Interlaken is a lovely resort town and one of the best places to visit in Switzerland. The town is located between two beautiful lakes Thun and Brienz in Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland. There are plenty of awesome things to do in Interlaken. But Interlaken also makes for a perfect base to explore some of the breathtaking and scenic vistas of Bernese Oberland. The places around the lakes of Thun and Brienz also have some of the popular tourist attractions of Switzerland.
How to get to Interlaken
We were based out of Geneva and Geneva to Interlaken train is close to 3 hours journey which is not practical for day trips. The Swiss capital Bern is less than an hour train ride to Interlaken and makes for a perfect base to visit Interlaken. The closest airport to Interlaken is also in Bern. Bern international airport is around 90 minutes train ride from Interlaken. Many people choose Zurich as a base city, Zurich to Interlaken train is a couple of hours train journey.
Best Things to do in Interlaken and Around
Unterseen or Interlaken Old Town
One of the top places to visit in Interlaken West is Unterseen or the Old Town of Interlaken. We crossed a bridge over the River Aare and started walking parallel to the river towards Interlaken Ost. The lovely chalet-style buildings of Unterseen are set in a picturesque setting along the Aare River with a massive mountain in the backdrop.
Unterseen is part of the Inventory of Swiss Heritage Sites and is a must visit if you are looking for a quintessential Swiss experience. You will find huge cow bells hanging in front of the house. Signboards on the house facades depicting the farmers and their cows. Balconies and the verandas decorated with bright colored flowers and wooden benches in the garden.
The Unterseen Stadthausplatz or the Town Hall Square is the main square in the Old Town of Interlaken. The most important building in the square is the Stadthaus or the Town Hall. The square is surrounded by cafes, restaurants, and galleries.
The Tourism Museum is located close to the Unterseen Stadthausplatz or the Town Hall Square. The museum spread across three floors is dedicated to the history of tourism in Jungfrau region of Switzerland. The museum exhibit offers an insight into the development of travel and alpine tourism in the country of Switzerland spanning two centuries.
The 13th-century Weissenau Castle is situated on the shores of Thun Lake in Unterseen. Today only the remains of the castle tower and parts of castle building can be found standing in ruins. Though there is nothing much to see there a climb up the tower offers spectacular views of the Lake Thun and the surrounding mountains.
Kursaal Garden and Casino Interlaken
The Congress Centre Kursaal is located in the beautiful Kursaal gardens with a backdrop of the mountain. The garden is located on the main street of Hoheweg and expands up to the River Aare on the other side. The building complex dates back to 1859 and is a popular venue for events and concerts.
The Kursaal complex is surrounded by a lush garden and a flower clock. The Casino Kursaal Interlaken is also located in the same complex. One can also indulge in the numerous gaming activities like American Roulette, Poker and slot machines in the casino. There is a statue of the famous Bollywood film director Yash Chopra in the garden which is a popular spot for Indian tourists.
Interlaken Monastery & Castle
The Interlaken Monastery is a Swiss heritage site of national significance and dates back to 12th-century. The monastery is worth a visit to see the 14th-century bell tower, the 15th-century Gothic cloister gallery, its chapel and the remarkable stained-glass windows. The former Augustinian monastery has served as a convent and a private palace before it was converted into a full-fledged chapel. The monastery was also used as a hostel for the pilgrims who were headed to the St. Beatus Caves.
Trips from Interlaken West
If you are looking for a Swiss City experience from Interlaken then head to the Swiss Capital City Bern. Bern is one of the best cities in Switzerland rich in history, culture and a well-preserved architecture. The Bern Old Town is not very far from the Bern train station and can be easily reached on foot. The Old Town of Bern is home to the iconic landmark the clock tower Zytglogge and the 15th-century Gothic Bern Cathedral.
