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Zermatt vs. Wengen: Which is Better?

Last Updated on December 25, 2023 by Darla

Struggling to pick between Zermatt and Wengen in Switzerland? Both are stunning car-free villages nestled in the Swiss Alps, making the choice tough. Eventually, visitors must decide where to stay. In this article, we’ll weigh the options: Zermatt vs. Wengen.

Zermatt and Wengen, two delightful Swiss alpine towns, each offer breathtaking vistas. Zermatt flaunts towering peaks over 4,000 meters, dominated by the iconic Matterhorn. Meanwhile, Wengen boasts views of the impressive Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau trio, and sits above the picturesque Lauterbrunnen valley. Can’t decide? Let’s explore both options.

Zermatt boasts a larger ski area, a more cosmopolitan atmosphere, high-altitude hikes, and museums. From Zermatt, you have fantastic views of the iconic Matterhorn. On the other hand, Wengen exudes a more serene vibe with its pedestrian village and stunning trails, complemented by a substantial ski area, albeit smaller than Zermatt’s. It also serves as the access point to Jungfraujoch, Europe’s highest railway station.

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 take: Honestly, I can’t choose between them; I like both equally. But if you want to see Switzerland’s tallest mountains, go to Zermatt. Zermatt sits within the realm of the Pennine Alps, home to some of Switzerland’s highest peaks.



Key Differences: Zermatt vs. Wengen

The key differences between Zermatt and Wengen are as follows:

ZermattWengen
Population: approx. 5,755Population: approx. 1,300
Total Area: 242.67 km2Total Area: 36.4 km²
Elevation: 1,608 m (5,276 ft)Elevation: 1,274 meters (4,180 feet)
Accessible by train,
Car-free
Accessible by train,
Car-free
Highlights: Matterhorn, Sunnegga, Gornergrat, Klein MatterhornHighlights: Kleine Scheidegg, Jungfraujoch, Männlichen
Image of Zermatt 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 higher than those surrounding Wengen. 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 Wengen, Zermatt and its surroundings have more impressive mountains if we simply go with the assumption that the taller mountains are more impressive.

Image of Wengen by TouringSwitzerland.com

Wengen is the largest village in the Lauterbrunnen Valley.  Approximately 1,274 meters above sea level, Wengen is in the Bernese Highlands (Bernese Oberland). It sits at the foot of the 4,158-meter-high Jungfrau mountain.

The car-free village of Wengen is just 15 minutes from Lauterbrunnen Village. To get to this village, you’ll have to park your car at Lauterbrunnen before heading up on the train.

Wengen holds a Mendelssohn Music Festival every August. A musical genius and artist, Felix Mendelssohn was awed by Jungfrau on his way from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen. In his diary, he describes his experiences in the Jungfrau region, especially in Wengen. Mendelssohn is honored in Wengen with a yearly music festival, a memorial in the upper part of the village, and a hiking trail to Wengernalp.  

With the world-famous Lauberhorn ski race held every January in Wengen, everything is great for tourists. Most houses here are wooden chalets, though a few hotels are in the Belle Époque style.


Places to Visit near Zermatt and Wengen

  • Gornergrat – At 3,089 meters above sea level, Gornergrat provides awesome views of the Matterhorn mountain.
  • 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.
  • Trockener Steg – At 2,939 meters above sea level, Trockener Steg provides fantastic views of the surrounding mountain peaks.
Image of the Matterhorn Museum by TouringSwitzerland.com
  • 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.
  • 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 near 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 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, 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 live 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.

