Nestled between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz in the Bernese Oberland is the legendary Interlaken resort. With a whole network of trains, cable cars, boats, cable cars at your disposal, Interlaken can be your springboard for a trip to the daunting Bernese Alps, ruled by three gigantic peaks: Jungfrau, Eiger Peak and Monk Peak.
You can travel to the Jungfraujoch on the highest railway in Europe and admire these monsters and the majesty of the Aletsch Glacier. At the resort, there are so many things to do, such as airboat trips to waterfalls, hiking, kayaking, swimming, canyoning, and even paragliding, all with stunning backdrops.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Interlaken:
1. Harder Kulm
It takes just over ten minutes by cable car to reach Interlaken’s own peak.
In that short time, you will climb more than 730 meters in a car with large windows, showcasing the beauty of the mountain landscape.
At an altitude of 1322 meters, from the distant Lake Brienz and Lake Thun to the nearby Emmental Alps, and then to the Bernese Alps with skyscrapers such as the Eiger and Maiden Lau in the distance. An exciting scene will be presented in front of you.
The observation deck protrudes from the slope, has a glass floor, and above it is a romantic medieval-style panoramic restaurant.
2. Schynige Platte
Wilderswil, on the southern edge of Interlaken, is the northern terminus of a 115-year-old rack railway that winds its way into the Bernese Alps.
Despite its long history, the Schynige Platte railway is still one of the highest lines in Switzerland, and it goes without saying that the views of the peaks and alpine pastures are breathtaking.
The ultimate goal is Schynige Platte, a 2,000-meter ridge on the Schwarzhorn mountain.
There’s good reason to visit here: overlooking Interlaken from here, which looks small from here, and admiring mountains like Schreckhorn, Europe’s northernmost peak, at more than 4,000 meters above sea level.
There is also an alpine garden with 650 flowering plants and another panoramic restaurant, and the ridge is the starting point for short and long hikes to see more of the Eiger, Jungfrau and Mönch.
3. Lake Brienz
Lake Brienz, east of Interlaken, has turquoise tones and mountain views.
Steamboats have sailed the lake since the 1830s, and there is now a small fleet of five ships from the first decades of the 20th century.
These depart for destinations around the lake, such as Giesbach, home to the castle-like Giesbach Grand Hotel and a waterfall that drops 500 meters into the lake.
The hotel features a funicular that dates back to 1879. If you’re feeling fresh, take an unforgettable walk or bike ride along the southern bank of Lake Brienz in a few hours, or head to Oberried to catch the train to Interlaken.
4. Lake Thun
To the west is Lake Thun, which is dark blue against prevailing breezes.
So it’s no wonder that the lake is a favorite among windsurfers and sailors, while the shore, surrounded by woodland, is dotted with bathing areas that lure you in the summer.
On the water, you can enjoy unobstructed panoramic views of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.
It’s a sight to take slowly, so take a steamboat on the lake and spend some time in Thun.
There’s a lot to love about this historic town, from the stately Chadau Park and Thun Castle to the lovely old town surrounding the 1500s town hall.
Interlaken Ost Train Station is the starting point for epic train journeys.
Surprisingly, the Interlaken Line is over 100 years old and will take you through almost unbelievable scenery in stages up to the saddle of the Jungfrau at 3,466 meters.
This final train station is the highest in Europe and is located at the apex of a 7km long tunnel through the mountain.
From there you can enter the Top of Europe Tower, overlooking the vast Aletsch glacier permanently frozen by the UNESCO-listed Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bichhorn.
Inside are restaurants and attractions, and then you can take the elevator to the Sphinx Observation Deck for jaw-dropping 360° indoor and outdoor views.
6. St. Bitus Cave
Directly above northeastern Lake Thun is a karst cave system that takes its name from the 6th century Irish monk Beatus.
He is said to live here, and according to legend, when he moved in, he chased away a dragon.
The cave has a kilometer-long walkway, impressive chambers, where you’ll encounter strange nodules, dark crevices and underground waterfalls.
There is also a cave museum on site, which documents the history of the caves, how they were explored in modern times, and explains their wildlife and geology.
The restaurant is located in the loggia, overlooking Lake Thun with its mountain backdrop.
West of Interlaken and on the shores of Lake Thun is this beautiful medieval town with a quieter, less touristy character.
Unterseen is essentially a suburb of Interlaken, crossing the Aare at the Interlaken West train station.
On the old market Marktbrunnen stands the rustic tower of a 13th-century church and the town hall.
Now a restaurant, this used to be the town hall but actually started as an inn for a cattle ranch in the 15th century.
