Home to one of Europe’s most popular ski resorts and more adventure and extreme sports than you can shake a stick at, Interlaken is every adventure and outdoor enthusiasts dream. However, not all of you are adrenalin junkies and no matter how much of a thrill seeker you are, the chances are you won’t want to be doing adventure sports all of the time.
Thankfully there are plenty of things to do in Interlaken that don’t involve throwing yourself out of a plane or rolling down a hill in a giant ball, like mountain treks and steamer cruises. To help you get the most out of your Interlaken trip, we’ve put together a list of 10 Interlaken activities that shouldn’t be missed out on. We’ve also picked out a few hostels and hotels you might want to consider as places to stay in Interlaken.
1. Visit the Alpin Center and give an adventure sport a go
Trying an adventure sport or activity during your stay in Interlaken is an absolute must and the best place to go to get this organized is the Alpin Center. It is every adrenalin junkies dream, offering just about every adventure sport/activity known to man from the old classics like bungee jumping and sky diving to the latest adventure sport of Zorbing. Zorbing (just in case you didn’t know!) involves rolling down a hill in a giant ball (imagine doing somersaults in a giant hamster ball and you get a vague idea of the experience!) and is one of the craziest experiences I’ve ever had! For those of you who want to do something a little less wild but no less invigorating, the Center also offers a number of hiking and biking treks and trails.
2. Take a walk on the wild side at Jungfraujoch
Set at the foot of the Mönch & Jungfrau Mountains, in the beautiful surroundings of the Swiss countryside, Interlaken is a great place for hiking, walking and climbing. There are trails and treks for walkers and climbers of all standards and these include the Jungfrau Plateau trails which provide stunning views of the surrounding mountains. The more intrepid amongst you will be drawn to the glacier hike at the top of Jungfrau Mountain. You have to take the train to get up there and can hike all the way to Moenchsjochhuette. This is not for the faint hearted but is well worth the effort if you have the energy and the heart!
3. Take a train to the highest train station in Europe
Even if you don’t take on the glacier walk, a trip to the top of Jungfraujoch on the Jungfraubahn is an absolute must! Jungfraujoch Station is the highest train station in Europe and is built inside the mountain so that the trains can run throughout the year regardless of the weather. The fares are pretty pricey but well worth the money as the views from the Sphinx viewpoint- some 3571 meters up- are simply breathtaking. There are a few restaurants at the top if you get hungry and there is even a cocktail lounge if you fancy a tipple before making the trip back down the mountain! If you get the opportunity, pick a day when the weather is good to make the most of the views of the lake and the valley below.
4. Check out the Ice sculptures at the Ice Palace
Carved inside the mountain, the Ice Palace is a large, cavernous area where everything is made of solid ice from the walls and corridors to the vast array of sculptures on display. It is quite slippery inside, so be careful when you go in and hold on to the hand-rails as you go! Although well worth a look it won’t take you too long to complete the circuit, and it is best to incorporate it with other activities. It is a great activity to do when the weather outside is pretty grim and you don’t fancy spending time outdoors.
5. Take a cruise on a lake steamer
A day or half day excursion on the steamer cruise is a great way to relax and unwind after a busy day on the slopes or rafting the previous day. You can catch a boat to Brienz, a picturesque woodcarvers’ town, or head for Thun and take in its medieval castle. The Swiss Open-Air Museum at Ballenberg is also worth a look along with the lovely gardens around Schloss Oberhofen. The best thing about the cruises is that you can get on and off as and when you please so there is no pressure on you to move on if you’re enjoying a particular place.
6. Go skiing at one of Europe’s top ski resorts
This is an absolute must for the skiers amongst you. Interlaken has access via the mountain railway to three world renowned ski resorts- Grindelwald, Mürren, and Wengen, providing 213 kilometers of downhill trails which are accessible by 45 cable cars and lifts. The average runs are 6-12 km in length and every winter sport activity is possible from ice skating to snowshoeing. If your standard ski run isn’t enough for you, heli-skiing (being dropped off by a helicopter on the top of a mountain peak) is available along with ice hiking. The facilities and piste side cafés are first rate with the train costs incorporated into your ski pass.
