Ah, Interlaken, there are so many reasons to fall in love with you! You have been blessed with everything that can delight the human heart. Nature poured its beauty into your lap. Climate gave you the best of each season and spared you the extremes. Scenery saved its majesty for you. Not many places on Earth could compete with you for perfection! There is so much beauty here! So many things to do in Interlaken! This bustling Victorian town at the foot of the Swiss Alps is Switzerland’s most popular resort, and for a good reason.
Best Things to Do in Interlaken
With its perfect infrastructure, Interlaken makes the best home base for travelers who plan to visit this awe-inspiring region. So let’s explore some of the best things to do in Interlaken:
Ride the Funicular to the Top of Harder Kulm Peak
If Interlaken is considered a little piece of paradise, Harder Kulm Peak is part of the reason. Located at 1322 meters above the sea level, this mountain gives you the most glorious view of the entire Jungfrau region. The Peak can be accessed either on foot (about 2.5 hours hike), or by the Harderbahn – a modern funicular that operates from the town center.
The bottom station is located right on the bank of the Aar River, the longest river of Switzerland. The Harderbahn ride takes about five-ten minutes.
What to Expect at Harder Kulm
From the upper station there is a five-minute walk that takes you to the Harder Klum Restaurant, a castle-like structure with a beautiful terrace where you can enjoy some tasty Swiss food or kick back with a glass of Prosecco.
The best time of the day to come to Harder Kulm is around sunset, when the sunlight shines at a lower angle reflecting shades of pink onto the white snowy peak of the Jungfrau range and the view of the three mountain peaks –Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau– right across the valley.
In front of the restaurant there is a viewing platform that hangs over the mountain edge. Stepping over the glass-bottom platform makes you feel like you are on top of the world with the town of Interlaken below you, flanked by the two lakes of Thun and Brienz.
Useful to Know
• The restaurant and the funicular close in winter. They are open from April 25 till October 25.
• The funicular fee is 30 CHF round trip, but with the Swiss Pass you can get a 50% discount. You may choose to buy just a one-way ticket to the summit (15 CHF) and hike down (about 1.5 hours) on the way back.
• The Restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner (Monday to Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 9:15 p.m. and on Sundays from 8:30 a.m. to 9:15 p.m.)
• There is a small Animal Park near the entrance to the funicular at the bottom station.
Book a Breakfast Cruise on Lake Brienz
Interlaken is geographically situated between two crystal clear lakes: Thun and Brienz. Both lakes offer a regular boat service, but my personal preference is lake Brienz (Brienzersee). One of the best things to do in Interlaken in spring or summer is book a breakfast cruise on Lake Brienz. It makes for the perfect romantic date.
Lake Brienz is a bit smaller than Lake Thun. The boat trip from Interlaken to the far end at Brienz is about 1 hour 20 minutes, whereas Interlaken to Thun is at least two hours each way.
Lake Brienz is absolutely stunning! Sheer cliffs on one side and picturesque alpine villages on the other.This is probably one of the most beautiful lakes you will ever visit. The scenery is unbelievably beautiful, with turquoise blue waters and mountain peaks capped with eternal snow.
What to Expect Aboard the Cruise Boat
The boat leaves from Interlaken, right behind the Ost train station, but there are other towns along the way where you can board as well. There is a 1st and a 2nd class section. First class is located on the upper deck, where there is also a small restaurant or a bistro.
I would recommend booking a first class ticket. Besides being less crowded, the view of the waterfalls, the villages and the fantastic sites is so much better from the upper deck. And not only that. From the first class you have access to the little bistro on board that serves a good variety of tasty snacks, drinks and ice blended beverages, in case you don’t want to have a full meal.
Before turning back, the boat stops for about 30 minutes at the idyllic town of Brienz. This allows you enough time to visit the port area or walk on the promenade. If you have time, stop in Brienz for a longer visit. The town is famous for its wood carvings and its traditional Swiss chalets. There is also a Wood Carving Museum displaying a large collection of new and antique wood-carvings, sculptures and musical boxes.
