It’s not surprising that Interlaken is often referred to as the adventure capital of Switzerland. There are plenty of adventurous things to do in Interlaken - including canyoning, white water rafting and paragliding - but the less adventurous visitor won’t feel left out here either.
With its position at the heart of the Bernese Alps, and surrounded by crystal clear lakes, Interlaken is paradise in central Switzerland.
As the name suggests, Interlaken is situated on a narrow strip of land between two lakes, Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, both of which are fed by the River Aare.
With a population of around 14,000, Interlaken is one of the larger towns in the Bernese Oberland and it offers plenty of services for both residents and visitors
What to do in Interlaken
Train and tram rides
A great way to get your bearings whilst learning more about Interlaken is to take a ride on either the Bodeli-bahn tourist train or Bodeli-Tram, a horse drawn tram carriage. After choosing your mode of transport, enjoy a journey on a nostalgic ride through Interlaken and past all the town’s significant sights
Both the train and tram operate from mid-March to mid-October with departures from Höhe Matte Park (opposite the Casino) in central Interlaken.
Guided walk of Interlaken
Alternatively, why not join a guided walking tour of Interlaken, led by one of the town’s locals? Learn about the history and legends of the town on a free walking tour. Tours depart regularly throughout the year.
Also available is a guided Pub Crawl of Interlaken. A young local guide will escort you to three bars and a club, where the first drink in each is on the house.
Höhe Matte is a large open park in the heart of Interlaken with a backdrop of the snow-capped Eiger, Jungfrau and Mönch. It’s a popular gathering place and the landing spot for paragliders and hang gliders.
Casino Interlaken/Congress Centre and Kursaal Gardens
Interlaken’s Casino and Congress Centre can be found half way along Höheweg in the Kursaal building, dating back to 1859. Surrounded by well-manicured gardens and a flower clock, the congress centre hosts regular shows and concerts whilst those who like a flutter can try their hand at American roulette, Blackjack, Poker and slot machines in the casino.
Interlaken’s shopping district offers everything from luxury stores to chain stores and souvenir shops. The main shopping strip, Höheweg, stretches over one kilometre from near Interlaken West station to Interlaken Ost station.
Here, stores selling designer watches and jewellery sit alongside ice cream parlours and souvenir shops. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants offering outdoor dining in summer, making Höheweg the perfect place to sit and people watch.
Interlaken is home to at least three large supermarkets and offers all the services of a large regional town.
Spa and Wellness centres
If your body craves some pampering, Interlaken’s spa and wellness centres are the place to visit. After a day of adventure or sightseeing, treat yourself to a massage or body treatment or just relax in the healing waters of one of the town’s luxurious spas.
The Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel and Lindner Beau Rivage Hotel are just two of properties in Interlaken that offer excellent wellness facilities.
A few minutes walk from the Interlaken Ost station is the funicular station for Harder Kulm. Interlaken’s own ‘mountain’ rises 1322 metres above sea level and is a great place from which to view the town of Interlaken and the surrounding Alps and lakes.
Reached by a ten minute funicular ride, Harder Kulm offers a relaxing spot for a bite to eat or something to drink.
The Two Lakes Bridge, a suspended platform, provides magnificent views of ‘the big three’, the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau, as well as Lakes Thun and Brienz.
There's also a relatively easy 1 hour circular walk called the Harderweg which starts and finishes close to the restaurant and Two Lakes Bridge.
Open: April to November
If you plan on doing other mountain excursions in the region (including the Jungfraujoch), I highly recommend purchasing the Jungfrau Travel Pass - You can find out what the pass includes and check prices here.
Interlaken Monastery and Castle
Dating back to 1133, Interlaken’s former Augustinian monastery, complete with castle and church, is located in the old town.
Two significant aspects are the bell tower of the former monastery church, which dates back to the early 14th century, and the mid-15th century Gothic cloister gallery and chapel.
The Monastery is located in the old town (Unterseen), just across the River Aare.
Adventure Sports in Interlaken
Those looking for action have come to the right place. There’s a huge array of adventure sports on offer in Interlaken including paragliding, hang gliding, rafting, tubing, climbing, canyoning, bungy jumping and glacier trekking.
Numerous adventure companies have information booths along Höheweg where tickets can be purchased for the various activities.
During winter, a free ski bus takes skiers directly from Interlaken to the valley stations of the Jungfrau Ski Region. (Read this article for ideas on things to do in Interlaken and the Jungfrau Ski Region in winter.)
Click here to browse some of the adventure activities available in Interlaken.
Helicopter flights in Interlaken
With such spectacular scenery all around, Interlaken is the perfect place to enjoy a helicopter flight.
Magnificent views of mountains, lakes and glaciers await you as you take to the skies in the comfort of a helicopter.
Excursions from Interlaken
Ballenberg Swiss Open-Air Museum
At the Ballenberg Swiss Open-Air Museum, visitors can see the Switzerland of yesteryear. The museum is a re-creation of a typical Swiss settlement of the past with 100 original, century-old buildings on display.
