Should we spend the last three days of vacation in Zermatt or Chamonix? We are spending 6 days in Lauterbunnen and probably part of a day in Zurich on our way in or out. We have three days left that we are trying to decide where to go. Right now Zermatt and Chamonix are at the top of our list. We would probably stay in one of those places and perhaps make a day trip to the other. Looks like Chamonix would be quite a bit cheaper. Suggestions?
Zermatt if you get some kind of Swiss Travel Pass or Half Fare Card during your stay
It is 3 3/4 hours each way between them by train, and probably about the same by car. Not a very practical day-trip.
We haven't decided to take the train or rent a car. However we have been told, and I verified with google maps, that Zermatt to Chamonix is just a little over two hours.
Would you rather speak French or German?
It's at least a 2 1/2 hour drive to Chamonix from Zermatt...longer actually since you have to take the train down from Zermatt to the garage where you must leave your car and THEN start driving. It will be more like 3 - 3 1/2 hours.
As far as preference, they are both very different. Zermatt is extremely pricey while Chamonix is much more reasonable.
Both have easy parking. You pay much more for the parking in Zermatt.
Zermatt has the Matterhorn while Chamonix has Mont Blanc.
Both have multiple gondolas you can take for different views in many directions.
Both have pedestrianized shopping streets and central areas.
Chamonix has French food while Zermatt has a Swiss / German hybrid.
If it's cloudy and raining in either you won't see much of anything.
Both have excellent hiking.
Zermatt is much more touristy with hotels and inns tightly packed around the river that runs through the valley. Chamonix is much more open and not as tight.
Zermatt has a much more Alpine feel to it - Chamonix is very much a French ski resort...it has character but not as much as Zermatt.
There are better glaciers around Chamonix. See them before they are gone.
Looks like fitting them both in might be be tough. We are going to have to choose between one or the other. Leaning toward Chamonix at the moment.
Chamonix will add more variety: different country! Significantly cheaper, too. And the scenery is just as breathtaking - arguably more, even.
Can't speak to Zermatt, but I have stayed in Chamonix and recommend it very highly.
We started our day in Aosta, Italy. Bus to Courmayeur. Cable car to Monte Hellbronner. Cable car to Aiguille du Midi. Cable car down to Chamonix. Best travel day of my life.
Chamonix is beautiful under the auspices of Mont Blanc and the Aiguille du Midi. The cable car between Chamonix and Aiguille du Midi is the most thrilling I've been on (especially going downhill). There are dozens of hiking trails of all difficulties. There is a swift river running through town. My hotel backed right onto the river and the sound made a nice sedative (Hotel de la Vallee Blanche).
Chamonix is well connected to the rest of the world by train, road and cable car. Day trips are also viable to Geneva, Montreux, Albertville, Chambery or Annecy. Zermatt is (I understand) at the end of the road - one way in and out.
Not sure I agree with a previous poster's "Chamonix has French food". Chamonix has Savoyard food, which is pretty similar to Swiss food; fondue everywhere!
I would also recommend Chamonix. The cable ride to Helbronner ranked as our top highlight over nearly three weeks in the Alps.
This might be of help: https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/which-alp-is-coolest-1-of-2