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Bernese Oberland

The region just south of Bern (the "Highlands of Bern), also called the "Jungfrau region" (after its largest peak) is beautiful Alpine country, with the peaks of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau (the "ogre", "monk" and "young woman") towering over the region.  Great skiing in the winter, and hiking in the summer. Watch a Rick Steves episode to get a feel for this area. Go in the winter (~December to ~March) or summer (~June to ~September), since many places are closed in the early spring/late fall.

Hiking

  • ##Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg ("Panorama Trail") - ~1-2 hours long, mostly downhill through alpine meadows with gorgeous mountain views, info here, here, and PDF (in German); also see this blog post; Rick Steves's "favorite easy alpine hike"
    • get to Männlichen via gondola from Grindelwald/Grund or from Wengen
    • short ~20 min detour up to Männlichen Gipfel (the "Royal Walk") is a gorgeous lookout...in some ways better than the Panorama Trail itself (since you can see both valleys)
    • getting back to Wengen: take a train or hike downhill via Wengernalp (~30-45 min) and on to Wengen (another ~15 min)
    • getting back to Grindelwald: also a train, or hike via Mettla to Alpiglen (~1 hour 20 min)
    • From Männlichen you can also head up the Jungfraubahn to the top of the Jungfrau
    • Männlichen has Berggasthaus Männlichen
    • near Kleine Scheidegg is Restaurant Grindelwaldblick, which Rick Steves says is "the best lunch stop"
    • Kleine Scheidegg has Restaurant Bahnhof Kleine Scheidegg
  • Grütschalp to/from Mürren ("Mountain View Trail") - easy, mostly flat (it's slightly uphill to Mürren), ~1.5 hour hike, ~4.5 km, passes Winteregg (which has a cheese dairy and restaurant) along the way (you can also take the train there/back in either direction), with great views of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau mountains
    • Get to Grütschalp via a cable car from Lauterbrunnen
    • An alternative is to start from Allmendhubel hill, above Mürren (has a children's Adventure Trail), and hike through Dorenhubel to Grütschalp (also ~1.5 hours)...if starting in Mürren you can hike to Allmendhubel (~1.5 hours, along the "Blumental Panorama Trail") or take a funicular (the Allmendhubelbahn) there; you can also take the "North Face" trail from Allmendhubel to Gimmelwald (~2 hours downhill)
    • Others recommend the "secret hiking tip" of the Saustal (Saus Valley) area off of Gruutschalp, this page has a description; the full Isenfluh hike is 1.5-2 hours
  • Lauterbrunnen Valley ("Valley of the 72 Waterfalls") - going from Lauterbrunnen town to Stechelberg is about 6-7 km and takes less than 2 hours (mostly flat); along the way you see Staubbach Falls, Trümmelbach Falls (~45 minute detour to get to the upper area), etc...Rick Steves rec's this as a good hike even if it's raining. Description from mom with toddlers.
  • Wengwald - nice views of the valley from this place, downhill from Wengen and along the train line between Lauterbrunnen and Wengen (and beyond to Wengneralp and Kleine Scheidegg); it's a relatively short hike from Wengen, a slightly longer one from Lauterbrunnen...also check out the nearby Mönchblick viewpoint (45 min - 1 hour walk from Wengen to Mönchblick)
  • Schynige Platte to First - a long (~5-6 hours), all-day hike but one of the most recommended day hikes in the area by various guidebooks; you could also do a ~3 hour loop from Schynige Platte (see this website for an example)
    • Shorter portion of this is the Panoramaweg (~3 hours) from Schynige Platte to Daub Peak
    • Schynige Platte also has the Alpine Flower Park
  • Sefinental (Gimmelwald to Kilchbalm) - the Sefinen Valley is an easy (~2 hours), ~flat hike rec'd by Rick Steves for "a good rainy-weather hike" to glacier fields; avoid Friday or Saturday evenings, when the firing range is loud

Lauterbrunnen Valley

Lauterbrunnen

Town in the middle of the valley, popular with BASE jumpers. Nice, flat hikes to waterfalls, and transport connections to the various towns on either side of the valley (Gimmelwald, Mürren, Wengen, etc.). Cars are allowed in town, but they do a good job of keeping the town pedestrian-friendly. Connected by train to Interlaken.

