When we were planning our Switzerland itinerary, the Berner Oberland region was the one where we wanted to spend the most time. The plan quickly went from two days, to three days, to four days. The sensible thing would be to base ourselves in or around the town of Interlaken. The rest of Switzerland can wait. Did we make the right choice?
Interlaken nestles between Lakes Thun and Brienz (hence the name), although it’s not what you could call a lakeside town. In fact the only place you can really see the lakes in all their glory from Interlaken is by taking the funicular up to Harder Kulm. (You can read more about our trip to “The Top of Interlaken” here!). But from the main street of Hoheweg, you have the most incredible views of the snow-capped Bernese Alps, with Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau taking centre stage.
Interlaken itself comprises only of the central town area, the rest of the urban sprawl is made up of suburbs such as Unterseen, Bonigen and Matten. It’s a bustling town, extremely popular with tourists – we heard a multitude of different accents during our stay. At each end there is a railway station, with a 2km promenade of shops, hotels, and restaurants in between. If you want to buy a ridiculously expensive watch or a Swiss army knife, then this is your place. Just a few steps though will get you away from the hustle and bustle and you can stroll alongside the turquoise glacial waters of the River Aare.
One of the main activities that Interlaken is known for is it’s paragliding. From the town, you can watch the paragliders descend, fluttering onto the green meadow of Höhematte Park like confetti. It’s fun to watch the landings – some more graceful than others. I’d probably land in a very messy heap. I briefly tussled with the idea of booking a glide before our trip. Maybe it’s one to keep for the wishlist? Interlaken is indeed an adventurers paradise, with canyoning and white water rafting also available for the thrill seekers.
Being on the tourist trail, accommodation in Interlaken isn’t cheap. Then again, this is Switzerland. Nothing is cheap. There are some magnificent hotels in the town, with the Victoria Jungfrau being the most luxurious, but our budget didn’t stretch to £570 a night. So instead we opted for the Hotel Berghof Amaranth in Wilderswil, a small town 3.5km south of Interlaken, and just a five minute train ride from Interlaken-Ost. A much more sensible £130 a night.
We used Booking.com to book our hotel on this trip – if you’re looking to make a hotel booking soon why not book using this link? We’ll both get a £15 reward!
Wilderswil is like the Tyseley of the Jungfrau Region. A good transport hub into town. Special trains for the avid spotter to salivate over. And no discernible nightlife. All of which wouldn’t be a problem if our hotel wasn’t located about as far away from the train station as you can get*. You don’t get these wonderful mountain views from a hotel room balcony without having to put in a little bit of effort.
*It’s only a kilometre but feels so much longer
Except this is a lot of effort. The last hill is practically vertical. By the end of the week we’ve taken to limiting our train journeys and driving everywhere so we don’t have to do that long slog up the hill again. Which is a shame as public transport is free with our hotel guest card between Wilderswil and a number of towns in the Interlaken region.
There’s no beating around the bush. It’s expensive to eat and drink in Switzerland, and Interlaken is no exception. Many of our meals were baguettes and pastries purchased from bakeries, and eaten on the go. So there are no foodie photos or reviews here. We ate twice at Husi Bierhaus after accidentally stumbling on this craft beer bar and restaurant on the first night. Good food, good beer (I particularly liked the locally brewed Karma Citra by Haarige Kuh Brauerei) and relatively inexpensive at around 20CHF for a main meal (about £16).
The Barrel Artisan Brew Cafe directly opposite from Husi Bierhaus was also a hit. Especially when the barmaid couldn’t get a full glass of my sour from the tap and charged us half-price for what was practically a full measure.
We also ended up at Hooters. Don’t judge us. It was raining and we needed beer and nachos pronto.
Interlaken is in the Berner Oberland region. It is well connected by train to most major Swiss cities, but isn’t served by an airport. We flew into Geneva Airport with Easyjet and hired a rental car with Europcar. It’s a 2 and a half hour journey to Interlaken (approx 215km) on major routes all the way.
Interlaken is the perfect base for places in the Jungfrau Region such as Lauterbrunnen, Grindelwald, Murren and the lakes Thun and Brienz, for exploring Schilthorn, Jungfraujoch and Schynige Platte, and for day trips out to cities such as Lucerne and the Swiss capital Bern.