Interlaken – The pearl of the Alps and gateway to Jungfrau adventures

23 June, 2020 | Reccy Guide

Set between twin glacier-fed lakes, the bustling town of Interlaken is the gateway to some of Switzerland’s leading adventure spots. A hub of activity, surrounded by stunning alpine scenery, Interlaken is the ideal base to explore the Jungfrau region, and is blessed with plentiful accommodation options, a wide variety of eateries, and excellent transport links.

The town is positioned strategically on a narrow strip of valley between the azure shores of Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. In the summer, their clear waters provide the perfect retreat from the midday sun, as well as a range of water-sports. 

Tourists first fell in love with Interlaken in the Victorian era, thanks to the work of Swiss landscape painter Franz Niklaus König, whose popular paintings encouraged droves of international visitors to the town. 

Interlaken – Swiss town with gingerbread housesInterlaken – Swiss town with gingerbread houses

Visitors crowned it the “pearl of the Alps” for its elegant hotels and majestic Alpine backdrop, and historians often credit Interlaken as the first international holiday destination. 

Today, the town is one of the most popular bases for exploring the Alps. Pretty timber houses, sidewalk cafes, restaurants, and gift shops line its main street, which stretches between its two train stations: Interlaken Ost and Interlaken-West. 

Despite its small size, the town is relatively lively, thanks in a big way to the thousands of tourists which visit each year. Its nightlife is diverse, and revelers will find quiet cocktail bars, underground dance spots and plenty of good beer. In the summer, festivities spill into beer gardens, and live musicians entertain the crowds well into the small hours. 

Because of its low lying position, Interlaken enjoys good weather year-round, compared to villages positioned higher in the area. Temperatures do not often fall far below zero, even in the throes of winter, and in the summer clear blue skies and highs of 80F are the norms. 

Interlaken – in fall seasonInterlaken – in fall season

Although the town itself has plenty to offer, most people stay in Interlaken because of its excellent transport links out of town. Travelers can easily reach most destinations in the region from here, and will save themselves a lot of time by choosing to base themselves in Interlaken over a more secluded spot. 

Trains arrive regularly from Zurich, Geneva, Basel, Berne, and Luzern, with most services calling at both its East and West stations. Local mountain railways provide unrivaled access to stunning villages and outlying towns, and the journey past breathtaking vistas and through solid rock tunnels is an adventure in itself. Boat trips also operate on both lakes, ferrying passengers between lakeside towns and offering a little-seen perspective of the region’s arresting scenery. 

For thrill-seekers, Interlaken has the highest concentration of tour and activity providers in the region, touting everything from ski passes, hang-gliding, guided hikes, ziplines, and kayaking. 

Families in particular, will appreciate the variety of activities in the town, and aside from pulse-raising pursuits, there is a good collection of play-centers and amusement parks to entertain younger children. Competition between providers means there are often deals to be had. Passes that offer multiple activities are a fantastic way to do more, and spend less.

Gateway to Swiss Adventure Holidays in the Jungfrau Region

The Jungfrau region is one of the top adventure destinations in the world where thrill-seekers will find endless inspiration as they explore the alpine peaks, crystalline waterfalls, and lush, sweeping valleys.

Land, air, and water, the region offers ample opportunity for adventurers to push themselves to their limits. The sheer variety of activities on offer in the Jungfrau region has secured it the reputation as Switzerland’s number one destination for adrenaline-junkies, with hiking, climbing, skiing, sledding, abseiling and paragliding all available within a relatively short distance of each other. 

Despite being one of the most renowned mountain ranges in the world, the trio of peaks that earned the area its fame has retained a sense of wilderness. Its glowing reputation is due in no small part to the beauty, physical challenge, and diversity offered by all three summits. 

Scenic point in Interlaken

Scenic point in Interlaken

Jungfrau is the largest of the three alpine giants, capping a dizzying 4,158m. Experienced climbers will appreciate its magnitude, and discover immense glaciers, frosted ridge passes, vertical rock scrambles and panoramic views. A comprehensive network of routes lead walkers through some of the most stunning scenery in the Alps, and its varied terrain provides ample challenge for intermediate climbers. Its neighbors, the Eiger and Monch peaks, are also renowned for their beauty and climbing potential. 

There are numerous companies offering guided climbs to the summit of Jungfrau, which take around 5 hours. Most tours include a second ascent up neighbouring Monch, spreading the two across two days. For a longer trip, some operators have an 8 day option, with the possibility of extending by an extra 3 days to include a Mont Blanc ascent. Not only does this course take you to the top of Jungfrau, but also Gross Grünhorn, Finsteraarhorn, and Mönch.

The Jungfrau’s neighbors, the Eiger and Monch peaks, are also renowned for their beauty and climbing potential. The summits vary in difficulty, with Monch serving up a challenging but manageable ascent for novice climbers, compared to Eiger and Jungfrau. The main route to the summit is the South East ridge, and it is possible to climb without a guide if you are competent at grade 2 climbing. 

The journey up Eiger is particularly challenging, its vast, foreboding north face towering over the surrounding towns of Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen. Its summit was first reached in 1858 via a long-winded western route, but it is its treacherous north face which grabs the most attention from adrenaline-seekers. Appropriately nicknamed ‘murder wall’ by German-speaking locals, the cragged, vertical rock face provides the ultimate challenge for intrepid climbers. More than 60 people have fallen victim to the hostile ascent, which has only served to increase its notoriety, and in the late 1800s the Bernese authorities even banned climbers from attempting to climb it. Nowadays, although the journey remains hazardous, there are a host of climbing companies that can prepare and facilitate your climb. 

