On my first trip to Europe many years ago, my boyfriend (now husband) and I did the obligatory Contiki tour. The second destination on our whirlwind tour was Lauterbrunnen, a tiny village in the heart of the Swiss Alps. From this brief visit a real love affair with the village has developed and we have returned on numerous occasions as there are so many things to do in Lauterbrunnen. It's probably our favourite holiday destination in Europe.
Situated in the Bernese Oberland about an hour from the Swiss capital, Bern, the village of Lauterbrunnen offers an endless list of things to do for both the active and more passive visitor. Although located on the valley floor at just 796 metres above sea level, its position in the heart of the Alps makes Lauterbrunnen the ideal spot for enjoying the long list of alpine activities in both winter and summer.
Things to do in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
Explore the village
Lauterbrunnen is your quintessential Swiss alpine village, dotted with chalet-style houses and surrounded by green fields and towering, snow-capped mountains.
On arriving in the village, one of the first things you will notice are the huge rock faces surrounding the town. Nestled in a valley, the village sits surrounded by these huge cliff faces from which 72 waterfalls spill over, and each morning you wake to the soothing sounds of water rushing over the rocks.
The region’s three most well known mountains, the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau, can all be seen from the village, with Lauterbrunnen the main gateway to the Jungfrau.
The village’s main street is lined with hotels, restaurants, cafes, shops selling outdoor gear, souvenir shops and a supermarket and it’s easy enough to spend an hour or two browsing.
Away from the main street, there’s a swimming pool and a mini-golf course, and the lovely Lutschinen Promenade which ambles along beside the River Lutschine out of the village and then between alpine meadows before taking you back into town.
After a stroll in the crisp mountain air, there’s nothing better than rewarding yourself with a typical Swiss meal or a coffee at a sunny outdoor café looking out at the massive mountain peaks.
An easy 30 minute stroll from town, the Trummelbach Falls are Europe’s largest subterranean caves. Consisting of a series of ten glacier waterfalls, these thunderous waterfalls have carved corkscrew channels through the valley walls over millions of years.
A stepped walkway leads you over and around the enclosed, foaming cauldrons of rushing water (up to 20,000 litres a second), which throw up plenty of spray and have gradually eroded the rock into weird and wonderful shapes.
Getting to Trummelbach Falls: Walking paths are clearly signposted from Lauterbrunnen. You can also access the falls by car (travel towards Stechelberg) or Postbus from Lauterbrunnen railway station.
An easy and enjoyable excursion from Lauterbrunnen is to visit Mürren. A traffic-free village which sits on a plateau 850 metres above Lauterbrunnen, Mürren is a popular winter resort but also offers plenty for the summer tourist.
The village, which has a population of around 350, is quite spread out and boasts a few hotels, eateries, souvenir shops, a small supermarket – and stunning views!
To get the best views of the Alps, take the funicular (mountain train) to Allmendhubel (1907m). Here you can take in the gorgeous alpine scenery from the Skyline Chill relaxation zone, walk the Flower Trail amongst over 150 different species of mountain flowers, and enjoy refreshments on the sunny terrace of the Panorama Restaurant.
There’s also an adventure playground, called Flower Park, especially for kids.
Numerous walking trails – for all levels of fitness – start in Mürren, too. An easy and enjoyable path meanders from Mürren to Winteregg and then down to Grütschalp.
"TIP: Stop at Alpkaserei Staubbach, right by the train station at Winteregg, to buy farm fresh yoghurt direct from the farmer. It’s the most delicious yoghurt you’ll ever taste."
Mürren is also the starting point for excursions to Birg and the Schilthorn. (See full details below.)
Getting to Mürren: To get from Lauterbrunnen to Mürren you can either take a cable car from Mürren to Grütschalp and then a train (via Winteregg) to Mürren, or take the direct cable car from Stechelberg, a few minutes drive past Lauterbrunnen.
Take an excursion to the Schilthorn
At 2960 metres above sea level, the Schilthorn is by no means the highest mountain in the region but it is well worth a visit.
On previous visits to Lauterbrunnen I had declined all offers of visiting the Schilthorn as I’m not a cable car fan but, on my most recent visit, I was determined to overcome my fears and see what all the fuss was about.
The Schilthorn was made famous when it featured as the location for the 1969 James Bond movie “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” and today visitors can enjoy numerous Bond-themed activities.
