Nestled between Lakes Brienz and Thun at the base of the largest mountains in Switzerland, Interlaken is one of the country’s prime tourist locations.
Home to some of the highest mountains, deepest lakes, and greenest pastures on the continent, Switzerland is one of the most picturesque destinations you will ever visit. For the purpose of this trip, however, we have homed in on four of its major cities which serve as gateways to all this remarkable country has to offer.
About Interlaken, Switzerland
Legend tells us that God sent an angel to adorn the earth but as he reached Interlaken he had used up almost his trimmings in other areas. He felt pity for the barren area, however, so he searched his bags and used the last and most beautiful adornments in the area.
While it may well be a legend, it’s one that has certainly lived on. The picturesque town of Interlaken has deservedly become recognised as one of Switzerland’s top tourist attractions, both for its scenery and also for the multitude of sports and activities that visitors can participate in.
Interlaken has had various names throughout history -Unterseen in Latin, Inderlappon in Celtic – suggesting that in ancient times the area was inhabited by Celts, Romans and the Alemanni. The town itself was first recorded in history in 1130 when a Baron Seliger founded the monastery in the town. Througout the centuries the monastery played a prominent role in Interlaken but following its closure in the late 1500s, Interlaken slowly and surely became a health and holiday resort and it is for this reason that thousands flock to the town every year.
The steep cliffs, icy lakes and raging rivers make it the ideal location for the adrenaline junkies among you. If this is not the type of holiday you have in mind, don’t worry. There are activities to suit everyone’s tastes, from hill walkers to bungee jumpers, all tastes are catered for.
Eating Out in Interlaken, Switzerland
Despite the fact that you may well lose all track of time and place while staying in this Swiss paradise, it may reassure you to know that cuisine from all over will bring you back to Earth with a bang. Italian, Chinese and Thai are just three of the ethnic types of restaurants in Interlaken. If you are feeling adventurous then you should try some of the local specialities. Bernese Rosti – skilleted hash brown potatoes flavoured with bacon or cheese – is extremely popular as is Valaisian Raclette. This is prepared by melting cheese over a fire, scraping it onto a baked potato and garnishing it with meat and vegetables of your choice. If you do not fancy any of these, then an amble around town will certainly provide you with something to whet your appetite.
No trip to Switzerland is complete without trying a ‘fondue’. This is a communal dish served in a pot over a small burner. There are different types of fondue, the most popular being cheese. Those eating the fondue dip different things (on most occasions bread) into the pot. Simple! Chalet Oberland (Postgasse 1) is a good place to try it, while the aforementioned Bebbi’s is the only place in town where you can try chocolate fondue.
Restaurants in Interlaken
Bahnhofstrasse 16, Interlaken, Switzerland
When the man ‘Bebbi’ himself is there, no meal in his restaurant is a boring one. A bit of a character, he is very accommodating and can alter any dish in any way. To choose from on the menu you have everything ranging from salad sandwiches to chicken shnitzels. You’ll also find Swiss favourite fondue here, with a chocolate version also available.
Open daily from 10.30am-11pm.
Hoheweg 74, Interlaken, Switzerland
For those of you missing a good old Chinese take-away, then this is one for you. Serving original Chinese specialities, it is open until midnight daily. A nice hot curry might be just what you need to warm you up after a day in the fresh mountain air.
Marktgasse 34, Interlaken, Switzerland
Fancy sucking on spaghetti with the latest flame or in dire need of your weekly fix of pasta, then visit Interlakens popular Italian restaurant. Boasting fresh home made noodles – Italian noodles? – and an extensive variety of pasta dishes and pizza, you will not be disappointed.
Beatenbergstrasse 1, Interlaken, Switzerland
If you feel brave enough to sample the local delights, Aarburg is where you need to go. A traditional Swiss restaurant serving Raclette, Fondue and Rosti in a warm and friendly atmosphere ensure that you will spend a nice relaxed evening in pleasant surroundings. Note that it does not open on Sundays in summer or winter.
Casino-Kursaal, Strandbadstrasse 44, Interlaken, Switzerland
This is another traditional restaurant, but as well as serving several types of fondue, you also get treated to a Swiss folklore show. As a result of this honour, you do need to make a reservation and the restaurant is closed from December to April.