There is also a museum on the square that tells the story of the birth and development of tourism in Interlaken since the 18th century.
Wander the streets for a while, check out the chalets with their exaggerated eaves, and visit local amenities like bakeries.
8. Summer activities
Come to Interlaken from June to September and there is a dizzying array of things to do outside.
Your first priority should be to rent a kayak or stand-up paddle board for Lake Thun or Brienz, and there are plenty of companies to consult.
On land, you may be ready for something more exciting than a simple hike.
The terrain around the lake is perfect for canyoning: you’ll put on safety gear and a neoprene suit and rappel down waterfalls and canyons.
The steep water droplets surrounding Lake Interlaken are the launch pad for paragliders, whose colourful slides are common in summer.
It’s not an activity for the faint-hearted, but if you can muster the courage to do a tandem flight, it’s worth every penny.
This street and promenade is like the main road in Interlaken, running diagonally with the Aare River from Lake Brienz to Lake Thun.
Heading towards Unterseen, there has been no construction on the left of Höheweg.
There are a series of gardens and parks, such as the Höhematte, with clear views of the Bernese Alps.
On the right is a string of upscale hotels, boutiques, bars and cafés, as well as Interlaken’s casino.
10. Ice Magic
In winter, it’s normal for towns to have makeshift ice rinks, but Interlaken is much more than that.
From mid-December to the end of February in Höheweg, Ice Magic is a little world of ice.
Ice Magic has five ice rinks interconnected by 450 meters of ice ramps.
In the evening, you can rent a lane at the Bavarian curling rink.
Unlike the Olympics, the sport is easy to pick up and more like bowling on ice.
After a few hours on the ice, you can warm up with hot chocolate or mulled wine, or share a fondue at the chalet-style restaurant.
11. Weissenau Nature Reserve
Away from tourist routes and souvenir shops, you can find a moment of peace and solitude on the eastern shore of Lake Thun on the outskirts of Unterseen.
The Weissenau Nature Reserve is a wetland with stunning views of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.
Not many people get to this corner of the lake, so when the weather is warm, take a stroll on the boardwalk and enjoy the lake, birds, and wildflowers in your own time.
The reserve also houses the ruins of the Swiss National Heritage Weisanau Castle, dating back to the 1200s, which you can zoom in to see the tree canopy and Lake Thun.
12. Justistal Alpine Dairy
Wake up early and follow the winding mountain road to Beatenberg to visit an authentic alpine dairy farm.
The tour is only first thing in the morning, starting at 07:15. You’ll take an exhilarating walk on the ranch and watch the herds with your guide before meeting the “dairy farmers”. He’ll show you the behind-the-scenes story of real Emmental dairy, the cheese made here that will be waiting at the table for your communal breakfast at the end of the tour.
Tours are on Tuesdays and Fridays from June to September on request.
13. Winter sports
Now, Interlaken is not a ski resort per se, but its amenities, location and transport connections make it a great place to ski or snowboard for a day or two in winter.
The Jungfrau ski areas are in the spotlight, including Grindelwald First, Klein Scheidegg-Mannlichen and Mürren-Schilthorn.
Closer to the north of Interlaken is the Beatenberg-Niederhorn, which has slopes suitable for families and newcomers.
There are also cross-country trails on the north side of Lake Thun and south in Spiez, many of which overlook the lake.
If you’re willing to go the extra mile, there’s a 15-kilometer toboggan run that stretches from Faulhorn to Grindelwald.
On the southern shore of Lake Thun, Spiez is a picturesque town surrounded by vineyards, just a few minutes by car, train or boat west of Interlaken.
The town is famous for its mighty square castle, which was built in the 13th century and acquired its current appearance in the 1600s.
It’s well worth a visit, as well as the 1,000-year-old Romanesque church and information in three languages about the inheritance of the castle-owning noble families under Burgundy and the Habsburg Empire.
There is also a museum about the history of winemaking in Spiez, and trails start in the town and continue to the Niederhorn Range.
15. Panoramabrücke Sigriswil
This new panoramic pedestrian bridge over Lake Thun is part of a plan to make the lakeshore more pedestrian-friendly.
Three of the seven bridges have been constructed so far, with Panoramabrücke Sigriswil being by far the most impressive.
It soars 180 meters above the Gumi Canyon and has a total length of 330 meters.
No matter how many times you admire it, you’ll never tire of the view of the Bernese Alps looming over the deep blue Lake Thun, and this bridge is one of the best places to do that.
The bridge will take you to the charming town of Oberhofen with its beach and water castle.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Interlaken, Switzerland
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