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Things to Do in Interlaken

Tucked in an alpine valley between the glistening mountain lakes of Thun and Brienz, the resort town of Interlaken is ideally situated for exploring the Swiss Alps. Surrounded by the snowy mantles of Harder Kulm, the Eiger, and the Jungfrau—arguably Europe’s most beautiful mountain—Interlaken is the gateway to Bernese Oberland, as well as a popular vacation resort in its own right.

The Basics
See the highlights of Interlaken on full-day or multi-day tour from Zurich or Lucerne, or use the mountain town as a base for exploring the surrounding Alps. Ride the cogwheel train to the Top of Europe observation deck at Jungfraujoch, go hiking along the Schynige Platte ridge, admire the glacial landscapes of Grindelwald, or take in the views from the nearby Kleine Scheidegg mountain pass, the valley of Lauterbrunnen, or the Harder Kulm viewpoint. 

Things to Know Before You Go
  • Free Wi-Fi hotspots are available around Interlaken.
  • The mountains around Interlaken can be chilly even in the summer months, so be sure to pack warm clothes if you plan on exploring the Alps.
  • Many of the attractions around Interlaken are wheelchair accessible, but it’s best to check in advance.

How to Get There
Interlaken is located in Bernese Oberland in central Switzerland, 73 miles (117 kilometers) southwest of Zurich or an hour and a half by road. The town is linked by train to cities all around Switzerland. The closest international airport is Bern Airport, 45 minutes by road or an hour and a half by train from Interlaken. 

When to Get There
The most popular time to visit Interlaken is during the summer months of July and August. Summer visitors can hike in the Alps, take boat cruises around the lakes, and a enjoy a myriad of other activities. Visiting in the shoulder season (October, May, and June) can mean fewer crowds and cheaper prices on tours and accommodation. Ski enthusiasts should arrive between December and March to make the most of the snow. 

Outdoor Adventures in Interlaken
Hiking and skiing aren’t the only outdoor activities to enjoy in Interlaken—the alpine town is also famous as a center for extreme sports. Test your nerve canyoning, abseiling (rappelling) down a waterfall, or rock climbing; enjoy water sports like river rafting; or check skydiving, paragliding, or bungee jumping off your bucket list. For something a little less hair-raising, horseback riding, mountain biking, helicopter tours, snowshoe excursions, and cross-country skiing are also possibilities. 
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Jungfraujoch Sphinx Observatory (Sphinx-Observatorium)
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Perched on a rocky precipice 11,716 feet (3,571 meters) above sea level, the Sphinx Observatory is a working lab with a large telescope. The landmark sits on Jungfraujoch peak—known as the "Top of Europe"—and offers stunning views of the Bernese Alps and beyond from its observation deck, one of the highest in Switzerland.

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Matterhorn
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Nicknamed the “Mountain of Mountains,” the Matterhorn is one of the highest peaks in Europe, reaching a mighty 14,692 feet (4,478 meters). Known for its jagged triangular shape, it’s one of Switzerland’s most famous peaks—not only for its views, but also for its appearance in the logo for Toblerone, the iconic Swiss chocolate brand.

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Lake Brienz (Brienzersee)
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Lake Brienz (Brienzersee) is one of the two lakes that flank the popular resort town of Interlaken. The village of Brienz, which sits on the opposite side of the lake (and from which the lake takes its name), is a picture-perfect Swiss spot made up of traditional wooden chalets with the snow-capped Alps rising behind them.

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Harder Kulm
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High above the Swiss town of Interlaken stands Harder Kulm, a viewpoint with panoramic views of the mountains and valleys of the Berner Oberland region. Visitors can hike to the spot from town, or take a funicular railway. Once at the top, you can enjoy the views, have a refreshment, and enjoy a variety of attractions.

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Lake Thun (Thunersee)
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Lake Thun—or Thunersee as it’s known locally—is a glacial lake near Interlaken. Its bright turquoise water and the surrounding mountains and valleys are pure picture-postcard Switzerland.

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Grimsel Pass
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Locals know that Grimsel Pass has a sacred place in Swiss history, as traders once rode donkeys along the dangerous paths of Grimsel to transport local cheese to far flung regions of the country. This painstakingly beautiful wild mountain road connects Goms in Valais to the Hasli Valley in the Bernese Oberland. Travelers who venture along Grimsel Pass will bear witness to rugged granite cliffs, towering snow-capped peaks, crystal clear reservoirs and plenty of lush green foliage. And while the pass is home to some of the country’s main power producing plants, visitors will find that much of the land still remains untouched.

Travelers can hike the two-hour loop around a man-made lake and absorb the breathtaking wonder of the surrounding beauty or hop aboard the aerial cable car from Handeck to Gerstenegg and take it all in from above. And those who are interested in the powerhouse facilities can register for guided tours that start in Innnerkirchen.

