We woke up early and checked out of the Marriott to begin our trip to Grindelwald. We didn’t have an exact plan as we weren’t sure about the weather conditions. It looked pretty cloudy and unpleasant on the Grindelwald webcams. The weather seemed better around Interlaken so we decided to take the funicular up to Harder Kulm. It was quite nice! We had lunch by the train station afterwards and then took the next train to Grindelwald. Once there, we took the Eiger Express up to Eigergletscher, which was experiencing light snow. We walked around a bit and then took the train down to Lauterbrunnen. We walked around town briefly before returning to Grindelwald by train to end the day.
Geneva to Interlaken
We woke up early, well before breakfast at the Marriott. We finished packing and checked out, taking the hotel’s complimentary shuttle bus to the airport. Once there, we headed right to the attached train station. We began our trip to Interlaken, changing trains in Bern. While Swiss trains are very reliable, they aren’t particularly fast as the country is extremely mountainous. The trip takes about 3 hours to go roughly 150km, depending on the specific route. The actual distance traveled is much longer due to the indirect route required.
There is currently a discount two person day pass available for holders of a half fare travelcard, which we have. The internet seems to have mixed opinions on if the Swiss Half Fare Card, available only to non-residents, counts as a regular half fare travelcard. In our experience, it absolutely does. We were able to successfully pass all fare inspections that we encountered with zero issues.
We ended up buying a first class two person day pass as the discount was significant and the expected load in second class was high. First class was a bit roomier and definitely with significantly less people.
Upon arriving at Interlaken Ost (East), we found the weather to be decent. Although the sky was overcast, we could see hints of blue and there were even paragliders circling overhead. We put our luggage, just one bag, into a storage locker at the station and headed for the nearby funicular station to take it up to Harder Kulm.
We walked a few minutes to the west to cross the river behind the Interlaken Ost station. The water was beautiful with a nice turquoise color from glacial sediment.
We went through a grade crossing at the end of the bridge and walked up into the funicular station. We had purchased a five day Jungfrau Travel Pass, which includes Harder Kulm, and were able to enter the fare gate by simply scanning a QR code.
While waiting for the funicular, we took a look at some of the paper brochures that were available.
The Must See Tour brochure had a good map showing the places in the Jungfrau region that are covered by the Jungfrau Travel Pass.
There was also a hiking brochure that detailed a few hiking options that were available in the region. The big map is also quite useful, showing additional hiking trails as well as hiking times.
Upon reaching the top, we were treated to a fantastic view of the valley below. The clouds were low enough to obscure all the distant peaks but high enough that we could see everything down in the valley below.
Looking to the east, we could see a tiny bit of the Brienzersee.
Looking to the west, we could see a bit of the Thunersee. The train that we arrived on from Bern traveled by the southern shore of this lake. Interlaken gets its name from being between these two lakes.
We walked up a short incline to the west to reach a restaurant and viewing platform.
Looking back to the east, we could see more of the Brienzersee, as well as the low cloud that was hovering over part of the lake. The little building on the side of the mountain is the upper terminal of the funicular. From this perspective, we could also see the Interlaken Ost train station down below.
We walked out onto this viewing platform.
From here, we could easily see the entire valley below as well as both lakes. Luckily, the weather was in our favor despite the overcast skies!
To the north, we could see what is probably best described as a Swiss mountain village.
There are a few hiking trails up on Harder Kulm. We decided to try one that seemed level. It starts just by the east side of the restaurant and runs above the path that we walked on from the funicular station.
We ultimately didn’t go very far. The trail was mostly through woods with very little visibility of the valley to the south. We walked until we were above the funicular station and then backtracked to return to the restaurant.
We walked back to the funicular station. There are a few wooden sculptures that line the path.
We briefly swapped to the telephoto lens to take a look at a distant spot on the Brienzersee. This is the town of Iseltwald, about half way between the eastern and western ends of the lake. It is featured in the Netflix Korean drama Crash Landing on You. The scene in the show is quite beautiful with the male protagonist playing the piano by the ferry pier. The location can be seen in this photo, at the center of the frame, although it is hard to tell what is what without looking it up on a map. It is possible to visit by ferry, like in the show, but we decided not to as we wanted to get to Grindelwald.
After taking the funicular back down, we passed by this memorial to Adolf Guyer-Zeller in a park by the train station. He is credited for founding the Jungfrau Railway, a very important event in the development of tourism in this region.
