Hi Frugalistas! I’m definitely not an adventure traveller. This can be a problem when you visit a place like Interlaken, Switzerland, where so many Switzerland things to do seem to involve heights or adventure. So what to do in Interlaken? I found Interlaken things to do that keep you on the ground and that are perfect if you are traveling in Switzerland by train.
Interlaken things to do: Interlaken city tour walk
Most people who visit Interlaken use it as a staging post to take day trips from Interlaken, or to hike. Interlaken also prides itself on its adventure tourism activities. But it’s fair to say there are not a huge number of Interlaken attractions. However, I found places to visit in Interlaken just by walking off the main street. Based on my wandering, and the lack of fellow visitors I suspect most people don’t realise that this is one of the best things to do in Interlaken. While the most popular Interlaken tourist attractions and top things to do in Interlaken Switzerland are the lakes from which Interlaken gets its name and the Harderkulm outlook, I decided to pass on both. The weather and visibility in the town was not great when I visited, and I knew I would be taking the train around the lakes the following day when I headed to Montreux.
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My Interlaken sightseeing tour began by walking down Höheweg the main street in Interlaken, which forms the spine of my walk. I didn’t really have a plan of what to see in Interlaken, but I did what I normally do – I kept my eyes peeled as I crossed side streets for anything that caught my eye. That took me down a quiet residential street on the southern side of the town where pretty houses and beautiful gardens had caught my eye. There I was entranced by garden of peonies the size of an entrée (appetizer) plate. The pink beauties near the fence were particularly lovely.
When one thinks of places to see, it’s rare to include local council buildings. But one of the most interesting places to see in Interlaken is the collection of local canton (council/municipal) buildings hiding in behind the Japanese garden on Höheweg. As well as two churches – the newest of which had stained glass windows creating the most stunning reflections on the walls, there were a group of canton buildings. The main, largest one, had a sign dating it to the eighteenth century, but as I walked out the back, what I didn’t expect to see were courtyards of other, much older looking. What I definitely didn’t expect on my list of things to see in Interlaken was the gnarly apple tree. In its own garden, it also had a sign, saying it was the oldest apple tree in Switzerland – having been planted in the 1870s.
Beyond the canton buildings were more houses – also with delightful gardens, including a wisteria in flower.
Höheweg is a good place to shop for warm outdoor clothes, with plenty of outdoor gear shops. There is also a large Coop supermarket with a range of prepared meals and grocery items. If your shopping needs are more in the luxury end of the market, there are also a range of watch shops to tempt. The other thing of note on Höheweg are the lovely nineteenth century classic hotels.
On the other side of Höheweg a walk to the river reveals a number of charming art nouveau style buildings – many with what appeared to be heritage listings. Along the river itself are some lovely mountain views, birds and pretty public gardens.
Interlaken Tours: Visit Lauterbrunnen from Interlaken
While there are plenty of Interlaken activities, and I was only staying overnight, I had planned to visit Lauterbrunnen from Interlaken. What I hadn’t planned to do was visit Mürren from Lauterbrunnen. I had booked a day pass train ticket from Zurich to travel to Interlaken. On the train from Lucerne to Interlaken (there was a change of train in Lucerne), the conductor asked me where I was going. I said my plan was to drop my bag at my hotel in Interlaken, then spend the afternoon in Lauterbrunnen. “Oh” she replied, “that sounds lovely. You can also go as far as Mürren on this ticket.” So Mürren was added to my Interlaken places to visit.
Trains from Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen are frequent and take 30 to 40 minutes. If you are driving you may struggle to find parking in Lauterbrunnen, as it seems to be limited. Visiting in late April there was parking available, although a friend of mine visited with a car in December and was not so fortunate.
When you arrive at the Lauterbrunnen station there is ample, easy signage directing you to the cable car for Mürren. Make sure you have a ticket that will take you all the way to Mürren as tickets will be checked by the driver/conductor before you board the cable car. It is worth trying to get a position at the rear of the car (the front when going back to Lauterbrunnen) where the panoramic windows show off the most wonderful views of Lauterbrunnen and the surrounding valley.
The cable car will take you from the Lauterbrunnen railway station to the little station up the mountain, where another, very quirky little train will take you to Mürren. The cable car and little train seem to be well coordinated, but it is worth checking the time of train departures when you leave the station in Mürren.
Where to stay in Interlaken: Hotels in Interlaken Switzerland
A range of hotels makes where to stay in Interlaken a difficult choice. I stayed at the Hotel Krebs just a few minutes easy walk from the Interlaken Ost station. (Interlaken Ost is the second railway station in Interlaken and is about 20 minutes walk from the main Interlaken train station. Most trains stop at both).
Many hotels in Interlaken were built at the time when visitors to Interlaken came to look at the mountains, rather than travel into them. This means there are fine 19th century hotels as well as more modern option to choose from. Choose your Interlaken hotel by searching on the map below:
The hotel Krebs was an older, traditional style hotel from the outside, but my room was very modern. Staff were friendly and smiling, and the breakfast was generous and very good.
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Plan Your Trip to Interlaken & Switzerland
The Rick Steves Switzerland guidebook features Interlaken and the surrounding Berner Oberland area in some detail:Buy on Amazon now
If you are planning on driving in Switzerland you can check out rental cars in Switzerland here >>