The scenic paradise of Interlaken, Switzerland is a nature lover’s dream. Meaning “between lakes” in German, Interlaken is fittingly located in the middle of Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. Nestled into the highlands of the Bernese Alps, this picturesque resort town offers a myriad of outdoor adventures. Although the majority of things to do in Interlaken are outside, you can have a wonderful time here no matter the season.
In this article, you’ll discover the variety of activities available in this idyllic Swiss town. So, keep reading for 17 things to do in Interlaken, Switzerland and be inspired to book a trip as soon as possible!
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The Jungfrau Railway spans 1,000 metres, crossing between the Bernese Highlands and the canton of Valais. It culminates at Jungfraujoch, the highest railway station in all of Europe. At almost 3,500 metres above sea level, you have an incredible opportunity to take in the beautiful vista of snow-capped mountains.
The Sphinx Observatory, one of the highest observatories in the world and the second-highest observation deck in Switzerland, offers more incredible 360-degree views. You can even stop here for a bite to eat at one of the several panoramic restaurants.
Depart at Interlaken Ost Station to begin your two-hour-long journey to the top. Interestingly, the route runs mostly underground through the Jungfrau Tunnel within the Eiger and Mönch mountains. You’ll need to switch trains twice at Lauterbrunnen and Kleine Scheidegg, but plenty of other people will be making the same trip and railway officials can help you out if you’re lost or you can join a tour where everything is organized for you.
On the east side of Interlaken is Lake Brienz, known for its crystal-clear turquoise water. One of the most enjoyable things to do in Interlaken in summer is to rent a kayak, rowboat or pedalo and explore the shores on your own. For a truly magical experience, stay until the end of the day and watch the sun set between the mountains.
There are also a few genuine early 1900s steamboats you can hop onto. These steamers will take you around the entire lake, including the stunning 500-metre-high waterfalls near the Giessbach Grand Hotel.
Saint Beatus Caves
An incredible historic wonder you shouldn’t miss are the Saint Beatus Caves of Beatenberg, eight kilometres west of central Interlaken. The kilometre-long karst cave system is full of fascinating passageways and chambers containing stalactites and stalagmites that are millions of years old.
Before entering the caves, however, you’ll hike 15 minutes past serene waterfalls and up to the main chapel area. While the caves are only open from March to November, this idyllic hiking trail can be visited year-round. This scene was allegedly the inspiration for J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth realm of Rivendell. Fittingly, a local legend states that an Irish monk known as Beatus of Lungern slew a terrifying dragon that lived here in the sixth century.
Stop for lunch at the restaurant in the loggia, overlooking the beautiful Lake Thun. You can also pop into the Cave Museum to learn even more about the history of the natural cave formations.
Head up to Harder Kulm to take some pictures at the iconic Interlaken viewing platform. Considered the top of Interlaken, Harder Kulm is also a starting-off point for some of the area’s best mountain hikes. At 1,322 metres above sea level, the view across Lake Brienz and Lake Thun (as well as the surrounding mountains) is hard to beat.
The funicular to the top departs every 30 minutes from Interlaken Harderbahn and only takes 10 minutes. You’ll feel like royalty dining at the Harder Kulm Panorama Restaurant, which could easily be mistaken for a small castle. Swiss folklore performances are held here in the evenings from May to October and really add to this breathtaking experience.
Located on the west side of the town is Interlaken’s other well-known lake, Lake Thun. The enticing azure blue waters are perfect for a refreshing swim, and the strong breeze blowing from the nearby mountains makes this an ideal spot for windsurfing and sailing too.
Although the restored paddle steamers are only available during the summer, cruise boats operate year-round. It’s worth taking a trip across the lake to the medieval town of Thun. Before heading back, look around the town’s Romanesque churches and castles, including the impressive Schloss Schadau, which you’ll immediately spot as you approach the shore.
In the heart of Interlaken on Höheweg Street is an expansive open space with a public park and recreation area. Although the beautiful floral gardens and immaculate green lawns are reason enough to stop by, Höhematte provides adventurous opportunities to go paragliding or hang gliding too! Even if you’re not up for it yourself, it’s fun to chill out and watch others gliding through the sky. There are gelato carts around during the summer and restaurants across the street.
Additionally, Höhematte Park also offers one of the best things to do in Interlaken in winter. From the middle of December until the end of February, the park is transformed into not only one but five ice rinks, each connected by ice ramps. In the evenings, you can learn how to play Bavarian curling, which is almost like bowling on ice. Warm up with a glass of mulled wine, a mug of hot chocolate or some cheese fondue afterwards.
Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel
Bordering Höhematte along the main avenue in Interlaken is the Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel. The hotel has stood for over 150 years and has become a landmark of its own. In addition to the luxury rooms and suites, the hotel also has its own deluxe wellness centre. Spa Nescens offers a range of services, from facials and massages to more targeted body treatments and nutrition coaching. Of course, you can also steam in the sauna and soak your stress away in the private baths too.
If you’re after fine dining, look no further. Make a dinner reservation at one of the hotel’s world-class Italian or French-Mediterranean restaurants, indulge in some afternoon cake and coffee on the charming outdoor terrace, or pop into the elegant Victoria Bar offering a unique selection of wines.
Three kilometres south of Interlaken are the ruins of the mysterious Unspunnen Castle perched atop a hill. Starting in the Wilderswil area, a short walk from Interlaken Ost Station, wander off the beaten path to find this 13th century stone castle. After falling into ruins by the mid-16th century, the round central tower and parts of the walls and staircases are all that remain. Luscious trees and vines have since taken over, creating a lovely and peaceful historic attraction.