Hoheweg 37, Interlaken, Switzerland
An ideal place to pick up a cup of tea and a cream bun or you can avail of the buffet lunch from 11.30am to 13.45pm if you feel up to a full meal that early. Also offers live music and entertainment on Thursdays and Saturdays from 2.00pm. It does close at 6.00, however, leaving you plenty of time to get ready for a night on the town.
Hoheweg 71, Interlaken, Switzerland
With a name like this it could not be anything other than an original Japanese restaurant. Yes even the Japanese have found Interlaken and with their own native speaking staff in tow –Japanese, not Swiss. Handy if you speak Japanese, otherwise be afraid, be very afraid. Open until 10.00pm nightly.
Centralstrasse 1, Interlaken, Switzerland
Unmissable thanks to the fairy lights in the window and the elaborate sign over the door, Pizpaz is one of Interlaken’s better Italian restaurants. Pizzas, pastas and meat dishes are all on the menu. They also cater for those with slightly smaller appetites, offering pizzas in small or medium sizes.
Open daily from 11.30am-10pm.
cnr Scheidgasse & Hauptstrasse, Interlaken, Switzerland
This is a dainty little bakery that is just perfect for lunch. While it caters mainly for those guilty of possessing a sweet tooth, they have a small selection of sandwiches too.
Open 6am-6.30pm Mon-Fri, to 4pm Sat, closed Sun.
Transport in Interlaken, Switzerland
Transport to/from Airport
All major airlines fly into both Zurich and Geneva airports. Interlaken is 2 hours 30 minutes by train from Zurich and 3 hours from Geneva. European airlines fly into Basel airport which is three hours by bus or rail from your destination. Finally, Swiss airlines and all regional airlines fly into Bern and it will take you 1 hour 15 minutes by bus or rail to get to Interlaken from the capital. There are direct train connections to and from Zurich Airport and all major Swiss cities every hour.
A town where you do not actually need a train or a bus to get around makes a refreshing change. Interlaken is built up around the main street, Hoheweg, which has a train station at each end. All the main cafes and bars line Hoheweg meaning that everywhere is accessible on foot. To get to the resorts where all the sporting activities take place you can avail of the Jungfrau Railway. This is the highest railway in Europe and one of the most interesting and terrifying of all mountain lines. For this and all other branch lines into the mountains board at Interlaken Ost.
Things To See in Interlaken, Switzerland
While Interlaken is probably best known for the multitude of adventure sports that you can participate in, it also has some other attractions which you could very easily surpass. While the Castle may not be that easy to miss, you should also visit the castle church, the ancient monastery, and the variety of fascinating old buildings in the area. Another attraction that comes highly recommended is the open air Tell play. This show tells the story of Schiller’s William Tell and is performed each year in the Rugen wood at Interlaken. It has been taking place since 1912 and in the decades that have passed since the first performance, hundreds of thousands of spectators have been entertained by this unique attraction.
Of course, the adrenaline pumping sports of Interlaken are the most popular reason for visiting the area and the reason too why the town has become such an important tourist resort for Switzerland. A combination of thrilling snow and water sports practised throughout the year offer something to suit all visitors to the area, and ensure that they want to come back.
Attractions in Interlaken
Strandbadstrasse 44, Interlaken, Switzerland
If you have not used up all you Swiss Francs on ski courses, boat trips and train tickets and feel a bit reckless, then check out the local casino. With all the usual paraphernalia of a casino as well as a bar which you can kick back in, an excuse to get all dressed up and blow some money seems like a good idea to help ease you’re your aches and pains after a day on the slopes.
Rugen Wood, Postfach, Interlaken, Switzerland
seven hundred people when they were ruled by Austria. The stage is framed by wooden houses built in the exact style used in the thirteenth century and the cast of over 180 are dressed in historical National costumes making the show a creative and colourful one.
The venue for this unique performance is located within twenty minutes walking distance from the train station and the show takes place between 8.00pm and 10.15pm nightly. Unfortunately it does only run from late June to early September so you do need to make reservations.