Operators offer a comprehensive tour, which includes three climbing days, overnight accommodation, transport and a one on one guide. This climb requires climbers to have previous experience of rock climbing (5.7 grade) in boots and being comfortable climbing on steep firm snow and ice. Some operators offer a course which includes a four-day training program, followed by a two day guided ascent. The ascent avoids the notorious North Face, opting instead for the less perilous Mittellegi ridge. Some operators cover the big 3 in one trip, finishing with the Eiger. The 6 day trip includes accommodation, and a 9 hour, one on one ascent of the Eiger on the final two days. 

But the region is not just about climbing. For those who prefer a downhill adventure, skiing in the Jungfrau area won’t disappoint. There are literally hundreds of thousands of kilometers of ski slopes in the region, and several quality resorts to facilitate the fun. Skiers of all experience levels will enjoy Jungfrau’s powdered pistes thanks to the variety they provide, and there are plenty of resorts where beginners can take their first lesson, or brush up on the basics. A firm favorite among powder-lovers is the Grindelwald resort, which offers arresting views of the Eiger north face and around 213km of slopes. The resort has a ski and snowboard school, which offers adult and kids lessons, private instructor training, off-piste training and mountain safety information. Lessons can last up to 7 hours. 

Other popular skiing spots include the high-flying Schilthorn resort and its white-knuckle neighbour, the Schilthorn, the Alp’s steepest ski run. 

Although the soaring slopes provide panoramic glimpses of the region’s alpine splendor, nothing can rival the view from the sky. Paragliding not only provides a birds-eye view of the region’s stunning peaks and troughs, but is an exhilarating way to get the blood pumping. Stepping off the edge of a cliff into the abyss and gliding on nothing but clear alpine air is an adrenaline high like no other. Operators typically offer tandem flights ranging from 10 to 45 minutes, sunset flights are especially popular. 

Interlaken, gateway to Jungfrau regionInterlaken, gateway to Jungfrau region

If you want to pack some speed into your flying experience, opt for a hang-gliding adventure. Offering the same stunning views as paragliding, hang-gliding allows explorers to soar at speeds of up to 100km/h, and experiment with air-borne aerobics. Typically 20 to 30 minutes tandem flights are on offer.

For less intrepid souls, the area is also home to Europe’s highest railway, which leads quintessential red trains through some of Switzerland’s most striking scenery. At the end of the 19th century, gutsy engineers began drilling tunnels through the rocky triple peaks, winding its aerial route past arresting vistas and chasms. The train is also a great way to visit the many small villages and towns which pepper the rolling slopes of the region. Stop off at charming Lauterbrunnen, scenic Mürren or tranquil Wengen for lunch, or to explore one of their unique walking routes through the hills and valleys.

For centuries, the Jungfrau area’s striking beauty has made it a muse for artists and writers. It is fabled that a 19-year-old JR Tolkein (the author of the classic high fantasy works The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion) was inspired to create middle earth after hiking its peaks. 

The Jungfrau region has also served as the backdrop for numerous Hollywood blockbusters, including Princess Leia’s home planet of Alderaan in Star Wars, the secret lair of 1960s Bond villain Blofeld, and the fortress of the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

How to reach ?

Interlaken is incredibly accessible from all the major airports in Switzerland. Its closest, Bern Airport, is a short 45 minutes drive from the town, and about an hour and a half by train.

Hiring a car is also feasible, and the main highway from Bern to Interlaken is easy to navigate. Overnight parking charges are high in the town, however, and once here trains present a more appealing option for exploring the area.

Where to stay ?

Accommodation in Interlaken is plentiful and diverse. Options include five-star hotel suites, self-catered apartments, budget hostels, and independent air b&bs, meaning travelers will find a good night’s sleep, no matter their taste or budget. 

A hotel room for two adults ranges from around $50 a night for a basic bed and bathroom deal, to around $700 for a five star, spa included getaway.


There is no end of restaurants and cafes in Interlaken, ranging from budget bites to slap-up meals. Most can be found along the town’s main street, but if you have time then take a wander down the smaller side roads. Here you will find cheaper dishes and hidden gems. While you’re there, don’t forget to try meringue with cream – the area is famous for it.


Interlaken does not stop when the sun goes down. There are night-time activities galore in this bustling town, with live music events particularly common in the summer months. Sip coffee and schnaps at a quiet bar, or dance the night away at a late-night club.


There are plenty of shops offering all kinds of Swiss souvenirs in Interlaken. Shoppers will find Swiss army knives, watches, and specialty chocolate on sale in the town center. There are also a few supermarkets for groceries on the outskirts of the town, including a very large co-op not far from Interlaken Ost station.


  • Rugenbrau Brewery: independent Swiss brewing company
  • Schlosskirche Interlaken: Cathedral renowned for stained glass work
  • Unspunnen Castle: Ruins of 12th century castle
  • Alpenwildpark: wildlife park
  • Alpenrose Landscape Gardens: Beautiful landscaped gardens
  • Touristik-Museum der Jungfrau-Region: Museum about local area
  • Tell Festspiele: Live theatre venue
  • Armeebunker auf dem Ried: Army bunker from WW1
  • Unterseen: Interlaken’s old town
  • St. Beatus Cave and Waterfalls
  • Greenfield Music Festival: check dates
  • Trucker & Country Festival: check dates
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