A Focus on Zermatt: Mountain Views and Culinary Delights

Red! White! Yellow! Green! Indigo! Black! White!

We sat on our almost too-good-to-be-true balcony at the aptly named ‘Matterhorn Focus’ hotel, looking up at the still dimly visible Matterhorn set upon the starry backdrop, noticing the oddly sporadic and countless colors blinking on the light on the Schwarzsee side of the mountain.

“What do you think those lights mean?” I asked. 

A quick Google search revealed that there were three lights of this kind visible from Zermatt, and between sunset and sunrise, they could be easily changed at will by a simple telephone call.  As it turns out, all you need to do is own a cell phone and you can make your own impact on Zermatt.  The Yeti club originally came up with the idea, aptly named Lumorama, in celebration of mountain guides who give their time and unfortunately, sometimes their lives to the mountains.  All funds from the calls go towards a fund which is given to families guides in times of need.  The spirit of the Lumorama, to us, embodies exactly what Zermatt, Matterhorn Focus, and the people of this region of Switzerland stand for:

Creative, thoughtful, and ever focused on and toward the mountains.


We arrived at the Matterhorn Focus Hotel on an unseasonably warm afternoon, and were immediately struck by the friendliness of all of the staff – as well as a much-needed welcome drink.  The people we met quickly felt like friends, eager to share with us their insights on the town, the best places to catch the right light/views at each time of the day, weather-dependent.  While one might expect the hotel to be modest assuming the views of the Matterhorn would do the heavy lifting, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  The hotel itself is a shining star, and the views of the Matterhorn and surrounding peaks from the room are merely a cherry on top of the exceptional experience within. 

Focus Matterhorn Royal Suite

Being American, living in London, and having an ongoing obsession with the Nordic culture of minimalism and simplicity, we tend to favor places that have a perfect fusion of all of the above.  We were shown to our Royal Suite and to say that it did not disappoint would be an understatement.  A mountain view? Check. Minimalist, clean and welcoming rustic design? Check.  Easy access to endless miles of trails? Check. Walkable distance to good food & the town? Check. Matterhorn Focus has it all, without swinging too far into the red-and-white-checkered-everything, old-fashioned Swiss-chalet style.  It makes those of us non-Swiss who come from other places and are experiencing a bit of a culture shock feel comfortable and right at home.


You can’t go wrong with a room at the Matterhorn Focus.  You are either positioned in a room with breathtaking unobstructed views of the Matterhorn, or given the chance to look over the entire town of Zermatt and all of the other surrounding peaks from the other side. We were treated to the Matterhorn views, which made waking up for sunrise a little less painful, as we could watch the very tip of the mountain turn that specific shade of alpenglow pink that is worth waking up for every time – and then head straight back to bed for another hour of shuteye.

While we were there in the summer, it’s also worth noting that for winter visitors, this would be an ideal place to check weather conditions from bed, rather than by iPhone, and decide whether or not to hop on the lift right away or give yourself another few hours to doze.  The lift is painfully convenient in proximity, and allows you to expend more energy up on the slopes, rather than getting to them.


Balcony View at Matterhorn Focus

Balcony View at Matterhorn Focus


When coming off of the mountain, even in the summer, there’s nothing more enticing than a frosty cold beer and a nice place to sit down and relax.

Our suite was cozy and loaded with ample plush fixtures: a free standing bath with soaking salts, a personal Nespresso machine, several fluffy blankets and pillows; as well, multiple sitting rooms in the main lobby were equally inviting and rustic without being too pretentiously lodgy.  Every room just begged to be sat in and enjoyed – whether for a quick rest before taking on the next activity, or for curling up with a book for a few hours and lazying away the day.

Matterhorn Focus Lounge Area

Matterhorn Focus Lounge Area


Getting away from the crowds, selfie sticks, and souvenir shops is an imperative for every trip we take, even if just for a little while – and having been to Zermatt as very much classic “tourists” before, we made it our mission on this particular trip to stay somewhere that was well positioned to escape and hit the trails conveniently and easily.

Matterhorn Focus is just a hop skip and a jump out of the downtown, so as to be convenient to the train station and trails, but far away enough from the riff raff that you can enjoy the mountain experience without feeling surrounded by day visitors and tourists.  We found it to be effortless to get in and out of the downtown (quite different from prior experiences where we dreaded heading into town, only to face a monstrous uphill climb back to our chalet after indulging in a few too many post hike/ski beers). 

While we had originally planned a “rest” day for our first day, the accessibility of the trails was too good to pass up, and we set out for the enviable Trift trail hike, leading up to the Platthorn and Mettelhorn.  We geared up with a hefty breakfast at Focus’ incredibly ample buffet (eggs, bacon, yogurt, fruit, cappuccinos, a plethora of breads and cheese – what more could we ask for?), knowing we would need every calorie we could get and soon thereafter (well, after one more coffee), set off for the mountains.

