Interlaken is a Swiss town named for its geographical location. Nestled between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, this wonderful town in the Bernese Oberland is the starting point for some of the best day trips in Switzerland. This is why I recommend spending three days in the area to soak it all up.
Schilthorn and Jungfruajoch are both easily accessible from Interlaken and countless villages and resorts in the Swiss Alps. In other words, three days in Interlaken means you will spend very little time in Interlaken itself and a lot of time exploring the stunning surroundings of the town!
Table of Contents
Day 1 – Explore Interlaken Area
Take it slow on day one; get to know the town and its lakes a little and visit Interlaken’s home mountain for striking panoramic views.
Harder Kulm is Interlaken’s home mountain, easily accessible from the town. A funicular can take you from Interlaken to the top of Harder Kulm in just 10 minutes, from where you can enjoy spectacular town views and the lakes on either side.
It’s also possible to hike from Harder Kulm down to Interlaken; the descent is only two hours and all downhill, so it’s suitable even for less experienced hikers. This is the best hike to do, both because it is not too exhausting and because it’s just short enough that you’ll have plenty of time to explore the other sights in town.
I don’t think it’s a secret anymore that Lake Brienz is my favorite of the two lakes at Interlaken. The mesmerizing turquoise color will win anyone over, even if Lake Thun is better for cruises and has more attractions along its shore.
The stunning Lake Brienz owes its color to glacial waters. The lake water is quite cold and not perfect for swimming unless you enjoy cold water. But what Lake Brienz is fantastic for are lake cruises. Ferries can take you to many other destinations along the lake shore:
Both are exceptional destinations. Iseltwald got famous quickly after being prominently featured in the TV series Crash Landing on You. It’s a charming little town with a few exciting things to see, but best known for the hiking trail along Lake Brienz that leads to the Giessbach waterfall.
The waterfall is also accessible by boat rides from Interlaken, so there’s no need to walk there if you don’t want to. But it’s worth it to travel to see the waterfall because it’s a stunning sight on the shore of Lake Brienz.
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Interlaken & Unterseen
In the afternoon, take a boat (or bus) back to Interlaken and go on a little walk around the town. Interlaken isn’t a massive city, and there aren’t dozens of museums you can tour, but it has a certain charm you will start noticing once you’ve walked through its streets.
A proper tour of Interlaken should include Höheweg, the Interlaken Castle, and the iconic Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel. Casually stroll to Unterseen, the part of town separated from the train stations by the Aare River. Unterseen offers terrific views of the river and its islands. It also looks great in photographs, especially during the golden hour.
Many locals organize guided tours of Interlaken, which take anywhere from 90 minutes to three hours. If you want to learn more about the town, it’s not a bad idea to get someone to guide you around. But it’s also possible to do a self-guided tour and still catch a glimpse of all the top sights in Interlaken.
Day 2 – A Day Of Adventure
The second day of a trip to Interlaken is an excellent opportunity to do something that will get your adrenaline pumping in the morning, followed by a spectacular mountain excursion.
Thrilling Activities (Paragliding, Bungee Jumping, Skydiving)
Interlaken is one of the best destinations for adrenaline junkies in Switzerland. The town has multiple companies that operate adventure sports, including:
If any of that sounds fun to you, head to the Swiss Activities website right now to arrange a fun excursion for your trip. These activities must be booked in advance; the earlier you book, the better deal you can get.
Each adventure takes 2-3 hours from pickup to dropoff, sometimes even longer. A safety course is also included, and it’s worth noting that even first-timers are welcome to come on these adventures.
Jungfraujoch or Schilthorn
Jungfraujoch and Schilthorn are two of the most famous mountains in the area and not far from Interlaken. Deciding which one to visit will be daunting, so let’s start with a quick overview of some basic facts about the two summits.
|1 hour 30 minutes
|1 hour 30 minutes
|Cost (return trip)
|8 AM – 5 PM
|7 AM – 10 PM
|Top of Europe, skiing, zipline, hiking, glacier views, post office, shop
|Restaurant, James Bond Museum, hiking, observation decks
Jungfraujoch is a mountain saddle with the European continent’s highest post office and train station. It’s accessible by cogwheel train from Eiger Glacier, which you can reach with the Eiger Express gondola from Grindelwald.
Trains for Grindelwald depart from Interlaken every half an hour, so although it sounds like a lot, it’s super simple to travel to the mountain saddle.
The visitor’s complex at Jungfraujoch is named Top of Europe. It’s got quite a few unique attractions:
- Video exhibits on the Swiss Alps
- Views of Aletsch Glacier at Eismeer
- Tunnel under glacier with ice sculptures (Ice Palace)
- Sphinx observation deck
- Highest Lindt chocolate shop in the world
Can Schilthorn even begin to compare with such amazing sights? It can, so you might get a headache deciding between the two mountains.
Schilthorn is famous for the revolving restaurant atop the summit – Piz Gloria. The restaurant’s construction was completed for the James Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and the entire mountain was prominently featured.
Nowadays, the restaurant is part of a more extensive visitor’s center with an exhibit on the James Bond film, which includes simulator rides in a bobsled and a helicopter.
