When I imagine my favorite Alpine breakfast, my daydreams always take me to the Hotel Europe in Zermatt. This happens often, and it’s no small praise. Many of our hotels have wonderful breakfast spreads… most, in fact. But the Hotel Europe earns a spot in the very top tier. It might be the bright dining room with morning sun on the Matterhorn outside the window. The promise of the day ahead. The strong, hot coffee. The high quality meat and cheese. The array of fruit, yogurt and juice. The fresh, crunchy row of bread, rolls and croissants. (It’s my belief that Swiss bread is the best in the world.) Maybe it’s everything put together.
When we started leading tours in 1999, Zermatt was one of the first destinations on the list. (In fact, our very first tour was a village-based combo of Grimentz, Saas Fee and Zermatt.) Back then, we didn’t book half-board menus. We had small groups, and generally just went to restaurants in town for dinner. Our first Zermatt hotel was a fine little place called the Welschen. It was a garni hotel, which means they serve breakfast only – no dinner. I would walk around at night reading posted menus to find a good spot for dinner. Very early on, the Europe became my go-to dinner spot. They were so friendly and the food was absolutely fantastic. By the next year, we made the smart choice and started to book our stays there, too.
And the Hotel Europe is still our go-to Zermatt hotel. It’s in a lovely, quiet location on the edge of town, very convenient to the center but outside the main bustle. They have great rooms, Matterhorn views (a surprising number of Zermatt hotels do not!), and exquisite food. Since our early days in the late 90’s, they’ve expanded from a 3-star hotel to the 4-stars of today. They’ve added a great bar area for relaxing before dinner and a small, elegant spa downstairs. The owners, Rudi and Marianne Julen, have always run the hotel with a soft touch, with great attention to all the details and a friendly staff that rarely changes year after year. Their daughter Corinne now runs the hotel. Rudi holds court in the bar with the perfect retirement job: chatting with locals and hotel guests.
And when you stay, you will also note that Rudi has a particular affection for Blacknose sheep (a.k.a. the world’s cutest sheep), which he raises as a hobby.
Having a 20 year relationship with a hotel has advantages. The Julens are good to everyone, but we know our process with them is going to be seamless, that we’re going to get our preferred rooms (always Matterhorn view if at all possible), and our guests are going to be well taken care of. And if the service, the views, the spa, and the dinner are not enough to make you want to stay indefinitely, be sure to save some time for breakfast!
I like to say that Zermatt is an arms race of hotels. There are so many good ones, you have to be special just to survive in the competitive market. A bad hotel in Zermatt? Hard to believe. Look, I would never argue with somebody who has a special soft spot for the Hotel Cervo, the Coeur des Alpes, the Riffelalp Resort, or a dozen other high quality Zermatt hotels. But I’ll also never be talked out of my affection for the Hotel Europe. And with 20 years of happy reviews from our clients, I know I’m not alone.