When foreigners think about visiting Switzerland, they usually consider the bigger cities such as Zurich, Geneva, Basel, or Lausanne. But Switzerland is also filled with small tourist towns full of attractions. One of these hidden gems is the town of Interlaken, located in the mountainous region of Oberland in the canton of Bern. It lies in an alluvial plain between two lakes and is surrounded by mountains, dense forests, alpine meadows, and glaciers.
The small resort town has a permanent population of only 5,000 but is home to many attractions. Let’s take a look at some of the best things to do in Interlaken.
Visit Harder Kulm
To get the best view of Interlaken, you need to visit Harder Kulm. This viewpoint is built on a mountain top overlooking the town and the surrounding lakes, Lake Brienz and Lake Thun. Harder Kulm is situated at 1,322 meters of altitude at the highest point in the specifically built observation platform. From this platform, you can see some of the most stunning natural landscapes in the world. Besides the observation platform, there is also a restaurant available at the viewpoint where you can try traditional Swiss food.
Visit Schynige Platte
Another excellent viewpoint is the Schynige Platte, located on a mountain ridge between Lake Brienz and the valley of the Schwarze Lütschine. This viewpoint is known for many things, such as its railway (one of the highest in Switzerland), its breathtaking view, which has made it a favorite destination for hiking, and its hotel, which is over 100 years old.
In addition, the viewpoint also has a ‘natural cinema’ an interesting concept that allows visitors to see some of the best views in Schynige Platte by looking through some wooden frames set in perspectives that show unique views of the landscape. All of these features have made Schynige Platte a favorite destination for visitors.
Visit Höhematte Park
The Höhematte Park is located at the heart of Interlaken. The park lies on 35 acres of land and is a favorite destination for paragliders. It is home to two unique attractions, a statue of Indian film director Yash Chopra who shot many movies in the area, and a working mechanical clock made entirely out of flowers.
Apart from offering amazing views of snowcapped mountains, the Höhematte Park features shaded walkways, colorful flowerbeds, benches placed under lush treetops, and beautiful fountains along the edges of the meadows. This amazingly green park is a must-see for everyone visiting Interlaken.
Visit the Swiss Open-Air Museum Ballenberg
Another unique attraction of Interlaken is the Ballenberg open-air museum, which allows you to discover the traditional rural life of the people living in the Swiss Alps. This open-air museum has over 100 rural houses and farm buildings from all over Switzerland. Besides the houses, the museum also has gardens, fields, pastures, and meadows, all set up according to Swiss rural people’s historical and traditional way.
In addition, objects, traditional tools, and even artisans that work with them can be found in the museum. The whole purpose of the Swiss Open-Air Museum Ballenberg is to display the traditional way of living in this part of the world to the wider public.
Visit St. Beatus Cave and Waterfalls
Located near Lake Thun, the St. Beatus Caves are a hidden gem of Swiss nature. According to the legend, the caves offered a safe-heaven for St. Beatus after he expelled a dragon living in the cave. The 14-kilometer long limestone caves have been formed throughout millions of years of natural phenomena and are bound to amaze you. Since the place is a tourist attraction, the caves have been equipped with all the necessary structures and tools to enable visitors to pass through them up to 1,000 meters in depth safely. Even though you might not find a dragon in there, the colors and schemes of the cave, together with the waterfalls coming out of the cave, will still amaze you.
Visit Giessbach Falls
Another attraction near Interlaken’s Lake Bienz is the Giessbach Falls. The 500 meters tall waterfall is located near the historical Giessbach Grand Hotel and spills down on Lake Bienz. The waterfall can be viewed from the lake’s bridge, behind the main section, or down on the lake from a boat. The Giessbach Falls are not hard to reach by foot and other means of transport such as a funicular ride. The waterfalls are at their most impressive in spring when the snow melts, so that’s the best time if you want to visit the Giessbach Falls.
If you are looking for a peaceful and traditional old town to enjoy Swiss cuisine, Unterseen is the place for you. Located on the eastern shore of Lake Thun, this picturesque old town is a must-visit. Its ancient lake is stunning, while its main square is filled with restaurants and cafes where you can rest and enjoy the magnificent view. The town is also home to an archaeological cellar which is only a short walk away from the main square, and a tourist museum that displays the history of the tourism industry in Interlaken.
Höheweg Boulevard is the perfect place for tourists to visit. The boulevard located in Interlaken’s old town is filled with souvenir shops, restaurants, cafes, and parks with cozy benches for you to sit and enjoy the view. From the boulevard, you will be able to see the circling paragliders gliding down from the mountain tops and find other attractions such as the Interlaken Casino and the Swiss Chocolate Chalet.
