1 Week in Interlaken

Interlaken, set in the heart of the Bernese Oberland between Lakes Thun and Brienz, is a beautiful place to spend a week. High peaks, sheer valleys, cool lakes: this is the ideal base for touring the mountain ranges and sights of the Alpine heart of Switzerland.

1 Week in Interlaken

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Joy S on October 25, 2005

The Bernese Oberland, Interlaken at its heart, is an area of breathtaking scenery and limitless excursion possibilities. Amongst the highlights of our week, there were the fiacre trip around Interlaken, trips up Harder Kulm and Heimweh Fluh, steamer trips around Lake Brienz and Lake Thun, visiting Lauterbrunnen and taking the funicular and train to Murren, and the cogwheel train ride up the breathtaking Schynige Platte.${QuickSuggestions}

1. Find the local tourist television channel on the television in your hotel. It broadcasts tourist information in German, Japanese, and English. There is lots of information on all the attractions but also camera views at the mountain viewpoints. You can see current weather conditions and the weather forecast, a useful tool to decide in advance if the ascent is worth it that day.

2. When travelling by train with children, find out if it has a family carriage. A lot of the trains have these - carriages with children's play areas in the centre that have a slide, climbing frame, books, etc. This is a great way to keep children entertained throughout the journey.

${BestWay} The best way to get around Interlaken itself is to walk - it is flat, easy to navigate, and has lovely views. To venture further afield, as Interlaken is the region's transport hub, it is well served by train, steamer, and coach services. All of these are efficient; they run like clockwork and are always on time, easy to use, clean, and safe.

Hotel Chalet Swiss

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Joy S on October 25, 2005

The Chalet Swiss Hotel is located in the pretty Unterseen area of Interlaken, a short and easy 5-minute walk from the West railway station. The hotel is extremely pretty, a typical Swiss chalet building, wooden with window boxes full of bright flowers. There is a lovely little garden to the front and an annex building to the back housing more rooms, a small and informal bar area, and, in the basement, a whirlpool and children's toy room.

Our room was in the annex - although not decorated in the latest fashions, it was cosy, comfortable, and spotlessly clean. The room was split-level with a very large, comfortable bed upstairs and another single bed, seating area with a television, and small balcony downstairs. The bathroom was small but adequate with bath and shower. We needed to hire a travel cot - this was fairly expensive, so I would recommend that if you need one, bring it along. There were no tea or coffeemaking facilities in the room, neither was there a fridge or hair dryer. We stayed on a half-board basis - breakfasts are continental style, a bit sparse, and dinners were three or four courses with basic but substantial food. The hotel had a large toy room in the basement filled with all kinds of toys for boys and girls of all ages as well as a large table football game. The staff in the hotel were efficient, friendly, and helpful. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay here, and I would not hesitate to book it again.
Hotel Chalet Swiss
Seestrasse 22
Interlaken, Switzerland, 3800

Things to do in Interlaken

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Joy S on October 25, 2005

76 miles southwest of Zurich airport, Interlaken is situated in the heart of the Bernese Oberland region between the two lakes of Thun and Brienz. The River Aare, which links the lakes, runs right through the town. Interlaken itself is flat, but has low mountains on one side and on the other the spectacular panorama of the Jungfrau, Eiger, and Monch. The best way to see everything in Interlaken is to walk - you can randomly stroll around and enjoy the views in all directions or, if you prefer a more structured walking tour, the Tourist Information Office has a very good selection of maps and guided walks available. Every Monday at 5pm they also organise a free guided walk around the town. We found this to be interesting and informative - it is conducted in English and German.

The main street in Interlaken is the Hoheweg - it runs right through the middle of the town, between the East and West train stations. It is lined with little shops selling Swiss souvenirs and handicrafts, as well as hotels and cafes. The cafes all sell a mouthwatering selection of pastries - we particularly enjoyed afternoon tea at Cafe Schuh on the edge of the Hohematte. It is well worth wandering off the Hoheweg into the casino gardens - they are very beautiful, especially the flower clock, and a lovely place to sit and relax with a book or just enjoy the views.

In the centre of Interlaken is the Hohematte, a great open meadow with a panorama of the snow-capped mountains. It was originally the site where Augustine monks pastured their cattle, but is now a large park. Frequently you see paragliders floating down off the nearby mountains and landing right in the middle of it.

Horse carriage rides, or fiacres, are a lovely restful way to spend half an hour when you tire of walking. They leave from Interlaken West train station and cost around 35 Swiss francs for a half-hour trip. Our driver took us around the Hohematte and was friendly, chatty, informative, and happy to take lots of photos of us and our son afterwards.

