When we first moved to Germany more than two years ago, Interlaken, Switzerland, was the first trip out of Germany for my mom and me. We didn’t know nearly as much about travel then as we do now, and we’ve been saying how we wanted to go back in the summertime because we had gone before my birthday in March and almost got stuck there in a snowstorm! My sister was coming in July for two weeks, so this was the perfect time to drive back to the cute little mountain town that we loved so we could share it with her.
We stayed in a bed and breakfast called Chalet Gafri in the town of Wilderswil, just a few minutes outside Interlaken by car. The town was calmer and ended up being a great place to stay, not to mention the accommodation having delicious breakfast and friendly owners. But my favorite was the cats living in our neighborhood that would hang out on the quiet streets as I showered them with affection.
There are tons of activities to do in the Swiss Alps, especially in the summer, so I tried to come up with a list of everything we did that I would recommend.
Hiking the Augstmatthorn
Of all the things I’ve done in Switzerland, and all the things I did this summer, hiking the Augstmatthorn was my absolute favorite. I had seen pictures of the trail on Instagram and knew it was worth the challenge. My sister and I started by taking the funicular to Harder Kulm, where there’s a restaurant and observation deck to enjoy before heading out on the trek.
The hike took us about five hours from when we left Harder Kulm to when we met back up with my mom. As a runner and dogwalker, I consider myself in great shape, but I’m not a particularly experienced hiker, and it was a grueling five hours of a consistent incline and then steep decline. For the first hour and a half or so, we were mostly in the woods, with the views of surrounding mountains and Lake Brienz below peeking through the trees every now and then.
Eventually we came out of the woods onto the ridge of the mountain where we walked for another two hours to the peak. The path was frighteningly narrow in some parts, with nothing but a drop-off on each side. There was fog, so at times, we couldn’t even see how far up we were or how far we still had to go, which was probably a good thing. Even with the fog, the view was worth every difficult step. The way down was an extremely steep, extremely muddy path that took us a little over an hour to reach the restaurant where my mom was waiting. I fell six (6!) times until I finally decided to slide down in the grassy parts.
As hard as it was, I am so glad we decided to do this and that my sister did it with me. I’m feeling inspired to get more into hiking!
So I actually went paragliding on our first trip to Switzerland, but I’m including it here because it’s popular to do in Interlaken and it was a fun, relaxing way to see the mountains without a lot of effort, as long as you’re not afraid of heights!
Niederhorn Cable Car
This was also something we did our first time in Interlaken. There are a lot of cable car rides to the tops of mountains in this region, but this one was the only one we could really do due to unfortunate weather on both trips. Start at the funicular station, called Beatenbucht, on Lake Thun, and then switch to cable car once you reach Beatenberg.
St. Beatus Caves
Just a quick drive from the Beatenbucht station and a climb up a steep hill alongside a rushing waterfall is the entrance to the St. Beatus Caves, which are carved into the mountain. This was a perfect rainy day activity and the caves were very impressive, with fascinating crystallized rock formations, waterfalls, pools and tunnels (no pictures from inside because it’s impossible to capture the detail in dim cave lighting).
I’ve never seen waterfalls quite like these. It’s a series of ten chutes within the mountain, which visitors can explore after a quick funicular ride up. Pictures definitely cannot do the grand scale of rushing glacial water justice, but here’s one anyway! This also makes for a great rainy day activity, but on a sunny day, the outside of the falls has sweeping views of the Lauterbrunnen valley.
Speaking of Lauterbrunnen, this is a small town just outside of Interlaken that I recommend stopping in for a stroll. The buildings are cute and stereotypically Swiss, there are some nice souvenir shops, and you get a great perspective from below of the waterfalls falling down the cliffside. Plus you can see the world’s most scenic graveyard if you’re into that sort of thing. And if you’re down for a quick walk, you can actually climb some steps up and behind the Staubbach Waterfall!
Just past Lauterbrunnen is the cable car station for reaching Mürren. This town is extra special because it is only accessible by cable car. The buildings were adorable and it was great for watching paragliders as they soared through the air with the famous peaks of the Jungfrau, Eiger and Mönch in the background. From Mürren, we took a funicular to Allmendhubel where there is a restaurant, playground for kids, and plenty of space to sit and relax in the mountain air, which is exactly what we did! From Mürren, we also could have taken a cable car even higher to the summit of the Schilthorn, the highest summit in the region, but the ticket office at the station has a TV that shows the view from the top deck and both times we tried to go, the view was completely obscured by clouds. Definitely not worth the $100+ round-trip ticket if we can’t see anything!
Interlaken is situated between two large lakes (hence its name), so there are many kayaking opportunities. We decided to just rent a double kayak for my sister and me for one hour on Lake Brienz from Hightide Kayak School. If we had more energy, it would have been nice to go for longer, or even do a tour, but we were happy to just paddle around a bit and enjoy the turquoise water.
For fitness addicts like me, running through the mountains is so relaxing. The roads are calm, and I actually was able to find some farm fields just outside our bed and breakfast in Wilderswil. Interlaken is definitely a runner-friendly town and the air is just too fresh to pass up some exercise.
Eating Älplermagronen, Rösti and Fondue
These are three cheesy dishes that are native to Switzerland. Sadly enough, I never tried chocolate fondue when I was there. We only had fondue on our first trip—the second time around, we decided it’s too expensive for something that’s going to fill us up, but isn’t a real meal. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying! We had ours at the Terrace restaurant at the Hotel Krebs and it definitely satisfied my cheese cravings.
In my opinion, älplermagronen is even better than fondue. It’s basically Swiss Mac and cheese, except it also has potatoes and bacon in addition to pasta swimming in the cheese sauce. It’s then topped with crunchy fried onions and served with applesauce, which does a great job of cutting the fattiness. I had it at Hüsi Bierhaus in town and it was heaven.
Rösti, or baked hashbrowns with various toppings, is amazing comfort food. My favorite rösti is actually in Strasbourg, France, but the one I had in Interlaken at Goldener Anker was also tasty.
By no way have I exhausted the list of activities to do in Interlaken and the surrounding area, so I encourage anyone planning a trip here to build in plenty of time to relax and also do all the fun outdoor things. I would also encourage those people to save some money up for it, because just about everything, from coffee to food to cable car tickets, will be outrageously expensive for any normal person. As much as I love Switzerland, I suggest checking out other spots in the Alps as well that are less expensive, including Chamonix, France; Bled, Slovenia; and Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.