We decided to get lunch near the Interlaken train station as it was already around 11am. We decided to go to the Coop Restaurant across the street from the station. Coop is a Swiss cooperative that, among other things, operates grocery stores. And, apparently restaurants! This restaurant was located on the floor above the grocery store. It is a cafeteria style establishment. Some of the food options are priced by the plate, which seems to mean cram as much as possible onto the plate.
We got a bratwurst and a schnitzel. Both came with fries, which are self-serve. We probably should have taken more fries, but it was enough for our hunger level at the time. The ketchup was apparently not free, which we discovered at checkout. We also added two desserts. Overall, the food was basic but decent. It wasn’t particularly expensive but not what we would consider cheap either.
Interlaken to Grindelwald
After eating, we retrieved our luggage from the storage locker and waited for the next train to Grindelwald. The lockers are visible here, on the far end of the station building.
By now, the weather seemed to have changed. Clouds had rolled in, obscuring the top of Harder Kulm from view. A small section of the funicular rails are actually visible here, just above the building on the left.
The train runs every 30 minutes so there isn’t much of a need to aim for a specific departure. We only waited a few minutes for the next one to arrive.
The train splits in half at Zweilütschinen, with the forward half going to Lauterbrunnen and the rear half going to Grindelwald. The station platforms are well signed so there wasn’t any chance of confusion.
We managed to take a few photos from the train. Some of the windows open at top, providing ventilation and an easy way to avoid having to photograph through glass.
Our first view of Grindelwald!
We could see the Eiger Express gondola in the distance and its route into the clouds. We could also see the gondola that runs up to Männlichen.
The train soon reached the Grindelwald station. We started the short walk to our hotel, the Hotel Belvedere, to drop off our bag. Oxford Languages provides this etymology of the word belvedere:
mid 16th century: from Italian, literally ‘fair sight’, from bel ‘beautiful’ + vedere ‘to see’.
The actual English definition provided by Oxford Languages is:
a summerhouse or open-sided gallery, usually at rooftop level, commanding a fine view.
There was unfortunately a somewhat steep path that we had to descend to get closer to the hotel. The hotel building is one of the uglier structures in Grindelwald. Luckily, the hotels exterior appearance has no bearing on the quality of the stay and indeed it would turn out to be excellent.
After reaching the Dorfstrasse, the main road through much of Grindelwald, we passed by this rock garden. It had a few pretty flowers and a beautiful view.
We saw our train returning to Interlaken on the railway above us. This is Switzerland so pretty much everything is electrified. Quite a contrast to the United States where we still have diesel trains in urban areas.
We ended up having to ascend the driveway to reach the front entrance to the Belvedere. We dropped off our bags and completed the hotel’s registration forms so that we could quickly check in later when our room was ready.
There is a nice view from the hotel’s ground floor outdoor patio, though it is partially blocked to the south by an even uglier building!
We decided to take the Eiger Express up to Eigergletcher next to see what it was like in the clouds. The Jungfrau webcams were showing overcast conditions with snow on the ground. Further up, at Jungfraujoch, the sky seemed to be clear as it was above the clouds. Still, we decided to save Jungfraujoch for a day with better weather and with more time as it was 1pm by now.
We could have taken the train to Grindelwald Terminal, the lower gondola station, but we decided to walk instead. We headed down the driveway and passed by the back of the Belvedere.
The walk to Grindelwald Terminal is all downhill. The obvious way is to simply walk along the Dorfstrasse, though there may be more direct paths available.
We were a bit surprised to find a building named Nagano, after the city in Japan. We’ve passed through Nagano multiple times but have never actually done anything there! The building to the right of it is Chamonix, which we visited last year.
The view to the east. Very beautiful! Right before taking this photo, we saw the train heading down from Grindelwald. It would have been faster if we had walked up to the station and taken it down.
The mountain railways in Switzerland are often rack railways which allows the trains to easily ascend and descend steep slopes that normal trains cannot.
Almost there! We could see the Grindelwald Terminal directly below us.
Another look at the rails.
After briefly taking a wrong turn, we soon saw the Grindelwald Terminal’s train station in front of us.
We walked through the terminal building to reach the entrance to the Eiger Express gondola. There was almost no one around, likely due to the inclement weather. We were able to get an entire huge gondola car to ourselves. Although it wasn’t raining at Grindelwald, it clearly was further up the line as the gondolas were all wet.
The gondola quickly ascended out of the valley. The weather soon turned to rain.
We soon reached the snow line.
Everything was covered with snow, though it wasn’t a large amount at this elevation.
After reaching Eigergletscher, we headed outside to take a look. It was lightly snowing with overcast skies and very limited visibility. We wouldn’t be seeing any mountains from here today!
Looking to the west, we could see another large building above us.
