The beautiful town of Interlaken sits within the wider Interlaken region in the achingly beautiful Swiss Alps. As its name would suggest, Interlaken is literally a town between two lakes: Lake Thun to the west and Lake Brienz to the east. It’s a popular skiing hub full of postcard-perfect ski resorts where you can ski and snowboard as well as hike, snowshoe, paraglide and many other fantastic winter sports activities.
The Jungfrau-Aletsch UNESCO world heritage site is right in the middle of the Interlaken region thanks to the three main peaks which are Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. The Aletsch Glacier, which is the largest glacier in the Alps, is also part of the heritage site and home to the magical Ice Palace carved within the glacier itself.
There is so much to see and enjoy in Interlaken even if you’re not a fan of winter sports such as cycling, caving, taking advantage of the many funiculars around the Interlaken region to see some incredible vistas, eating indulgent Swiss food and just walking around the cute mountain villages. Interlaken is one of the best places for a snowy break and all the top travel tips are in this Interlaken Switzerland travel guide.
This ultimate travel guide to Interlaken will show you all the most beautiful places in Interlaken, what to expect when visiting, where to stay in Interlaken and things to do in Interlaken which will help you in planning a trip to Interlaken.
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How to get to Interlaken
Interlaken is in the centre of Switzerland close to a few major airports which make travelling to Interlaken by plane and train very simple. The rail network in Switzerland is famously efficient, modern and extensive.
Bern, Switzerland’s capital city, has the closest airport to Interlaken (roughly 50 minutes by train) but only flies to a handful of European destinations. Zurich Airport is much bigger and flies all over the world from Korea to Philadelphia and is better connected by train. It takes approximately two hours to travel from Zurich to Interlaken via rail.
Interlaken has two train stations: Interlaken West and Interlaken Ost (East). West is slightly closer in town so if you have the option of alighting the train at either station, West is probably more convenient. If you can, book your train tickets ahead of time to pay less and get a better deal.
What to expect in Interlaken
If you’re planning a trip to Switzerland, you’re probably already aware that Switzerland regularly tops lists of expensive countries to visit. That definitely doesn’t mean you can’t visit on a budget, it’s just something to be mindful of and you may prefer to book activities in advance and cook some of your meals to keep under budget. Note that a service fee is nearly always included in restaurant bills.
French, Italian and German are all official languages in Switzerland, but the most commonly spoken in Interlaken is a Swiss dialect of German. The Swiss Franc is the currency and if you didn’t get any local currency before arriving in Switzerland, get some at the airport as Interlaken isn’t a very big town. Switzerland isn’t a part of the EU, but it is a part of the Schengen agreement and has some of the privileges of being in the EU.
How to get around Interlaken
The rail network within the Swiss Alps, like the rest of Switzerland, is also exceptional and simple to use. The town of Interlaken itself is very compact and is easy to explore on foot but you’ll need to use the trains and funiculars to venture into the wider Interlaken region. There are shuttle buses available within Interlaken and to the popular ski resorts in Grindelwald.
If you’re staying in Interlaken for around 5 days, it’s definitely worth purchasing the Jungfrau travel pass before you arrive in Switzerland. The travel pass is around 176 CHF and includes trains, cable cars, buses, boats and funiculars which means the funicular from Interlaken to Harder Kulm and the journey to Jungfraujoch station is included. It’s worth noting that summer and winter passes are different and, depending on how much you want to explore, passes are nearly always more cost-effective than individual tickets.
The best time to visit Interlaken
The Swiss Alps are known for snowy mountain ranges and winter sports, but most tourists prefer to visit during the summer in Interlaken from June to August. The weather in the region can hit 20 degrees Celsius and it’s perfect for summer adventures like hiking and cycling. All the cable cars and trails are open in the summer and are much less likely to be affected by the weather. Of course, high accommodation prices reflect how popular this season is with tourists.
But if you love skiing and snowboarding, you’ll have plenty to keep you busy during the winter months. The temperature is constantly below freezing so you’ll need to pack lots of layers, but you can always warm up around the fire in a picturesque log cabin in the evenings. Plus, is there a more magical place to spend the festive season than a winter wonderland like Interlaken?
Things to do in Interlaken
One of the easiest scenic viewpoints to visit is to take the funicular up Harder Kulm for the most phenomenal scenery over Interlaken and the two lakes either side, Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. There are plenty of trails so you can enjoy a walk and see the vista from different viewpoints.
Watch out for low clouds as you won’t be able to see a thing when it’s misty! Also, the funicular doesn’t usually operate in the winter months December-April so that’s something to keep in mind when planning your trip to Interlaken.
St. Beatus Caves
Next to the banks of Lake Thun is the St. Beatus Caves. These are a system of caves in the heart of a Swiss mountain and they take around an hour to walk around. They’re fully lit and are spacious enough for most people to walk through without having to duck too often. It’s a fantastic activity to do in Interlaken if you have children and there’s a museum, too. Don’t forget to wrap up warm and wear good shoes!
In between all the hiking, cycling and skiing, you might find it enjoyable to wander through some of the small mountain towns in the Interlaken region. Gimmelwald is the cutest village that is completely traffic-free with adorable wooden ski chalets in the Lauterbrunnen valley. You will probably pass through Gimmelwald to take the cable car up Jungfrau at some point during your trip, but you should take the time to explore Gimmelwald first.
