THE SHORT: Skip Interlaken. Pick Murren. Schilthorn. Grindlewald, First Clif Walk, Playgrounds.
THE LONG: If there is only one thing you take away from all of what I have to say about Switzerland, it should be GO SEE THE ALPS! It is hard to put into words how beautiful and majectic they are. In hindsight I would have been completely content spending our entire week in Switzerland, just hanging out amidst the white snow-capped mountains, and the cow-studded rolling green hills.
The Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland is home to the Swiss Alps. While reading about it in The Lonely Planet: Switzerland guide book I came across the sentence, nature works on an epic scale here, and I didn’t quite get it until I was standing in the middle of it all. The openness, the tallness, the greenness, the calmness, and the goodness of what is in front of you is truly hard to capture in words or in pictures.
And it isn’t just nature that is awe inspiring here. The network of man-made trains, buses, cable-cars, and gandolas, make it so easy to experience the landscape. Oh and the mountian-top playgrounds! Where do I even begin?
Our base for exploring the Bernese Oberland was Interlaken. Located between Lake Thune and Lake Brienz, it is centrally connected to all the little alpine villages and mountain top excursions. From Lucerne, we took the regional trains to Interlaken and checked into Hotel Blume for two nights.
But what makes Interlaken so central also makes it immensely touristy, boring, and overall a big downer, in my opinion (apologies to anyone I might offend). There was absolutely nothing that delighted us about Interlaken. The only playground in town was closed for construction, leaving the main touristy drag which seems a little run-down and full of shopping which isn’t something we cared for.
Interlaken goes down as a mistake. I am surprised that nothing I read while planning this trip alerted me to this fact. It comes recommended in fact. But listen to me folks, skip Interlaken, and instead choose your lodging as far up on the mountains as you can. Murren would have been a 100% better choice for us.
At the foot of the Schilthorn Peak, Murren is only accessible by cable cars. It is beautiful and it also felt quintessentially Swiss. While having lunch at Cafe LIV, our children easily found other local children to play with. Lack of traffic made it easy to just let the kids run around on the street as they pleased.
They’d bounce back and forth between the playground, the cows, and the friends. I wish this could have been our life for the whole two days. We took two more cable cars from Murren to get to the Schilthorn (elevation 9,740 feet). It is an expensive excursion but one worth making.
Thankfully, the trip came included with our Swiss Travel Pass so we knew we shouldn’t miss it. There is a revolving restaurant up top with 360 degree views which was featured in the 1969 James Bond movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
The movie was on constant play and a dirty martini was in easy reach. Quite fabulous to have at this elevation I’d say. It is a bit touristy and busy, but we still were able to take in all the views. It was the only place during our entire trip where the kids could actually touch the snow.
We also spent one of our days exploring the alpine town of Grindelwald and visiting the First Clif Walk at Grindelwald First.
[Side note: Grindelwald also came recommended as a place to spend the night. The town itself is nice. Definitely a better choice than Interlaken. It has a nice playground right as you exit the train station and plenty of restaurants, cafes, and shops. But I still think it is too touristy. Pick Murren or Wengen to spend the night].
I took about a billion pictures here. The restaurant-bar at Grindelwald First is first class! We had a fantastic meal with fantastic views (with fantastic prices too I should add)! We immediately found a giant table and loved every minute that we spent here. After finishing our meal, we walked to the very tip of the cliff walk and took the mandatory picture to say we were there!
The area around here is filled with easy hikes. The one I wish we had done but couldn’t because the kids weren’t on board was to Lake Bachalpsee. It is also possible to skip the gondolas all together on the way back and just hike down (or skip them both ways and save some money if you have the time).
But we had children who had their mind set on playing at the Alpine playground called Alpenspielplatz which we could see while in our gandola going up. We took the gandola back down and spent an hour taking in the scenery and watching kids play at one of the coolest playgrounds.
Our time in the Bernese Oberland was way way way too short. Not staying in one of the alpine villages also meant we spent more time commuting to our hotel instead of hiking and taking it easy. But then again, I am pretty sure that even spending a week here would make me feel like I didn’t get my fill.
Next up, is Montreux and Basel, wher we spent the second half of our trip. I can’t wait to tell you about them. In the meantime, if you haven’t already, you can read about our first 24-hours in Switzerland which were spent in the beautiful town of Lucerne. Thanks so much for reading along. I’ll be back soon!