Swiss Parliament Building
If you are looking for some splendid shopping experience Bern has it all from flea markets to branded shops. Visit Einstein House and learn about the great physicist. Do not miss a visit to the Bear’s park and watch the bears frolicking and bathing if you are traveling with kids. The city also has several beautiful parks your kids would love to run around while you have some relaxed time. Bern is less than an hour’s train journey from Interlaken.
Lucerne is another beautiful Swiss City which you must not miss on your visit to Switzerland. Lucerne to Interlaken is a couple of hours train journey via Bern.
Beatenberg is a mountain village just 20 minutes bus ride from Interlaken West. The village and its surrounding have several hiking routes and walking paths which boasts of stunning views of the mountains of Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau and the Lake Thun. Most of the hiking routes of Bernese Oberland and the Niederhorn region start in Beatenberg. If you are going by boat then you can get down at Beatenbucht and take a Thunersee–Beatenberg funicular to Beatenberg which takes around 10 minutes.
St Beatus Caves
St Beatus Caves is around 20 minutes bus ride starting from Interlaken Ost with a stop at Interlaken West. You can also opt to take a boat from Interlaken on Lake Thun. The caves are located on a cliff overlooking the deep blue Thun Lake. A 10 minutes climb up the wooden boardwalk will get you to the entrance of the caves where you can buy the tickets. There is also a cafe and restaurant at the entrance where you can buy something to eat and drink. The open restaurant terrace offers wonderful views of the Lake Thun and the surrounding snow-capped Alps.
A walk through The well-lit path of caves walks you through some of the spectacular rock formations of stalactites and stalagmites. The guided tours run every 45 minutes so you can either go with the guide or just explore on your own with the help of the St Beatus caves app. There is also a museum where you can learn about the history and the formation of the caves.
One of the scenic hikes starting from the village of Beatenberg is the Niederhorn at 1963 m. The hike which takes around 90mins winds through colorful alpine flowers, grazing cows and there are great chances of spotting ibex on the way. The hike also offers a spectacular vista over Lake Thun with the magnificent peaks of Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau in the backdrop. You can also take a chairlift from Beatenberg to Niederhorn which takes around 10 minutes.
Blausee and Oeschinensee
Blausee and Oeschinensee are two gorgeous mountain lakes located in the Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland. Blausee is a deep blue lake surrounded by lush forest area makes for a perfect picnic spot. Oeschinensee surrounded by high mountains and wooded area is set in a picturesque Alpine setting. There is an option to go boating in both the lakes. In Blausee you can a ride on a glass-bottom boat included in the entry ticket. In Oeschinen Lake one can go row boating taking in the view of spectacular mountains.
Both the lakes can be visited on a day trip from Zurich or the Swiss City Bern with a train journey of lesser than two hours. The lakes are located in a village Kandersteg which has direct trains from Bern. And the same bus which drives to Blausee continues onto Oeschinensee.
Zermatt and Matterhorn
Zermatt is a small alpine village couple of hours train journey from Interlaken West train station via Speiz. Matterhorn is a pyramid-shaped mountain of the Alps which towers above the car-free village of Zermatt. There are several funiculars and cable cars up to the viewpoints which offer breathtaking views of the ski regions of Zermatt and the Matterhorn. The Matterhorn glacier paradise offers a range of fun snow activities like skiing, sledging, snowboarding, tobogganing and much more.
The stunning peak of Matterhorn attracts hikers and mountain climbers from all over the world. One of the popular hikes in the region is the 5-Seenweg where the hiking route winds through 5 mountain lakes with the reflection of the majestic Matterhorn in 3 of them.
Hoheweg is Interlaken’s main street which runs between Interlaken West and Interlaken Ost train stations. The street is lined with restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops and branded watch shops. We preferred to walk along the Aare River promenade lined with trees which were bright with fall foliage. It was delightful watching ducks frolicking and glide in the calm deep blue waters of the river and the beautiful pastel colored chalets.