Take the Cogwheel Train for an Epic Ride to Jungfraujoch
An excursion to the magnificent Jungfraujoch –the 3,466 meters tall peak in the Bernese Alps of Switzerland– is the most adventurous thing to do in Interlaken. To reach the peak you not only get to enjoy the magnificent scenery of this region, but also experience the Jungfraubahn, Europe’s highest-altitude railway. Riding the cogwheel train to the top of the Jungfraujoch is in itself is a great experience. The cogwheel train to Jungfraujoch climbs up the mountain at this amazing elevation on a slope that sometimes reaches 25 degrees. It’s difficult to imagine a more perfect scenery than the Alps reflecting their snow-capped peaks in the turquoise waters of the lakes at the foot of the mountains, or the pristine alpine meadows dotted with wild flowers, where cows graze peacefully.
Once the train reaches the top you will find yourself in a totally different world. No matter how impressive Jungfraujoch looks from a distance, it doesn’t compare to the feeling you get when you step out unto the viewing platform of the Sphinx Observatory, at 3,500 meters altitude. Standing amidst this world of glaciers and everlasting snow makes your heart skip a beat.
Tips for Visiting Jungfraujoch
If you are planning a trip to the Jungfraujoch, there are a few things you should consider:
- Come early. The best time to visit is in the morning. It is less crowded and the weather is better. Usually the clouds gather mid to early afternoon.
- Come prepared. No matter when you visit, remember this is the place of the everlasting snow. Bring a warm jacket, shoes for walking on snow, a hat, gloves, sunglasses and especially sunscreen.
- Wait for good weather. Jungfraujoch is all about the magnificent views. Coming up here when it’s foggy or cloudy is a waste of money and a big disappointment.
- Bring drinking water. If you buy it at up here you’ll pay around $8 for a small bottle. Water is supposed to help minimize and even prevent altitude sickness.
- Watch out for altitude sickness. Higher altitudes will impair your physical performance, so a hike that you usually do effortlessly my seem like a strenuous exercise at a high elevation.
Interlaken offers many opportunities for those who want their blood pumping and seek a little adventure. From ice climbing, night sledding and skiing in winter, to mountain climbing, jet boating and paragliding in summer, you can try it all. So if you feel inclined to go up to lofty heights and admire the spectacular views of the mountains and lakes in the region, one of the most adventurous things to do in Interlaken is paragliding. You don’t need any special skills for this. Just bring your courage, some comfortable clothes and your camera and you are ready to go.
There are a few companies that offer tandem paragliding in Interlaken. They provide transportation to Beatenberg (a point about 800 meters above Interlaken, mountain shoes and the flight equipment. The trip duration is about 2 hours and the cost is around $175.
Stroll Through Höhematte Park
Right in the heart of Interlaken, at the foot of the magnificent Jungfrau, there is a huge green area known as Höhematte Park. The land was once belonged the Augustinian Canons, built here around 1133. In the late 1800s a group of hotels acquired the land from the monastery and decided to preserve it as a park. As a result, Höhematte Park became Interlaken’s most popular green open space.
Apart from offering views of snowcapped mountains, the park has shaded walkways with benches, colorful flowerbeds, and beautiful fountains. In the winter, there is an ice skating rink in the middle of the park. In summer, the park is the preferred landing spot for paraglider, one of the most popular attractions in Interlaken.
Where to Stay in Interlaken
I have to say right from the start that hotels in Switzerland are quite expensive and Interlaken is no exception. However, the charming Interlaken makes an excellent base to explore the area around. There are quite a few options to choose from in Interlaken, depending on your budget. From luxury hotels, to hostels and Airbnb apartments, you have just about everything. The town is very safe, so no matter where you are staying you will be O.K.
$$$ Victoria Jungfrau is Interlaken’s most luxurious hotel. I haven’t stayed there, but the opulence and elegance of the lobby attests to the rooms’ elegance.
$$ We have been guests of the Lindner Grand Beau Rivage Hotel, which is equally elegant and luxurious but much less expensive. The hotel is located in the heart of Interlaken, just minutes from the Interlaken Ost train station, right on the banks of the Aare River.
$ Hotel Interlaken is also a good and affordable choice for Interlaken. The hotel is close to Ost Train Station and is actually one of the oldest hotels in Interlaken.
If you are looking for budget accommodations, I would suggest staying in Grindelwald or Wengen, two beautiful towns close to Interlaken.
Getting Around in Interlaken
Driving in Interlaken is very safe and easy, but for the most part you’ll probably be walking. The streets are well paved, and lined up with boutiques, restaurants and souvenir shops. Like anywhere in Switzerland, public transportation in Interlaken is convenient and very reliable. There are buses and trains that depart very often and travel in all directions, so you will have no problem getting around. Even if you came to Interlaken by car, I recommend getting around by public transportation to visit the area.
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