There are few places which match the warmth, character and film-set setting of Interlaken – a Swiss resort town cosseted between the glassy waters of Lake Thun and Lake Brienz; and surrounded by the silently-strong snow-capped peaks of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.
My earliest memory of Interlaken dates back over two decades and the town hasn’t changed a bit in all these years. The air is just as fearlessly fresh, the picture-postcard homes still clad in rustic timber, the Victoria-Jungfrau hotel remaining a grand bastion of old-world charm.
While it might at first appear to be quite a quiet town, there’s no shortage of adrenaline-pumping activities for adventurers here, from skydiving and paragliding to the hiking trails, such as up to Harder Kulm – the highest peak of Interlaken.
But if you – like me – aren’t up to the challenge of climbing 1,322 metres above sea level, there’s always the fun funicular ride up to the top, from where you can experience the astounding vistas of the Zweiseensteg (aptly known as the Two Lake Bridge.) Talk about spectacular sights on a mountainous scale! For those with an equestrian interest, there are horse-riding trails through the woods organised by Reitschulen Voegeli, a fine riding school which lend their horses to the Swiss army.
Then there’s the sheer magic of simply ambling around the town – from the gentle path running along the azure stream to the serene Japanese Garden; exploring the lush greens of Höhematte Park and the fairy tale-esque homes characteristic of the eminently-photogenic neighbourhoods. It’s unsurprising to learn that the town can trace its origins back to the year 1133, when the inter lacus Augustinian monastery was first mentioned in an official document.
Of course: cheese alone is reason enough to plan a trip to Switzerland, so you’ll want to be eating it all day long.
Start with piping-hot rösti for breakfast – a dish featuring fritter-like potatoes fried with onions and cheese. Move on to raclette for lunch, scraping off every last inch of the melted cow’s milk cheese onto baby potatoes, gherkins and crusty bites of freshly-baked bread. To round off that compelling combination of cheese and carbs, tuck into fondue for dinner of course!
Present day Interlaken can – in parts – feel like a tourist trap, so be sure to seek out local restaurants for the right touch of authenticity. My top picks include Stadthaus in Unterseen (the old part of town) and Laterne, where service is somewhat lacking, but is compensated for by way of comfort-laden classics.
Then there’s Confiserie Rieder – a tea room tucked away behind the main shopping street, majoring in the most heavenly homemade hot chocolate! Speaking of chocolate, don’t forget to stop by Läderach to stockpile on all the essentials to take back home.
As for where to stay, there’s no dearth of accommodations across the board.
However, I believe that I am destined to remain forever smitten by the timeless charms of the Victoria-Jungfrau – a retreat destination in its own right, spanning a cutting-edge spa, old-world salons, unparalleled hospitality and the breakfast buffet of my gluttonous dreams (read the full review, here).
Last but not least, it bears mentioning that Interlaken is considered the gateway to the Jungfrau region. As such, there are numerous possibilities for planning day-trips to nearby destinations – most of which are accessible by cable car, bus and/ or train.
Situated at the foot of the Eiger-Mönch-Jungfrau mountain, this car-free Alpine village sits prettily at an altitude of 1,274m and can only be reached by the Wengernalp Railway. It’s a favourite among skiers for its abundance of ski pistes, and does rather well by us winter-walkers too!
The Trümmelbach Falls are the only glacier waterfalls in the entire world offering underground access through lift, galleries, tunnels, paths and platforms.
Situated in Lauterbrunnen Valley (also known as the valley of 72 waterfalls), up to 20,000 litres of meltwater from the Jungfrau glaciers gush down to the Valley through the Falls each second… And along with the water, over 20,000 tons of boulders and scree are carried through each year, resulting in the shuddering sensation and thunder claps felt in the mountain! It’s truly an awe-inspiring experience.
The aerial cableway traversing the distance from Stechelberg (in the Lauterbrunnen valley) up to Schiltorn has been in operation since 1967, ferrying visitors keen to experience the 360-degree view of the Swiss Skyline… not to mention, the “007 Walk of Fame!” Bond enthusiasts should instantly recognise the panoramic revolving restaurant, Piz Gloria, from its inclusion in the 1969 classic, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, shot at this very summit!
From the Ice Palace and the Lindt Swiss Chocolate Tour, to the numerous hikes and panoramic views – there’s plenty to keep you occupied here – 3,454 metres above sea level!
I could go on, but at some point – I suppose I should let you explore this unparalleled landscape for yourself!
Interlaken itself is just a two hour drive from Zurich, and can also be reached quite easily from Zurich or Geneva by train. For more details/ support in planning your trip, do have a look at the official website for Interlaken, here.