Golden Pass Train Ride
Golden Pass Train Route in Switzerland is a scenic route through the scenic landscapes. The train chugs through the valleys, lakes, snow-capped mountains, Lavaux Vineyards and charming villages dotted with chalets. The trains start from Montreux another lovely resort town set on the shores of Lake Geneva.
The Golden Pass train route runs from Montreux to the beautiful city of Lucerne. There are two trains running on the Golden Pass Route ‘Panoramic’ and ‘Classic’. While ‘Panoramic’ trains have large windows offering a panoramic view of the scenery the Golden Pass Classic trains have a vintage feel. Both the trains have bar and food coaches and offer a unique experience of train travel in Switzerland.
Trips from Interlaken Ost (East)
The cable car station to the summit of Harder Kulm is only 5 minutes walk from the Interlaken Ost Station. The ascend up to the summit offers wonderful views of the town of Interlaken and valleys. Even more spectacular views of the town of Interlaken, the surrounding mountains, and the lakes can be enjoyed from the summit of Harder Kulm. There is a restaurant on the summit where you get something to eat or drink while you take in the scenic vistas. There are several vantage points on the summit offering great panoramic views of the Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau as well as Lakes Thun and Brienz.
You can also visit the Interlaken-Harder Alpine Game Park next to the funicular station which is home to Alpine ibex and marmots in enclosures.
Iselwald is a small charming fishing village on the shores of Lake Brienz. The village part of the Inventory of Swiss Heritage Sites is some 20 minutes bus ride from Interlaken Ost train station.
Just wander through the village with has some of the beautiful chalets set along the picturesque backdrop of the magnificent mountains. The chalets, the squares, the sidewalks everything was overflowing with bright flowers. A stunning sight to behold!
The first time we came across the Giessbach Falls was by chance. After our visit to the village of Iseltwald, we boarded a boat back to village Brienz and our boat stopped by at the Giessbach See funicular station. You can also take a boat from Brienz on the Lake Brienz boat to the Giessbach See. From here you can either take the funicular or hike your way up to the top which takes around 20 minutes. On the top is the 19th-century Grand Hotel Giessbach which itself is at the foot the spectacular Giessbach Falls. The terrace of the Grand Hotel Giessbach offers one of the best views of the waterfalls cascading down the forests. From the hotel, there are several hiking trails which winds through the forest with different vantage points of experience the waterfalls up close.
The charming village of Bonigen is yet another charming village on the shores of Lake Brienz with mountains in the backdrop. The Village of Bonigen part of the Inventory of Swiss Heritage Sites is a 5 minutes bus ride from the Interlaken Ost station. The lush green meadows dotted with wild alpine flowers and the pretty wooden houses which are said to date back to the 16th-century make Bonigen a pleasant and tranquil place amidst nature.
The Aare Gorge near the town of Meiringen is a stunning wonderland carved by the Aare River over thousands of years. The wooden board all along the 1.4 km of the gorge connects the east and the west entrances of the gorge. A walk over the board and intermittent tunnels let you explore the spectacular nature safe and comfortably. There are restaurants at both ends of the shops. And train station at both the ends at a walkable distance of 5 to 10 minutes.
One can also combine a visit to the Aare Gorge with the magnificent Reichenbach Falls. Board the same train back and get down at the Reichenbach Falls station. The funicular station is around 10 min walk. The funicular ascends through lush forest to the platform for a closer look at the roaring waterfalls. One can also hike further up the mountain for a panoramic view of the falls and the surrounding town.
The excursion to the Schynige Platte starts from a pretty village of Wilderswil which is just 5 minutes train ride from Interlaken Ost train station. From Wilderswil a historic cogwheel train chugs up the mountain on a 50-minute scenic route to the summit of Schynige Platte.
There is a restaurant on the summit with a sun terrace which offers breathtaking views of the mountains and the green valleys below. The summit is a starting point for several hiking routes with vantage points to the magnificent views of peaks of Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau and the Lakes of Thun and Brienz. The most popular point of interest is the Alpine Garden with over 650 species of flower plants including the Swiss emblem, Edelweiss. The train operates only from late May to late October and is closed during the winter.
