Interlaken is one of Switzerland’s adventure capitals, where activities on offer range from snowboarding and skiing to paragliding and skydiving above. The town is named after its position between the surrounding mountains, sitting “between lakes”, with two stunning aqua alpine lakes on either side of the town.
How to get there
Interlaken has a direct train connection with Bern – you will need to travel to Bern from other surrounding Swiss and international cities and change to another train to ultimately reach Interlaken. Bus services from other countries to Interlaken is essentially non-existent – train is really the main way of transport in Switzerland.
Interlaken also has two train stations; Interlaken Ost (East) and Interlaken West, despite being quite a small town. While it depends where your accommodation is, generally speaking Interlaken Ost station is more centrally located.
How to get around
Interlaken town is easily and enjoyably walkable. Local bus services do run throughout the town and Google Maps offer up to date schedules. Most hostels will give you a local transport card allowing unlimited and free transport in the town during your stay.
Where to eat
Navigating through Switzerland on a budget can be tricky, especially when it comes to food.
Little Thai restaurant serves traditional dishes for 18 – 27 CHF – they’re pretty big servings, perfect for lunch the next day.
Layaly Beirut – tasty Lebanese food, from mezza, fatoush, houmous, taboule for a cheap price!
Barracuda café and bar serves fresh bagels every morning for breakfast (5 CHF to 9 CHF) and wraps & paninis (9 CHF) for lunch.
And make sure you try some locally produced cheese or chocolate in the form of fondue –Balmer’s Hostel does all you can eat fondue for 15CHF during the Winter season.
Where to stay
While it is an absolute maze once you’re inside to navigate to your room or a bathroom, Balmer’s Hostel has friendly staff, a big kitchen, a sweet breakfast spread, and excellent party/socialising facilities including a beer tent and a bar open during the summer peak season. It can get a little busy as tour groups often stay here, so just make sure you cook dinner early and hit breakfast before the crowds.
Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof is another great hostel in Interlaken. Friendly staff, great breakfast, well-stocked kitchen and comfy beds, all in a homey chalet-style building. What more could you ask for!
Example daily budget
45 CHF per day
– Hostel: CHF 20 per night
– Hostel breakfast: Free
– Walking Tour tip: CHF 5
– Pre-packed lunch: CHF 5
– Hostel cooked dinner: CHF 10
– Beers from supermarket: CHF 5
How long to spend here
3 days will allow you time to explore the town, do a little hiking or paragliding and a day trip to a neighbouring town.
What to see and do
Backpacker’s Villa Sonnenhof hostel offers a terrific walking tour through the town and is perfect as a first day activity to get your bearings and see each part of the town.
As with most tours of this nature, a tip to your discretion is expected at the end.
Unterseen is the town next to Interlaken, found across the River Aare near Interlaken West railway station. In Unterseen are some lovely wooden buildings usually only found out in the countryside, that exemplify the ‘typical’ swiss chalet. This area has a more historic feel to it than Interlaken and it isn’t touristy. It is a lovely place to wander around and to take a break from the faster pace of Interlaken.
This is the main street in Interlaken and it stretches from the central square to the east. This street is home to a huge number of fashionable hotels, restaurants, cafes, local shops and night venues. Of particular note is the 150 year old Victoria Jungfrau Hotel.
This meadow is found in the middle of Interlaken along Höheweg. It covers around 14 hectares and from here you can get some stunning views of the surrounding mountains and watch paragliders come in to land. Around the Höhematte is a theatre, a coffee shop, a historical Augustinian convent and church and a working clock made of flowers. This was once the property of Augustinian monks but it was acquired in the mid-19th century by the hotel keepers of Interlaken, who turned it into a park.
Don’t worry, it’s not actually that hard at all. Overlooking the two lakes, this mountain trail leads you past a small enclosure where you can see ibex and marmot, through alpine forestry and to the suspended glass lookout at the peak. A funicular also runs to the peak every half hour costing CHF 16 one way and the restaurant is open from April to November.
Looking for more hikes in this region? The towns of Grindleward and Lauterbrunnen are only a short train ride away and have a huge range of hikes through the valley and surrounding mountains. Take a look at my guide for two amazing full day hikes through the East Side or West Side of the region.
On any fine day during the summer season you can look up and see a flock of paragliders and hang gliders sailing above. The view from above down to the two azure lakes and green paddocks is something you’ll remember forever, and luckily you can re-watch the experience over and over as they’ll happily film it for you. These activities cost upwards of CHF 100, and talk to your hostel about deals and booking your session.
Proudly stands at 4158m above sea level Jungfrau is the tallest mountain in Europe. The Jungfraujoch station offers a range of activities including an ice palace and a Lindt chocolate bar.
You can reach Jungfrau from Interlaken by train – From Interlaken Ost take the half-hourly train to Grindelwald, then change trains to Kleine Scheidegg to reach Jungfrau – Europe’s highest altitude train station. Plan your trip here.
A full priced return ticket costs 210 CHF and is not included in your Eurail pass.
Almost choke on your coffee? Reduced tickets for early birds cost CHF 135 if you travel at depart at 8.00am or 8.30am and return at 1.13pm. Alternatively, weigh up whether a Half-Price Travel Card or Swiss Pass would be a wise investment, depending on your budget and time in Switzerland. I’ve listed all the offers and deals I’ve discovered in Switzerland so far, and included tonnes of tips on how to stretch your money in Switzerland.
Day Trip to Lauterbrunnen
Lauterbrunnen is completely unbelievable. Enclosed in a valley between two impossibly high cliffs, overlooked by the giant snowcapped peak of the highest mountain in Europe, and topped off with a 297m waterfall tumbling from the nearby cliff seemingly straight into the town… It feels like you have fallen into the set of a Peter Jackson film. Lauterbrunnen is less than 30 minutes from Interlaken by train (see here for schedules and prices), but I highly recommend you spend more than just a day here. It is the perfect base to further explore this stunning region.
Day Trip to Spiez + Thun
Only half hour away lies these two beautiful lakeside towns and makes for a perfect day trip from Interlaken. Spiez is closer to Interlaken, and Thun is located on the opposite end of the lake, however the whole journey makes for a nice loop.
Trains run every half hour from Interlaken to both Speiz and Thun and cost 15CHF.
Alternatively, boats also depart Interlaken stopping in to both Spiez and Thun, and cost around 20CHF.
A bus service travels between Interlaken and Thun every 30 minutes and a one way ticket costs 6CHF.
My suggestion for a taste of all is to catch the train from Interlaken to Speiz, boat from Speiz to Thun and finally the bus to return from Thun to Interlaken.