When it comes to planning a trip to the Swiss Alps there are two names that often come up: Grindelwald and Zermatt and deciding to visit one or the other is no easy task.
These stunning alpine villages/towns are also quite different, especially in regard to location. Zermatt sits at an elevation of 1,620m (5,315ft), at the foot of Switzerland’s highest peak in the Valais Canton of southern Switzerland close to the Italian border.
Grindelwald on the other hand is at 1,034 m (3,392 ft) above sea level in the central Swiss canton of Bern and is the gateway to the Jungfrau Region and the amazing peaks of the Bernese Alps.
While both being picturesque mountain towns with breathtaking views and thrilling outdoor activities, in the heart of Switzerland’s beauty, choosing between them is not easy. Not to worry, below you will find a comparison between these two iconic Swiss destinations to help you decide which one is right for you.
Table of Contents
Grindelwald or Zermatt: Weather
One of the essential factors to consider when choosing between Grindelwald and Zermatt is the weather and the time of year.
Grindelwald, located in the Bernese Oberland region, enjoys a milder climate compared to Zermatt. Summers in Grindelwald are pleasant with average temperatures ranging from 15°C to 25°C (59°F to 77°F), making it an ideal time for hiking and other outdoor activities.
On the other hand, Zermatt experiences cooler temperatures due to its higher elevation. Summers here are still enjoyable but slightly cooler, with average temperatures ranging from 10°C to 20°C (50°F to 68°F).
During the winter, both of these alpine towns experience excellent snowfall, but Zermatt’s higher altitude means more consistent snowfall and a longer ski season overall.
Grindelwald or Zermatt: For Skiing
Both Grindelwald and Zermatt are renowned for their excellent ski resorts.
Grindelwald offers access to the extensive Jungfrau ski region, which includes over 200 kilometers (124 miles) of slopes suitable for all skill levels.
From gentle beginner slopes to challenging black runs, there is something for everyone in Grindelwald. The resort is also known for its scenic views of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau mountains.
Zermatt, on the other hand, is home to the iconic Matterhorn and offers one of the most famous ski areas in the world, the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise.
With over 360 kilometers (224 miles) of slopes, Zermatt provides a wide range of skiing opportunities for all levels of skiers. The high altitude ensures excellent snow conditions throughout the season, making it a paradise for winter sports enthusiasts.
You can also ski on the Matterhorn Glacier 365 days a year, so skiing is always on offer in Zermatt regardless of snowfall.
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Grindelwald or Zermatt: Other Winter Activities
While skiing is a highlight in both Grindelwald and Zermatt, these destinations offer more than just slopes.
In Grindelwald, you can embark on thrilling winter hikes, take a scenic cable car ride to the summit of the Jungfraujoch, or try your hand at ice climbing. The region also offers snowshoeing trails and toboggan runs as well as ice skating.
Zermatt also offers a range of winter activities beyond skiing. You can explore the stunning winter landscape by snowshoeing or enjoy the adrenaline rush of ice climbing. Zermatt is also famous for its ice skating rinks and curling facilities, providing fun options for both individuals and groups. If you’re looking to add variety to your winter itinerary, Zermatt won’t disappoint.
There are also cultural sights to visit in Zermatt such as the Matterhorn museum and there are also museums in Grindelwald too. It is safe to say that there is plenty to do in both towns in winter outside of skiing.
Grindelwald or Zermatt: Summer Activities
Grindelwald and Zermatt have plenty to offer during the summer months as well as in winter.
In Grindelwald, you can visit the famous First Cliff Walk at First cable car station for breathtaking views, or go paragliding to experience the region from above, as well as a lot of other activities that are on offer at First Mountain.
The hiking around Grindelwald is also incredible and one great hike to do is the Eiger Trail which will have you strolling past the legendary north face of the Eiger Mountain. Hiking to Bachalpsee Lake is also not to be missed as you can see a perfect reflection of the Eiger, Monch., and Jungfrau mountains on calm days.
Mountain biking, rock climbing, and canyoning are other popular activities as well as taking the train ride up to Jungfraujoch for a stunning glacial experience.
Zermatt, with its magnificent alpine scenery, is equally captivating in the summer. There are plenty of hiking trails to suit all skill levels, a lot of which feature alpine lakes as well as incredible views of the Matterhorn.
