When I dream of having an Alpine breakfast, my imagination always takes me to the Hotel Europe in Zermatt. This happens often enough, and is no small praise. Many of our hotels have wonderful breakfast spreads… most, in fact. But the Hotel Europe somehow 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.
What I do know is I would never personally take a trip to Switzerland without planning a day or two at the Hotel Europe.
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, a garni hotel, meaning they serve breakfast but 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 stay there.
And we’re still there. The Europe occupies a quiet location on the edge of town, very convenient to the center but outside the main bustle. They have great rooms, Matterhorn views (which is not true of a surprising number of Zermatt hotels) and exquisite food. They’ve expanded from a 3-star hotel in 1999 to a 4-star hotel today, with a great bar area for relaxing before dinner and a small but relaxing spa downstairs. The owners, Rudi and Marianne Julen, have always run the hotel with a soft touch, with great care taken in all the details and a friendly staff that rarely changes year after year. Their daughter Corinne now runs the hotel, while Rudi holds court in the bar with the perfect retirement job, chatting with locals and hotel guests (you will also note that Rudi has a particular affection for blacknose 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 make 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 stick around. 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.