelwald is a better choice for those who want to see waterfalls, lakes, museums, and 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: Zermatt vs. Grindelwald

The key differences between Zermatt and Grindelwald are as follows:

ZermattGrindelwald
Population: approx. 5,755Population: approx.  3,800
Total Area: 242.67 km2Total Area: 171.28 km2 
Elevation: 1,608 m (5,276 ft)Elevation: 1,034 meters (3,392 feet)
Accessible by train,
Car-free
Accessible by car and train
Highlights: Matterhorn, Sunnegga, Gornergrat, Klein Matterhorn, Several alpine lakes (Leisee, Riffelsee, and more)Highlights: Grindelwald First, Bachalpsee Lake,
Grindelwald Glaciers, Grosse Scheidegg, First Cliff Walk, Pfingstegg, Männlichen, Eiger Glacier, Jungfraujoch, Eiger Express

Zermatt

Image of Matterhorn by Photos from Pixabay

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

Grindelwald

Image of Grindelwald by TouringSwitzerland.com

The famous mountain village of Grindelwald is located in the Bernese Oberland, at the foot of the Eiger (3,970 meters) and Wetterhorn (3,701 meters). Grindelwald is one of the most popular tourist spots in the Bernese Oberland.

Grindelwald Glacier reached the outskirts of the village as recently as 1860. Grindelwald got the nickname “Glacier village” for this reason. Unfortunately, millions of cubic meters of glacier ice have melted away in Grindelwald.

In and around Grindelwald, there are tons of things to do. Highlights in the Grindelwald region include Grindelwald First, Bachalpsee Lake, Schynige Platte, Grindelwald Glaciers, Grosse Scheidegg, First Cliff Walk, Eiger Glacier, and Jungfraujoch.


Places to Visit near Zermatt and Grindelwald

Places to Visit near Grindelwald

  • Grindelwald First – First is a minor summit on the slopes of the Schwarzhorn in the Bernese Oberland. Most people know it as a cable car station above Grindelwald. Aside from hikes, two activities that stand out in this area are the Grindelwald First Flyer and the Grindelwald First Glider. Both are available from July to October. For the safety of visitors, it is subject to weather conditions.
  • Grindelwald First Flyer – The Grindelwald Flyer is an 800-meter zip line moving at 80 kilometers per hour. ​It starts in Scheckfeld and ends in Grindelwald.
  • Grindelwald First Glider – This is another thrilling experience you should try. The strap is in the form of an eagle and is attached to a pulley. It also moves at a speed of 80 kph while offering spectacular views.
  • Grindelwald First Cliff Walk – High walkway suspended from the side of the mountain offering fantastic valley views.
  • Bachalpsee Lake – Walking there takes around 50 minutes from First. It’s so picturesque as you can see Schreckhorn reflecting in the lake. 
  • Upper Grindelwald Glacier – Between Schreckhorn and Wetterhorn, a vast snow field forms Upper Grindelwald Glacier (Oberer Grindelwaldgletscher in German). Its glacier tongue is at 1,400 meters, and is one of the lowest glaciers in the Alps. 
  • Lower Grindelwald Glacier – Below Agassizhorn and Strahlegghörner lies the Lower Grindelwald Glacier (Unterer Grindelwaldgletscher in German). It is connected to the Finsteraar Glacier through the Finsteraarjoch.
  • Grosse Scheidegg – At an altitude of 1,962 m, the Grosse Scheidegg passes across the col between Switzerland’s Schwarzhorn and Wetterhorn mountains. You can reach Grosse Scheidegg with the Grindelwald Bus in 25 minutes from Grindelwald.
  • Pfingstegg – The starting point for hikes going to both glaciers in Grindelwald. You can reach Pfingstegg with a cable car from Grindelwald. Additionally, there is a toboggan run and a fly line.
  • Lauterbrunnen – Lauterbrunnen village is situated at the valley bottom of this magnificent U-shaped valley in Switzerland surrounded by numerous waterfalls.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Kleine Scheidegg –  Kleine Scheidegg is a mountain pass at an elevation of 2,061 meters. It is located between the 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.

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.
  • 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.

Accessibility: Zermatt or Grindelwald

Image of the Grindelwald Terminal by TouringSwitzerland.com

It’s definitely easier to get to Grindelwald 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, even if you’re going by train, Grindelwald is faster to get to from Zurich, Geneva, or Bern. Since most international flights arrive in Zurich, Grindelwald is likely to be easier to reach if you’re coming from abroad.

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

ZermattGrindelwald
Travel time from Zurich (fastest)3 hours and 10 minutes2 hours and 37 minutes
Travel time from Geneva (fastest)3 hours and 40 minutes3 hours and 27 minutes
Travel time from Bern (fastest)2 hours and 7 minutes1 hour and 35 minutes
Estimated Travel Times to Zermatt and Grindelwald from Swiss Cities

Advantages: Zermatt vs. Grindelwald

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 Grindelwald. 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 Grindelwald 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.

Advantages of Staying in Grindelwald

Image of Grindelwald by TouringSwitzerland.com
  • Grindelwald is not car-free. Choose Grindelwald over Zermatt if you prefer to come by car.
  • Grindelwald is easier to get to compared to Zermatt. If you’re pressed for time, go for it. 
  • Grindelwald is 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 Grindelwald offers a 5-star hotel and several 4- and 3-star hotels. 
  • The mountains around Grindelwald offer adventurous activities – First Flyer, First Glider, Tobogganing on Pfingstegg, and Fly Line of Pfingstegg. 
  • Grindelwald 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.

Final Thoughts: Zermatt or Grindelwald

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.  Grindelwald 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. Grindelwald is better if you’re looking to try adventurous activities or you’ve got fun-loving kids or teens with you.

It’s hard for me to choose between the two places. 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 Grindelwald, I’m sure that you will have a good time.


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