The Best Kept Secret in Europe – With the Best View in the World The Riffelalp Resort at 2222 meters Zermatt, Switzerland
Review of: Riffelalp Resort Suite 2222
Snapshot Quick Overview of: The most amazing view in Europe, of the iconic Matterhorn. Resort is above Zermatt.
Views of Sunrise and Sunset: Located half way up the Gornergrat, it has the best view of the western sky and sunset than anywhere in the region. The Matterhorn is in the foreground.
Bar: Cozy bar with nightly wood fire.
Restaurant: Fantastic breakfast buffet, and separate fondue restaurant Al Bosco with the best fondue in the area.
Dining: Casual to fancy dining, with incredible fondue.
Service: Great service, as you expect in a high-end resort.
Snapshot Dress Code: Mountain casual at breakfast, and at Ristorante Al Bosco (and Sun Terrace), Mark Twain Lounge (Sun Terrace), with nicer dress in the five start Restaurant Alexandre. In the winter, Walliserkeller is open downstairs.
Breakfast: Located in Alexandre, a very satisfying buffet is set up, along with made to order entrees.
Food Quality: Fondue amazing, cheese fantastic, most other food great, the only exception was the cheeseburger (not a fan of poor tasting European beef).
Resort Location: Best location and view in Europe. This resort is a classic.
Getting Around: Walking and small electric rail car from resort to Gornergrat station. Hiking from resort. Short cogwheel train to top of Gornergrat, or back down to the main station below in the village of Zermatt.
Booking Reservations: By website or email reservations.
How To Get There: Zermatt is accessible by rail, then take the cograil up the Gornergrat. Get mountain pass for seamless travel around.
What Worked: Check-in and out fantastic. Service was great. Location fantastic. Very attentive staff. You’ll feel like you’re at home.
What Needs Improvement: Trying to get reservations at the limited seating Al Bosco (for fondue) was a hassle. Plan ahead since this is the only restaurant you can get fondue, and it is closed Monday and Wednesday. On weekends, it fills up fast.
The Experience: Amazing. I traveled in September and like the cool fall weather. Was full of sunshine.
Website Experience: http://www.riffelalp.com/
Cost Per Day: $500-$1,000+ USD
Summary: This will be the fourth time I’ve been at The Riffelalp (since 2004), and it just keeps getting better and better. The resort recently went through a complete renovation, and the results are spectacular. Let me start off by saying that this is one of my most favorite resorts on Earth. While I’m not a skier, or fan of cold weather (I live in Wisconsin USA), trekking to the alpine regions after a hot summer in the midwest, is fantastic. Hiking and riding cable cars, followed by a nice swim in the outdoor pool, while enjoying the ever-changing mystique of the Matterhorn as the clouds dance amongst its peak, provide an appetite that is only partially satisfied by the sweet aroma of cheese fondue as it is prepared tableside. This resort has the best Europe has to offer, from the location, view, and service. Enjoying Swiss cheese fondue, while watching the sunset behind the Matterhorn, is unequaled anywhere in the world. Most alpine resorts are located in a valley, where you can’t enjoy the panoramic view the Alps have to offer. The Riffelalp takes advantage of its plateau above Zermatt, to offer a stunning view of the Alps. Even more so, the resort offers its guests the iconic Swiss immersion experience.
Overall Impressions: You don’t have to wonder very long to figure out why you’ll fall in love with The Riffelalp. It challenges your senses. Take night for example. If you’re lucky enough to travel during a partial or full Moon, the Matterhorn and village of Zermatt far below, is bathed in a cool white glow. Even better, if it’s a bit cool outside, and you have some clouds below (which at times obscure the village of Zermatt), you feel like you are in the sky. It’s amazing. I travel around the world, and like to experience the dance between the Moon, the Sun, and the ever changing weather (clouds) which make up the colors of a sunrise, and sunset. The Riffelalp gives you that experience, and more.
Compared To Other: Most resorts are located in a valley, or in a village, which obscure the amazing panorama that the Alps has to offer. I seek out resorts that take command of the view, and offer it up in all its glory. I’m there to see the mountains, the peaks with snow, the clouds and beautiful contrast between the sky and peaks.
Check In: The hallmark of a epic resort, is the seamless check-in, check-out, and service. This resort excels in all those areas.
Full Review: While there are plenty of new resorts to sample, I find myself always coming back to The Riffelalp. It’s one of those places that feels like home, where you can truly relax, enjoy the Alps, and fantastic fondue. I don’t know about you, but for me location and the view is everything. I’ll trade-in almost every other wish, for a great view. In this case, it’s all about the Matterhorn. One of the most majestic mountains in Europe (and the world), The Riffelalp has taken every advantage to keep this stunning mountain in view as much as possible.
I arrived at The Riffelalp after a overnight flight from the USA, and cleared customs in a matter of minutes in Geneva, then hopped on an awaiting train at the airport. Planning ahead, I purchased a Swiss Transfer Ticket online, which allows you to travel to your destination resort and back for one price, and least amount of hassle. Since my stay was only to visit The Riffelalp, this worked perfect. The price is CHF 247 round trip (1st class) and available for nonresidents. Swiss Rail (SBB) offers other ticketing options, including unlimited travel for days or weeks (or even a year) at a time. The about four hour train to Zermatt included only one transfer, and was a fantastic way to relax and enjoy the scenery from the lake region, into the Alps.