Around Wengen, you’ll find lots of amazing places to visit, like Jungfraujoch, Europe’s highest train station, and the stunning Lauterbrunnen valley with its 72 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.
  • Lauterbrunnen – Lauterbrunnen village is situated at the valley bottom of this magnificent U-shaped valley in Switzerland surrounded by numerous waterfalls.
  • Eiger Glacier – The Eiger Glacier lies on the northwest side of the Eiger Mountain.
  • Kleine Scheidegg –  Kleine Scheidegg is a mountain pass at an elevation of 2,061 meters. It is located between 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.
Image taken from Jungfraujoch by Aranha from Pixabay
  • 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.
  • Grindelwald First Cliff Walk – High walkway suspended from the side of the mountain offering fantastic valley views.
Image of Grindelwald First by TouringSwitzerland.com
  • 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 by cable car from Grindelwald. Additionally, there is a toboggan run and a fly line.
Image of Trümmelbach Falls by TouringSwitzerland.com
Image of Trümmelbach Falls by TouringSwitzerland.com
  • 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 cliff.
  • Trümmelbach Waterfalls – There are ten glacier-fed waterfalls in Switzerland’s Trümmelbach Falls. It is accessible by a tunnel-funicular built back in 1913. 
  • 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 – This 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.
  • Allmendhubel – At 1,907 meters above sea level, Allmendhubel is a hill above Mürren that has a large playground called Flower Park for families with children.

Accessibility: Zermatt vs. Wengen

Image of Täsch – Zermatt Shuttle by TouringSwitzerland.com

The comparison table below shows how long it would take you to reach Zermatt and Wengen from Zurich, Geneva, and Bern. On paper, Wengen is the quicker one to reach. Nonetheless, the time difference is not substantial, ranging from just 10 to 30 minutes.

ZermattWengen
Travel time from Zurich (fastest)3 hours and 12 minutes2 hours and 40 minutes
Travel time from Geneva (fastest)3 hours and 40 minutes3 hours and 30 minutes
Travel time from Bern (fastest)2 hours and 7 minutes1 hour and 38 minutes
Estimated Travel Times to Zermatt and Wengen from Swiss Cities

While both Zermatt and Wengen are car-free villages, if you have a car, you’ll need to park it either at the Täsch Terminal Parking near Zermatt or at the Lauterbrunnen Valley Parking near Wengen. If you’re flying in from another country, you might want to skip renting a car and rely solely on train travel.


Skiing: Zermatt vs. Wengen

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.

Wengen is one of Switzerland’s biggest ski resorts offering 160 kilometers of skiing for all levels of difficulty. Every January, there’s a big ski race called the Lauberhorn World Cup that takes place there.

Below we have two tables comparing the slopes of ski resorts in Saas-Fee and Zermatt.

Pistes (in km)ZermattWengen
Easy7464
Medium22773
Difficult2023
Freeride38
Total360160
Ski seasonAll-year-roundDecember to April
Pistes Comparison Zermatt and Wengen

While Zermatt boasts a larger and more expansive ski area that operates year-round, Wengen also offers a substantial and delightful skiing experience, with a healthy mix of slopes for all ski levels and top-notch facilities.


Advantages: Zermatt vs. Wengen

  • Atmosphere and Vibe: Zermatt has a vibrant, cosmopolitan atmosphere with a lively après-ski scene, a variety of restaurants, and a bustling town. There are also typically more hotels in Zermatt to choose from compared to Wengen.
  • Mountain Access: Zermatt is closer to the Pennine Alps. Choose it if you want to visit the mountains near and around Valais. It is also renowned for the iconic Matterhorn.
  • Skiing: 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.
  • Activities: 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.
  • Dining and Cuisine: Zermatt boasts a wide variety of restaurants, ranging from traditional Swiss cuisine to international dishes. For those seeking a fine dining experience, there are several Michelin-starred restaurants in the area such as Capri, After Seven, Alpine Gourmet Prato Borni, and Brasserie Uno.
  • Atmosphere and Vibe: Wengen has a more traditional, quieter ambiance with a pedestrianized village center and a focus on relaxation and enjoying the natural surroundings. You’ll find fewer restaurants, hotels, and facilities there compared to Zermatt. Choose it if you want to stay somewhere more peaceful yet still close to the mountains.
  • Mountain Access: Wengen is part of the Jungfrau region, providing access to the Jungfrau, Mönch, and Eiger peaks. Alongside the famous trio, the Bernese Alps near Wengen also encompass peaks like Schilthorn, Schreckhorn, Wetterhorn, and Gross Fiescherhorn.
  • Skiing: Though admittedly not as large as Zermatt, Wengen is still one of Switzerland’s biggest ski resorts offering 160 kilometers of skiing for all levels of difficulty. Every January, there’s a big ski race called the Lauberhorn World Cup that takes place there.
  • Activities: Wengen has an edge over Zermatt because you can see the country’s most stunning waterfalls in this region aside from the high peaks of the Bernese Alps and the glaciers. You can also ride the train up to Jungfraujoch.
  • Dining and Cuisine: Wengen is a charming village that offers a variety of local eateries that are perfect for a quick bite or a casual meal. Wengen doesn’t have any Michelin-starred restaurants, but nearby Grindelwald has 1910 Gourmet by Hausers, and in Interlaken, there’s Radius by Stefan Beer.