For more stunning views of the Bernese mountains, visit the Niederhorn peak. This mountain peak, located at an altitude of 1,950 meters above sea level, offers spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and the turquoise waters of Lake Thun. But the best part of this peak is not the peak itself but the journey towards it. The glass-sided funicular railway that connects the peak with the embarking point at Beatenbucht offers you a comfortable, relaxing, and picturesque 20-minute journey towards Niederhorn, where a stunning, rare view awaits you. This place is ideal for a group or family photo.
Cruise on Lake Thun
Being the largest lake in the Bernese highland, Lake Thun attracts many visitors worldwide to behold its beauty. One of the best ways to visit this lake is by boat; these boats depart from the West of Interlaken and continue along the Neuhaus nature reserve towards the St. Beatus Caves and Beatenbucht Spiez, Gunten, Oberhofen, Hilterfingen, Hünibach, and eventually on to Thun. The entire trip takes around two hours and gives you plenty of time to relax, chat, enjoy the view, and take pictures. Plus, different types of cruises are available at many itineraries, which gives you the ability to choose the time frame that suits you best.
Kayak on Lake Brienz
You might also want to see its counterpart Brienz when visiting Lake Thun. We recommend visiting in spring because that’s when this lake takes a deep beautiful turquoise color. One of the most popular activities is taking a kayak journey on the lake and enjoying its beauties firsthand. Since these kayak rides are usually done in groups, it is a fun activity for a large group of friends, colleagues, or families. Kayaks are available for rent at multiple locations, with coaching lessons available.
Walk to Unspunnen Castle
If you want to engage yourself in a bit of a more historical setting, then the Unspunnen Castle Ruins are the place to go. This castle originated in the 13th century and was owned by several aristocratic families and later by the Canton of Bern. Since the 16th century, the Unspunnen Castle was left in the hands of fate, and most of its structure was destroyed. The site gained popularity after the Unspunnen festival was first held in the ruins of the Castle in 1805. This boosted the Unspunnen Castle’s fame, especially among enthusiasts of Alpine culture.
Hike the Schynige Platte Trails
A popular location for hiking lovers is the Schynige Platte. Be aware that this six-hour-long hiking trip can be very demanding physically. But if you think you can do it, the hike will be a wonderful experience. You will enjoy a great view of Lake Brienz and the surrounding landscapes. The big mountain views, rocky peaks, dramatic cliffs, and lush meadows are so magnificent and definitely worth the challenging hike.
Ride the Historic Brienzer-Rothorn Railway
For a vintage voyage experience, embark on the Brienzer-Rothorn railway. This touristic steam locomotive has been operational since 1892, and its characteristic red carriages continue to transport people through over 693 mountain peaks. The journey begins in Brienz, from which you pass through countless tunnels, mountains, and green forests up to the midway station at Planalp, where the train refuels. After that, you get to see stunning views of Lake Brienz and its beautiful turquoise water before reaching the summit in Berghaus, where you can enjoy a traditional Swiss meal. The ride is one of the most notorious and panoramic in Switzerland, so don’t miss it.
Visit the Touristik-Museum
If you want to learn more about the history of Alpine tourism in Switzerland, the Touristik-Museum is the right place for you to visit. The museum is located nearby the main square of the town of Unterseen and is the first of its kind in Switzerland. The museum contains exhibitions and objects displaying the development of Alpine tourism in Switzerland over the past 500 years. It focuses on the development of different aspects of tourism, such as the transport and hotel industry, and familiarizes the visitors with the way these industries evolved and how they work.
Visit the Interlaken Monastery and Castle
The Interlaken Monastery and Castle are one of the most important historical monuments of Interlaken. The sites’ first recorded mention is found in a letter of Holy Roman Emperor Lothair in 1133 AD. Back then, the monastery was home to Augustinian convent male and female monks and was attached directly to the Castle. The Castle was secularized during the protestant reformation and was turned into a hospital. Today the building serves as an administrative and registry office, and it is filled with historical objects such as the Gothic cloister gallery and an original 14th-century steeple. It also contains a beautiful Japanese garden where you can sit on a bench and relax.
Visit Weissenau Nature Reserve
Finally, in the list of Interlaken’s natural wonders is the Weissenau Nature Reserve. This preserved natural area is situated on Lake Thun and is home to many rare plants and animals. The site is mainly known for its pristine wildlife and natural habitat and is also a vital hibernation and migration area for many species of birds. If you’re a nature lover, you must pay this place a visit.
Interlaken is a wonderful area with many attractions that offer unforgettable experiences. The region is a center of Alpine and nature tourism but doesn’t lack historical and hospitality interests. Although the area has become quite popular among the more experienced tourists, many people are unaware of this gem; so don’t be one of the latter; make sure to find some time to explore Interlaken when visiting Switzerland. We promise it’s worth it.