Between the lakes of Thun and Brienz lies the resort town of Interlaken. It’s one of the most popular destinations in the Bernese Oberland region because of its picturesque nature and excellent location.
The town is close to other popular destinations in the area like Lauterbrunnen, Grindelwald, and even Jungfrau – one of Switzerland’s tallest summits. It’s also swarming with fun activities for tourists, whether you’re looking to have a picnic near the lake or go skydiving – Interlaken is an oasis for both the hedonistic and the adrenaline-seeking traveler.
This detailed guide covers the top ten things to do in Interlaken, from the best hiking trails to the most breathtaking views!
Harder Kulm is a mountain platform above Interlaken, which offers breathtaking views of the town and the lakes below. There’s also a restaurant at the top that serves some delicious local food, and musicians often perform live here as well.
There are two ways to get to Harder Kulm – the easy way is to get on the funicular that will take you to the platform in just about 10 minutes. You can also hike – it only takes about an hour and 15-20 minutes to get to Harder Kulm from the center of Interlaken. The trail is marked and, even though the ascent is pretty steep, it’s not very difficult or tiring. Plus, it will feel so much better to enjoy those views once you’ve actually worked to get to the top.
Another reason to hike to Harder Kulm is that you have to pass through the Wild Park, which is a small animal park that houses marmots, goats, and other wildlife. It’s definitely a detour worth taking, especially if you are an animal lover. The admission to the park is free, so it won’t cost you a dime to spend some time with the lovely animals.
The Garden of Friendship is Switzerland’s first Japanese garden, and it is situated in Interlaken. It’s like an oasis in the middle of the town and it’s definitely worth it to stop by if you’re out just walking around Interlaken.
There’s no fee to enter the garden, which is really great – and a bit uncharacteristic for Switzerland. Just like true Japanese gardens, the centerpiece is the pond with the water fountain, with lots of gorgeous trees and flowers around it. You will also see interesting rock formations, as well as some traditional Japanese statues. Overall, while it might not be a spitting image of Japan’s best-known gardens, it definitely a unique place in Switzerland.
Also, there’s an Asian restaurant across the street from the garden, so you could just go there for lunch to complete the experience. The menu features a mix of various Asian dishes, with a focus on Chinese and Korean cuisines.
Interlaken is very popular with adventurers because it offers quite a lot of thrilling activities. If you’re an adrenaline junkie, you will love it there – whether you’re visiting during summer or winter, there will be plenty of fun stuff to do.
During winter, night sledding is a really popular thing in Interlaken. There’s even night sledding with fondue, which is exactly what it sounds like – an hour-long sledding ride in the evening, followed by an optional dinner that includes a massive pot of hot, melted Swiss cheese.
You could also go snowshoeing – there are tours for both beginners and people who have some experience, and they vary in difficulty.
In case you are visiting Interlaken in the summer, you’ll have even more fun activities to do. Particularly if you like water sports, but more on that later – let’s focus on fun in the sky for a moment.
Interlaken is very popular for paragliding and skydiving – both activities are also available during winter, but they’re a lot more fun when the air isn’t icy cold. You can go airplane or heli skydiving, and most of the offers include a short panoramic flight that lets you soak in the views. You could even opt just for a scenic flight if you wanted, but that’s usually pricier than actually jumping out of an airplane.
Interlaken is nestled between the lakes of Brienz and Thun, and both are quite a lot of fun in the warmer months. You can enjoy kayaking, jet boat riding, motorboating, waterskiing, windsurfing, and all sorts of other water adventures here – it will almost be like you’re on a proper, seaside vacation!
You can also enjoy the lakes more casually, by going on a short cruise or just lounging on the banks. The only problem with cruises is that they actually begin the towns of Brienz and Thun, so you would have to go there – it’s a little over an hour to Brienz by train, but more than two hours to Thun from Interlaken West.
Interlaken is also pretty popular for rafting, but that’s one thing you can’t really enjoy on the lakes. River rafting is thrilling and there are all sorts of different ways you can experience it – some rafting packages are designed for couples who want to ride in a small boat, while other feature a pretty big inflatable that can fit whole families.
Some of the weekend packages are actually meant only for teams of ten or more people – they include overnight stays in a hostel and food, and they’re a pretty good opportunity for team building!
If you’re looking to have an adventure, there’s definitely no better place than Interlaken’s Adventure Park. It’s fun for both adults and kids, and it’s actually a great spot whether you’re looking for a proper adrenaline rush or just some family-friendly fun.
With nine different courses and more than 120 challenges, you could spend a whole day here and still not see the entire park. The treetop courses are extremely fun, the zipline rides are pretty thrilling and there are plenty of places throughout the park where you can stop for a breather.
Also, there’s no time limit on how long you’re allowed to be in the park, so you can definitely make the most of your money. It’s recommended that you plan to spend at least three hours there for a good enough experience, but you could easily stay there a lot longer.
There’s even a barbecue grill in the forest, but you would have to bring your own food if wanted to eat. You can get drinks and snacks at the park, but there’s nowhere to buy a proper meal.
