As scenic train journeys go, the ride on the historic Gornergrat Railway from the beautiful Swiss village of Zermatt is one of the finest in the world, with constant views along the route of the mighty Matterhorn, one of the Alps’ highest mountains.
For 125 years, the legendary cog railway has carried passengers from the village at 1,600 metres to the summit at 3,089 metres above sea level for the most spectacular views of mountains and glaciers as far as the eye can see.
No fewer than 29 lofty 4,000-metre-high peaks, including the iconic Matterhorn, stretch out from the viewing platform, from where you can also see the icy tongue of the Gorner glacier, the third longest in the Alps.
The journey takes about half an hour and trains run 365 days of the year, with the timetable varying according to the season. You can find up-to-date schedules here. During the high season (summer and winter) trains run every 24 minutes.
Passengers can alight at any or all of the four stations on the route, Findelbach, Riffelalp, Riffelberg and Rotenboden, each of which offers excellent hiking in the summer, or winter snowshoe tours. Afterwards, passengers can continue to the summit, with tickets valid for any train on a chosen day.
At Gornergrat, there are plenty of facilities including a self-service restaurant open year-round and a full-service restaurant in season, gift shops, a hotel and public toilets. The train fare to the Gornergrat also includes admission to ‘ZOOOM the Matterhorn’, a multimedia world and an interactive exhibition that brings visitors closer to the Matterhorn, thanks to news technologies, such as a virtual reality experience.
Activities on Gornergrat include short and long hikes for every level from the top or from any of the four different stops, and mountain biking, with space for up to a total of 10 bikes on the train from Zermatt to enable riders to take the rocky trail back down from the summit. During the summer, thanks to the popular offer ‘Meet the Sheep’, you can find and pet the famous blacknose sheep, which wear GPS collars to make them easier to locate.
And for the ultimate ‘Kodak moment’, when passengers reach the summit, they take a short, themed trail from the train station to the ‘Golden Spot’, a gleaming gold-painted original historic locomotive from 1898, which, together with the mighty Matterhorn, provides the perfect backdrop for the perfect Insta-pic. The photo point is open all year and can be experienced by all guests, free of charge.
However, nothing beats the 360-degree panorama view from the viewing platform at the top of the Gornergrat, at 3,135 meters of altitude, which is reachable from the train station with a 10-minutes’ walk. Talking of accessibility, the new Polaris trains running for the Gornergrat Railway have a low-floor entrance to provide easy access for wheelchairs, and there are also accessible toilets in the Kulmhotel on the Gornergrat.
It is not possible to make seat reservations on the train, but guests who would like guaranteed seats together can buy a Priority Boarding ticket for an additional CHF 7 per person, which will give them the possibility to board the train before everybody else and pick the best seats (on the right-hand side when travelling up the mountain).
For guests looking for an even more special treat, why not suggest they reserve the NostalChic Class package, introduced this year to celebrate the line’s 125th anniversary. This experience is a ride to the Gornergrat in a one-of-a-kind, vintage carriage and it includes culinary highlights (a welcome drink and finger food at the Tannenhof Hotel and a four-course lunch with wine at Rifflehaus 1853 in Riffleberg), an exclusive stop along the line for perfect pictures, and a souvenir at the end of the day. The 22 guests are welcomed by and taken care of by a knowledgeable concierge, who tells stories about Zermatt, the Railway and much more throughout the day. This package is available every Wednesday from 27 December 2023 to 17 April 2024.
For more information, go to the Gornegrat Railways website.