Amongst the buildings are fields with all of Switzerland’s native farm animals represented and workshops where handicrafts typically carried out by farming families in the 19th century, are on display.
Open: April to October
Getting to Ballenberg: Ballenberg is 22 kilometres from Interlaken. If you don’t have a car, Ballenberg Swiss Open-Air Museum can be reached by public transport. Trains depart Interlaken regularly for Brienz where a connecting coach awaits for the onward journey to Ballenberg West.
St Beatus Caves
Situated above Lake Thun are the limestone St. Beatus Caves. Legend has it that the 6th century monk, St. Beatus, drove away a dragon that lived in the caves. Nowadays, visitors come to the caves to see the impressive display of stalactites and stalagmites.
A well-lit pathway of over one kilometre leads visitors deep into the mountain past rock formations that have evolved over millions of years.
Open: mid-March to mid-November
Getting to St. Beatus Caves: Visitors without a car can reach the caves by either bus or boat from Interlaken.
Cruises on Lake Thun and Lake Brienz
One of the most relaxing ways to spend a few hours whilst in Interlaken is to enjoy a lake cruise. The hardest decision you’ll have to make is which lake to cruise on!
To the west of town is Lake Thun which stretches 18 kilometres to Thun, whilst Lake Brienz is to Interlaken’s east. Both lakes are known for the turquoise water and steep banks dotted with hamlets of Alpine chalets.
Half and full day cruises operate from April to October, with a winter cruise also available on Lake Thun.
The boat station for Lake Thun cruises is opposite Interlaken West railway station, whilst cruises on Lake Brienz depart from behind the Interlaken Ost railway station.
Further reading: 13 reasons to visit Switzerland's Lake Thun >>
Just a few kilometres from Interlaken is the lovely village of Wilderswil and it’s from here that one of the region’s most scenic train rides starts.
The 45 minute journey, in an open-sided cog wheel train, to Schnyige Platte and the Alpine Garden makes a lovely excursion.
The railway line winds its way up the side of the mountain, providing magnificent view of the Alps and Lakes Brienz and Thun below.
At the summit of Schynige Platte is the Alpine Garden, a nature reserve consisting of around 600 species of alpine plants including the Swiss emblem, edelweiss. (Read more about Schynige Platte in this article.)
Open: late May to late October
Getting to Schnyige Platte: The Schnyige Platte bahn (train) departs every 40 minutes (late May to late October) from Wilderswil station. Connections are available to Interlaken. Click here for current ticket prices.
If you plan on doing other mountain excursions in the region (including the Jungfraujoch), I highly recommend purchasing the Jungfrau Travel Pass - check prices here.
Just twenty minutes from Interlaken is the pretty alpine village of Lauterbrunnen, gateway to some of the region’s most famous attractions including the Schilthorn and Jungfraujoch.
This article on Lauterbrunnen highlights the numerous things to do in the village and even if you can only spare half a day whilst staying in Interlaken, it’s well worth a visit to Lauterbrunnen.
Getting to Lauterbrunnen: Lauterbrunnen is only 12 kilometres from Interlaken and can be reached by car or frequent train services.
I’ve written a dedicated article on Grindelwald as it is a worthy destination in its own right, however it also makes a great excursion from Interlaken.
There are numerous adventure activities to be found in Grindelwald, including scooter and mountain car rides, as well as a flying fox, but it’s also a pleasant alpine village for shopping and admiring the mountain scenery.
The village sits facing the imposing north face of the Eiger and is one of the most popular winter ski resorts in the region.
Getting to Grindelwald: You can reach Grindewald from Interlaken either by car (about 30 minutes) or by train (35 minutes).
Hiking and mountain bike trails
The entire region is a hiker’s and mountain biker’s paradise. Hundreds of well-maintained trails criss-cross the mountains and lakeside pastures, with trails to suit all levels of fitness.
Where to stay in Interlaken
As a true holiday resort, Interlaken offers a huge selection of accommodation styles. Two of the more luxurious hotels in Interlaken are the Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel and Lindner Beau Rivage Hotel, both are which are located on Hoheweg. (Click the hotel names above for current prices.)
There are a large selection of holiday apartments to choose from, a youth hostel and a number of camping grounds in town.
For something entirely different, you can get close to nature and stay in an alpine hut.
Getting to Interlaken
Interlaken is situated about 50 kilometres south east of the Swiss capital, Bern, and 125 km from Zurich.
Regular train services operate every day between Interlaken and other towns and cities in Europe. The TGV Lyria train operates between Paris and Interlaken, with a journey time of five hours.
You can also travel to Interlaken via the scenic Swiss trains, the Luzern-Interlaken Express and the Golden Pass line.
For visitors arriving by car, parking is available at most accommodations. There are also numerous public car parks in town (charges apply).
This article is written in conjunction with Switzerland Tourism but all words and opinions are my own.
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