Upon arrival at Zermatt, the main train station is across the street from the Gornergrat Bahn station, which also allows you to purchase ticking for the various modes of alpine transportation. Typically, you will be greeted by a porter with the resort, who will give you a one way ticket from Gornergrat station and help with your luggage, up to the Riffelalp station by cogwheel rail. The cogwheel rail has turnstyles to get onto the train, and exit the station, so hold on to your ticket. Here is a great tip if you plan on riding the many cable car lifts up to the peaks in the area: buy a Peak Pass in advance. A four day pass (which allows you unlimited rides on all mountain transportation) is around CHF 221 which is a great deal, compared to adding up all separate lift passes. For example, a Gornergrat ticket is CHF 47, and a Matterhorn lift is CHF 57, and Rothorn is SHF18. When you’re traveling back and forth to Zermatt, and taking lifts to hiking trails, this quickly pays for itself. If you have some type of reduction card, you will need to purchase at the station, versus online.
Summer Schedule Until 23 September (check timetables online): The Gornergrat Bahn leaves about every 24 minutes from either station (Zermatt or top of Gornergrat) with last train leaving Zermatt going up around 9:50 pm to the resort. The earliest departure from Zermatt going up is 7:00 am. On the ride up, you’ll get a beautiful view of a waterfall on the left side of the train, and go through wooded alpine forests. The ride up to the Riffelalp train stop is about 20 minutes. Once there, you can board the small electric rail car that the resort has, or just walk the beautiful wood path (it’s flat) to the resort which is about 5-10 minutes). The train is great, and worth a ride at least one while you are there. It’s definitely one of the hallmark features of the resort. Upon arrival at the front desk, you are seamlessly greeted and shown to your suite. Once again, the service at the resort is excellent. After I settled in, and had some lunch, I took a tour of the property, and was shown the renovations, upgrades, and some rooms which I had never seen before (including a bowling alley and games room). The resort is great for couples and families.
My room, Suite 2222 was the larger of the suites, with a kids suite (bunk beds and separate bathroom), large living room, dining room table, huge master suite and beautiful master bathroom. Of course, the view of the Matterhorn was amazing. You can leave the shades open at night, and look at the Matterhorn, as it shows its many moods, while being caressed with Moonlight as the peak dances with the clouds. When making travel plans, note that the resort closed in mid September, so be sure to get there before they close for the summer season. I like to travel in the shoulder seasons, to avoid crowds, and you have better room options. My favorite time to travel is in September before they close for the season. I have some favorite parts of the resort, but overall you won’t be disappointed in any suite.
Favorite Restaurant: In the summer, Al Bosco, which is where you can sit outside and eat a pizza for lunch, or inside at night, with a wood fire, to warm the nights mountain chill, while eating fondue. This is the only restaurant at the resort where you can order fondue and raclettes, so be sure to make reservations as it has limited seating, and closed two days of the week. The first time visiting in 2004, I had the pleasure to dine at the basement restaurant Walliserkeller, which has to be hands-down, the most cozy, romantic restaurant in the world. Unfortunately, it’s not open in the summer season. The fondue and raclette operations have been moved out to the separate building, at Al Bosco.
Favorite Bar: The Mark Twain Lounge has a wood fired fireplace, which is the best place to relax after a long day of hiking, our touring the peaks by cable car. Since the Al Bosco has limited hours, and you need reservations (due to its popularity), I ate a few dinners here, since I was traveling alone for the first part of my stay. Service is excellent, and they’re very accommodating (if you want casual, just eat dinner at the bar). Drinks are great, bartenders are very attentive. But the best part is just relaxing, and watching the fireplace as the wood pops and crackles, while the flames dance.
Favorite Pool: There is a inside and outside pool. The outside pool is more like a large plunge pool, and heated so that steam lazily lifting of the surface if it’s cold outside. The backdrop is the Matterhorn. Doesn’t get any better than that. Best view in Europe.
Favorite Walk: The Riffelalp is situated half way up the Gornergrat, so you have lots of fantastic hiking options. But just take a stroll before dinner, around the reflecting pond, and take in the amazing vistas around you.
The resort has a spa, and excellent masseuse, to calm those travel stresses. I was able to get reservations for the Al Bosco fondue experience after my friends showed up (one of my friends who is also a pilot from Madison relocated to Switzerland to fly the Gulfstream IV around Europe). The fondue was worth the wait. Creamy, rich, the best Swiss cheeses the region had to offer (and raclettes too).
The only disappointment during the entire stay, as the cheeseburger I had for lunch at Mark Twain (outside terrace). The meat was awful, couldn’t eat it. If I was the resort food chef, I’d import beef from abroad, to avoid the poor selection locally. Other than that, everything else I had was great.
Summary: The Riffelalp is truly a world class resort. It sets the standards for other resorts to follow. There are two resorts that I will go back to again and again, one is The Riffelalp in Switzerland, and the other is The Brando in French Polynesia (South Pacific). I hope to add other resorts, as I continue my world travels, but these two hold close to my heart, and provide an experience that you look forward to every time you visit. The view is everything. The service is amazing. The resort becomes your home, away from home. Experience it.
End of Review: fair winds and happy travels.
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