You should definitely plan to see the St. Beatus Caves. They’re only some 10 minutes away from Interlaken, and there’s a bus every 30 minutes so they’re super easy to reach. You can even hike to the caves if you’re in the mood, considering it’s a fairly short 90-minute trail.
The St. Beatus Caves are actually a cave system with lit pathways through various tunnels and chambers. There’s even a museum near the caves, and the entrance fee is free if you bought the ticket to enter the caves.
The trail through the caves is actually pretty long (about one kilometer), so you should be prepared. There are a lot of steps so wear comfortable shoes, preferably something with lots of traction since it gets slippery inside the caves. Also, be sure to bring a jacket because it’s pretty cold inside the caves (around 7-10 degrees Celsius).
When you’re done exploring the caves, you can head to the restaurant on the cliff above them. It’s a great spot to relax after such a long walk and warm up after the chilly caves. Also, you can enjoy some spectacular views from the restaurant, since it is overlooking the stunning Lake Thun.
As one of Switzerland’s tallest mountains, Jungfrau is easily the star of this region. And that’s largely because the Jungfraujoch saddle features the highest altitude railway station in Europe. This is a unique opportunity for people who aren’t avid Alpine climbers to experience the view from the top of a summit and enjoy some truly spectacular scenery.
Top of Europe is at an altitude of 3454 meters, and it’s much more than just a railway station. There’s a massive observation deck that offers some truly enchanting views of this majestic mountain, as well as a restaurant where you can enjoy some exquisite food. You could even attend a chocolate making workshop, since Top of Europe also includes Lindt Swiss Chocolate Heaven.
And let’s not forget about the Ice Palace, where you can see some exceptional ice sculptures. The sculptures are created by artists, so it’s really like visiting a very unconventional museum. Just make sure to dress appropriately – it’s below zero Celsius in the ice palace, and it’s pretty much always cold on Top of Europe, considering the insanely high altitude.
There are no direct railway lines from Interlaken to Top of Europe, and you will need to head to Grindelwald or Lauterbrunnen first. I’d recommend you even consider spending the night in one of these stunning villages, and I’ll try to convince you why that’s a good idea in just a few seconds.
The Weissenau Nature Reserve is very close to Interlaken, and it’s a great place to go if you want to see some stunning nature and enjoy some peace and quiet. Situated on the banks of Lake Thun, the nature reserve is pretty much a paradise for people who prefer being in serene settings, away from all the noise and crowds of urban centers.
You will see many different bird and plant species here, so I would highly recommend bringing binoculars or anything else that would allow you to spectate the birds without disturbing them. The nature reserve also features the ruins of the Weissenau castle. And, while they are pretty impressive on their own, nothing can compare to the breathtaking views of Lake Thun you can experience when you climb to the top of the tower.
Bear in mind that there’s really not much else to do here other than enjoy the scenery. If you’d rather go hiking or get an adrenaline rush, the nature reserve is probably a bit too tame for you.
Grindelwald is one of the most popular getaway destinations in the Bernese Alps, especially for adventurers. It’s the perfect base for those who want to enjoy skiing on some of Switzerland’s best trails, as well as for avid hikers. Grindelwald is also the perfect base for Alpine climbers, considering it’s a starting point for most ascents on the Eiger summit.
The village also features a zipline, a golf course and a very exciting toboggan run. The toboggan is something everyone should definitely experience – they’re not very common around the world, but Switzerland is full of them. However, you can only go tobogganing in the summer, so don’t plan a winter visit if that’s what you were hoping to experience.
The Gletscherschlucht gorge is another reason why people love to visit this beautiful village. The glacial gorge will enchant you with waterfalls and limestone, and there’s even a special treat for those who will do anything to get that adrenaline rush. Above the roaring Lütschine river, there’s a Spiderweb construction – balancing on the massive net is not as simple as it looks, and it definitely provides a rush.
And if that’s not enough, you can also enjoy pathways that go through the rock, with viewpoints that are pretty much inside the mountain. Overall, it’s definitely something you should make time for if you’re ever in Grindelwald.
One of the great things about Interlaken is that it’s very close to some other stunning places. One of those is Lauterbrunnen, the valley of waterfalls. One of the first things you see when you arrive in this village is a tall waterfall just meters away from the most popular apartments and hotels. And it’s not even the most impressive waterfall in the area – but it definitely takes the crown when talking about postcard-worthy scenery.
Lauterbrunnen is actually a bit more popular for Trümmelbachfälle, which is a system of glacier waterfalls that are situated within a mountain. You have to pay an entrance fee to go visit the waterfalls, and I guarantee it’s 100% worth it. It’s a unique opportunity to walk around pathways between narrow cliffs, with waterfalls wherever you look. The views from here are absolutely stunning, and the experience alone is something you won’t likely forget. Just wear a raincoat and some shoes with good traction since everything there is really slippery and wet.
There are plenty of other reasons to visit Lauterbrunnen and even spend the night there – you can read all about them in our more detailed post on the charming village. Some of those include great hiking trails, world cup worthy ski trails just outside the village and amazing skydiving and panoramic flight opportunities. If you really want to enjoy yourself for a day or two, a trip to Lauterbrunnen is a must!
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.