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Aletsch Glacier
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Recognized as the largest glacier in the Swiss Alps, Altesch glacier stretches across nearly 50 square miles of protected mountain terrain. While visitors lament its far-flung proximity to any major Swiss city, most agree that the well-kept hiking trails, impressive views and natural beauty make it worth a trip. Active adventurers can explore the glacier on foot, while less intrepid travelers can venture to the top of Aletsch aboard one of the famous cable cars. Uninhibited 360-degree views of the surrounding landscape make for a most memorable journey regardless of how visitors voyage to the top.

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Grindelwald First
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Located just north of Grindelwald, the 7,106-foot (2,166-meter) First Mountain is one of the region’s most accessible peaks. Affording spectacular views of the neighboring Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau mountains, it’s a scenic spot for hiking and skiing.

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Schynige Platte
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Step inside one of the wooden coaches of the historic cogwheel railway that trundles up to Switzerland’s Schynige Platte, and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Then get out on the Alpine plateau, where sweeping views of the Eiger mountain and the Jungfrau countryside await you.

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Adventure Park Interlaken (Seilpark Interlaken)
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Adventure Park Interlaken (Seilpark Interlaken) provides adrenaline-pumping forest adventures in the scenic foothills of the Swiss Alps, with nine different courses of varying difficulty suitable for everyone from young children upwards, although there is a minimum height requirement of 3.3 feet, or one meter. A maze of wooden platforms is connected through the forest by Tarzan lines, rope bridges, ladders and zip lines from ground level up to high among the treetops in unspoiled pine forest.

All equipment is provided and a safety briefing is given on an easy low-level circuit before visitors are let loose in the park; the harnesses lock magnetically as a further safety precaution. All of the rope courses are graded, the gentlest being Grasshopper, which is aimed at young kids and runs five feet (1.5 meters) above the ground for 115 feet (35 meters). Far more demanding and requiring a degree of physical fitness is Eagle, reaching up to heights of 65 feet (20 meters) for 492 feet (150 meters) and packed with strenuous high-rise challenges.

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More Things to Do in Interlaken

Rhone Glacier

Rhone Glacier

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The Rhône Glacier in the Swiss Alps is the source of the Rhône River, which travels through Switzerland and France into the Mediterranean Sea, and contributes to Lake Geneva. It’s estimated to be more than 10,000 years old. Visitors can view it from the outside and also walk inside the glacier.

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Rapperswil

Rapperswil

Often called the Town of Roses, Rapperswil’s beauty comes from more than just its 15,000 rose plants. Medieval alleyways, towering old structures, scenic wood bridges and picturesque chapels tucked into rolling hillsides make this quaint destination truly worth a visit.

Beautiful gardens, a 13th-century castle and an old-world monastery lend Rapperswil its classic charm, while the unique and colorful collections showcased at Circus Museum, Knie’s Kinderzoo and the Polish Museum offer a nod to Rapperswil’s historic roots.

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Wengen-Männlichen Aerial Cableway

Wengen-Männlichen Aerial Cableway

Travelers looking to experience the pure beauty of the Mannlichen region need look no further than the Wengen-Männlichen Aerial Cableway. This high-speed cable car takes travelers straight to the top Wengen where unmatched views of the Lauterbrunnen Valley continue for miles.

Visitors love the comfortable seats, smooth ride and huge, crystal-clear windows that are perfect for taking in the picturesque surroundings. Alpine flowers, snow dusted peaks, winding roads and stretches of lush green hillside make for memorable photo ops and remind visitors why a visit to Switzerland is worth the trip any time of year. A favorite destination for travelers to the region, the high-flying aerial cableway is not for the faint of heart!

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Ballenberg, Swiss Open-Air Museum

Ballenberg, Swiss Open-Air Museum

Acting as a microcosm of Swiss rural tradition and history, the Ballenberg Open-Air Museum covers 66 hectares in area and displays a collection of around 100 historic buildings from different regions and different times, all carefully reconstructed in scenic Alpine foothills. The museum was opened in 1978 with just 16 wooden chalets and barns; since then stables, bakeries, mills, ornate half-timbered townhouses, a chapel, and cuckoo-clock-cute chalets have been added to the mix, with many Swiss francs spent relocating these buildings brick by brick. They are located among flower gardens and crop fields to create a convincing 17th-century rural community, where horses and cows – complete with tinkling bells – roam free and costumed characters farm the land, work the waterwheel, weave textiles and make cheese and chocolate. There are exhibitions of clothing, tools and herbal medicines in many of the buildings; a full schedule of craft demonstrations –and even Swiss wrestling – throughout the day; pony-and-trap rides across the park; and beautiful mountain vistas to fall in love with.

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St. Beatus Caves (St. Beatus-Höhlen)

St. Beatus Caves (St. Beatus-Höhlen)

Legend has it that in the 6th century, a dragon took shelter in these caves while the monk and hermit Beatus of Lungern was hunting him. The St. Beatus Caves (St. Beatus Hohlen), which sit next to the lakes of Interlaken, were formed over many centuries and are full of stunning stalagmites, stalactites, lakes, and waterfalls.

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