Zermatt or Interlaken: Which is Better?

Got a hard time deciding between Zermatt and Interlaken in Switzerland? Zermatt and Interlaken are famous for being ideal locations in Switzerland to enjoy the Swiss Alps. Both are impressive and beautiful, and it’s hard to choose between them.

You can’t go wrong with Zermatt or Interlaken. 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 Interlaken 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 Interlaken

Zermatt is hands down the best place to go if you just want skiing, snowboarding, and high alpine experiences. Interlaken 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.

My personal suggestion: You should go to Zermatt if you love high-altitude experiences, mountains, skiing, and hiking. Visit Interlaken if you want a mix of mountains, water sports, easy walks, shopping, culture, and music. 

Zermatt and Interlaken

There are two notable towns in Switzerland: Zermatt and Interlaken. Those two places are both famous in their own way, and their surroundings are stunning. Making a choice between them may be difficult. Either one would be good, but one might suit you better. 

We will discuss both Zermatt and Interlaken in this article. Which one is better? Would we recommend Zermatt or Interlaken for your vacation?  


Key Differences: Zermatt vs. Interlaken

The key differences between Zermatt and Interlaken are as follows:

ZermattInterlaken
Population: approx. 5,755Population: approx.  5,600
Total Area: 242.67 km2Total Area: 4.4 km²
Elevation: 1,608 m (5,276 ft)Elevation: 568 m (1,863 ft)
Town in the Matter Valley of Valais Main transport gateway to the Bernese Oberland Region
Highlights: Matterhorn, Sunnegga, Gornergrat, Klein MatterhornHighlights: Harder Kulm Mountain,
Thun and Brienz Lakes
Lakes: Several alpine lakes such as Stellisee, Leisee, Riffelsee, Schwarzsee, Grindjisee, GrünseeLakes: Brienz (East) and Thun (West)
River: Aare

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

Interlaken

Image of Interlaken by TouringSwitzerland.com

In a way, Interlaken is more of a base than anything else. It doesn’t have the same kind of views as Zermatt. But it’s surrounded by two lakes – Lake Brienz and Lake Thun.

Around these lakes, there are many pretty towns and villages like ThunSpiezBrienz, and Iseltwald. Also nearby are multiple castles, St. Beatus Caves, and more. You can also go on the Aare River

It’s also well connected to the Jungfrau Region, so you can visit Lauterbrunnen, Wengen, Grindelwald, and Mürren within a day. 


Places to Visit: Zermatt vs. Interlaken

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.

Places to Visit near Interlaken

There are many places to visit near Interlaken. There are many tourist attractions nearby, such as those around Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. Those in the Jungfrau Region, such as Grindelwald, Wengen, and Mürren are a bit more distant.

  • Harder Kulm – Harder Kulm can be reached from Interlaken by walking through the English Garden and crossing the bridge to the Interlaken Harderbahn. It is located 1,321 meters above sea level and provides fantastic views of Interlaken. Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau, Lake Thun, and Lake Brienz can be seen from Harder Kulm, too.
  • Thun – Thun is a breathtaking lakeside town on the banks of Lake Thun. In Thun, you will find two castles (Thun and Schadau), a picturesque old town, museums, and places to bathe in during summer.
  • Spiez – A gorgeous lakeside town near Interlaken with several beaches and a castle.
  • Iseltwald – Iseltwald with its peninsula, the Seeburg castle, and its lakeside promenade is a peaceful little village to visit near Interlaken. Boats stop here in summer.
  • Lake Thun – The bigger of the two lakes beside Interlaken, you can cruise around Lake Thun, swim, or try one of the water sports.
  • Lake Brienz – Lake Brienz is great for sailing, canoeing, windsurfing, wakeboarding and more. Take a ride on the Brienzer Rothorn to get some great photos of Lake Brienz.
  • Giessbach Waterfalls – Giessbach Waterfalls get their water from the high Faulhorn-Sagis Valley. From there, it flows into Lake Brienz
  • Rosenlaui Valley, Glacier, and Gorge – An absolutely beautiful and peaceful pocket of land in the Reichenbach Valley. The gorge has thundering waterfalls and bizarre cliff formations. It is definitely worth visiting.
  • St. Beatus Caves – The caves and the museum are located inside the Niederhorn Massif. Outside, you can walk around a garden with beautiful waterfalls. Take good walking shoes and bring a jacket since the cave can get chilly.
  • Bönigen – Bönigen is a traditional village with wooden houses and chalets from the 16th century. You can find the village of Bönigen on the lower shore of Lake Brienz.
  • Axalp – Axalp, right above Lake Brienz at 1,535 meters above sea level, is the starting point for a lot of hiking trails from spring until autumn. In winter, it is transformed into a small ski resort with 15 kilometers of slopes for young and old alike.
  • Ballenberg Open Air Museum – This open-air museum features various centuries-old buildings from the different cantons of Switzerland. They have typical farm animals such as donkeys, cows, chickens, rabbits, and cats. In some houses, you will learn about specific trades or you will be able to interact with musical instruments or handicrafts.

