If you are looking to explore the Bernese Oberland region and the Bernese Alps then you have probably come across the villages of Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen.
Both of these villages are stunning in their own right and are a great place to explore both the Bernese Oberland and Jungfrau regions from, but they are both quite different. So, which one should you stay at, Grindelwald or Lauterbrunnen?
Join me as we take a look at Grindelwald vs Lauterbrunnen so that you can understand what makes these places so great and whether Grindelwald or Lauterbrunnen will suit you best.
About the Villages
Lauterbrunnen sits at the bottom of the Lauterbrunnen Valley, a stunning U-shaped valley carved out by a glacier many years ago. The valley is surrounded by cliff faces thousands of feet high and is known as the valley of 72 waterfalls.
It is a stunningly beautiful place with majestic views in every direction packed full of dramatic mountains and a more calm valley floor.
The village of Lauterbrunnen is easy to access and a very relaxed village that is full of young nature lovers and adventurers. It is incredibly peaceful and a lovely place to rejuvenate yourself.
By sitting in the Lauterbrunnen Valley, you have access to some of the most famous waterfalls in Switzerland and in Europe. The car-free village of Wengen is also very close by and in winter there are ski resorts and ski slopes within easy access.
Grindelwald is on the other side of the mountains to Lauterbrunnen beneath the peaks of the Wetterhorn and Eiger. It is, without question, the most famous mountain village in the region and is therefore incredibly popular with visitors.
One key thing that draws visitors here is access to the Jungfraujoch, Eiger and surrounding glaciers. The glaciers actually used to come right down outside the village in the 1800s but today have receded into the distance. Eiger’s north wall is another draw for tourists with its black face that was unclimbable for years and stands over the town with a lot of power.
It is safe to say that Grindelwald is home to magical views of some of the most dramatic scenery in the Bernese Oberland.
It is home to ski resorts with many ski slopes in the winter, provides great access to hiking trails in the summer, and you have the chance to visit quite a few different glaciers too.
Due to Grindewald’s popularity, it is a busy town which is both good and bad depending on what you are looking for. It has lots of restaurants, and hotels, and generally has a more happening vibe. Great if that is what you are after but less so if you are looking for some peace in the Alpine surroundings.
What Are The Main Differences?
Now that we know a little bit more about both of the villages, what are the key differentiators when it comes to Grindelwald vs Lauterbrunnen?
Grindelwald is a much larger village than Lauterbrunnen and has more facilities such as shops, hotels, and restaurants. Whereas, Lauterbrunnen is small with much fewer options but is more authentic as an alpine village instead of as a tourist hub.
If you are looking for some luxury, you will find it in Grindelwald as it is home to both 5 and 4-star hotels. Lauterbrunnen’s most luxurious hotel on the other hand is only a 3-star hotel, which might not cut it for some people.
For anyone who loves some adrenaline, Grindelwald has a lot more activities up your street than Lauterbrunned does. You can go paragliding, zip lining, tobogganing, and lots more from Grindelwald.
Lauterbrunnen is more about sightseeing and hiking. It is not the land of adventure junkies, but more for long walks into the alps discovering stunning landscapes.
In terms of alpine features, Lauterbrunnen is all about waterfalls with 72 in the valley that you can hike to. Grindelwald on the other hand is more about glaciers and you can see the Eiger Glacier in just 20 minutes whereas it takes an hour from Lauterbrunnen.
Basically, Grindelwald is busier, has more going on, is tailored to adventure and adrenaline, and it is close to lots of glaciers. Lauterbrunnen is slower, and more authentic, with less happening in town but with amazing access to great hikes and is close to lots of waterfalls.
Cost of Travel
Traveling to Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald is incredibly easy – of course, it is, being Switzerland.
The journey time from Zurich to Lauterbrunnen is just 2.5 hours by train from Zurich’s Main Train Station, and it is only 2.75 hours from Zurich to Grindelwald on the train too – a negligible 15-minute difference.
Both of these train journeys cost a very similar amount. Zurich to Lauterbrunnen is CHF and Zurich to Grindelwald is CHF 33, so the price difference is negligible also.
The route the train follows is from Zurich to Bern, Bern to Interlaken, and then Interlaken to either Grindelwald or Lauterbrunnen. This means you can reach either Grindelwald or Lauterbrunnen in the same amount of time and for the same costs from Bern or Interlaken.
How Are The Transport Networks
Both Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald have excellent transport networks with both train and bus links to Interlaken as I mentioned above. Both of the villages also have cable cars to take you up into the mountains.
The main difference is that Grindelwald has the Eiger Express, an express service that speeds up your trip to the Jungfraujoch. From Lauterbrunnen, getting to the Jungfraujoch takes much longer and requires going via Grindelwald in some cases.
But, in Lauterbrunnen, you can hop on the cable car up to the little alpine village of Murren, a quick train ride to Wengen for a true authentic car-free experience. And, the waterfalls here are spectacular, including the Trummelbach falls which are inside the mountainside.
Grindelwald does not have such quick access to such things. Although you can always get to Lauterbrunnen from Grindelwald relatively easily.
Top Things to Do in Grindelwald
Go On A Cliff Walk At Grindelwald First
One hair-raising experience in Grindelwald is to ride the cable car up to First Mountain where you will find a cliff walk like no other.
There is a metal walkway and a swinging bridge sitting on the side of First Mountain which extends 45 meters over a ravine. The experience is like no other and the views from the viewing platform are mind-blowing.
Fly Like An Eagle On A Zip Line At First Glider
On the way to Grindelwald First, the cable car will stop at Schreckfeld Cable Car Station where you will find First Glider. This is a zip line where you ride down horizontally and do so with 3 other people in tandem.
