Before the opening of the Gornergrat Railway, the walk from Zermatt to the Hotel Riffelhaus, built in 1854, took around 1.5 hours. Palanquin bearers tended to estimate about four hours for the climb. In some cases, travellers would opt to go up the mountain by horse or mule.
From 20 August 1898 onwards, it took much less time to climb the Gornergrat: the Rowan compositions of the Gornergrat Railway reached the summit at a speed of 7.2 km/h. Travellers were able to go up the Gornergrat from Zermatt in one hour and 30 minutes. The journey itself took 80 minutes, with a break of five minutes at Riffelalp and Riffelberg stations.
Before the opening of the Visp-Zermatt Railway (VZ) and the Gornergrat Railway, the journey from Visp to the Gornergrat took around 13 hours. With the opening of the VZ Railway, passengers needed just seven hours and with the opening of the Gornergrat Railway in 1898, only four hours.
Three railway companies completed the line from Lausanne through Valais to Visp and Brig in 1878, making it easy to reach from the west. With the opening of the Simplon Tunnel in 1906 by Swiss Federal Railways, travel time from Italy was also significantly reduced.
From the north, the journey from Zurich up the Gornergrat took around 12.5 hours and from Bern around 9.5 hours. Travel time was reduced with the opening of the Bern-Lötschberg-Simplon Railway (BLS) in 1913. Since the Lötschberg Base Tunnel went into operation in 2007, rail passengers have been able to reach the Gornergrat in less than three hours.