If you want to experience the heart of what Switzerland has to offer in terms of magnificent scenery, Interlaken is an excellent place to begin your journey with. Nestled neatly between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz in the Bernese Highlands, this spectacular town is surrounded by spectacular views wherever you look. 

To make it an all-around perfect destination, Interlaken is a haven for explorers, history buffs, and adventure seekers alike. From thrilling train rides and paragliding to adventurous trips to the waterfalls and the different hiking trails, there is no shortage of things you can do here. 

Whether you are visiting Switzerland for the first time or the 10th, including Interlaken in your travel plans can do you no wrong. 

In this comprehensive guide to Interlaken, you will find the 13 best tourist attractions in this beautiful city to help you get the most out of your visit.

About Interlaken

With a central location in Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland, Interlaken is one of the oldest and best-known cities in the country, with tourists as well as Swiss locals flocking to the area.

It is located in the alluvial land of Bödeli between the lakes of Thun and Brienz, and alongside the Aare River that flows between them. In fact, the term “Interlaken” translates to “between lakes.” 

With plenty of mountain excursions at its core, Interlaken is home to the famous mountains of Jungfrau, Mönch, and Eiger. But the beautiful scenery is just one of the numerous amazing aspects of this great city. 

Blooming with an endless variety of outdoor activities, such as hiking, swimming, canyoning, and most recently the expressway, Interlaken is one of those cities where you will always have something to do whether it’s day or night.

While the town itself is located in the plains, Interlaken is encompassed by the Bernese Alps from where you can easily view the famous Jungfrau peaks. 

Probably one of the best reasons why Interlaken serves as a great base for tourists to start with is due to its location. It is ideal for people who want to explore as much as they can without traveling long distances. Unlike many villages situated in or around mountains, Interlaken is not isolated. 

It has two main railway stations that cover a large region. You would have absolutely no difficulty reaching all the stunning neighboring locations. In fact, if you make it a day trip, you will be able to travel to fairly far-off locations  and come back in time as well. 

You might think that a town as nature-bound as Interlaken won’t provide the buzz of city life. However, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Interlaken is, in fact, a lively town with a wide array of shops, restaurants, and hotels containing world-class facilities. One would be remiss if they didn’t make the most out of this great city!

Things to do in Interlaken: Attractions and Activities

1. Harder Kulm

Situated at an elevation of 1,322 meters, Harder Kulm is basically Interlakens “Home Mountain”. Standing above it, you will be able to experience the spell-binding views of the Bernese Alps, such as Jungfrau and Eiger, and the two surrounding lakes. 

Once at the top, you will also see an Art Nouveau-style building which is the Harder Kulm Panorama Restaurant as it provides panoramic views of the surrounding areas. In addition, there is also a children’s playground, the Two Lakes Bridge, and several walking trails. 

How to Get to the Top

The mountain is easily accessible with a funicular that is located a short 5-minute walk from the Interlaken Ost Station. It will only take you mere 10 minutes to go from the plains to the summit via the funicular. In that short span, you will be able to climb more than 700 meters, allowing you to experience the stunning views before your eyes.

If you are the hiking type, it would take you no more than 2 hours to reach the heights of Harder Kulm. You can also opt to go up through a cable car during the summers, allowing you to take in the stunning sunset if you time it just right.

Returning Downwards

You can return from the Harder Kulm mountain via the Hardermannli lookout pavilion and the Hohbühl pavilion. Ensure to give the Harder Alpine Wildlife Park a quick visit to see the marmots and ibexes, with the latter being a beautiful mountain animal that was successfully reintroduced after extinction in this wildlife park.

2. Discover Interlaken and the Höhenmatte

Located centrally in Interlaken, Höhenmatte is a lush green park that offers impressive views to the Jungfraujoch while you stroll along it. It provides you with the perfect canvas to sit and have a relaxing day with your near and dear ones. 

Höhenmate serves as a connection between the Interlaken West and Interlaken East – both railway stations that afford you splendid scenery of the Jungfrau mountain decorated with quaint hotels and flowerbeds along its curves.

You will also find the Kursaal along Hohenmatte, which is a theater and a café accompanied by beautiful gardens. 

Furthermore, there are various hotels here, including the vintage Victoria Jungfrau Hotel that dates back 150 years and serves as a popular Swiss landmark. 