Places to Stay

  • Steinbock Hotel - Rough Guides says “cozy, uncomplicated rooms and cooking to match”
  • Hotel Silberhorn - highly rec’d Rough Guides for “pristinely quiet rooms”, also rec’d Rick Steves
  • Hotel Stabbauch - rec’d Rick Steves (oldest in valley, “casual feel of a national park lodge”, family-friendly)
  • Chalet Rosa - simple but nice
  • Horner Hotel - Rough Guides says “jovial, backpacker-ish”, popular with the BASE jumping crowd
  • SB Valley Hostel - hostel rec'd by Rick Steves
  • Chalet im Rohr - no private baths but cheap, rec'd by Rick Steves as “creaky, old, woody firetrap of a place”
  • ...also various apartments on Airbnb, Booking.com, etc.

Places to Eat

  • Hotel Silberhorn - probably the nicest place in town for food; Rick Steves calls it a “fancy night out” restaurant
  • Oberland: Swiss + international food, rec’d Rough Guides/Rick Steves, #1 on TripAdvisor, Röstli is supposed to be good
  • Airtime - #1 dessert on Tripadvisor, rec’d Rick Steves (also for laundry, etc. and simple lunches) → known for brownies, also good mochas
  • (Pub) Horner Hotel - pizza/pasta meals, rec’d Rough Guides, where BASE jumpers hang out
  • Hotel Schützen - “more upmarket”, inventive Swiss/Italian, rec’d Rough Guides
  • Swiss Restaurant Weidstuebli - #2 restaurant on TripAdvisor
  • Basepoint - #3 on TripAdvisor
  • Flavours - #4 on TripAdvisor → american-ish, looks fresh/Californian
  • Hotel Restaurant Jungfrau - rec’d Rick Steves, nice view
  • ...also there's a Coop supermarket for groceries

Gimmelwald

Rick Steve's favorite town (not to be confused with Grindelwald, see below), only ~100 permanent residents, car-free, perched on a cliff on the West side of the Lauterbrunnen Valley, on the Schilthornbahn cable car line (see this article for an intro; this blog post has more photos/details)
  • Erika's Cheese Hut - sells cheese plus some meat, eggs, etc.
  • Olle & Maria's Lilliput Shop
  • Mountain Hostel Restaurant - rec'd Rick Steves for "fun, mountain-high energy and a youthful spirit"
  • Pension Gimmelwald Restaurant - rec'd Rick Steves for local produce and "jaw-droppping-view terrace", mellow atmosphere

Mürren

Larger town up the hill from Gimmelwald, but also nice (and car-free)...the cable car goes all the way to the Schilthorn summit, with the rotating Piz Gloria restaurant (the setting for a Bond film). The Sportzentrum (sports center, 2016 baths open 1-8 PM, last entry at 6:45 PM) has an indoor pool (with a jacuzzi and kid pool) that is free if you're staying at a local hotel. Check out hikes (including to Allmendhubel) above.

Places to Stay

  • Hotel Bellevue - highly rec'd by Fodors (they say to get a room with a balcony), also Rick Steves, looks charming/cute...also has self-service laundry in basement (need not be a guest)
  • Hotel Regina - rough guide rec’s, nice old building, some rooms have shared bathrooms
  • Blumental Hotel - cute/homey with lots of flowers in the summer, mountain views, also rec'd Rick Steves
  • Hotel Alpenruh - Rough Guide says "simply one of the most appealing little hotels in the whole region — cosy, attractive, friendly and with dreamy views", right on the cable car line (which can obscure the view but makes it very easy to go up to Schilthorn)
  • Hotel Eiger - probably the nicest hotel in town (has its own indoor swimming pool, sauna, etc.), rec'd by Fodors and Rick Steves, closed early Oct to mid-December
  • Suppenalp - rec’d Rough Guide, above town in Blumental, rooms have shared bathrooms
  • Eiger Guesthouse - cheaper but with shared bathrooms
  • Hotel Edelweiss - Rick Steves rec's for cliffside views
  • Hotel Jungfrau - rec'd Rick Steves