Interlaken has two main vantage points - Heimweh Fluh and Harder Kulm - both of which are easy to get to and worth a visit. Harder Kulm is 4,337 feet up and accessed by a funicular just across the river behind the East train station. The funicular rises above the woods, offering wonderful views of the town and the lakes. It takes 10 minutes to get to the top, where you have a bird's eye view of Interlaken. When you leave the funicular near the summit, there is a pagoda-like structure, the Harder Kulm mountain restaurant. We ate delicious Rosti sitting on the sun terrace. Heimweh Fluh is near the West train station. A vintage red funicular dating from 1906 climbs to this more touristy venue. There are lovely views from the summit and tower. At the top there is also a children's play area, model train exhibition, and an all-weather toboggan run that is a fun and interesting way to make the descent. Tip: We purchased a ticket from the Tourist Information Office - 50 Swiss Francs for two adults and two children -which covered the funicular ascent and toboggan descent, the railway exhibition, and a glass each of sparking wine or lemonade. This seemed to be good value for money and cheaper than paying at Heimweh Fluh for everything separately.

Steamer Trips on Lake Thun and Brienz

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Joy S on October 25, 2005

Lake Thun, 13 miles long and 2 miles wide, is sometimes called the Riviera of the Bernese Oberland due to its mild climate. It is extremely pretty with its mountain backdrop and castles and chalets dotted along the shore. Any view in any direction is picture-postcard perfect. The steamers leave frequently from Interlaken to cruise along the lake. They depart from behind the West train station. The round trip to Thun and back takes around 4 hours, but you can hop on and off at different points of interest.

We had half a day on the lake but would recommend setting aside a full day to enjoy and explore properly. The steamers run on time and do tend to be quite busy. Especially useful for us was the children's play area - which they all had - a few toys, colouring pencils, and pictures worked a treat to keep the little ones amused.

Thun is the main resort and is located on the northwestern corner of the lake. It has a picturesque castle and quaint medieval centre, but is also a large, busy town spread away from the mountains and does not have the spectacular views and character of some of the smaller lakeside villages. We found it to be less interesting than some of the other places along the lake and would not recommend it as a stopping point - there are nicer places to see.

Spiez is a gentle little resort village dominated by its waterside castle and stunning views over the lake to the high mountains. There are lovely waterside restaurants and cafes where you can relax with a glass of wine and soak up the scenery - a stop at Spiez is highly recommended.

Lake Brienz is to the east of Interlaken and is the smaller of the two lakes. It is 9 miles long and 2 miles wide. A round-trip on Lake Brienz takes around 3 hours. It is said to be the cleanest lake in Switzerland and is beautifully set in a bowl with forrested slopes and streams tumbling down into the water. Lake Brienz is much less touristy than Lake Thun. Steamers on Lake Brienz leave frequently from the steamer port behind the East station. We spent a peaceful couple of hours at Brienz on the northern edge of the lake. It has a very quiet feel and is most famous for its woodcarvers, whose work can be found in souvenir shops all over Switzerland.

Lauterbrunnen Valley and Murren

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Joy S on October 25, 2005

The Lauterbrunnen Valley is said to be the world's deepest - there are sheer bluffs either side and 72 waterfalls cascading down the mountains. It is hard to overstate just how stunning it is here. The train journey to Lauterbrunnen from Interlaken takes about 20 minutes from East station.

The views en route are beautiful. You travel right next to the River Aare; the sight of the green-blue river tumbling and crashing over rocks and stones at the side of the train is mesmerising.

Lauterbrunnen is on the valley floor, with Murren to the west and Wengen to the east. These two resorts are car-free, perched on narrow shelves of pasture way above the world below. Lauterbrunnen is lined with small souvenir shops, cafes, and hotels, and when we visited a street market, we spent an hour there, and then went to Murren, an unbelievably beautiful place.

Murren has a long tradition as a ski resort. The first Alpine downhill ski race took place here 75 years ago. It is a small, traditional Alpine village with amazing scenery and a quite village atmosphere. To get there, take the funicular from the station in the middle of Lauterbrunnen. At the top, you change to a train which takes you to the village. Schedules of both are integrated, and it is only a few steps from one to the other. The whole journey takes about 15 minutes, and on the way there are great views of the mountains and the tinkle of cowbells as you pass the sleepy Alpine cattle grazing on the slopes below. Murren, with its clean, pure mountain air, is sleepy, peaceful, and truly stunning. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited.

Schynige Platte

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Joy S on October 25, 2005

The little town of Wilderswil is a 6-minute train ride from Interlaken East railway station and serves as the base for the cogwheel train winding up for almost an hour to Schynige Platte, a steep ascent to 6,454 feet. The railway, which opened in 1893, climbs the 4.5-mile slope in less than an hour, with gradients of up to 25%. The views on the way up are awe-inspiring. The Alpine Gardens at the top are filled with 500 species of local plants - you can even see edelweiss growing. The entrance charge of 4 Swiss francs is very reasonable and, again, the mountain views are spectacular. The gardens are extremely hilly, with many steps, and not for the less mobile. There is also a teddy bear exhibition at the summit - entrance is free - I would not recommend it, as there are better and more impressive things to look at.


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