The view to the south. We could see a bit of mountain nearby but not much else.
The view looking back at the Eigergletscher station. It is a very modern structure as the Eiger Express opened just three years ago in 2020. We assume this should be a very popular location when the weather is good. But today, with a little bit of snow, there wasn’t really anyone around up here.
We went up to the outdoor deck of the building that we saw above us earlier.
We couldn’t see much of anything.
There are a few hiking trails that start here at Eigergletscher. We saw parts of this one from the Eiger Express. It seemed a bit sketchy as it was a very narrow path on the side of a steeply sloping mountain.
On our way back to the Eigergletscher station, we noticed this! It is for the Netflix Korean drama, Crash Landing on You! Many scenes were filmed here in the Jungfrau region. We didn’t expect to find this here though! Are there others? The QR code on the sign leads to a website that lists some of the filming locations and includes video clips.
We decided to take the train down to Lauterbrunnen via Kleine Scheidegg. We were a bit early though so walked around the train platform a bit. There wasn’t too much to see given the weather.
The downhill view, to the west.
The uphill view, to the east, on the way to Jungfraujoch. There is a tunnel almost immediately beyond the station.
Some more snowy scenes as we waited for the train.
We saw an uphill train arrive. It is headed for Jungfraujoch.
Our train soon arrived from Jungfraujoch.
Eigergletscher to Lauterbrunnen
The ride down to Kleine Scheidegg was pretty quick. At Kleine Scheidegg, we had to switch trains to reach Lauterbrunnen.
We walked around the station a bit as our train hadn’t arrived yet. We saw this train that was headed down the other direction to Grindelwald.
At least here, we were out of the clouds and could see a bit of scenery!
Our train soon arrived and we started heading down the mountain. This train wasn’t very busy. We got a seat on the left by a window that was open at the top. From this perspective, we soon saw Kleine Scheidegg on the left and the snow line to the right.
The weather seemed to be cleaning a bit. We could see a mountain peak above us, though we weren’t sure which one it was.
We could see some more mountain sides in front of us.
Looking back, Kleine Scheidegg was starting to look like it was far away.
We passed by a nice little pond with some adjacent benches. Must be a nice view here if it wasn’t for the clouds!
The same pond from a bit further downhill. We could see a bit of the Eigergletscher station in the background.
We didn’t see very many people out and about, but there were people out there like these two!
We could see multiple waterfalls as we continued our descent.
Soon, we started to see the valley to the west. Lauterbrunnen is somewhere down there.
Looking back, we could still just make out the Eigergletscher station in the distance.
Soon, the little town of Wengen came into view. It sits right above Lauterbrunnen.
There are often protective structures built to cover portions of mountain railroads in Switzerland. We were about to head into one.
Traveling in the mountains often requires an indirect path due to terrain. Although we were close to Wengen, the train still had to wind its way past the mountainside to make it there.
Some more people!
Finally, we were right above Wengen.
We curved around a few more buildings…
Wengen! There is a aerial tram that goes up from here to Männlichen, and a gondola that goes from there to Grindelwald Terminal. But, we are still headed to Lauterbrunnen in the valley below.
The train kept descending as we departed Wengen. We could see snow on the mountains above us, right at cloud level.
The train leaves Wengen to the north but then turns to the south. During this south leg, we were on the wrong side of the train. The railway turns to the north again once it almost reaches the valley floor as it heads into Lauterbrunnen’s station.
A very beautiful scene! There were waterfalls coming down from the mountains above. Cows were lying down on the ground. And there is a pretty river with glacial colored water flowing through the valley. It is a bit reminiscent of Yosemite Valley in the US.
After arriving at the station, we decided to walk around Lauterbrunnen a bit. We passed a Coop grocery and saw an aerial tramway rising above it.
The view from the road which looks over the train station. While the valley was mostly in the shadow of the surrounding mountains, we did see a strip of sunlight right below the clouds to the east.
Lauterbrunnen is known for having many waterfalls nearby. The town’s name is apparently pretty complicated, something best read on the Jungfrau Region’s Things to Know About the Lauterbrunnen Valley webpage.
We considered finding something to eat in Lauterbrunnen but there weren’t too many options compared to Grindelwald. So, we headed back to the train station.
Back to Grindelwald
There are a few options to get back to Grindelwald. We decided on the quickest way, taking the train to Interlaken but getting off at Zweilütschinen to take the train headed to Grindelwald. This train also runs later in the evening, unlike the mountain trains, gondolas, and trams that end around 5 or 6pm.
