Whilst I have skied in Switzerland on a number of occasions, this was my first visit to Zermatt. I have put a few general comments and observations about Zermatt at the end of this review but will start by focussing on the Julen.
The hotel us reasonably well located for both the town and the primary lifts. The shops and restaurants of the town are around 4 minutes walk from the hotel along beautiful streets with timbered chalet style buildings. The lifts are a bit of a trek but the Julen is about as good a location for all lifts/trains as you van get. The Sunnegga funicular raiilway is a 7 minute trudge with your skis or a short walk to the ski bus stop outside the Max Julen restaurant and then a 3 minute bus ride.
The lifts to Furi, Schwarzee, Trockener Steg and Gornergrat are 4 minutes on the bus (in the other direction).
This sounds like a lot of effort for someone used to short walks or ski in/out but in reality its very simple - the ski busses pass every 8-10 minutes or so and I didn't have any ddifficulty getting on any of the busses (although I did have to get up close and personal with some of my fellow skiers occasionally!).
The Papperla Pub is directly across the road from the hotel and is a great place for a well earned beer on the way home - great music and lots of life. We were concerned about the noise generated (as our room overlooked the pub) but things quietened down by 7-8pm each night and it actually wasn't a problem.
We had a junior suite which was a lovely, spacious, pine clad room, comprising a sleeping area and sitting area separated by double sliding doors. As it common in Europe the double bed was actually two twin beds pushed together (with separate mattresses and duvets). The bed was on the soft side and, in view of a slightly dodgy back, we asked them whether they put some wood under the mattress to make it firmer - this was done quickly and without any fusss and seemed to do the trick.
The sitting area had a sofa, a large pine table with bench seating. There was plenty of wardrobe space for those bulky ski clothes, and a safe. Disappointingly there were no in room tea/coffee facilities but this was a relatively small issue. The mini bar was well stocked but the prices (even by hotel mini bar standards) meant that we made other arrangements.
The batthroom was very nice, with sufficient shelf space and a big whirlpool bath but was a little tight for space when twwo people are trying to get ready for bed!.
We had a large flat screen tv showing the full range of UK television channels which was a nice change from BBC World or CNN that is usually on offer.
One fairly major problem was that the room was quite noisy. We couldn't identify where the noise was coming from - it didn't sound like human generated noise (although at times it did seem like the people in the room above us were moving their furniture around for about 2 hours). We decided it was inherent hotel noise - water in the pipes, heating or similar. It wasn't booming party noise but instead was an irritating, insiduous noise that becomes gradually more irritating. My wife took to earplugs wwhich seemed to make it more tolerable.
Our room (101) looked out onto the Bellerive hotel and another couple of accomodation blocks which meant that they had direct line of sight into our room (which had no net curtains). This didn't feel oppressive or uncomfortable but it did mean thatt we had to be careful walking past the windows after a bath/shower!!
The Public Areas of the Hotel
The public areas are very nice and stylish. The foyer / bar area has an open fire and chairs covered in what seemed to be cow hide/fur (do cows have fur??). The bar is well stocked but the the cocktail list is a little limited.
We used the beautiful spa / pool a few times and it was wonderfully peaceful - apart from my wife, I swam alone on the times that we visited the pool. It is one of the largest and nicest pools that I have seen despite being 2 levels underground and so having no views. There is a sauna (be warned - it is a naked area), massage and beauty treatments and a well equipped gym (not that my legs were up to that after skiing!).
There is a secure ski room with substantial lockers (opeened with your room key) - the usual features are all there including boot warmers.
We had intended to take advantage of the hotel's good value CHF35 half board option but, my wife is a little fussy about her food and doesn't eat lamb or veal (which the hotel seemed to have on the menu quite a bit) so we ate out every night except one. On the night that we ate at the hotel the food was ok without hitting the standards of say the Burg in Oberlech or the Sun Valley in Selva. We had no major complaints but weren't impressed enough to eat there again.
Breakfasts are very good, with a full range of choices - fruits, yoghurt, breads, croissants, fresh orange juice, meats and cheeses, salmon and kippers, eggs and bacon cooked to order. You can order coffee or cappuccino etc at the table and certainly the coffee was good.
The staff were helpful and friendly. They were a little more formal than some of the skiing hotels we have visited in the past but that actually does seem to be representative of Zermatt as a whole. Again, no complaints at all but we weren't blown away by the service.
There is one major problem with Zermatt which I'll mention below but the positives first:
It is incredibly beautiful - with timbered buildings, narrow streets, lovely river flowing through the middle of the town, jaw dropping mountain scenery all around. The town is large enough that there is some life to it - there are numerous places to shop or eat out and a good range of non-skiing activities (cinema, ice rink, winter walking trails for example) yet doesn't lose any of the "village" feel. Most of the shopping and restaurants are along the main street up from the train station. Some of the residential accomodation can be a bit of a walk away but it would be a nice, picturesque walk.