At Bond World 007 visitors can watch scenes from the movie, and take part in lots of interactive exhibitions including being filmed ‘riding’ a bobsled down a mountain and ‘flying’ a helicopter.
The 007 Walk of Fame showcases the cast and crew of the movie on an outside walking trail, whilst the Skyline View – Piz Gloria revolving restaurant, which appeared in the movie, serves meals and snacks all day (including Bond’s preferred champagne!) with 360° views.
For me, the outdoor viewing platform is the main reason to visit the Schilthorn. On a clear day you have views as far as Mont Blanc and the Black Forest, and an unrivalled view of snow-capped mountains wherever you look. This is known as the Swiss Skyline – and for very good reason – and was without doubt, the highlight of my visit.
I can honestly say the views took my breath away and are something I will never forget.
My video below doesn't do it justice, but I hope it gives you an idea of the amazing views you can see from the Schilthorn.
Getting to the Schilthorn: The Schilthorn can be reached by two cable cars from Mürren via Birg.
Enjoy the activities at Birg
If you are making the journey to the Schilthorn, it’s worth stopping off at Birg (2677m), especially if you are the adventurous type.
Right next to the sunny outdoor terrace, Skyline Walk is a platform with a clear floor built over a vertical drop, whilst Thrill Walk is a 200-metre long cliff pathway built into the side of the rock massif. Walking on a (albeit, reinforced) wire mesh walkway with sheer drops below is not for the faint hearted.
The viewing platform at Birg faces the ‘big three’ – Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau – and offers great views both of the mountains and to the valley below.
Helicopter flights over the Alps
With such stunning scenery all around, Lauterbrunnen is the perfect backdrop for those wishing to see it from above.
For the best views, you can experience a 20 minute helicopter flight over the Alps or a one hour helicopter flight over both the Alps and Aletsch Glacier. (Click the links for prices.)
If you’re even more adventurous, you can try paragliding over the Swiss Alps!
Lauterbrunnen’s small airfield is located on the Stechelberg Road.
Take the train ride to the Jungfraujoch
Another popular day trip from Lauterbrunnen is the train excursion to the Jungfraujoch. At 3454 metres, the Jungfraujoch is nicknamed ‘Top of Europe’ and here you’ll find Europe’s highest railway station and post office.
The trip to the Jungfraujoch involves a train from Lauterbrunnen to Kleine Scheidegg (where you change trains) via Wengen, and then on to the Jungfraujoch. The journey takes around 90 minutes with the last part of the trip going through a tunnel carved through the mountain.
Once at Jungfraujoch, there’s plenty to see and do. The Ice Palace, featuring ice sculptures, Jungfrau Panorama, an iMax-style cinema and Lindt Swiss Chocolate Heaven are just a few of the indoor activities to keep you entertained.
At the Sphinx Observatory, an international research station, visitors can enjoy magnificent views of the Aletsch Glacier and the surrounding Alps.
Outdoors is the real attraction, though. At the Snow Fun Park, visitors can try snow tubing, sledding, skiing and snowboarding, and even fly through the air on the zipline (May to October only).
There’s also a sun terrace with an outdoor bar where you can soak up the sun’s rays and breathe in the crisp mountain air.
Getting to the Jungfraujoch: Trains depart regularly from Lauterbrunnen railway station for Jungfraujoch. Click here to check prices on day trips to Jungfraujoch.
TIP: If you are planning on doing other mountain excursions in the region in addition to visiting the Jungfraujoch, I highly recommend the Jungfrau Travel Pass. Click here to find out what's included in the pass and to check prices. This multi-day pass also includes excursions to Harder Kulm, Schynige Platte, Grindelwald First and more.
Ride the rack railway to Schnyige Platte
For garden or nature lovers, an excursion to the Alpine Garden at Schynige Platte is highly recommended.
The journey is made by open-sided cog wheel railway from Wilderswil, about 10 minutes from Lauterbrunnen, and takes around 45 minutes.
Winding its way up the side of the mountain, the train journey provides magnificent views of the Alps and of Lake Thun and Lake Brienz far below. The Alpine Garden, which is open from late May to late October each year, is a nature reserve consisting of around 600 species of alpine plants. The actual ‘garden’ has each plant identified and gives visitors the opportunity to get up close to some rare plant species, including the Swiss icon, the edelweiss.