Along with the views, you can also fulfill your touristy desires to the fullest at Interlaken by getting your hands on Swiss souvenirs, chocolates, and much more in one of the many shops that the town features.  

Höhenmatte is also where you can enjoy one of the most popular adventures of Interlaken: paragliding. If, however, you appreciate the serene things in life, a horse-drawn carriage can take you along the streets of the park. 

If you visit during the winters, you will find an ice-skating rink called here “Ice Magic” that is ideal for both novice and expert skaters alike.

3. Heimwehfluh, Toboggan Run and the Rope Park

Another prominent attraction in Interlaken, that you should ensure not to miss, is the Heimwehfluh. 

Similar to Harder Kulm, Heimwehfluh can also be accessed via either a cable car or a funicular. The Heimwehfluh funicular has a significant history attached to it, with the railway car functioning since 1906. 

Only taking about 4 minutes to reach about 662 meters high, the funicular affords you plenty of entertainment once you reach the top. To accompany the great views, you can have great food at the panoramic restaurant above. There is also a children’s playground, and a toboggan run. 

While there, don’t forget to visit the High Ropes Adventure Park. With wooden bridges, ziplines, and Tarzan swings, this park is a must-visit for adults and children alike. The best part is, you won’t have to worry about the safety of you and your loved ones as ample care is taken by the staff to ensure nothing goes wrong. All you have to do is loosen up and let the fun begin!

4. Visit Unterseen

When you’re done with the exhilarating activities of the mountains, you can unwind by seeking out a much more relaxing experience in the medieval town of Unterseen.

Situated across the Aare River, Unterseen is a suburb of Interlaken. The quiet town consists of an old marketplace – known as Marktbrunnen – where you will find the rustic church building dating back to the 13th century in addition to the Stadthaus. 

If you are a history buff, there is also a museum that you can pay a visit to that outlines the growth of Interlaken throughout the centuries. While taking a stroll, grab a bite at any one of the local bakeries or enjoy traditional Swiss dishes at any one of the quaint restaurants in Stadthauspatz. 

One of the significances of Unterseen is its charming wooden chalets that seem pleasantly out of place in a busy tourist place like the Interlaken. Surrounded by lush green gardens, you may even find farm animals having a grave on the lawns around these chalets. 

5. Fall in love with Lake Thun

One of the best things to do in Interlaken is to visit the mesmerizing lakes it is surrounded by, one of which is Lake Thun. Having one look at this lake, you will likely be left speechless by its stunning beauty and impressive color. 

At Lake Thun, you can engage in water activities, go on a boat cruise, or simply take a stroll along the beautiful lake. Our suggestion is to explore the lake by taking a cruise boat or opt for the historic paddle steamer if you like.

The east shore of Lake Thun gives you a chance to get away from central tourist spots and enjoy some quiet time to yourself. You won’t find many people visiting this side of the lake, allowing you to take a walk along the wooden walkway and admire the nature around you. 

At the west shore, you can stop in Thun and take a look at the lakeside castle. Built in 1191, this castle now houses a historical museum.

While here, don’t forget to visit one of the top attractions – the Weissenau Nature Reserve, which provides views of the Mönch, Jungfrau, and Eiger.

6. Discover the St. Beatus Cave and Waterfalls

Somewhat elevated above Lake Thun are the St. Beatus caves, which are just waiting to be discovered. A network of more than a kilometer of footpaths winds through various caverns and provides a view of underground streams, stalagmites and stalactites. Legend has it that a dragon lived there and was slain by the nearby monk Beatus. 

You can reach the caves by bus from Interlaken or by boat. From the lake it is a steep walk to the caves, but you can always enjoy beautiful views. From the bus station you can reach them in 10 minutes on foot. 

7. See Lake Brienz, Iseltwald and the Giessbach Falls

With its unique turquoise colored water (because it is fed mainly by sediment-laden glacier water), Lake Brienz is a feast for the eyes, especially on sunny days. The best thing to do is to make a short round trip on one of the many different course boats. The most impressive is probably the restored steamship “lötschberg”. With this, you can visit the small lakeside village of Iseltwald in style and enjoy freshly caught fish against an impressive backdrop.

