One of the best things about being based in Interlaken is the proximity to two spectacular lakes. The town is flanked by the crystal clear waters of Lake Brienz (or Brienzersee) on one side, and Lake Thun (or Thunersee) on the other. We spent an entire day driving around the lakes, stopping at little towns here and there, all with the most spectacular Alpine backdrop.
Castles line the shores of Lake Thun. The lakeside towns of Spiez, Hünegg, Oberhofen, Schadau and Thun all have grand castles which look like they could be inhabited by fairytale characters. There are even caves in which a dragon used to dwell! We visited Spiez and Thun during our day in the lakes.
Nestled amidst hills and vineyards, we find Spiez. A pathway from the medieval castle takes you down to a small grassy recreation area which would be the perfect place for a picnic and to dangle your toes in the water. There’s a flower-bedecked promenade and a marina. This must be one of the most beautiful places in Europe to moor a boat.
Thun is a beautiful city, and I’d go as far as to say that I preferred it to Lucerne. We parked in a small pay-and-display parking lot on Hofstettenstrasse near Brahms-Quai and walked up towards town along the promenade which runs alongside the River Aare. Standing proudly over Thun is the 12th century castle, and there is a beautiful cobbled City Hall Square in the old town. Like Lucerne, Thun even has its own wooden bridges, which regulate the flow of the river. And of course, the ever present Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau gleam with ever-present snow in the distance. If you’re looking for a reasonably priced lunch in Thun, I can recommend the terrace of Eurasia on Mühleplatz. They do a choice of two lunchtime specials for around 20CHF.
Lake Brienz is a little smaller than Lake Thun, and we drove almost all the way around it in one go, anti-clockwise from Ringgenberg to Iseltwald. With turquoise blue waters, snow-capped mountains and dense evergreen woods, the views are idyllic. Small waterside towns fringe the shores, cocooned from the world and only accessible by narrow winding roads. Waterfalls tumble from the steep cliffs.
The titular town of Brienz on the eastern tip of the lake has a beautiful promenade and a small main street lined with traditional Swiss chalets. Mr Fletche and I visited Brienz after an aborted trip to Grimsel Pass (still closed when we travelled) and shared a wonderful takeaway pizza from Brienzer Express overlooking the lake at sunset. Sadly we didn’t get the opportunity to see all the wood carvings that the town is famous for.
I had seen so many Instagram pics of the castle jutting out on the peninsula at Iseltwald but in reality it’s really hard to capture a good picture from the town. Particularly as it was very hot and hazy over the water. In all honesty, I would give Iseltwald a miss as there isn’t a lot to see there – a tiny town centre and a boat cruise terminal. We also parked up the top of a hill after misreading a sign and thinking that there was no car parking in town. Turns out we were wrong.
As we decided to drive around the lakes we didn’t take a boat trip, but I can imagine that the views from the water are absolutely magnificent. There are waterfalls and lakeside castles which are only truly visible from the lake. The boat schedules can be found here at the BLS website. If you have a Swiss Pass (which we didn’t) boat trips are free so definitely take advantage if you can!
One of the best places to view Lakes Brienz and Thun is from the top of Harder Kulm. From Two Lakes Bridge you can see both the turquoise blue of Lake Brienz and the emerald green of Lake Thun. You can find out more about visiting Harder Kulm here.