It was a quick, nine minute ride to Zweilütschinen. Only one platform was in use, though there was construction activity going on so this seems like it may change in the future. This is the same station that we passed through earlier in the day to reach Grindelwald and is the station where the train splits in half. We walked over to the Grindelwald section at the north end.
Not much was going on as we waited.
Soon, the train arrived and we returned to Grindelwald. The view from the station was similar as the view when we left. An overcast sky with visible snow at cloud level.
There are two platforms that are used at the station. The one on the left goes to Interlaken while the one on the right goes to Klein Scheidegg. Going up and over the mountains via Klein Scheidegg would have been a much longer ride.
We decided to eat dinner before returning to the Hotel Belvedere. The main commercial area of Grindelwald is just to the east of the station, in the opposite direction from our hotel. The area around the station was relatively busy with many people walking around.
We were a bit surprised to find a Montbell store. They apparently have just two stores in Switzerland, here and in Zermatt. Montbell is a Japanese brand and has just one remaining store in the US in Boulder, Colorado.
We walked by a small public square that is actually the rooftop of a building. It had some carved wooden sculptures.
We reached our destination after walking a few blocks. Unfortunately, the restaurant was closing! The sign says in English:
Dear Guests, Our chef has had an accident, so the C und M will be temporarily closed from 6:30 p.m.
We assume this accident involved the kitchen and knives. Hopefully the chef will be OK!
We walked by this carved wooden sculpture of what we guess are eagles as we continued walking to the east to find something to eat. The eagle on the left looked pretty weird with its tiny little body from this angle!
One difficulty with finding restaurants in Grindelwald is that most of them are part of hotels. They sometimes have a shared Google Maps entry with the hotel and thus there isn’t any easy way to figure out what people think. We checked out one restaurant but decided to eat across the street at Adlerstube. Luckily, they were already starting to serve their dinner menu.
We were provided two pieces of bread and butter. The breads were nicely tucked into a cloth napkin. The butter was very good, something of an expectation in Switzerland.
We decided to get the fondue. It was a relatively good deal at 35 CHF per person. The waiter mentioned we could ask for more if we were still hungry, though we weren’t sure if that meant more cheese as well.
The bread was like many little dinner rolls. We’ve never seen bread baked this way for fondue. It worked pretty well.
They also provided pickled vegetables and pears as well as potatoes.
Overall, it was excellent. The cheese wasn’t as strongly flavored as other fondues that we’ve had in Switzerland. But it worked quite well with the bread and also the vegetables and potatoes. Previously, we hadn’t been too fond of potatoes with fondue.
After we were finished, one of the waiters asked if we had enough, and offered more cheese. Apparently, this was 100% all you can eat. We have seen all you can eat raclette in Switzerland before so this probably shouldn’t have been too surprising, but we didn’t expect it. We were full though so didn’t ask for more.
The weather seemed to have improved a bit while we were eating!
The two eagles look more normal from this perspective!
We saw a spot of sunlight glowing on one of the mountains to the east as we made our way to the Hotel Belvedere to the west of the station.
We realized that there might be a better way to reach the hotel, one that doesn’t involve having to go down below the hotel and back up the driveway. Instead of following the Dorfstrasse, we walked through the train station’s parking lot on its north side, ended up on the Spillstattstrasse. This road only descends a little bit before there is a short pedestrian only path that goes under the railroad tracks and ends up at the Belvedere’s front door!
We took a brief look from the hotel’s patio after we got our room keys. We could see more of the mountains, though much was still obscured by clouds.
Our room ended up being quite nice. When we booked, there were very limited options as it seems that Grindelwald is quite busy at this time of the year. The hotel has 10 different room types, we booked what seems to be the second lowest end type. The description was:
Classic Double or Twin Room Garden Non-smoking double or twin room (28 m2) with seating corner, A/C (Air Cooling), Boxspring beds (2 x 2-2.10m) and parquet flooring, free WiFi, bath or shower and WC, hair dryer, make-up mirror, bathrobes and slippers, coffee and tea making facility and safe. Balcony (non-smoking) with a view of the garden
This was the view from the balcony. It is quite nice!
In the US, a garden view is often something of a euphemism for rooms that have no real view but at least it isn’t directly looking at the wall of the adjacent building. Here though, it seems to mean simply that it doesn’t have a south view across the valley. We also happened to get a corner room, we’re not sure if that comes with the room type or if we were simply lucky.
The bathroom was decent with a bathtub, nice for soaking after a long day. The property also has an outdoor heated hot tub as well as an indoor hot tub which is hotter.
The hotel provides a guest card which offers some local discounts. Unfortunately, none of the discounts were useful for us on this trip.