There are no cars in Zermatt but there are numerous annoying electric buggies from the hotels or private taxi firms. They don't travel very fast but they do creeep up on the unaware and at times, pass uncomfortably close to you. You just have to treat the streets like a road and you'll be fine.
As far as shops are concerned there are lots of expensive ski shops, expensive watch shops, expensive souvenirs etc etc and that really brings me onto the major problem.
Zermatt by far the most expensive resort we have ever been to. Obvioulsy the Swiss Franc / GBP exchange rate is not great if you are from the UK but this does not explain away the breathtakingly expensive prices in Zermatt. When on holiday we, like most people, tend to relax our financial controls and enjoy the local shops but here, we simply refused to pay the prices that were being asked! This meant that whilst there are plenty of shops we actuallydid very little shopping. It is a real shame because if the prices were more accessible then I'm sure that the increased volume would more that offset the price reductions.
Restaurant price were high but the quality was very good. I have listed a few which I enjoyed during my stay:
Le Mazot - (town) wonderful meat oriented restaurant. Wonderfull lamb, creative menu and good wine list. Lovely atmosphere in a rustic feeling room with helpful, friendly staff.
Grampis - (town) great Italian restaurant with fantastic pizza (best I had in Zermatt), lovely choice of pasta, meats from the grill. Expensive but at the more reasonable end of the spectrum. Nice friendly staff.
Spycher - (town) lovely, charismatic, rustic style restauran, mostly featuring meat dishes (although they do a superb Langoustine risotto. Excellent wine list and truly charming staff.
Stockhorn Grill - (town) meat dominated restaurant where they cook the meats in front of you on a wood fired grill. I had an incredible fillet steak from the grill which was about the best I have eaten. A little more informal and rustic than other places and the staff a little more brusque.
Snowboat - (town) great lively bar with an excellent menu. I had a really good burger on my way back to the hotel after skiing.
Whymperstube - (town) a little disappointing after reading the reviews. Food was ok but not great, service was patchy and the seating layout meant that walkers-in from the street were queing up behind you as you were eating. Again, heavily meat dominated.
Chez Vrony (Mountain - Findeln) - unbelievable views, great service (efficient and friendly), great food, lovely menu and wine list. We spent a memorable afternoon here after walking up from town (which was breathtaking in a different way!!).
Ice Pizza (Mountain - Trockener) - really nice pizza and pasta restaurant up at the top of the Trockener lift. Considering the location the prices were reasonable and the whole experience was extremely good. Pizza was enormous!
I am a cautious (a nice way of saying that I mostly ski in a state of terror!) intermediate skier and I found the skiing excellent. There are quite a few very narrow paths that would be a sort of linking run in other resorts. These are a bit nervewracking to start with (lots of sliding needed) but you do get used to them.
Sunnegga is a great area as an introduction - the blue run (7) frfom Blauherd down to Sunnegga lift is nice and mostly easy but with a steep lump about half way down which I could see causing a few problems for nervous early skiers. There is a lovely red run (4) from Sunnegga to Patrullarve which cust through the trees and is very picturesque, nice and wide and uncrowded. The black run (8) is in parts quite steep but is very wide and manageable. How comfortable you wiill be on this slope depends on the snow conditions - I did this run a couple of times and it was great but later in the week, the slope was icy and the snow resembling rubble in parts - much more difficult!
Gronergrat / Riffleberg - nice easy slopes generally, uncrowded, well groomed with a few really interesting places to go off piste (whilst staying within comfort zones). About half way down there is an igloo town selling hot and cold drinks and food. A great place to recharge in the sunshine!
Tockener Steg / Schwarzsee - mostly long wide, red slopes but not too difficult. Great place to practice technique on slopes with a bit of gradient.
There is a relatively nice black run ( 62) from Schwarzsee to Furi but which can get busy and icy in the late afternoon. There is an alternative red back to town (52) but be warned it is very flat in parts and unless you keep a little speed up you will end up using your poles and doings a bit of skating.
No problems with queues anywhere (perhaps the costs are having an effect) and geenerally the mountains were a pleasure to get around on.
Great snow making across pretty much the entire resort (not that it was needed much).
For those not wanting to unable to ski, there is quite a bit to do in the town. For my wife this mostly consisted of walking the extensive winter snow trails. There are numerous well prepared and marked trails, both at valley level and up into the mountains. I joined my wife on the hike up to Findeln to get to Chez Vrony and it was a beautiful, picturesque walk up the mountain with truly incredible views.
We really liked Zermatt - the town, skiing, restaurants etc and if it weren't for the cost we would certainly return. The town is very attractive, it is not overly boistrous and its easy to get around. However, the expense is a drawback that cannot be ignored - I guarantee you will love the town and the skiing but I would not be surprised if, like us, you question whether the it justifies the cost.
Junior Suites don't seem to have any views of Matterhorn and are overlooked by other hotels
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.