Then hike along the lakeshore through fairytale forests towards the Giessbach Falls. If you have eaten a little too much, you can of course hop on a boat again and travel to the landing stage “Giessbach See” and from there reach the Giessbach Falls on foot or by funicular. The waterfalls can be explored on various hiking trails and bridges, one trail even leads behind the Giessbach Falls. Once you have discovered everything, it is best to end the day on the terrace of the impressive Historic Grandhotel Giessbach. From there you have a magnificent view of the waterfalls, Lake Brienz and in summer you can enjoy the sunset with a cool drink. 

8. Enjoy the outdoors sports capital of Europe, Interlaken

Interlaken is considered by many to be the outdoor sports capital of Europe– and rightfully so! Here are some of the best things you can do here:

Paragliding

Interlaken is arguably the best destination to go paragliding, especially if you are a beginner. While doing so, you would be able to enjoy the amazing mountain views from the sky, giving you a sensation that is hard to beat.

Skydiving

You can also skydive at Interlaken. Given the spectacular views the town affords you, it only makes sense to skydive here. You can either jump from a plane or a helicopter – whatever tickles your fancy.

Kayaking 

Adding to the long list of outdoor sports in Interlaken, you can also test yourself against the rapids, thanks to the many lakes and rivers here. 

You will have an experienced instructor to guide you along the thrilling ride. However, that does not take away from the exhilarating experience of riding the currents.

Canyoning 

If you like more of a challenge, canyoning might be the ideal activity for you! You would be hard-pressed to find an activity that is as exciting as sliding down the impressive waterfalls of Switzerland and plunging into the icy pools. 

Boat Riding

Interlaken is a water-loving individual’s dream. Another great outdoors water activity here is the action-packed jet boat ride. Cruising across Lake Brienz, these boat rides last anywhere from 35 to 75 minutes.

Rest assured, your heart would be racing as you make your way across the highs and lows of the blue water before you. 

Rope Swinging

In Switzerland, you can experience new heights of beauty – both literally and metaphorically. To satisfy the adrenaline junkie in you, we suggest going to the Grindelwald Canyon Swing ­– considered by many as the world’s scariest swing.

You will start off with a platform that is 90 meters high, swinging towards a glacial river below with only a rope attached to you. The best (for some, the worst) part? You will be traveling at a speed of about 120 kilometers per hour, giving you an adrenaline rush like never before!

9. Explore the Lauterbrunnen Valley

The Lauterbrunnen valley floor only stands at about 800 meters with 4,158 meters of Jungfrau stretching directly above it. This staggering 3358 meter (11’000 feet) difference and the huge rock walls that rise up hundreds of meters and surround the valley, both contribute to the impressive scenery and make it one of the most beautiful valleys in Switzerland. Some even call it the small Yosemite Valley of Switzerland.

The Lauterbrunnen valley features over 72 waterfalls, for which it is famous, a place you have to see to believe it.

Mountain Excursions near Interlaken

Probably the only downside that comes with visiting Interlaken is deciding which beautiful mountain to visit first. Every mountain is unique in its own right and brings with it something special. 

To make it a little easier for yourself, read on below to get a brief summary of the most popular mountain excursions of the region.

10. Reach the Top of Europe – Jungfraujoch

A trip to the Jungfrau region would not be complete without a trip up to the Jungfraujoch. One of the most popular Swiss peaks, Jungfraujoch does definitely not disappoint.

It is situated at an altitude of 3,434 meters in the Bernese Alps. A cable car ride and cogwheel train journey can take you there in around 90 minutes. The railway track leads through the mountains of Eiger and Mönch up to the highest railway station of Europe, therefore the name “Top of Europe”.

Jungfraujoch neatly sits between the Mönch and Jungfrau mountains, in the center of the UNESCO Natural World Heritage site “Jungfrau – Aletsch – Bietschhorn.” It affords its visitors some of the most spectacular views, making the trip to the summit well worth it. 

Once at the top, there are numerous activities waiting for you to take part in. There is an ice palace, the Sphinx Observatory, shops, restaurants, and snow activities to indulge in.

11. Feel like James Bond on Piz Gloria – Schilthorn

Schilthorn is a summit 2790 meters above the ground that provides exquisite views of the Swiss Skyline ­- Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. The top is reached through cable cars or a combination of train and cable car. Doing so provides ample opportunity to get a nice view of the passing waterfalls and the jagged rock faces.

The Schilthorn peak is the place where an original 007 James Bond movie was filmed back in 1969 from where it got its name, Piz Gloria. You will find James Bond memorabilia here along with other Bond-themed activities. 

