Interlaken is a traditional resort town in the Bernese mountain region of Oberland in central Switzerland. Built on a narrow strip of the valley, between the emerald waters of Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, it is home to old wooden houses and green spaces on either side of the Aare River. Its surrounding mountains, covered with dense forests, alpine meadows and glaciers, have many hiking trails and ski slopes.
Interlaken is both a city and a tourist region, the green lung of Europe. Since the 19th century, the region has been home to many celebrities, such as the writer Goethe. Ideally located between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, not far from Bern, the resort is the ideal starting point for numerous excursions and activities. Its imposing alpine setting attracts skiers in the winter, before giving way to an extensive network of hiking trails in the summer. Boat trips on the lake or rack railway, historical monuments and museums complete the wonderful range of possibilities to visit Interlaken properly.
Not sure where to start? Follow our selection of 10 things to do in Interlaken!
1. Climb the Jungfrau , the “Roof of Europe”
To visit Interlaken is above all to take a deep breath of fresh air on the Alpine peaks! The snow-capped mountains of the Jungfrau have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2007. In addition to the superb landscapes of the High Alps, the Jungfrau combines superlatives: it is home to the largest glacier in Europe and the highest station in Europe. .
In winter, the resort is a paradise for snow sports enthusiasts. Two valleys, three mountain ranges and approximately 206 km of slopes offer an incomparable playground. In summer, marked hiking trails lead to the peaks or mountain lakes, in the valleys or along the torrents.
2. Harder Kulm
Harder Kulm is one of the most beautiful vantage points in the region. At 1,322 meters above sea level, a footbridge offers a breathtaking panorama of the two lakes of Thun and Brienz and the peaks of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.
In both summer and winter, marked trails make Harder Kulm a hiker’s paradise. With a little luck, you will observe ibexes, chamois, marmots or golden eagles in the Alpenwildpark ! A castle-like restaurant is also present on the site, to prolong the pleasure of this incredible view.
3. Caves of Saint Beatus
Are you looking for an original place to visit in Interlaken? On the shores of Lake Thun, the caves of Saint Béatus are legendary! Legend has it that a dragon once sowed terror in a large cave on the shores of Lake Thun. It is an Irish monk named Saint Beatus, who would have managed to drive it out, thus allowing visitors to access the caves without danger.
A short walk in the forest, punctuated by small bridges and waterfalls leads today to the entrance of the place. Once inside, almost 1,000 meters of marked and lighted paths lead to huge stalactites and stalagmites, vast cavities and deep gorges. Educational and fun, the cave museum completes the visit very well. The site is open from March to October.
4. Train du Rothorn de Brienz
Since 1892, this rack railway has been transporting its passengers daily from Brienz to the upper station Rothorn Kulm. The nostalgic ascent by steam train takes about an hour. Along the way, you will cross meadows, forests and steep cliffs. Once you arrive, a breathtaking panorama awaits you over Lake Brienz and the surrounding 693 peaks. A way like no other to visit Interlaken that promises an unusual experience!
5. Lake Thun
On the shores of Lake Thun, you can take pleasant walks to admire the views of the surroundings. Excursion boats, including a historic paddle steamer, also offer beautiful river trips.
The crossing of the lake starts from Interlaken, takes the direction of the Béatus caves, to Thun. The journey takes just over two hours. Cruises also allow you to enjoy a good meal while admiring the surrounding mountains and castles on the shores of the lake. Perfect for lovers!
6. Thun Castle
Built in the 12th century by the Dukes of Zähringen, Thun Castle is topped by four remarkable white towers. It is the emblem of the city of the same name and a property of national importance in Switzerland.
To visit Interlaken passing by this medieval monument is above all to enjoy the panoramic view! Indeed, the castle offers a superb view of the city, Lake Thun and the peaks of the Bernese Oberland, the highest region of the canton of Bern. On its five floors, the building houses a local historical museum and regularly hosts concerts and events, notably in its knights’ hall.
Lovers of medieval history, how about going back in time?
7. Burgseeli natural beach
It’s summer and you wonder how to visit Interlaken with children? See you at the natural beach of Burgseeli! Let your little swimmers wade through this pool of clear water, between ducks and water lilies! The water temperature is pleasant and the possibilities for recreation are numerous. Diving board, raft, ping-pong table, pirate ship share the premises, between water tank and large lawn.
This nature reserve is an ideal place to picnic and relax with the family between two excursions.
8. Interlaken Tourism Museum
The Interlaken Tourism Museum, open since 1980, is dedicated to the history of alpine tourism. Nearly 250 years of history are retraced on three floors, through the testimonies of past and present travellers.
To discover it, go to the heart of the old town of Unterseen, a few minutes walk from the city of Interlaken.
Winter sports and summer hikes await you on this summit culminating at 2,227 meters above sea level. What is special about Männlichen? It is reached by the longest cable car in Europe (6.2 km trip)! Once there, the panorama opens up on many alpine areas, such as Eiger-Mönch-Jungfrau, on dizzying peaks such as the Silberhorn, on Lake Thun and on the village of Wengen.
The Lütschine river rises between the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau and carries water from the glaciers directly into Lake Brienz. If you come to visit Interlaken for the sports activities that the region offers, try rafting!
In summer, glacial snow melts in the sun and fills the river with exciting rapids. Outings are organized in summer, several times a day. Excursions are suitable for different levels and depart from Interlaken.
11. Brienz Woodcarving Museum
Woodcarving is a well-established tradition in the Interlaken region, which is still practiced today. The village of Brienz is also considered the local capital of this artistic discipline. This is where the Schweizer Holzbildhauerei Museum , or woodcarving museum, is located!
The Schweizer Holzbildhauerei Museum is an interesting stopover for craft lovers wondering what to do in Interlaken. Open since 2009, it presents finely carved pieces. You can also buy some souvenirs there… in wood of course!