Hotels: Zermatt vs. Wengen

Zermatt indeed offers a lot more options for accommodation than Wengen, but there are still several decent choices over in Wengen. These are our recommendations for both places.

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 Wengen

Image of Wengen by TouringSwitzerland.com

If you wish to stay in Wengen, I would recommend the following hotels:

  • Beausite Park Hotel, Wengen (4-star) – Beausite Park Hotel is located at the base of the Wengen-Männlichen cable car, making it easy to reach the Grindelwald and Kleine Scheidegg ski slopes. This hotel offers superb views, fine cuisine, top-rated spa facilities, a children’s playground, a natural swimming pond, and free WiFi.
  • Hotel Maya Caprice (4-star) – In the heart of the car-free village of Wengen, this top-rated hotel is near the Wengen-Männlichen cable car and Wengen train station. Featuring natural wooden decor, balconies overlooking the Jungfrau massif, spacious refurbished rooms, a comfortable spa, and a fitness center, guests are sure to enjoy their stay here.
  • Alpine Hotel Wengen (4-star) – Across from the Männlichen Cable Car is the Alpine Hotel Wengen. The hotel offers a garden, trampoline, indoor pool, sauna, and lounge bar, making it one of the best places to stay in the car-free village of Wengen.
  • Hotel Schönegg (3-star superior) – Featuring an award-winning restaurant and beautifully renovated rooms, it has great mountain views, a sauna, and incredibly friendly staff.
  • Arenas Resort Victoria-Lauberhorn (3-star) – Built back in 1897, Arenas Resort Victoria-Lauberhorn offers up-to-date spa facilities including a swimming pool. The hotel is located near the train and cable car stations of the car-free Wengen.

You can find more hotels and apartments in Wengen via Booking.com.

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Final Thoughts: Zermatt vs. Wengen

For travelers seeking a vibrant, bustling atmosphere with a lively après-ski scene and an extensive array of outdoor activities amidst high-alpine landscapes, Zermatt proves an ideal choice. It caters to those keen on skiing extensively, relishing vibrant nightlife, and exploring the iconic Matterhorn and the Valais region’s majestic peaks. Additionally, Zermatt offers an extensive selection of hotels and a longer skiing season.

On the other hand, Wengen beckons those desiring a quieter, traditional ambiance amidst nature’s tranquility. With a more serene and relaxed vibe, Wengen appeals to those seeking a peaceful retreat near the Bernese Alps. Despite having fewer dining and lodging options, Wengen boasts access to the Jungfrau region’s remarkable peaks, including iconic mountains like Jungfrau, Mönch, and Eiger, along with a sizable ski area suitable for various skiing levels. Moreover, it provides the opportunity to witness the country’s most captivating waterfalls and offers a scenic train journey up to Jungfraujoch.

For me, I can’t express a preference as I equally enjoy both destinations and often alternate my visits between Zermatt and Wengen due to their distinct yet captivating offerings.

No matter what you choose, you won’t regret it. They’re both gorgeous, with majestic mountains and natural landscapes.

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Resource

  • Stiftung UNESCO Welterbe Schweizer Alpen Jungfrau-Aletsch. Gentle and wild – the valley of Grindelwald, 1. Ausgabe 2011.

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Darla 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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