Interlaken West Train Station, Bahnhofstrase 28, Interlaken, Switzerland
Because Interlaken is located between two magnificent lakes, Brienz and Thun, it would be a terrible pity to waste their beauty during your stay. Take advantage of the fact, therefore, that there are some wonderful lake steamer cruises already organised for you. You can take a boat to the town of Brienz which is at the far end of the lake and is a quaint little woodcarvers town. It also houses the Swiss Open Air Museum which is well worth a visit. You can also catch a steamer to Thun where you can enjoy unforgettable views from the towers of its medieval castle. As well as day trips, BLS also organise special cruises including sunset, fondue, and jazz trips.
Interlaken Ost Train Station, Interlaken, Switzerland
While taking a train ride may not seem like the most appealing way to spend an afternoon, rest assured that you will not regret this trip. The Jungfraujoch Railway is Europes highest train system climbing to a destination over two miles above sea level. It is a true rollercoaster of journey where you will climb and plunge enough times to make your head spin but totally worthwhile when you do feel brave enough to look out the window. Once you reach your destination you will find plenty to occupy your time there. There is an ice palace which is free with your train ticket, ski lessons, dogsled rides, an observation post and if your stomach is not churning too much, there is also a restaurant where you can sample local cuisine. One thing you should bear in mind is that it is an expensive excursion but you cannot really put a price on the once in a lifetime experience that this is. Trains depart from Interlaken Ost.
Postfach 78, Interlaken, Switzerland
If you fancy rafting a white water river or abseiling down a waterfall, these are the people you need to contact. Offering packages on activities such as bungee jumping, canyoning, rafting, tandem paragliding and skydiving and sea kayaking, Alpin Raft offers an alternative to the everyday Swiss holiday sports, particularly as the main ski season only runs from mid December to mid April. Prices for each activity vary but do include, qualified guides (thankfully!), all necessary equipment, bus transfers and lunch. Should make for some interesting holiday snaps and stories for the folks back home.
Postfach 29, Interlaken, Switzerland
Now, for the moment you have all being waiting for, the inevitable snow sports. Heli-Ski Guides (Interlaken branch of Swiss Alpine Guides) are just one of the many groups who will lead the way down the slopes for you. Interlaken is less than 30 minutes away from 3 large ski resorts with over 200 km of groomed pistes. Even the experienced skiers and snowboarders among you will be amazed by the number of runs and the views from atop high alpine peaks. The area also has the longest sledding run in Europe (12 km), which proves to be a great night-time activity. The company has been in operation for over fourteen years and offers highly experienced and multi-lingual guides to assist you with whatever you feel like trying out be it private ski instructions, ski or snowboard safaris or easy trekking.
Entertainment in Interlaken, Switzerland
After a day on the slopes or in the icy waters around Interlaken what better way to wind down than checking out the live music on offer in the pubs in the area. Blues, Jazz, Funk, Salsa and Soul can be heard emanating from several venues scattered throughout Interlaken. The town even has its very own Mexican pub, El Azteca, with live Mexcian music at the weekends. Some lively dancing and a couple of shots of Tequila should see you right into the early hours. Unfortunately, it may not guarantee an action packed following day but everyone needs to stack up on energy at some stage.
Entertainments in Interlaken
Happy Inn Lodge, Rosenstrasse 17, Interlaken, Switzerland
A perfect place to meet up with fellow travellers and locals alike. With twenty different local beers on offer and a garden terrace to enjoy them in during summer, it is one of Interlakens most popular venues. Also has live music of every variety; blues, salsa, jazz, every second Thursday from September to June.
Hotel Blume, Jungfraustrasse 30, Interlaken, Switzerland
Just hearing about Mexican bars conjures up visions of crazy nights on the town. With live Mexican music on Fridays and Saturdays and all the tequila you could ask for, you have no excuse. How could you not have fun? Unfortunately it is closed on Mondays and in the afternoon during winter.
Hotel Merkur, Bahnhofstrasse 35, Interlaken, Switzerland
A traditional bar offering live music nightly. A nice place to relax and unwind if another wild night out feels like it is going to be one too many. It is situated in the Hotel Merkur where there is also a nightclub, just in case you change your mind.
