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Ancient village of peerless, charm, a pure distillation of mountain magic

With its beguiling atmosphere, sensational scenery and skiing for all levels, Zermatt is a world-class giant of a resort.

It is a heady blend of the rustic and the chic, watched over by the mighty Matterhorn, a formidable combination of all that could be desired in a ski resort.

Its extensive, varied and lofty slopes provide wonderful skiing for intermediate and advanced skiers and boarders. The altitude, and glacial area, gives good snow over a long season with a sophisticated lift system that’s constantly being upgraded. It is an impressive network of fast chairs, gondolas, cable-cars and historic rack railway linking the three main ski sectors.

The slopes also boast the world’s best mountain restaurants - 46 at the last count, many memorable. The cosmopolitan, largely traffic-free village, has matchless charm and an extensive choice of après-ski bars, high-end restaurants and designer shops.

The village is set at 5,310ft in the Mattertal, in the canton of Valais, surrounded by some of the country’s highest peaks. It links with the Italian slopes of Cervinia.

Everyone arrives by the rack railway – cars are banned. A mix of ancient farms, grand hotels and modern steel and glass buildings, the village lies both sides of a fast-flowing river. To get about you can use electric taxis or ski-bus.

It has one of Europe’s few heli-skiing operations and Air Zermatt has several drop-offs – the Monte Rosa run is best, a 2,600-metre vertical. Other treats include Europe’s longest piste run, 20-kms from Klein Matterhorn to Valtournenche.

Helicopter sightseeing flights over the Matterhorn are also possible, plus paragliding flights. You can skate and try curling. Seventy kilometres of paths through silent forests are cleared for winter-walking and snowshoeing.

Zermatt has some of Switzerland's best apres-ski, starting with bars on the home run, maybe Othmar’s Skihutte or Hennu Stall (often with live bands). In the village, the Papperia kicks off at 4.30pm, while North Wall, a locals’ favourite, and Sparky’s have keen prices. The quirky Alex bar has leather sofas and pool. Many hotels have fabulous spas – and there are art and photo galleries to explore. Discos include Schneewitchen and Broken.

Hotel Alex Grill

Hotel Alex Grill

Located in the basement of the hotel, the Alex Grill is renowned for its lavish menu, incorporating the finest ingredients to produce stunning dishes which are as good on the tongue as they are on the eye.

Be seated in the extravagant dining room which serves as a sign of things to come as the tableware, wooden pillars and finishing touches all create the connotation of effort and exuberance. You’ll soon see the correlation after you receive your order when you’ll be served with a stunning, if a bit eccentric, dish. If you feel guilty about destroying a food creation put in front of you, you won’t once you’ve tasted it. The food’s quality is never in question and you may even be converted to some new, unusual food combinations including duck breast with pumpkin-mango chutney.

The presentation of the dishes may only be upstaged by the ostentatious stained glass scenes that line the walls. This makes for a rather unique atmosphere to dine in and rounds off what is a unique, luxury dining experience.

The Vernissage

The Vernissage

Perfectly placed in the heart of Zermatt, the Vernissage has been a go-to bar in the region for over 20 years. Dark and contemporary, the venue was designed by local artist and architect Heinz Julen who made art and culture the focus of his design.

A wonderful example of traditional and modern features co-existing, the Vernissage also is successful in combining different aspects of après ski nightlife under one roof. Incorporating it’s impressive floor space, the bar has plenty of seating available, a dominating stage area and elbow room at the bar comes in good measure too.

Not only is the Vernissage a trendy lounge bar, but it also functions as both a gallery and a cinema. By day, the cinema entertains in front of a large hall of seats. By night, it is converted into a concert hall or a night club to ensure that the party spills over from the rest of the bar.