The Gornergrat Railway offers a panoramic journey to the summit, where you can admire the Matterhorn in all its glory, and is one the top things to do in Zermatt.
Additionally, Zermatt has fantastic mountain biking trails, golf courses, and even summer skiing on the glacier. You can also enjoy a range of water sports on Lake Zermatt from kite surfing to windsurfing and more.
Grindelwald or Zermatt: Transportation
When it comes to transportation, both Grindelwald and Zermatt are well-connected and easy to reach.
Grindelwald can be reached by train from all major Swiss cities via Interlaken Ost train station, and once you arrive, the local transportation system efficiently connects various parts of the region. Cable cars and cogwheel trains provide access to the mountain peaks and other attractions.
Zermatt is a car-free town, making it an idyllic escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Visitors can reach Zermatt by train and then transfer to electric taxis or horse-drawn carriages for transportation within the town.
The Gornergrat Railway and the Klein Matterhorn Cable Car are popular modes of transport to explore the surrounding areas.
Grindelwald or Zermatt: Food
Switzerland is renowned for its delicious cuisine, and both Grindelwald and Zermatt offer a delightful gastronomic experience.
In Grindelwald, you can savor traditional Swiss dishes like fondue, raclette, and rösti in cozy mountain restaurants. Local ingredients, including Alpine cheese and fresh mountain herbs, enhance the flavors of these classic dishes.
In Zermatt, you’ll find a wide range of culinary options, from traditional Swiss fare to international cuisine. The town boasts numerous gourmet restaurants that showcase local ingredients in innovative and exquisite ways.
Don’t miss the opportunity to taste Valais specialties such as dried meat and local wines during your visit.
Grindelwald or Zermatt: Accommodation
Both Grindelwald and Zermatt offer a variety of accommodation options to suit different preferences and budgets.
Grindelwald provides a charming alpine village atmosphere with a range of hotels, chalets, and guesthouses. Some accommodations offer stunning views of the surrounding mountains, allowing you to wake up to breathtaking scenery every day.
Zermatt, being a more popular tourist destination, offers a wider range of accommodations, including luxury hotels, cozy chalets, and comfortable apartments some of which have views of the Matterhorn from the balconies.
The town has a bustling atmosphere and numerous shops, restaurants, and bars to explore. Keep in mind that accommodation prices in Zermatt can be higher compared to Grindelwald due to its popularity.
Grindelwald or Zermatt: Travel Cost
When it comes to travel costs, Switzerland, in general, is known for being an expensive country and both Grindelwald and Zermatt can be considered as high-end destinations in Switzerland.
Accommodation, dining, and activities can add up quickly, particularly in popular tourist areas like Zermatt. Grindelwald, although more affordable compared to Zermatt, can still be expensive, especially during peak seasons.
Consider booking accommodations and activities in advance to secure better deals. Additionally, exploring local supermarkets and opting for self-catering options can help you save on food expenses.
Grindelwald or Zermatt: Best Time To Visit
The best time to visit Grindelwald and Zermatt is about finding a time with the right weather and outside of peak season so that you can save some money on accommodation.
If you are looking to visit Grindelwald or Zermatt during the winter, the most affordable times of the year with good snowfall tend to be around the first two weeks of March or in early December along with the last 2 weeks of January.
If you’re more inclined towards a summer visit then the months of June and September are your best bet. You will avoid the large crowds and high prices of the peak season of July and August but still benefit from lovely weather and the mountain pass hiking trails will still be open too.
Grindelwald or Zermatt: Which Is Better?
Ultimately, whether Zermatt or Grindelwald is better for you depends on your preferences and interests, and in all honesty, visiting both Zermatt and Grindelwald would be ideal. However, that is not possible for all of us.
Grindelwald is an excellent choice for those seeking a relaxed and picturesque mountain getaway as it offers a relaxed alpine village ambiance and milder weather, and it is generally more affordable too.
Zermatt, on the other hand, offers unparalleled views of the iconic Matterhorn, an extensive ski area, and a bustling town with a lot going on.
If you’re looking for a vibrant atmosphere, a world-renowned ski resort, and a variety of dining and entertainment options, Zermatt may be the perfect choice for you.
Both destinations will give you unforgettable experiences whether you’re a nature lover, an adventure seeker, or simply seeking a place to relax.