There’s also a small museum, a daily performance by alphorn players, and an easy panorama walking trail.
Getting to Schnyige Platte: The Schnyige Platte bahn (train) departs every 40 minutes (late May to late October) from Wilderswil station. Connections are available from Lauterbrunnen and Interlaken. Click here to check current prices and book tickets. Also see my tip above re the Jungfrau Travel Pass.
Explore the town of Grindelwald
Another easy day’s outing from Lauterbrunnen is Grindelwald. I’ve written a separate post on things to do in Grindelwald and let me assure you, there is something for everyone.
Two popular activities our family have enjoyed in Grindelwald are the luge (toboggan) track at Pfingstegg and the Trottibikes.
Getting to Grindelwald: You can reach Grindewald from Lauterbrunnen either by car (about 20 minutes) or by train – change at Zweilütschinen. Journey time around 40 minutes.
A popular destination in its own right, Interlaken is close enough to Lauterbrunnen to enjoy even a short visit. I've written a separate post dedicated to Interlaken where I share what to do in Interlaken. You can read it here.
This is the place to come for more shopping amenities (there’s at least three large supermarkets in town), a casino, and to join cruises on beautiful Lake Thun and Lake Brienz.
The town’s own ‘little mountain’, Harder Kulm, can be reached by funicular railway from the town centre and is a great spot for views over Lake Thun.
Getting to Interlaken: Interlaken is only 12 kilometres from Lauterbrunnen and can be reached by car or frequent train services from Lauterbrunnen.
Hiking and mountain biking in the Swiss Alps
Hiking and mountain bike trails criss-cross the Swiss Alps and provide lots of opportunities to enjoy a picnic, take a photo and to drink in the views. You can pick up detailed maps and path information from the Tourist Office in Lauterbrunnen, as well as at train and cable car stations.
There are hiking and mountain bike trails for all ages and levels of fitness.
"TIP: For all mountain trips (including excursions to the Schilthorn and Jungfraujoch), it is best to check the weather forecast before departure. It may be fine and sunny in the valley, but could easily be a white-out on the mountain! The cable car and railway stations have TVs showing live footage from the alps, so you can check the current weather before you go to avoid disappointment."
TIP: The Jungfrau Travel Pass
As I mentioned above, if you plan on doing a few mountain excursions whilst in Lauterbrunnen, I highly recommend purchasing the Jungfrau Travel Pass. The Pass can be purchased for different durations and includes excursions to the Jungfraujoch, Schnyige Platte, Grindelwald and the Harder Kulm funicular in Interlaken (amongst others). It is valid for travel from early May to late October each year. Click here for validity dates and current prices. Note: A supplement must be paid for the final leg of the journey to the Jungfraujoch as this is not included in the Jungfrau Travel Pass. As at July 2018, the supplement was CHF69 return. You can read my comprehensive guide to the Jungfrau Travel Pass by clicking here.
Why I love Lauterbrunnen
For me, the attraction of Lauterbrunnen is not only the gorgeous scenery of which I never tire, but the feeling of tranquillity and of being at one with nature, whenever I am in the region.
Whilst we have mostly been blessed with beautiful weather during our summer visits, I am certain that the feeling of peacefulness would remain throughout the seasons. If you plan on visiting during winter, this article will be helpful.
Where to stay in Lauterbrunnen
Lauterbrunnen offers a range of accommodation options. From camping grounds, to hotels and apartments, there is something to suit every budget.
On five of my six visits to Lauterbrunnen I have stayed in a self-contained cabin in the Camping Jungfrau holiday park in town but a wide range of accommodation is available. On my most recent visit (July 2017), I chose to stay in a chalet-style apartment (exactly like this one and this one) and amongst the hotels in Lauterbrunnen, the Oberland rates very highly, and they also offer a couple of apartments for rent.
How to get to Lauterbrunnen
Lauterbrunnen is situated just 13 km from Interlaken, 67 km from the Swiss capital, Bern, and 129 km from Zurich.
Regular train services operate every day between Lauterbrunnen and Interlaken with connections to other towns and cities in Europe.
For visitors arriving by car, a large multi-deck undercover car park is located next to the Lauterbrunnen train station. Charges apply.
Video: Lauterbrunnen from the train to Wengen
Further reading: The Jungfrau Region, Switzerland. The perfect winter holiday destination.
This article was first published in 2009 and has been updated and republished.
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