7. Eat in the Bond restaurant at Piz Gloria
This is an absolute must do activity and a Bond and film fanatics dream! Piz Gloria is one of the world’s highest revolving restaurants- it takes over half an hour to get there by cable car- and was used extensively as the lair of Ernst Savro Blofeld in the filming of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. There’s plenty of James Bond memorabilia and film clips to keep the aficionados among you happy, and the restaurant isn’t half bad either! The 360 degree panoramic views from the restaurant and the viewing deck allow you to see as far as Mount Blanc and the German Black Forest on a good day are worth the trip alone. The restaurant serves everything you’d expect of the sort of high class restaurant Bond would hang out in including a James Bond Breakfast special complete with a glass of sparkling Prosecco. Speaking of alcohol, it also does a killer martini- shaken not stirred of course!
8. Visit the town of Brienz
A day trip to the town of Brienz is well worth the effort if you can drag yourself away from all the fun and hubbub of Interlaken. 20 km east of Interlaken, Brienz is a great place to relax, unwind and recharge the batteries in some of the most beautiful and tranquil surroundings imaginable. It is certainly a lot more beautiful and romantic than Interlaken and is famous for its ornately decorated wooden houses. Brungrasse is the best area to see some of the fantastic craftsmanship but in truth there are beautifully decorated wooden houses all over town. The town is also famous for its wood carvings and there is a wood carving school where locals will show you the very basics.
There’s more to Brienz than wood carvings and pretty wooden huts and you may want to stay a night or two there if you do make a visit. Prices are 10-20% cheaper than Interlaken on average.
9. Go Hang Gliding and experience the closest thing to flying!
In Greek mythology a man called Daedalus constructed wings made out of birds feathers and candle wax and managed the feat of flying. All was going well until his son, Icarus, flew too close to the sun, causing his wax to melt. He plunged into the sea and the experiment was never repeated- that was until someone came up with hang gliding! This really is the closest thing to flying and a fantastic experience in the beautiful surrounds of Interlaken. Hang Gliding Interlaken specializes in Tandem flights and caters for everybody’s tastes from thrill seekers who want to get the adrenalin pumping by doing a series of dives, stalls and wingovers to those of you who just want a smooth flight and the ability to take in the stunning scenery below.
10. Make your own necklaces at Beden Laden
Located just around the corner from Balmers Herberge and minutes away from central Interlaken, Beden is a relatively new addition to Interlaken where you can go buy jewelry, or sit and create your own jewelry from the incredible selection of beads and supplies right there in the store. You can spend hours in the shop making your own necklaces, bracelets and earrings, and this is a great place to get those last minute gifts for friends and relatives before you head home.
The shop has a huge range of beads to choose from so you can pretty much make whatever you want, from cool chunky wooden bracelets and necklaces, to more complicated and dressy jewelry and brightly colored eye-catching designs. The lady who runs the shop is lovely and very helpful- brilliant if you’re a guy like me who didn’t have the slightest clue what he was doing trying to make a bracelet for his sister!
One thing you will certainly need if you do decide to visit is somewhere good to stay. The last thing you want after a busy day’s activities is a cramped dorm with an uncomfortable bed. Thankfully Interlaken has an abundance of great places to stay including Rugenpark B&B and Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof.
Rugenpark B&B offers clean and comfortable rooms with mountain views, cable TV, warm duvets and a hearty Swiss breakfast buffet. Facilities include free internet, guest kitchen, booking office for excursions and activities, English book exchange, free parking and free wireless LAN. It is recommended by 171 out of 174 guests who have left feedback and has private rooms available from just 27.24 Euros.
Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof is centrally located and offers free entry to swimming pools and mini golf, comfortable beds and duvets and a free breakfast as part of its price. There is a free fully equipped self-catering kitchen and hot showers on every floor. It is also highly recommended by customers on the HostelBookers website and has private and shared rooms available at similarly affordable prices.
And there you have it, our list of 10 things to do in Interlaken and some of the best places to stay.