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.