If you’re the adventurous type, take a stop at Birg while on your way to Schilthorn. You can also take a walk on the Thrill Walk, which is a 200-meter-long cliff pathway that is built into the side of the mountain range. Walking on a wire mesh is surely not something for the faint of heart!

At the base of Mount Schilthorn, in Mürren, is the Stechelberg Gondola Station through which you can reach all the way up to the Piz Gloria.

12. Hike the Schynige Platte Trails

Schynige Platte is a small mountain ridge that stands at an impressive 2,076 meters above sea level. It is one of the best attractions of Interlaken with some of the most outstanding views. 

What sets Schynige Platte apart is the contrasting viewpoints it offers on either side. 

On the one hand, you have the amazing Swiss Skyline (Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau), which doesn’t require a hike – only a funicular. On the other end, you have the views of Thun and Brienz lakes that require a short 20-minute hike from the funicular station. 

The funicular ride begins in Wilderswil, which is a 5-minute walk from the Interlaken Ost railway station. This railway runs on locomotives that date back to the 1800s. 

As you move up the Schynige Platte Trails, the views tend to get more and more stunning. If hiking, enjoy a relaxed picnic in the middle as you head up to make sure that you are able to savor the beauty around you.

13. Ride the Historic Brienzer-Rothorn Railway

Above the lakeside town of Brienz rises the 2,350-meter Brienzer-Rothorn. It can be reached by traveling on one of Switzerland’s oldest steam rack railways for an hour or so.

As you reach the top of Brienzer-Rothorn, you will witness spectacular sceneries of the Appenzell, Engelberg, Berne, Uri, and Valais Alps stretching along the Säntis to the Diablerets. 

Hikers will find this location ideal as they can engage in a 4-hour hike towards the Brünig Pass and return to Brienz via the Brünigbahn, the smallest rack-and-pinion railroad in Switzerland.

From Interlaken to Brienz, it is a 20-minute ride by train.

Where to stay in Interlaken

Apart from a vast abundance of beautiful mountains, Interlaken also calls itself home to a number of prestigious and stunning hotels. 

In fact, the hotels themselves make a part of one of the best attractions in Interlaken. One of the more luxurious hotel options that you will find in this city is the Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa. If you are the fancy type, this would be the lodging space for you. 

Another option that you cannot go wrong with is the beautiful 4* Grandhotel Giessbach. Its not situated in Interlaken itself but at the shore of Lake Brienz about 20 minutes from Interlaken. This hotel sits at the foot of the Giessbach Waterfalls and offers views that are hard to beat in their beauty and uniqueness.

For those of you on a budget, staying at one of the many hostels in Interlaken would be a great choice. You may find that the hostels here have a higher price tag here than usual. However, considering the beauty around you, it will be quite worth it.

Another great place to stay in Interlaken is along the Höheweg, the stretch that connects the east and west train stations. You will find some of the best hotels with unbeatable views of the Jungfrau along this expanse.

How to get to Interlaken

Interlaken is situated in the Canton of Bern towards west-central Switzerland, which makes it easy to reach from all corners of the country through transportation. 

For perspective, here are travel times from some of the major Swiss cities to Interlaken:

  • Zurich to Interlaken – 120 kilometers | 1h:58 by train
  • Lucerne to Interlaken – 70 kilometers | 1h:51 by train
  • Bern to Interlaken – 45 kilometers | 1h by train
  • Geneva to Interlaken – 216 kilometers | 2h:20 by train 

Surrounding mountainous villages are also easily accessible from Interlaken, thanks to Switzerland’s state-of-the-art railway system. Most intercity trains function from the Interlaken Ost (East) Station. 

If you do need to use the Interlaken West stations, a quick journey of 3 minutes from Interlaken Ost or a 25-minute walk is all that will be needed.

How to get around Interlaken

People without access to a car don’t have to worry about getting around in Interlaken. The public transportation in and around Interlaken is one of the best in the world with buses and trains traveling frequently and punctually. 

Often, you even get access to an Interlaken Guest Card that provides you with free bus rides within and around Interlaken. 

Interlaken’s roads and streets are well-paved, making driving safe and easy. A little caution should be practiced while driving on mountain roads. However, even the mountainous roads are wide enough to take a stop and admire the scenery before you.