Renowned for its scenery, Interlaken is set between two glassy lakes and surrounded by the majestic Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains. Made accessible by the Bernese Oberland Railway in 1890 and the Jungfrau Railway – which boasts Europe’s highest railway station at 3454 metres – in 1912, the city fast became popular with travellers searching for beautiful landscapes and a new playground for winter spots. Just like Queenstown in New Zealand, it serves as a hub for adventure year-round, but it is most outstanding during the cooler months, when the landscape becomes a winter wonderland, and you can go ice-skating in the city. Soak up the beauty of the location on a historic paddle steamer cruising the waters of Lake Thun or Lake Brienz, before setting off into the Bernese Oberland.
Learn about day-to-day life in Interlaken over a home cooked meal with a local. The city’s ‘dinner at home’ program unites travellers with residents who are happy to share a taste of local hospitality and a typical Swiss meal. And what could be more Swiss than chocolate? Join a chocolatier class for a day and uncover the secrets of making this artisanal product at the Grand Café Restaurant Schuh.
A lesser-known craft, but one for which the region is famed, is woodcarving. The town of Brienz, which sits on the Lake Brienz, a 20-minute drive from Interlaken, offers an excellent museum dedicated to the art. Another attraction worthy of a visit is the Alphorn factory, in the pretty nearby village of Habkern. Here you’ll have the chance to learn how these legendary instruments, which resemble an exaggerated animal horn, are created and played.
As well as being a destination worthy of exploration in its own right, Interlaken is linked with over 45 mountain railways, cable cars, chair lifts and ski lifts. If you enjoy hiking, lace up your boots and explore its network of walking trails. Keep your eyes peeled for marmots and chamois, as well as paragliders soaring through the sky above. Cycling is popular too, and it’s possible to hire bikes (even electric ones) or join a guided tour.
Although the mountains are endlessly splendid, there’s an exciting world to uncover underground, too. Explore a kilometre of stalagmite, cavernous halls and waterfalls in the limestone St Beatus Caves, situated near Lake Thun.
Imagine sliding across fresh powder on a cross-country ski session in winter, or taking your pick of the 200 kilometres of pistes nearby. For those wishing to explore the snowy landscape without being strapped to skis winter walking trails weave through the region.
In the warmer months, cool off at the pool at Bönigen Lido, on the shore of Lake Brienz, and take a rowing boat out on the water. For something even more relaxing, indulging in some pampering is a great way to refresh you for the remainder of your trip. The Victoria Jungfrau Spa in Interlaken is considered one of the most beautiful facilities of its kind in Switzerland, and a treatment here will leave you feeling as fresh as the mountain air.
If you enjoy a day on the green, imagine what it’s like to swing a club with some of the world’s most famous mountains looking on. Experience just that at an 18-hole golf course at Weissenau Nature Reserve on Lake Thun.
Enter the world of James Bond at the rotating restaurant of Piz Gloria on the summit of Schilthorn, about an hour-and-a-half away from the city. It was here scenes from the 1969 Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service were shot.