Schilthorn is accessible from Murren, a lovely mountain village. Cable cars take you from Murren to Birg first, where you can stand on an observation platform made from glass and walk across a steel walking path built into the cliffs. The next stop is Schilthorn in all its glory.
Day 3 – Lauterbrunnen Valley
The third day of this itinerary is reserved for hiking. Discover the best sights in the villages near Interlaken, strolling from one mountain village to the next. Head to the Interlaken Ost train station and board a train to Lauterbrunnen to begin the epic hiking adventures.
I personally love the Lauterbrunnen Valley. It is one of my favorite places in the Jungfrau area, and a highlight for anyone I have brought here.
Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen: 20 minutes
The Lauterbrunnen Valley is best known for its many waterfalls, a few of which are quite famous. The Staubbach Falls is streaming down the cliffs in Lauterbrunnen village, which looks best after a few rainy days.
Trummelbach Falls is euqally famous. It’s a system of waterfalls in a cave, just a short walk from the Lauterbrunnen village. A detour during the hike is worth it because the waterfalls are spectacular.
A hike through the valley will eventually take you to Stechelberg, a tiny village with a cable car, parking lot, and nothing else. It’s about an hour and 15 minutes from Lauterbrunnen to Stechelberg, not including the time necessary for the detour to Trummelbach Falls.
Stechelberg to Murren: 10 minutes via cable car
Murren is a charming Alpine village high above the Lauterbrunnen Valley. A cable car from Stechelberg will take you to this lovely village, where you can see yet another magnificent waterfall, hike the Flower Trail at Allmendhubel, or even ride the gondola up to Schilthorn if you didn’t do it on day two.
The complete trip to the Schilthorn will take at least two hours, so keep that in mind when planning your day. Besides the majestic summit, Murren offers charming and tranquil landscapes with a spectacular via Ferrata, countless hiking trails, and striking summit views. But don’t stay too long in this village because there’s still loads to discover!
Tip: Just check that the Mürren or Schilthorn cable car is running when you go. They are currently reworking the whole system, and there might be some downtime in 2023-24. An alternative route is a bus back to Lauterbrunnen (12 minutes) and a cogwheel train to Grutschalp and then Murren (23 minutes).
Wengen – Kleine Scheidegg
Murren to Wengen: 45 minutes
Two mountain trains and a gondola can get you from Murren to Wengen in just 45 minutes. Wengen is a larger village with more options.
Kleine Scheidegg and Mannlichen are easily accessible by mountain trains and cable cars. Both summits are excellent destinations for hiking:
- Royal Walk at Mannlichen (easy, short, from cable car station to viewing platform)
- Wengen to Kleine Scheidegg (2-3 hours, uphill, for experienced hikers)
- Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg Panorama Trail (1-1.5 hours, relatively easy and flat)
At Kleine Scheidegg, you can continue to Eiger Glacier, which will ultimately take you to the village of Grindelwald. Hiking from the glacier down to the village is a fabulous experience. You’re descending the north face of the Eiger mountain over the trail known as the Eiger North Face Trail.
A train can also take you from Kleine Scheidegg to Eiger Glacier in 15 minutes, and then the Eiger Express gondola takes you down to Grindelwald in 15 minutes. Or there are direct trains down from Kleine Scheidegg.
Kleine Scheidegg to Grindelwald: 30 minutes
This exhausting day of hiking ends in Grindelwald, a Swiss resort with direct train access to Interlaken. It is a famous ski resort in Switzerland, known for its lively apres-ski scene, some truly fabulous restaurants, and spectacular mountain views.
If you’re not dead on your feet, consider a quick trip to Grindelwald First. The summit offers:
- Mountain carts
- Cliff Walk
Alternatively, head to the train station in Grindelwald and head back to Interlaken. The train ride is approximately 45 minutes.
Where to Stay in Interlaken
Interlaken is a popular tourist destination in Switzerland, which translates to an abundance of hotels. It’s also one of the more affordable places to stay in the country, mostly because of the high volume of hotels. The competition benefits the guests, lowering the average nightly rate for a room in Interlaken.
Also, the town offers everything from budget hostels to luxury hotels, so everyone has options. Some of the best hotels in Interlaken are:
- Hostel Alplodge Interlaken
- Hotel Royal St Georges Interlaken
- Hotel Bernerhof Interlaken
- Hotel Metropole
- Carlton – Europe Vintage Adults Hotel
- Hotel Central Continental
- Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel
Consider booking a hotel near the Interlaken train station for convenient access and easier travel around the region.
Map for a 3-Day Interlaken Itinerary
How to Get to Interlaken
Two train stations service Interlaken, and most trains for the lakefront town depart from Bern. It’s only an hour from Bern to Interlaken by direct train and the journey is quite picturesque, with views of the diverse landscapes of the Bernese Oberland.
Traveling from Zurich, Geneva, Basel, and even Lucerne will include taking a train to Bern first. The travel times are:
- Bern to Interlaken – 55 minutes
- Zurich to Interlaken – 2 hours
- Geneva to Interlaken – 3 hours
- Lucerne to Interlaken – 1 hours 50 minutes
- Basel to Interlaken – 2 hours
Interlaken is also accessible by boats from various towns on the shores of lakes Thun and Brienz. Reaching the town by ferry takes more time and money, but it’s undoubtedly the more scenic way of traveling.