Interlaken to Jungfraujoch
Jungfraujoch is a two-hour train ride from Interlaken Ost via Grindelwald or Lauterbrunnen. The cogwheel train to Jungfraujoch, the ‘Top of Europe’ is one of the most beautiful scenic rides in Switzerland. Jungfraujoch at an elevation of 3,454 m offers breathtaking views of Jungfrau, Monch, Eiger and the Aletsch Glacier. You can also take an elevator further up to the viewing platform of the Sphinx Observatory at 3,572 m for the magnificent views of the Alps. The summit has restaurants, Ice Palace with ice sculptures, chocolate shop and offers numerous fun activities like sledging, skiing or snowboarding.
The first time we visited Brienz was to take a bus to the Ballenberg Open Air Museum. We were so smitten by the town that we walked all the way back to the station. Half the way along the Brienz Lake promenade and experienced a laid-back village life. The pretty chalets and their backyard gardens decorated with beautiful flowers and fishing boats. It was all dreamy!
Brienz is also home to one of the unique Woodcarving Museum. The exhibits of the museum depict the fine skill of traditional woodcarving that developed in the region of Brienz. A pleasant walk along the lake promenade dotted with sculptures is something not to miss.
Ballenberg is an open-air museum which gives visitors a feel of quintessential Switzerland. The museum can be explored with a help of map which walks you through over 100 residential and agricultural buildings. These buildings representing different regions of the country giving a fair idea of the life in that region. You can learn about the history of the country, farming, cheese-making and much more.
Most of the buildings in the museum are traditional and ancient. They have been moved from their original site and recreated in the open air museum. Ballenberg can be reached by a 15-minute bus ride from Brienz Station. The museum is closed during the winters. More on the tickets and open times of the Ballenberg Swiss Open-Air Museum here.
Interlaken is also a paradise for adventure seekers for it offers an array of activities like rafting, bungee jumping, canoeing, skydiving and much more. Paragliding is one of the popular activities for the breathtaking views of the lakes Thun, and Brienz and the town of Interlaken. Interlaken also has a wonderful network of hiking routes. These activities offer a fun-filled and thrilling way to explore the beauty of places in and around Interlaken.
Interlaken Boat Trips (Lake Thun and Lake Brienz)
The Lake Thun and Lake Brienz are surrounded by numerous charming villages, lush mountains, snow-covered peaks, lovely promenades and much more. One of the best ways to explore the scenic landscapes and the beauty of Interlaken and the lake shores is to hop on a boat tour.
The boats have 1st and 2nd class sections and equipped with a restaurant on board. A boat trip from Interlaken to Brienz takes around 75 minutes and from Interlaken to Thun takes about 2 hours.
Best Time to Visit Interlaken
The best time to visit Interlaken and most of the Swiss attractions is from June to August which is the peak season when you can expect a lot of tourist crowd. The temperature is pleasant with bright sky perfect to take that postcard-perfect picture and for trekking, hiking, and adventure activities. It starts getting chilly from mid-October and usually starts snowing by end of November until February. Make note that some of the mountain rides and hiking paths are closed during winter or even if they are operational you may not be able to enjoy the views on the summit due to rain and clouds. You can still explore the cities and the towns. September and October are the best time if you love the scenic vistas with bright colors of fall foliage.
Interlaken is one of the favorites places to visit in Switzerland for it offers a plenitude of opportunities to explore the best of Switzerland tourist attraction, be it mountain excursions, hiking, cruises or rail excursions. A boat ride on the shimmering blue lakes surrounded by snow capped mountains, exploring charming towns and hiking the lush mountains, museums, shopping and the adrenaline rushing adventure activities Interlaken has no dearth for the things to do for your memorable Switzerland visit.
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