As soon as we starting planning our Switzerland trip I knew I wanted to head up at least one mountain. Not in a hiking kind of way. But in a “let the train take the strain” kind of way. And if you’re going to pick a mountain, you might as well pick Jungfrau. And if you’re going to pick a railway station, you might as well pick the highest in Europe. Welcome to Jungfraujoch, the Top of Europe
**This blog post contains an Affiliate Link to Viator. This means that if you make a purchase from the company using this link, I get a small amount of commission. Not enough for a G&T in Switzerland though unfortunately. You can see more information on my Disclosure Policy**
Jungfrau is one of the main summits of the Bernese Alps, 4,158m or 13,642ft above sea level. We can see Jungfrau, along with Eiger and Mönch from our hotel balcony.
Jungfraujoch is the lowest pass between Jungfrau and Mönch, a dizzying 3,454m (11,333ft) above sea level. It’s no wonder we’re given frequent warnings about altitude sickness. The summit railway was opened in 1912 and the same track is used today. Although I’m guessing some maintenance must have taken place in that time. The average temperature is -7.9°C. We catch it on a balmy 2°C. It’s the type of place for hat, scarf, gloves, sunglasses and sunscreen.
After comparing prices with the Jungfrau website, we decided to book our Jungfraujoch tour with Viator. Admittedly it’s because it looked like a complicated journey, with multiple changes and connections to be made. After using the Swiss rail network, I can honestly say that it’s a doddle and we would probably do this independently if we were ever to make the trip again.
To get to Jungfraujoch, we meet in Interlaken. From our base in Wilderswil it would have been just as easy to get the train to Grindelwald for the first leg of the journey. Our coach drops us off in Grindelwald where we change to the Wengernalp cogwheel train to Kleine Scheidegg. This leg of the journey is spectacular. Try and sit on the right hand side of the carriage if you can for the best views. We didn’t. We had to trample all over the people on the right to get photos.
From Kleine Scheidegg we ride the Jungfrau railway all the way to Jungfraujoch. This is mainly in a 4.4 mile tunnel through neighbouring mountains Eiger and Mönch so is not particularly scenic*. There is a 5-minute stop at Eismeer on the way but it takes 4 and a half minutes for everyone to get off the train. Wait til you get to the top. It’s a 2 hour journey in total from Interlaken; the descent is slightly quicker and this time we head to Lauterbrunnen from Kleine Scheidegg.
*Technically this means we have climbed the North Face of the Eiger. Albeit in a train.
Our first port of call (after layering up) is the open-air Sphinx Observatory Deck. We complete a 108 metre ascent in 25 seconds thanks to an ultrafast elevator. Naturally, everyone gathers right by the door of the outside deck for their photos. We nudge our way past to find an almost deserted lower platform. The views are incredible. The bright blue sky looks almost unreal against the quilt of untouched snow laid out in front of us. Nothing makes you feel more tiny than gazing out onto a vast world of glaciers, ice and eternal snow.
Eventually, after a hundred photos, we head back inside to warm up. We bite the bullet and hand over the best part of 30CHF for two small baguettes and a cup of gluhwein each. We continue our self-guided tour according to the leaflet foisted upon us by our tour guide Annette. But not before we get our Jungfraujoch “Passport” stamped. A souvenir of our trip. The temperature takes a tumble as we enter the “Alpine Sensation” – a 250 metre long corridor. There is the cheery, in the form of illuminated snowglobes, and the not-so-cheery, as memorial tablets lining the wall remember those that lost their lives during construction.
We enter the Ice Palace. A mirror-smooth pathway brings back memories of Solihull ice rink. We shuffle from one end to the other. Mr Fletche is very glad to get to the other end intact. Neither of us has really noticed the ice sculptures, so intent are we on staying upright. And then we’re back outside, this time on a snowy plateau which has me gathering up snowballs quicker than you can say “Snow Day”.
We don’t have time to visit Europe’s highest Lindt store. One of our fellow tour passengers clearly has as she returns with a bag of chocolates bigger than her head.
“There’s always that one couple on a group tour. You know, where either one or both of them really don’t want to be there. We had one on this trip. An elderly American couple. When we are told we have two hours at Jungfraujoch, the wife loudly announces that she’ll be waiting at the departure point for two hours. And then insists that her brochure is all in German (it isn’t) and she wants the English version (there isn’t one). It’s going to be a long coach ride”
Travelling with Viator was a convenient and uncomplicated way to get to Jungfraujoch. On the whole the day went pretty smoothly. Group tours are always going to bring “characters” but by the time we took the descending train we had quite the party atmosphere going in our carriage. Including the elderly American couple. Pre-booking did mean taking a risk on the weather, but luckily for us the gamble paid off as we couldn’t have wished for better conditions.
Although we had plenty of time at the top, we didn’t have quite enough time to do the 90 minute return walk to Mönchsjochhütte, or any of the activities at the Snow Fun Park. And we’d have loved to linger for a while at Kleine Scheidegg, truly a winter wonderland masquerading as a railway station.
And our guide was… well, how to describe our guide? Abrupt. To the point of rudeness. Totally unnecessary when we got to Jungfraujoch as she insisted we all stay together (no time for the restroom even though no-one had been for 2 hours) and then abandoned us at the elevator. And then shot off like a rocket when we got off the train at Lauterbrunnen leaving us all wondering which way to the bus. Yep, we could definitely have done it ourselves and had a slightly better experience. But all in all, considering it didn’t cost any more than doing it independently, a group tour was fine.