Centralstrasse 11, Interlaken, Switzerland
In the mood for a cocktail or two? Look no further…Positiv Einfach serves the best mojitos, pina coladas and Harvey Wallbangers in town. It’s a small bar but the cocktail menu is big, and they sometimes have live music at weekends.
Open daily from 10am-12.30am.
Marktgrasse 59, Interlaken, Switzerland
Enjoying a picturesque location along the banks of Interlaken’s River Aare, Riverside Bar is famous for two things – rum cocktails and Rugen Beer. It is particularly popular during the summer months.
Open Mon-Sat 8.30am-12.30am, Sun 5pm-12.30am.
Hauptstrasee 23, Interlaken, Switzerland
Next door to Balmers Herberge, Metro Bar is undoubtedly the city’s most happening place. Not only attracting backpackers from the adjoining hostel, this is where all the cool kids from Interlaken come to let their hair down at weekends. The DJ keeps everybody happy, playing grunge, hip hop, house music and more.
Open Wed-Sun 9pm-2.30am.
Hauptstrasse 36, Interlaken, Switzerland
The other club in town, Club Caverne isn’t as popular as Metro. In saying that, if you’re in Interlaken for a number of days it may be worth checking out if you’re looking for a change of scenery or if you fancy playing some table sports – they have a foosball table at the back.
Open Wed-Sun from 10.30pm-2.30am.
General Info about Interlaken, Switzerland
For US, Canadian, EU, New Zealand, South African or Australian nationals, all that is required for a holiday in Interlaken for under 90 days is a current passport. For stays longer than three months and for residents of all other countries, you are advised to contact the Swiss consulate in your area.
Interlaken is situated in the German speaking part of Switzerland. In addition to German, however, many locals also speak English and French.
The currency used in Switzerland is the Swiss Franc (SFr) and one is divided into 100 centimes (known as Rappen in German speaking Switzerland). Bills come in 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 10000SFr and coins are divided into 5, 10, 20 and 50 centimes and 1, 2 and 5SFr.
As well as in banks, money and travellers’ cheques can be changed at the train station or post office where the exchange rate is almost the same as in any of the banks. ATMs can also be used to obtain foreign currency. This applies to holders of major credit cards or bank cards linked to the Cirrus and Plus networks, Eurocheque cards. Some can also be accessed by the major charge cards.
Interlaken is one hour ahead of GMT and six ahead of EST. Summer time adds an hour at the end of March.
Swiss electricity is currently 220 volts.
There is a Value Added Tax of 3.6% on accommodation in Interlaken. It is 7.6% on all other facilities as from this year.
The Swiss telephone area code is 041. If you are calling Interlaken from outside Switzerland place 00 before the area code, followed by 41. Public phones are found at the post office as well as on the street.
Because the service charge is included in the prices of all the principal services; hotels, restaurants and taxis, tipping is entirely at your discretion.
The tourist office in Interlaken is located at Hoheweg 37 in the Hotel Metropole. It is open in July and August, Monday to Friday, from 8.00am to 12.00pm, closes for lunch, and reopens at 1.30am until 6.30. It opens on Saturday from 8.00am to 5.00pm and Sunday from 5.00 to 7.00pm. From September to June it is open from 8.00am to 12.00pm and 2.00pm to 6.00pm from Monday to Friday and from 8.00am to 12.00pm on Saturday. It does not open on Sundays. For any further information telephone 033 822 21 21 or e-mail mail@InterlakenTourism.ch
In general, shops in Interlaken are open on Monday and Friday from 8.00am to 12.00pm. They close for lunch and reopen at 1.30pm until 18.30pm. On Saturday they remain open from 8.00am to 16.00pm. Note that these times can vary, particularly in summer.
It is worth noting what the public holidays are before you travel to a country as the majority of businesses, banks and shops usually shut for the day. In Switzerland they take place on January 1st, Good Friday, Easter Monday, May 1st, Ascension Thursday, the first Monday in June, August 1stand December 25th and 26th. It is a good idea to check the particular area too as certain towns and cities also shut down during special events.