Don’t forget to explore the town of Interlaken itself! The river connecting the two lakes either side of the town is called the Aare river and it runs through the centre of Interlaken. Walk from Weissenau panoramic viewpoint next to Lake Thun all the way along to Lake Brienz and you can stop for a liqueur coffee in one of Interlaken’s cafes along the way if you need a pick me up.
There are so many hikes for all different abilities in Interlaken. The Panoramaweg hike is a popular two-hour hike that many visitors in Interlaken like to walk. If you’re not an experienced hiker, head to the local Tourism Office for tips and to double-check that the hike is open. It’s also a good idea to check there anyway just in case there are any weather warnings.
Not to be confused with Gimmelwald, Grindelwald is a town in the Interlaken region that is your gateway to all the best sports and activities in the Swiss mountains. In winter, you can ski down the Kleine Scheidegg mountain pass from Grindelwald and in summer you can trek along many of the hiking trails.
If you arrive in Interlaken too late to venture out into the mountains or you have an hour to kill before checking out, wander down to Höhenmatte park, especially if you love photography. It’s a peaceful place for a stroll in spring and offers a clear view of Jungfrau mountain.
What to eat in Interlaken
All the best rich and decadent foods seem to come from Switzerland so you should be sure to partake in as many as possible during your trip to Interlaken.
Though Interlaken is a small town with only about 5,000 residents, there are plenty of restaurants to suit everyone’s taste buds. Goldener Anker is a fantastic, well-established restaurant in Interlaken which serves traditional Swiss food including Swiss cheese served in a fondue. For a more affordable option, Husi Bierhaus is a restaurant and brewery serving comfort food like sausages and potatoes and big plates of pasta.
You’ll need a sweet tooth if you want to try some of the local Interlaken cuisines. Meringue with cream is a traditional dessert and liqueur coffee made with schnapps is a tasty nightcap after spending all day hiking. And of course, make sure you eat your weight in Swiss chocolate during your trip to Interlaken.
Where to stay in Interlaken
Budget – If you want to stick to a budget, booking more affordable accommodation means you have more to spend on cool activities. Balmers Hostel looks like a classic ski chalet from the outside and is only a 5-minute walk from Interlaken West train station. They also offer free breakfast and provide hammocks in their beer garden/BBQ area. Or, just down the street is the modern Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof which also offers free breakfast, and two swimming pools (indoor and outdoor) which is unheard of in a hostel!
Mid-range – Situated right on the River Aare, Hotel Bellevue is one of the most gorgeous hotels in Interlaken and it looks like it belongs in a Wes Anderson film. A 4-star hotel housed in a stately home from the early 19th-century, the Bellevue has soft and airy furnishings as well as a balcony in most rooms.
Luxury – Lindner Grand Hotel Beau Rivage is also on the banks of the River Aare with views of the Eiger mountain and less than 4 minutes’ walk from Interlaken Ost train station. The Beau Rivage is the perfect hotel for a luxurious, relaxing break.
Tours to do in Interlaken
Swiss Food and Culture Tour
Foodies who love to learn more about a culture through the cuisine absolutely have to book a place on this Swiss food and culture tour. You’ll be able to visit a dairy farm and learn more about the production of Swiss cheese and chocolate and yes, taste a lot of it too!
Like a lot of things in Switzerland, alcohol is expensive. If you want to sample the nightlife in Interlaken while making friends, learn more about the beer and the breweries in town and maybe even save money on what you’d normally spend on beer in Switzerland then this pub crawl is the best tour for you in Interlaken. It can be difficult for solo travellers to meet people while travelling, especially if you prefer private rooms, so joining a pub crawl is a fantastic way to do so.
Tandem Paragliding over Swiss Alps
Over the last few years, paragliding has become the adrenaline-inducing activity you have to do when visiting Interlaken in the Swiss Alps. Seeing the incredible snow-capped mountains from the many viewpoints in the area is great but it’s a real thrill and bucket list experience to see them while flying through the air.
Day trips from Interlaken
Taking a day trip up to the top of Jungfrau mountain really is something you can’t visit the Interlaken region without doing. The tour takes you to the beautiful town of Grindelwald to catch a train to Jungfraujoch railway station, the tallest train station in Europe which has been named the ‘Top of Europe.’
While on the top of Jungfrau, you’ll not only be treated to the epic views of the mountain range, but you’ll also be able to visit the Ice Palace that has been carved into Aletsch Glacier, one of the biggest glaciers in Europe. It’s a truly magical, unforgettable experience.
Film fans won’t want to miss an opportunity to join a day trip up Schilthorn mountain where the 1969 James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was shot. This trip allows you to visit the cute mountain village of Mürren before riding a cable car up to the revolving restaurant and Bond exhibit at the top. And rumour has it that the view from the top of Schilthorn is the view to beat as you can take in Mont Blanc as well as the three peaks of the UNESCO world heritage site.
Lauterbrunnen by Bike
Most travellers visiting Interlaken in summer want to explore as much of the region’s natural beauty as possible and a cycling tour is a fantastic way to see it all. In a small group, you can visit the town of Lauterbrunnen on an e-bike, cycling through the forests, and check out a few of Lauterbrunnen’s 72 waterfalls including a waterfall walk behind one!
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
- Jetboat Scenic Ride in Interlaken
- Interlaken city tour & Harder mountain visit with private tourguide
- Helicopter Skydiving in Interlaken
- Swiss Happening – fun and authentic Swiss food, drink & photo experience
- Schilthorn – Piz Gloria