Places to Eat

  • ***Suppenalp -  closed Mon/Tues, rustic restaurant associated with hotel in the Blumental above the town (see above); we ate here in 2016 and liked the Rösti, alpine cheese, and "Geissenpeter" ("Goat-Peter", a character from the Heidi books) salad with goat cheese
  • ***Jägerstübli & Indoor Restaurant at Hotel Bellevue - nice restaurant with gorgeous terrace when the weather is nice; has a special "game/venison menu" for dinner; we ate here in 2016 and liked the meats, but their röstli and spätzle were both a bit dry, Rick Steves rec's
  • ***Hotel Alpenruh - Rough Guide says best eating is here; we ate here in 2016 and they definitely have the most "gourmet" dishes in town, including interesting stuff like lime-flavored risotto; not many gluten-free options
  • ?Stägerstubli - traditional swiss restaurant rec'd Wikitravel, Rick Steves says it's "everyone's favorite Mürren diner" and "where old-timers nurse a drink and gossip"...interesting 
  • Restaurant Sonnenberg - closed Wed, traditional Swiss, in the Blumental
  • Hotel Edelweiss - Rick Steves rec's their restaurant/cafeteria with "cliff-hanging" views
  • Hotel Blumental - rec'd Rick Steves for "elegant, romantic setting"
  • Coop Grocery Store - also has ATM, closed Sun except winter high season
    • October: M-F 8-12/1:45-6:30, Sat 8-12/1:45-5

Wengen

Car-free town on the East side of the Lauterbrunnen Valley, a bit larger than Mürrren; has some of the fanciest restaurants in the area.

Places to Stay

  • Hotel Schönegg - very nice, rec'd Rick Steves
  • Hotel Alpenrose - slightly cheaper than Schönegg
  • Hotel Falken - rec'd Rick Steves
  • Hotel Berghaus - rec'd Rick Steves
  • Hotel Bären - rec'd Rick Steves, relatively inexpensive (and half-board option can be a good deal), cute with flowers
  • Hotel Regina - opulent old-school place
  • Hotel Belvédère - rec'd Rough Guide

Places to Eat

Jungfraujoch

The "Top of Europe", the highest railway station in Europe; take the Jungfraubahn (the highest train station in Europe) there from either the Lauterbrunnen or Grindelwald valley; be forewarned that it's very high altitude (acclimate yourself before going up, don't exert yourself too heavily, and drink lots of water). The views of the Alps and the Aletsch Glacier are priceless (a good thing since the round-trip train ticket to the top costs at least 170 CHF, or $175, as of 2016!). Also at the top of the Jungfrau (and included in train travel ticket price) is an Ice Castle built into the glacier and an observatory. You can get somewhat cheaper ticket prices if you have a travel pass (Swiss half-fare card, Jungfrau region travel card, etc.) or if you go on the first, "Good Morning" train). There's an "ice palace" and an observatory from the "Sphinx" summit.

Schilthorn

The other, somewhat less-expensive, less-high, but also beautiful peak in the region (this is on the western, Mürren side of the valley, so it has a view of the Jungfrau/Mönch/Eiger mountains to the east). You can take the gondola all the way up/down, and if the weather permits you can also hike portions of it.

Interlaken

Interlaken ("between lakes") is so named, as it is situated on a strip of land between the glaciated lakes Thunersee & Brienzersee. It's a transport hub that you'll at least pass through on your way to other destinations. The largest town in the region, it has lots of bars, restaurants, shopping, and hotels...but is also very touristy, which is why native Swiss folks tend to skip Interlaken, heading instead for the smaller towns in/above the Lauterbrunnen Valley. That being said, if you want the comforts of a larger town and lots of options for lodging/dining, Interlaken could be for you...it's popular both in winter (for skiing and other winter sports) and summer (with adventure sports like paragliding, parachuting, kayaking and hiking)
  • Metropole Hotel - Rick Steves calls it "the concrete shame of Interlaken" but you can take an elevator to a nice view from the top, has restaurant also rec'd by Steves
  • Höhematte Park - "high meadow" park is between the West and East train stations
  • Lake Brienz or Lake Thun cruise - you can take cruises from here; some are free with a Swiss rail pass

Wilderswil

Town just outside of Interlaken, connects to Schynige Platte (see hiking, above) and the Lauterbrunnen valley.

Grindelwald

Popular resort town, which has easy connections to skiing/hiking in Kleine Scheidegg. The Grindelwald valley is nice, but most people prefer the Lauterbrunnen valley (fewer cars, more scenic)...but if you want a wider range of accommodations and/or are arriving by car, Grindelwald could be for you.
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