Within 10 minutes, we were well on our way up the Trift trail, navigating rocks and roots and sketchy cliff drop offs.  We spent the entire day far away from civilization, seeing only a handful of other hikers, and summiting the Platthorn mountain a couple hours before dinner.  From up there, visitors willing to work for their views are treated with absolutely astonishing views of Zermatt and 360 degree panoramas of the Swiss and Italian alps from an entirely new perspective.  The walk down certainly led to sore legs, hungry bellies, and dusty legs after a few lazy falls, but we emerged into Zermatt and wobbled the quick 10 minute stroll back to the Focus, where we were treated to a cold beer, a hot shower, and free afternoon treats to reward our efforts.

Trift Trail Hike above Zermatt

Trift Trail Hike above Zermatt



We would be remiss if we didn’t mention the proximity of Matterhorn Focus to our absolute favorite restaurant in Zermatt, the Sonnmatten.  After a full day of uphill hiking and showering the dirt off, we were starving but not in the best form to walk far – so our favorite restaurant being a 3 minute walk away from the hotel was quite possibly the biggest treat of the day.

Sonnmatten boasts absolutely incredible views of the Matterhorn, which are only surpassed by the scrumptiousness of their cuisine. During the winter, they offer a daily fixed menu, which we had enjoyed when last in Zermatt over the winter, but by summer, the fare is a la carte and features local delicacies, fresh salads, a wide variety of Swiss meats, oversized hamburgers, and of course, endless amounts of the favorite local craft beer.  We watched the sun go down and wrapped ourselves in blankets as we enjoyed a meal of homemade house salad, goat cheese honey bruschetta, and deer with spätzle – all delicious (and you must try the homemade hay schnapps)! 

Sonnmatten Zermatt

Sonnmatten Zermatt

From work to mountains in 2 hours, a Swiss microadventure

I walked out of my final client meetings in Zurich at 3pm on Friday, basked in a few moments of sunshine, and then promptly hopped onto the train headed towards Kandersteg.  Two hours later, I was in the most quintessential alpine town I may have ever seen, and hopped onto a gondola up to Berghotel Oeschinensee.  Kandersteg welcomed me in true alpine fashion; as the lift headed up into the mountains, I found myself in the midst of a snow storm and visibility was about 10 feet all around.  I briefly thought of the sunbathing Swiss back in Zurich only a mere hours earlier drinking their Aperol’s and chuckled to myself.  What a weird world.

As I reached the top of the lift, Christoph, one of the Berghotel owners (the hotel has now been passed down through 6 generations), greeted me and drove us to the hotel.  “You got here just in time,” he said. “The weather would have been too dangerous to get in here if you had come even an hour later.”  I was shown my room, adorned with intricate yet simple Swiss details, and opened my lake/mountain facing window to reveal “the view”: snow, clouds, and more snow. 

Oeschinensee Interior dining area and stove

“I think we will be in for a surprise later; we’ll see” said Christoph, smiling, as he left me to unpack and settle into my room.  There’s something about mountain folks that just makes them know when the weather is going to turn just right and allow for unbelievable views at the most unexpected moments.  Boy, would he be right.  Only 2 hours later, I was treated to unobstructed lake views and an impeccably perfect weather window in which I was able to go on a 5-mile roundtrip hike up into the mountains, affording me the most Instagram-worthy views of Lake Oeschinensee from above. 

Oeschinensee lake valley view

The hotel was built in 1892, so has had plenty of decades to build up a loyal hoard of annual visitors. But more recently, the hotel and region have been discovered and frequented by tourists from around the world.  The communal bathrooms and shared lounge space subtly encourage you to get out of your shell and spend time with other travellers staying there, as well as learn what brought them to this beautiful place high up in the Bernese Oberland.

Berghotel Oeschinensee Room View

But what makes this hotel better than any other hotel is their dedication to the principles and history that have brought them here.  On my last day visiting, I sat down for breakfast with Christoph and his adorable kids, assumedly future owners of the hotel.  We chatted about his hopes for what the Berghotel could and should be; what it means to him in the context of his own life decisions. “I – and we don’t want to go away from what the Berghotel has always been; we don’t want to expand, make it larger, or lose control of what we set out to create… if anything, the opposite is true” said Christoph.  At first, the sentiment struck me by surprise. Coming from the world of business/finance, perhaps I have become too accustomed to the idea that the goal is always to sell more, make more, spend more – but the very principles which Christoph and his family hold so dear are what make this such a special place: it takes true heart, character, and dedication to values, to not move away from what is true just because the world is calling for it. It takes grit to say “no” to those who try to commercialize it, even if it means turning away money or what some may deem as bigger opportunities. 

And so for that reason, this hotel will continue to offer the most authentic and classic experience available to the true alpine vacationer.  That, and the fact they have the best access to the most epic alpine slide in the world – it’s a toss-up.