Have you seen/read The Lord of the Rings? Apparently JRR Tolkien based the idyllic Elven haven of Rivendell on this region of Switzerland! The Bernese Oberland is the region just south of Bern (the "Highlands of Bern), also called the "Jungfrau region" (after its largest peak) 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.
***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)
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 Hikes
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
Panorama Hike (Panoramaweg) (~3 hours) from Schynige Platte to Daube Peak and Oberberghorn; Mom Tots Zurich has a great description/map, good photos here...this is a loop trail from Schynige Platte, but you can also continue all the way to First from Oberberghorn
Schynige Platte also has the Alpine Flower Park
We didn't do the full hike to First, but Schynige Platte has some of the most beautiful views in the area, with some gorgeous trails leading in all directions
Getting there: Wilderswil has a historic railway that runs old-school trains with gorgeous views all the way up to Schynige Platte (~1 hour trip, runs every ~40 min)
check out Wilderswil section, below, for places to eat on the way to/from the hike
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
Town in the middle of the valley, popular with BASE jumpers. Nice, flat hikes to waterfalls (including the iconic Staubbach Falls overlooking the town and Trümmelbach Falls which are inside a cliff!), 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 --> we ate here in 2016 and it was nice, but nothing to write home about
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
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
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) --> we stayed here in 2016, it was nice
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
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. Also pretty good Coop supermarket near the train station.
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
***Hotel Schönegg - both Restaurant 1903 (dinner only) and more casual Stübli, rec'd by Michelin and Lonely Planet, #3 restaurant on TripAdvisor, even the Stübli is a bit upscale/fancy but really good food
Hotel Regina restaurants:
***Bergrestaurant Allmend - just above town on the Allmend stop of the Lauterbrunnen-Wengen-Kleine Scheidegg train line, or a ~30 minute walk outside central Wengen; has a very nice terrace with pretty good food (roesti, etc.)
?Hotel Berghaus - very good TripAdvisor ratings
Restaurant Silberhorn-Stube at Hotel Silberhorn - #5 restaurant on TripAdvisor, p
Hotel Jungfrau - rec'd Michelin
Bergrestaurant Allmend - up the hill near the Allmend train station, #2 restaurant on TripAdvisor
Waldhuettli - "forest hut" 20 minutes out of town where you can have fondue or raclette, very good TripAdvisor ratings
Café Gruebi - relatively inexpensive, closes at 6 PM (mostly lunch), rec'd Lonely Planet
Coop Gorcery Store - Zentrum Silberhorn
October: M-F 8-6:30, Sat 8-5, closed Sun
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.
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 ("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
Town just outside of Interlaken, connects to Schynige Platte (see hiking, above) and the Lauterbrunnen valley.
really kid-friendly (they had some nice toys for our son to play with), nice food, etc.
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.