Despite its small size, Switzerland has countless towns and villages that ooze with Swiss charm, which can make looking for a home base quite difficult — especially in the beautiful Jungfrau region of the Alps. How do you know which one to choose when they all look idyllic? You could pick with abandon, but a little research and clarity on your sightseeing priorities can help you make an informed decision that will save you precious time and money.
The Jungfrau region is full of possibilities — from easy hikes to extreme adventure sports, there is literally something for everyone. Are you looking for a Heidi-style hamlet with an idyllic landscape or a larger town with more than just a few restaurants and shops? We’ve done the hard work for you. Here’s how to find the right home base for your next trip to this part of Switzerland.
Interlaken is the original alpine resort, but its charm has waned over the years. Posh properties like the Victoria-Jungfrau Hotel and the 19th-century Romantics who flocked to them have been replaced by shops selling expensive watches, Swiss army knives and kitschy Swiss souvenirs to hurried tourists.
That said, Interlaken can be the right home base for those willing to settle for convenience over charm. It is an easy 2-hour train ride from Zurich’s main train station, 30 minutes from Grindelwald and just 20 minutes from Lauterbrunnen.
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Though it’s not a storybook village, the big resort town of Grindelwald does provide loads of hotel, shop and restaurant options that you won’t find in the smaller villages mentioned below. Near the base of the Eiger mountain, Grindelwald is nestled in an open valley with plenty of room to cater to the needs of high-maintenance tourists and tour groups. The traffic in Grindelwald distracts from the beauty, but easy access to the mountains makes it a great home base for those looking for lots of variety.
Lauterbrunnen, the land of 72 waterfalls, is jaw-droppingly beautiful. This U-shaped valley carved by glaciers has garnered a lot of attention over the years, but its geography minimizes the number of tourists that can stay overnight. The one-road town has just a few hotels and all of them are a little creaky. The only restaurants in town also operate as hotels. Don’t miss the views and the rösti at the Hotel Oberland.
Just 20 minutes south of Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen is nestled on the valley floor between Murren and Wengen and makes a great home base for those wanting to tackle both sides of the area. Murren (to the west) is accessible in 20 minutes by cable car and train, or skip the train and enjoy one of the region’s best hikes: one and a half hours with a perfectly positioned pit stop in Winteregg halfway in-between. Wengen (to the east) is also reachable in 20 minutes by a train that continues onto the highest train station in Europe, the Jungfraujoch.
The sleepy, car-free village of Murren makes you want to sing “The hills are alive…”. There are just two roads in town and both are dotted with quaint Swiss houses and plenty of garden gnomes. This is an excellent base for those keen on hiking. The trail options are endless and the Murren Tourist Office has plenty of guided hikes to choose from. Inquire about the weekly morning hike to visit a cheesemaking hut (advance reservations required).
There are a handful of hotels here; our CB! favorite, the Hotel Eiger, has great views and lots of family-friendly rooming options. The indoor pool can be a lifesaver for families looking for some downtime after a long day of hiking. Note, this is not the place for those looking for nonstop activity. Murren goes to bed early and staying here means you’ll have to also.
Murren is accessible by cable car (from Stechelberg) or cable car and train (from Lauterbrunnen). The two stations are located at opposite ends of town, about a 10-minute walk from one another. Cable cars run less frequently in the evening, so check the schedule ahead of time if you plan on coming home late.
Wengen is a mountain resort that towers above Lauterbrunnen. Many only pass through it about 20 minutes into the journey between Lauterbrunnen and the Jungfraujoch. Wengen is bigger and a bit livelier than Murren, but this car-free town still oozes with quaintness and offers some of the best views in the region.
Of all the towns in the Jungfrau region, Wengen is the most family-friendly. It’s one of those rare places where teens and tweens can roam without getting into too much trouble and there are plenty of activities to keep the kids busy: mini golf, table tennis, soccer, tennis and a giant chess set.
The hiking options that span out from Wengen aren’t as numerous as they are in other parts of the region, but one of the most scenic hikes starts in Mannlichen (a 5-minute cable car ride from Wengen) and ends in Kleine Scheidegg. Mannlichen also boasts the best playground I’ve ever laid eyes on.
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