Our last stop on my recent Jungfrau Region tour in Switzerland was Grindelwald, home to a huge range of summer and fall activities (not to mention world-class skiing). Unfortunately, mother nature was not our friend for our overnight in here — it absolutely poured almost every minute we were there. The highlight of this area is the epic mountain views, and we saw none of them.
The reality of mountain vacations is that you never know what you are going to get. Oh well, we had a blast anyway and the tourist board was kind enough to send some photos of what it looks like on a sunny day.
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Although Grindelwald the town isn’t a “chocolate box” storybook Swiss village, the appeal of this area as a home-base is the variety of outdoors activities in a spectacular setting.
I absolutely recommend staying in Mürren for 1-2 nights before or after a stay in Grindelwald. See my recent post on the Children’s Adventure Trail in Mürren for more details about why I like it so much, but in short, the experience of staying in a car-free village perched on the side of a cliff is a Swiss must.
Once you get to Grindelwald, the challenge is to map out which activities you can and want to fit in. This will be driven in part by weather and in part by the age of your kids. The options are numerous so I asked the tourist board to net out the top kid-friendly things to do in Grindelwald. Note, I had a chance to test some — not all — of the activities on this list.
Jungfraujoch Railway: This train takes you to the Top of Europe, literally. At 3,454 meters/11,332 feet it’s the highest altitude railway station in the world. The trip takes two hours (one way), much of it is through tunnels drilled into the Eiger and Mönch with — what is known to be — marvelous view points in between.
I don’t like to write extensively about things I haven’t done, but here’s what I’ll say about this. Based on what I’ve seen from afar of these mountains, any train that travels up and through them must be nothing be nothing short of extraordinary! My caveat is that to make the time and expense worthwhile, you need relatively clear weather.
Schynige Platte: This cogwheel train takes you to an Alpine Garden showcasing regional plants and animals; this visit is popular with families. If you have older kids, there are some iconic hikes from here with panoramic views like the one from Schynigen Platte to First.
Scooter Biking from Bort to Grindelwald: We did this and despite a downpour during our ride, we all loved this activity. I can only imagine how fabulous it would be on a nice day. A scooter bike is essentially a scooter with small mountain bike tires and brakes. You stand on the bike and coast down a paved trail. It’s effortless and fun, particularly since you can take the gondola up and ride down.
Ages 6 and up is my take on the optimal age range for participation. There are a few cars along the way, so you need kids to be a place where they can and will listen to instructions. For this reason, at least one adult will need to ride with kids ages 12 and under.
First-Flyer: If you have tweens and teens in your family, a trip on the First-Flyer zipline is sure to please. For those of us who don’t like heights, I can think of few things that appear more terrifying; however, those who are phobia-free will think it looks like a blast.
An important note is that the minimum weight requirement is 35 kg or 70 lbs. When you see the First-Flyer you understand why this rule is in place. It is not one you (or they) will be willing to break. Set expectations with kids accordingly! i.e. if you know have kids in your group that are under the weight limit, they will not be able to participate, no exceptions.
The beauty of the above attractions is that you can combine them with kid-friendly hiking. There is something for every age and ability in Grindelwald, plus there are a few special hikes you can take with kids.
Felix Weg: The Felix Weg is an easy trail that descends through a picturesque valley from the top of the Männlichen cable car. English speaking families beware that the signs along the trail meant to engage and educate kids are in German and not translated.
All the same, this is good hike with young kids as the terrain is gentle and there are plenty of nice places to stop along the way, including fully equipped picnic areas with chopped wood ready for a BBQ.
Along the way, there are a handful of things for kids to climb on and do, including the always popular mini-zipline.
Bachalpsee: A hike out to the Bachalpsee is one of Grindelwald’s most popular hikes. See the Lonely Planet photo in the link (and the second photo in this post for a glimpse of what it looks like on a sunny day). Despite the rain, we did this hike as it’s an easy out and back (hour each way) from the top of the First Chair; given the location, it’s an excellent hike to combine with the First-Flyer and a scooter bike ride.
There are other more difficult routes you can take back if you have the time and/or older kids.
Jungfrau Region Climate Guide: If you have older kids, the downloadable iPhone Climate Guide sounds like an amazing way to learn about the impact of climate change while seeing the changes in action first-hand. There are seven climate paths you can take in the area; each one has GPS-driven hotspots with information on what you are seeing. It sounds amazing!
There is so much to explore in this region — I’m looking forward to getting back there to experience what we missed.
Grindelwald is more or less three hours from both the Zurich and Geneva airports. The local train and bus system is very efficient; there is really no need to rent a car.
We stayed at Hotel Bodmi and loved it. They have spacious and well-configured rooms for families and excellent onsite meals. Best of all, the hotel is located just above the busy central town with spectacular mountain views. You get a stunning setting and convenience (the hotel can help with transfers to/from the train).
The Junfrau Region tourist board sponsored our trip through this region. They did not ask me to express any particular point of view. Photo credit Amie O’Shaughnessy and Jungfrau Region photographers
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