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In 1891, the people of Interlaken changed the city’s name from “Aarmuhle,” after their river mill, to “Interlaken”—and this change couldn’t have been more appropriate. Meaning “between lakes,” Interlaken is nestled along the Aare River between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz in central Switzerland. Interlaken serves as the gateway to the Bernese Oberland region of the Swiss Alps. Attracting the likes of historic writers and musicians such as Goethe and Mendelssohn, its uniquely beautiful location was made popular by Swiss landscape artists in the 1800s. Now, with nearly as many hotel beds as residents, Interlaken holds its own as one of the oldest and most popular tourist destinations in Switzerland.
Things to do in Interlaken
Summer brings nature lovers and adventure seekers to Interlaken’s iconic lakes and mountains—namely, Interlaken’s 3 surrounding peaks: the Jungfrau, Monch, and Eiger. For experienced hikers, the Hardergrat trail is a must-do; 16 miles of ridgeline trail afford spectacular views and unparalleled serenity. For a steep hike with a delicious reward, try hiking Harder Kulm, where you can enjoy a beautiful view of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains as well as Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, and afterwards, relax with a well-earned meal at the top’s Harder Kulm Panorama Restaurant (or take the 10-minute funicular train up if you’re pressed for time). Whatever your fitness level or ability, there are countless walks and hikes to take advantage of in Interlaken. If exploring by water is more your style, there are numerous outfitters along Lake Thun and Lake Brienz to meet your needs. Take a guided Stand Up Paddleboard tour of Lake Thun or try Paddleboard yoga through Mountainsurf Watersport Center, which also offers all kinds of other rentals and activities, from wakeboards to paddle boats. Visitors can even try rafting on one of the three main rivers in the area: the calm Aare, the family-friendly yet exciting Simme, or the exhilarating Lutschine. For a more laid-back experience, enjoy a delicious Swiss Barbecue meal on an evening dinner cruise of Lake Brienz. Perfect for the busy winter holiday months, Interlaken is at the base of 3 family-friendly ski resorts: Beatenberg-Niederhorn, Brienz-Axalp, and Habkern. There’s even a free ski bus from Interlaken to the Jungfrau Skiing Region, with ski and snowboard rentals available on-site. For adventure seekers, Interlaken hosts various heli-skiing outfitters to help you reach that untouched mountain powder. Most of these outfitters also specialize in ice-climbing tours and glacier treks, if you’re feeling particularly adventurous. The winter months also bring to Interlaken the ever-popular “Ice Magic,” a winter wonderland unique to the city. The installation consists of 4 ice rinks connected via ice pathways and complete with colorful lights, food stalls, and gift shops. Visitors can even try their hand at the classic ice sport Bavarian curling, and for beginners, the rink offers skating coaches for hire. A trip to Interlaken wouldn’t be complete without taking advantage of its reputation as an “Adventure Capital.” For the mildly daring, try the popular Interlaken Ropes Park, a course of wooden bridges, swings, and zip lines. With varying levels of difficulty and experienced instructors, there’s something for everyone, kids included! For the more adventurous, there’s no better way to experience the grandeur of the Alps than from above, and Interlaken offers numerous sky-diving, bungy-jumping, canyon-swinging, and paragliding opportunities. On land, anyone can soak up the Swiss scenery with a mountain scooter ride. Outfitters such as Outdoor-Interlaken and Alpinraft Interlaken can help you find an adventure to meet your needs.
Day trips from Interlaken
The village of Brienz is 20 minutes east of Interlaken by car or train, and it affords a more intimate view of Lake Brienz. Walk along the lakeside promenade, take a cruise on a salon paddle steamer such as the Lötschberg, or see the famous Giessbach Falls. With a deep-rooted history in woodcarving, there are countless shops on Brienz’s main street of Hauptestrasse where you can find exquisite handmade crafts, too. For even more history, check out the Ballenberg Open Air Museum, nestled in the pastoral foothills. Here, through its various buildings and exhibits, guests can get a taste of what rural life was like dating back to the 13th century. Just over 15 minutes south of Interlaken lies Lauterbrunnen, an oasis that inspired the likes of Lord Byron and Goethe. Meaning “many fountains,” Lauterbrunnen is home to over 70 waterfalls, most majestic being the Staubbachfall, Europe's highest free-falling waterfall, which can be explored from behind the falls by a new pedestrian pathway. Take a hike along a UNESCO world heritage themed trail, explore a glacier ravine at Trummelbach Falls, or take the Kleine Scheidegg railway to Jungfraujoch, where “The Top of Europe” invites visitors to experience Europe’s highest train station, post office, and various shops and restaurants at over 2 miles above sea level.
From the pastoral to the bustling downtown, Interlaken has a variety of charming places to stay on Tripping.com. Places along Hoheweg will allow easy access to shopping and entertainment, but if you stay anywhere along the river Aare, you won’t be disappointed.
Transportation in Interlaken
Most international visitors to Interlaken fly into Berne, Switzerland, about 45 minutes northwest of Interlaken by car. For those not interested in renting a vehicle, the Intercity-Express (ICE) train reaches Interlaken from the airport in under an hour, and local bus and train routes will get you almost anywhere you need to go once in the area. Try boat or bicycle to navigate the landscape, too, if you’re looking for something different!
Popular Day Trips Near Interlaken
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