Jungfrau Region

  • Männlichen – Männlichen is a 2,343-metre mountain easily accessible from Grindelwald by cable car. 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. You can get to Eiger Glacier from Grindelwald with the Eiger Express.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Staubbach Waterfall – The Staubbach Waterfall is a waterfall in Switzerland located just west of Lauterbrunnen in the Bernese Highlands. It falls 297 meters from a valley overhanging the Weisse Lütschine, before the end of the overhanging cliffs.
  • Trümmelbach Waterfalls – There are ten glacier-fed waterfalls in Switzerland’s Trümmelbach Falls. It is accessible by a tunnel-funicular built back in 1913. 
  • Wengen – Wengen is 1,274 meters above sea level. On a terrace with a spectacular panorama, Wengen offers views of both Lauterbrunnen village below and the surrounding high mountains above. You can reach Wengen from Grindelwald via Männlichen or Zweilütschinen-Lauterbrunnen.
  • Mürren – Mürren is positioned a bit higher than Wengen, at 1,645 meters above sea level. There are also spectacular views of the bottom of the valley, and the town is quiet and car-free. It is smaller than Wengen.
  • Schilthorn – Is the summit above the village of Mürren and the highest mountain north of Sefinenfurgge Pass. It is around 2,970 meters above sea level.
  • Stechelberg – Stechelberg is a small village located at the base of the Schwarzmönch mountain in the Bernese Alps.
  • Mürrenbach Waterfall –  In five cascades, Mürrenbach Waterfall drops 417 meters to the ground, making it Switzerland’s highest waterfall.
  • Gimmelwald – A small car-free village, Gimmelwald is located between Stechelberg and Mürren. It is 1,363 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.

Advantages: Zermatt vs. Interlaken

Advantages of Staying in Zermatt

  • Zermatt is closer to the mountains and has beautiful hiking trails. Choose it over Interlaken if you plan to do a lot of hiking.
  • 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.
  • Zermatt has a mountain town feel with wooden houses and chalets, whereas Interlaken feels more like a proper town with a big concrete hotel.
  • Zermatt is car-free. Choose it over Interlaken if you want to walk around a lot in a car-free town.

Advantages of Staying in Interlaken

  • Interlaken is faster (1 hour 56 minutes) to get to by train compared to Zermatt (3 hours and 12 minutes) if you are coming from Zurich.
  • Interlaken is reachable by car. Choose Interlaken over Zermatt if you prefer to travel in your car than the train.
  • Interlaken 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.
  • Interlaken is better if you plan a mix of indoor and outdoor activities. You’ll find more museums and castles if you come during a rainy time.
  • Interlaken is closer to two big, beautiful lakes. Choose it over Zermatt if you plan to do a lot of swimming in summer. You can also do wake surfing, sailing, and SUP.
  • Interlaken has paragliding, hang gliding, and skydiving.
  • Although there are ski areas near Interlaken, such as Axalp/Brienz, Habkern, Beatenberg-Niederhorn-Hohwald, these are smaller ski resorts compared to the ones in Zermatt. Choose Interlaken if you would rather go to a smaller ski resort than a larger one.

Summary: Zermatt or Interlaken

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. Interlaken makes a good base for exploring the mountains and lakes in the Bernese Oberland. If you like higher mountains, hiking, and skiing, Zermatt is a great base.  

In Zermatt, it’s all about the mountains, while Interlaken has towns, villages, castles, and museums.

  • 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.
  • Interlaken is a great base for exploring Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland, in particular, the Jungfrau region. Near Interlaken are many picturesque villages and towns like Thun, Wengen, Spiez, Iseltwald, Grindelwald, and Lauterbrunnen.

If you have a limited period of time, you should choose one location over the other since they are not that close. No matter what you choose, you won’t regret it. They’re both beautiful, with majestic mountains and natural scenery. Whichever town you end up with, you will surely marvel at its beauty.


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