Yet, the castle hasn’t been completely forgotten about. Once every 12 years, a festival called Unspunnenfest is held in the open field in front of the ruins. Here, the Swiss take part in traditional games such as stone-throwing and yodelling.
While in Wilderswil, take the old rack railway up to Schynige Platte. Although the journey takes about an hour, you’ll be distracted by the everchanging alpine vistas right outside the window. Once you reach the summit at over 2,000 metres above sea level, explore the small mountain ridge with a panoramic walk. The botanical alpine gardens are home to over 650 different species, including the beautiful lobelia black truffle and the paradise lily.
Although the pathway is reasonably short, you’ll find yourself stopping frequently to take in the views (or take even more photographs). Trains from Wilderswil Station depart every 40 minutes from late May until late October.
Interlaken’s Museum of Tourism details the ways tourism has transformed the Jungfrau Region across centuries. Over three floors, learn about the evolution of the area’s transport and winter sports, with vintage skis, sleds and carriages on display.
Historic photographs show the growth of remote villages as travellers began to take an interest in the local folk traditions and geographical wonders. The museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. To take a look, cross the Aare River a few hundred metres into the cobbled Unterseen Old Town square.
Thrill-seekers and adrenaline junkies shouldn’t waste a minute before booking an unforgettable experience with Skydive Interlaken. Helicopter over the foothills of the Swiss Alps and jump from 4,000 metres in the air. After freefalling for about 45 seconds, your instructor will open the parachute from 1,500 metres above the ground. You’ll even receive complimentary videos and photos to show your friends back home.
If you’re hesitant to make the jump, you can still enjoy a bird’s eye view across the mountains and lakes. For almost half the cost, Skydive Interlaken offers scenic one-to-two-hour helicopter rides. Your pilot will explain the unforgettable views below before returning you safely to Interlaken. No need to leave the helicopter until you’re firmly on the ground!
Another breathtaking way to see Interlaken and the Jungfrau Region from above is via the cable car to Niederhorn. Departing from Beatenberg Station, the Niederhornbah takes less than 20 minutes. Once you arrive, over 120 kilometres of hiking trails await you! Test your skills with alpine orienteering or watch some majestic wild animals like mountain goats and marmots on a guided wildlife observation tour.
At the Berghaus Niederhorn, take in the atmosphere with an Alpine Evenings buffer dinner put on every Friday and Saturday from July until September. At any other time, you can enjoy a fantastic meal or a drink here from almost 2,000 metres above sea level.
Niederhorn is another popular spot for hang gliding. Another way to make your descent is on a downhill scooter called a trotti bike. Regardless of how you end up back in Interlaken, you’ll be left in awe of the incredible natural beauty all around you.
Interlaken’s casino draws many visitors, although not necessarily to gamble. The grounds surrounding the building are impeccably kept, with paved pathways, colourful flower beds and several water fountains. Further adding to the beauty are the tall rocky cliffs behind the casino. Who knew a casino could be so zen? Wander around and find the beautiful flower clock garden.
The Kunsthaus is a charming modern art gallery on Jungfraustrasse. Although small, the rotating exhibitions always bring some new vibrant and unusual art pieces to the town.
The gallery is only open between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. from Wednesday to Saturday, and from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Sunday. However, musical and cultural events are regularly held later in the evenings. It’s a pleasant place to kill some time on a rainy afternoon or listen to some live music performances later at night.
Funky Chocolate Club
When in Switzerland, eat as much chocolate as possible! Interlaken’s Funky Chocolate Club (right next to the Kunsthaus) is the best place to go for the ultimate Swiss chocolate experience.
Hands-on chocolate-making workshops run four times each day and are suitable for all ages. During the summer, private classes are available at night and include a welcome drink. Don your chef’s hat and apron as you learn techniques for melting, pouring and filling moulds to create your own chocolatey masterpiece. Even the lactose-intolerant can join in on the fun and make dairy-free dark chocolate. The classes are held in English and your spot can be easily reserved online.
Of course, the shop also offers fair trade and organic chocolates to purchase. There are a ton of shapes, flavours and varieties to suit all tastes and dietary requirements. The chocolate bar also serves up cosy hot chocolate, chocolate fondue and chocolate-dipped strawberries! The shop is open between 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. from Wednesday to Saturday and from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Sunday.
Delve further into the history of the town with a visit to the Schlosskirche. The former monastery was built in 1133 and later became a private castle. Not large or lavish by any means, there is something comforting about its architectural simplicity and ancient history. Take a peek inside to see the light shining through the beautiful stained glass windows by the altar.
Recommended tours in Interlaken
- Jungfraujoch Top of Europe Day Trip from Interlaken
- Tandem Paragliding Experience from Interlaken
- Harder Kulm Ticket in Interlaken
- Lütschine River White-Water Rafting Experience from Interlaken
- Hang Gliding Experience from Interlaken
- Interlaken city tour & Harder mountain visit with private tour guide
- Jetboat Scenic Ride in Interlaken
- Helicopter Skydiving in Interlaken
- Schilthorn-007-James Bond world – with private tour guide – starts in Interlaken
- Swiss Happening – fun and authentic Swiss food, drink & photo experience
- Swiss Alps Beginner Canyoning Experience from Interlaken
- Ski or Snowboard Lesson for Beginners in Grindelwald from Interlaken