Surrounded by lush forests and impressive mountain peaks, Interlaken is a quaint resort town located in the valley between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. It’s a dream destination for anyone who likes their outdoors a little bougie. The town is conveniently located to give you access to some of the most spectacular hikes and sights in the Bernese Oberland region. So there are plenty of things to do in Interlaken to make an extended stay worth your while. Here are just a few of them.
Go up to Harder Kulm
Interlaken proper doesn’t have many major sights, which is why Harder Kulm is its most popular attraction. The panoramic observation point offers sweeping views of the town, the two lakes that border it, and the Bernese Alps that tower beyond. It’s accessible by funicular or on foot, but you may want to skip this hike if you’re less than fit – it’s 2.5 hours and quite steep. On the contrary, the funicular ride takes you to the top in about 8 minutes, though you’ll spend some time queuing to ride it in both directions. Once you get to the top, you can do a short hike around the area or stop for food at the restaurant.
Watch the paragliders land… or go paragliding
Interlaken is not known as the adventure capital of Switzerland for nothing. One of the most notable things about Interlaken is that there are paragliders and hang gliders floating around the town at all hours of the day. Paragliders land at Hohematte, a large park in the center of town. It’s nice to sit and watch them land, and if you’re inspired to take the leap, there is an information office nearby. Paragliders are driven up the mountain where they tandem jump with a pilot to the park.
Enjoy activities on the lakes
Located between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, there is no shortage of water activities in Interlaken. You can rent paddleboats or kayaks to explore Lake Brienz or join a 3-hour tour that takes you to some of the attractions along the lake such as Ringgenberg Castle.
You can also cruise the lakes more comfortably from the boats that travel to and from different cities on both lakes. Traveling by ferry boat is slower but more scenic and peaceful than going by train. You can still get to towns on the lake like Brienz, Spiez, and Thun. If you don’t want to spend two hours each way getting to the end of the lakes, some local attractions such as the St. Beatus Waterfall and caves are just 30 minutes by boat.
Take a short hike at Weissenau Nature Reserve
While most of the top destinations around Interlaken require strenuous hiking, the Weissenau Nature Reserve is the perfect place to go if you want to enjoy nature and bird-watching without breaking a sweat. Located on Lake Thun, the reserve offers quiet walking paths along the lake where you can see local flora and fauna as well as the ruins of the Weissenau Castle.
Visit the Rugenbrau Distillery
A good way to end a day of hiking in the area is to celebrate with an ice-cold local beer. And where better to get it than a local brewery? The Rugenbrau distillery is open Monday through Thursday at 5 pm for a tour of the brewhouse and distillery that includes tasting of Rugenbrau beers and spirits like gin and whiskies.
Take a day trip to Lauterbrunnen
Lauterbrunnen is the shortest possible day trip from Interlaken, and it gives you the most reward for your efforts. It’s a small picturesque village in a valley that is flanked on either side by the peaks of the surrounding mountains. There are a total of 72 waterfalls that empty into Lauterbrunnen Valley, though they vary in force throughout the year, peaking in intensity during the spring months.
A good way to see Lauterbrunnen and its waterfalls is to make your way on foot from the train station past the green pastures of the town toward Trummelbach Falls. Unlike the other falls, the glacier waterfalls that make up Trummelbach Falls roar inside a cave, which is accessible by an elevator into the mountain. It’s open from 9 am to 5 pm and requires paid entry. On the 3.5 km walk there, you’ll see bubbling streams, farms, and even a cheese vending machine, though the main attraction is the 300-meter tall Staubbach Falls. The hike is flat so it’s perfect for people of all fitness levels.
Take a day trip to Grindelwald
Grindelwald is a popular ski resort town that offers incredible views of the surrounding Bernese Alps and plenty of thrills. Though it’s not quite as charming as Lauterbrunnen, there are major attractions in the area that make it one of the most popular day trips from Interlaken. The first is well… First – the mountain summit that is accessible by a lengthy cable car ride from Grindelwald. Grindelwald-First offers plenty of views and a lot of activities such as the First Cliff Walk, which is a suspension bridge that takes you around the First peak to a platform that overlooks the massive summits of the Bernese Alps.
From the cable car station, you can also hike to Lake Bachalpsee, a clear blue alpine lake that reflects the mountains in the distance. The hike offers non-stop views around the area and can get you far enough from the crowds at the First station and restaurant to actually enjoy the surrounding nature in peace. First also offers ziplining and a modified hang-gliding zip line as well mountain cars that you can drive down the mountain from the peak. However, these are wildly popular and often have hours-long lines. I recommend getting on the first cable car up to First if you want to do any of these things.
Another popular Grindelwald attraction is Glacier Canyon, where you can walk along the edge of a gorge created by flowing glacial water. Grindelwald also has plenty of hiking paths, including the trail that you can take to Kleine Scheidegg – though that takes 3.5 hours.
Take a day trip to the Jungfraujoch
The most expensive and time-consuming trek you can make from Interlaken is to the glacial peak of the Jungfraujoch. The trip takes at least 1.5 hours, though there’s likely to be at least some wait to get on the Jungfrau Railway, which is the train connection to the top. But don’t let the commitment dissuade you, it’s still more than worthwhile for the chance to behold the largest glacier in the Alps with minimal physical effort.
Once you arrive, you’ll be greeted with a ton of touristy activities like ice caves viewpoints at the Sphinx Observatory, and gift shops galore – including a Lindt chocolate shop. But the best way to enjoy your visit to the Jungfraujoch is to wander around its snowy paths and enjoy some fun in the snow. They have sledding, tubing, snowboarding, and even ziplining. There’s also a 45-minute hike to the Monchsjoch Hut, the highest serviced hut in Switzerland.
After half a day of trains and gondolas and wandering around the glacier, you can even dine at one of the restaurants with a view of the Aletsch glacier.
Eat, drink, and be at peace!
One of the most pleasantly surprising things about Interlaken is that the food is incredible. Unlike so many seaside and mountain resort towns in the world that are happy to feed you mediocre everything at ridiculous prices, Interlaken actually has amazing restaurants serving up cuisines from Swiss to Mexican.
If you want to have a lazy brunch overlooking the clear blue Aare River, check out The Aarburg. Have beers and traditional Swiss food with the locals at Vintage Chuchichastli. You can also find excellent authentic Thai at Sri Manee Isaan Thai House and some of the most incredible pizza you’ll ever taste at Il Buongustaio. And perhaps the biggest surprise of Interlaken is the quality of the cocktails at Jamming Corner, a tiki-themed bar with thumping dance music. A great place for a nightcap before another day of exploring beautiful Interlaken and the Jungfrau.
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