You will literally soar down the mountain like an eagle would, getting a massive adrenaline rush and seeing the best views of the surrounding mountains at the same time.
Hike To Bachalpsee Lake
From Grindelwald First, you can hike to the stunning alpine lake of Bachalpsee. The route follows the ridge and is an easy one for most hikers. You will stroll through stunning meadows filled with wildflowers in the summer.
On arrival at Bachalpsee which is 2,265 meters above sea level, the crystal clear waters will blow your mind especially when you look up to see the snow-capped mountain peaks surrounding the lake. The stunning mountain views are truly quite mesmerizing!
On a clear day, you should be able to see the peaks of Schreckhorn, Wetterhorn, and Finsteraarhorn.
Hike The Eiger Trail
Seeing Eiger’s north face is one of the top things to do in Grindelwald and it is a stunning hike too.
First, take the Jungfrau railway to Eigergletscher where you will find the trailhead, and then follow the well-marked trail to Alpiglen Train Station. The hike is around 6 -7 km and should take about 2-3 hours.
Be sure to stop and have a look at the Eiger Glacier when you get off at the train station as it will be sitting right in front of you!
On the way, you will hike beneath the 1,600-meter-high wall of Eiger’s North Face and see some of the risk-averse climbers making their way up it. Along the way, you’ll have panoramic views of the entire area.
Fly Down The Mountain With First Flyer
First Flyer is another zip-line experience at Grindelwald First. You will sit in a chair and fly down the mountain on a zip line at serious speeds from Grindelwald First to Schreckfeld station.
The view on the way down is nothing short of spectacular and you will have a serious adrenaline rush as you’re doing it!
Top Things to Do in Lauterbrunnen
Hike To The Staubbach Waterfall
Sitting just outside of the village of Lauterbrunnen is the highest waterfall in Europe, the Staubbach Waterfall.
Hiking to it is very easy as it is very close to the end of town and the trail is very well-marked. You can hike under the falls and actually stand on a viewing gallery behind the waterfall which is pretty incredible. This viewing gallery is only open from June to October though.
Standing at the bottom of the Staubbach Waterfall is pretty amazing as it is incredibly powerful. You can even go and view them at night as they are lit up during the high season.
See The Subterranean Trummelbach Falls
Another of the most famous waterfalls in the Lauterbrunnen Valley is Trummelbach Falls. These falls are a series of ten glacial waterfalls that run inside a mountain, and you can actually hear the mountain grumbling with the sheer power of them.
You can hike to them from Lauterbrunnen Village in just 30 minutes and on arrival, walk your way through the cave network to the waterfall. There are platforms, walkways, and everything else you need to get up close to the waterfalls!
You will see 20,000 liters of water a second carve its way through the heart of the mountain. It is an easily accessible once-in-a-lifetime experience that you simply can not miss!
Take The Train Up To Wengen
Just up the hill from Lauterbrunnen is one of the two car-free villages nearby, Wengen. Wengen is an absolute delight to be in as it is a quintessential alpine town with stunning views over the valley.
You will have access to a lot of great hiking trails from Wengen in the summer and it has excellent ski slopes in the winter too.
Remember to stroll around the village, take in the traditional architecture, and why not stop for lunch at the à la carte restaurant?
Ride The Cable Cars Up To Schilthorn
Another spot for some of the best views in the area is the summit of Schilthorn at 2,970 meters above sea level. From the top, you can see more than 200 peaks extending into the distance, and on clear days see Mont Blanc and even the Black Forest In Germany.
To reach the summit you will need to hop on one cable car to the next or get a train and then a cable car. The ride brings you right up close to some of the waterfalls and cliff faces, making the journey an experience of its own.
Once at the summit you will see the entire Jungfrau area. The view is simply breathtaking and on a clear day just goes on and on!
Explore Jungfraujoch (From Both Places)
One thing you have to do while in Lauterbrunnen or Grindelwald is take the train up to Jungfraujoch, a mountain pass connecting the peaks of Jungfrau and Monch.
From Grindelwald, you have the fastest route up via the new Eiger Express. It connects to the same train in the end but is a faster start to the journey.
Take the train from Lauterbrunnen via Wengen to Kleine Scheidegg. This is when you will get on the Jungfraubahn cogwheel train to the “Top Of Europe” Jungfraujoch, at 3,464 meters above sea level.
The train ride is about as amazing as a train ride gets with sweeping views of the alps before you arrive at the highest train station on the continent.
You will see the Aletsch Glacier, and the peaks of Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau. Once at the top, head to the Sphinx Observatory for the best views, have fun in the Snow Park, walk through the Ice Cave, and generally enjoy the amazing alpine scenery surrounding you!
Grindelwald Vs Lauterbrunnen: Final Thoughts
Choosing between Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen is not so easy, as you can probably see having read through the above, but there are some key differentiators that make the decision a little easier.
Both towns are stunning and offer incredible alpine experiences, but it comes down to the type of experience you are looking for. If you want to be in a busy town with lots going on and access to serious adrenaline-fuelled adventures, then Grindelwald will suit you better.
If you are looking for a quiet, peaceful, more traditional alpine experience then Lauterbrunnen is the village you should go for.
Considering it takes just over 30 minutes to travel from Lauterbrunnen to Grindelwald via public transport, you can easily hop between the villages. This means all the great things to do in each town are accessible no matter which one you stay in.
At the end of the day, the decision is all about the surroundings you want to be staying in, peaceful and quiet, or busy and happening.
Can I do Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald in one day?
You can visit both Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald in one day if you do not plan on doing many other side trips. Visiting the Jungfraujoch or Schilthorn or other mountains can take many hours so it often makes more sense to do those kinds of trips on a separate day.