A day in Interlaken, Switzerland

posted in: Europe | 16
Me on the viewing platform at Harder Kulm, at the top of Interlaken
Me on the viewing platform at Harder Kulm, at the top of Interlaken

I fell in love with Switzerland via the written word. As a child, I was a huge fan of the admittedly old-fashioned (they were dated even then) Chalet School books by Elinor M Brent-Dyer, and Switzerland was a major character.

The school was located in all sorts of places, from the Austrian Alps to Guernsey. But in one stretch, the girls attended school in the Bernese Oberland and such exotic sounding places as Interlaken and Lake Thun became surprisingly familiar to me.

So, I was thrilled to be given the chance to visit these places, to see them in reality.

Interlaken is a resort town on the Aare River, and has an incredibly dramatic setting: between two very blue lakes, Thun and Brienz. This positioning is known as being on an alluvial plain and goes back thousands of years (once upon a time, the lakes were joined together). It is really beautiful – especially when you go up, via a funicular, as we did, and view it from high up in the mountains at Harder Kulm (which has a terrific glass walkway, for those, like me, who aren’t afraid of heights, as well as a charming restaurant where I sampled some traditional Swiss noodles with apple sauce).

Interlaken is also right in the heart of the Jungfrau mountain region and you can travel from here to see the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau (and go up the Jungfrau, the highest point you can reach by railway in Europe, too, but that’s another story).

View of Interlaken, Switzerland, as seen on the Family Travel Times blog
A view of the city, from the restaurant at the Metropole hotel

I arrived there by boat, which was a lovely and extremely scenic form of transport, but there are trains with excellent connections too, and they go all over.

The city is a great location for an outdoors holiday, surrounded by railways, cable cars, the lakes and mountains, all ready to be explored, by bike, train or hiking. In the summer, the lakes are so mild, that you can swim in them too, or scuba dive, windsurf or canoe.

Interlaken is also easy to navigate, full of shops and restaurants, and with a field right in the centre which is used as a landing pad for the many paragliders. I know my son would absolutely love doing this, although it did sound very expensive (over £100 a go). To be honest, Switzerland, although gorgeous, is pricey, but it’s also clean and beautiful!

Viewing platform at Harder Kulm, Interlaken, Switzerland,
We went up to this viewing platform at Harder Kulm

Interlaken is really lovely to get around, with a large promenade, the Höheweg, dissecting the city and with shops, cafes and more on either side. You can also go off the main thoroughfare, walking past the river and into the old town, where more restaurants and businesses await.

View from the top of Harder Kulm, Interlaken, Switzerland,
And the views from the top were incredible!

I enjoyed mooching around the shops (especially the chocolate ones) and was disappointed not to have time to take part in a chocolate making workshop which I saw in the window of the wonderfully named “Funky Chocolates Club Switzerland”. It has daily hour long workshops for those interested.

For those who like their chocolate, the Grand Restaurant Schuh puts on a daily “chocolate show” which I’m very sorry to have missed.

I would also recommend a visit to the Metropole Hotel, which may surprise you as, from the outside, it is pretty ugly! Inside, however, it’s a four star establishment and it has a terrific panoramic restaurant with beautiful views of the city. I very much enjoyed the drink and cake I sampled there, and was impressed that the price didn’t seem to have been bumped up too much for the view! (I paid around 8 Swiss Francs)

The Friendship Garden by the Hotel Interlaken, Switzerland, as seen on the Family Travel Times blog
The Friendship Garden by the Hotel Interlaken

Interlaken is very well served with hotels, including some which look spectacular. One of the oldest is the Hotel Interlaken, located on Höheweg Street. The first Japanese garden in Switzerland, the “Garden of Friendship” which symbolises friendship between this city and  Otsu in Japan, is right next to it.

Interlaken Castle is right in the heart of the city and is known for its collection of more than 100,000 tin figures. I’m afraid we didn’t make it to see these, but enjoyed walking nearby and hearing the story of the city’s monastery which apparently had a secret path connecting it to the convent!

Face in the mountain in Interlaken, Switzerland,
Can you see the face in the mountain?

The legend of the Harder Man is about a monk who is said to have attacked a young girl who jumped off the mountains to die. His punishment was to have to look down on the scene of his crime – and indeed it does seem as if there is a face carved into the mountainside.

There are festivals and events in the region all year round, including the Interlaken Classics music festival (Easter time) and the Open Air Festival from June to September. There’s also an International Trucker & Country Festival each summer, while the centre of Interlaken is transformed into an ice rink from December to February.

All in all Interlaken was a lovely place for a day out and I’d have very much liked to have stayed longer and enjoyed all it had to offer – beauty, fresh air, outdoor activities and that chocolate!

Read about my trip to Meiringen and the Reichenbach Falls!

Disclosure: I was fortunate to visit Switzerland as part of a wonderful Great Railways Journey to the Jungfrau, which meant all my travel was free (including the use of the funicular up to Harder Kulm). However, none of the establishments had any input into this blog post.

Wander Mum

16 Responses

  1. Cathy (MummyTravels)

    I remember the Chalet School booka – hadn’t thought about those for years. Switzerland is somehow a country I forget about when planning holidays but I have loved my occasional visits and the air is incredibly clear.

  2. Elena

    It looks like you had a lovely visit: informative narrative and great photos. I am wondering though when did you go there? Judging by the pictures, it was not very warm.

  3. Nell (the Pigeon Pair and Me)

    I was just thinking about the Chalet School books the other day! Whenever I read anything about Austria or Switzerland, it transports me right back into those stories. Sounds as though Interlaken has many more fascinating tales woven around it.

    • Sarah Ebner

      Me too! I loved them so much when I was growing up. Switzerland and Austria are brilliant places for family holidays and the CS link makes them even more special!

  4. Rachel Pearson

    I would love to go to the Interlaken Classics music festival, I am going to check it out for next year! I loved Interlaken although I would have been there over 10 years ago!

  5. Christina

    I have always wanted to visit more of Switzerland since visiting Geneva a few years ago. Your pictures reminded me of how much Switzerland took my breath away. Interlaken is such a picturesque area I want to see it some day soon.

  6. Heritage India Tour

    Amazing place, No doubt about Switzerland, its a beautiful place for holidays. we can spent here more time with nature and place you describe in that post are amazing.

  7. Sabs

    Interlaken looks beautiful! Thank you for sharing. I have been to Switzerland, but never to Interlaken. Hope to go one day soon!

  8. Maya

    OMG the first picture. This is the priceless shot that you are between the mountain, closed to the cloud sky with the sun spray twinkling in the air. I have heard about Switzerland but I still haven’t been there. Hope one day I could have a photo shot like yours.

  9. Elizabeth (Wander Mum)

    Why have I never heard of the Chalet books? I feel I’ve missed out! Interlaken is beautiful – even with the rain. Glad you had a fab time although the monk story is a bit spooky! Switzerland is a very attractive country (although pricey) which I’ve not explored enough. Thanks for linking to #citytripping

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