Hi! This weekend me and some other study abroad students will be traveling to Interlaken. We would like to stay as local as possible, and were wondering what the best hiking trails/things to do and see would be that aren't expensive. It is also supposed to rain for 2 days while we are there, so any activity / leisure that is cool in the rain would be appreciated as well, ranging from sights to restaurants/shops!
Check out the hostels in the area if you are on a budget.
Since you want to do hiking, consider staying a little south of Interlaken in Lauterbrunnen. It has better access to a wide array of hiking trails. Keep in mind it's still winter so the only trails likely to be open in the mountains are low-level trails, if any at all. These live webcams in the region don't really invite much outdoor activity aside from skiing.
If you don't have a guidebook for the region, or even if you do, stop into the local tourist information office upon arrival. Those in Switzerland are some of the most informative in Europe, with lots of maps and brochures available. (FYI, one of Rick's rainy-day recommendations in the region is the Ballenberg open-air museum, but since it's still partly outside, it's not open until April 13.)
I assume the boats on Lake Thun and Lake Brienz run all year. I spent a night or two in Thun many years ago and found it attractive and not grotesquely touristy. It's seldom if ever mentioned on this board, so I imagine it still doesn't get many American tourists.
The road along the north shore of Lake Brienz is marked as scenic on the ViaMichelin website, so I think a bus trip to Brienz would be nice.
acraven, the boats on Lake Brienz do not run in the Winter. I think the spring season starts in April.
Money saver: shop at the large Coop store opposite the train station at Interlaken Ost.
3 things to do in the rain:
Trummelbach Falls (Google image it), which is inside the mountain, and away from the rain.
You can walk to it from Lauterbrunnen (45 min) or take the Postal Bus.
Aare River Gorge in Meiringen. Google image it. If the rain is at an angle, you may be dry down there.
See Reichenbach Falls in Meiringen. This is where Sherlock Holmes battled Moriarity in a death struggle.
Ok, fiction, but A. Conan Doyle did visit here before writing the story.
A good Hostel you could consider in Interlaken is Balmers - http://www.balmers.com/ . One of my relatives stayed there and he seemed to enjoy it. I'm not sure how much hiking you'll be able to do at this time of year. As you noted, it may be raining so the experience may not entirely be a pleasant one. I'd suggest waiting until you get there and then scope out activities then. The Hostel staff will be able to give you the best options.
I would definitely recommend staying either in Lauterbrunnen in the Valley Hostel or up in the alps in Gimmelwald at the Mountain Hostel.
Interlaken is just Interlaken (not in the mountains) but there's definitely a McDonalds and plenty of souvenir trinket shops.
What a blast! I feel your pain. Switzerland is expensive, especially for students.
The Interlaken area is an amazing base for exploring the Alps, but I would stay out in Wilderswil (nearby town, also really close to train station). My husband and I stayed in a fairly affordable Airbnb, and I'm sure you could find a good option for your group.
What is the "Interlaken Area"? Interlaken is a town. The town of Interlaken is in the Canton of Bern. So many times people refer to the Interlaken Area when they're really talking about the lakes (Thun and Brienz which are in towns by the same names). Sometimes people refer to the Interlaken area when they're actually talking about Lauterbrunnen or Wengen or Murren or Stechelberg or the Jungfrau, etc.
Calling all of these places the "Interlaken Area" is really misleading because Interlaken is just the town of Interlaken. It's not in the alps. Yes, it offers exciting nearby destinations such as Lauterbrunnen, Wengen, Murren, etc. Staying in Interlaken is absolutely NOTHING like staying in the aforementioned alpine villages which are actually IN the stunning alps.
When you make comments about Lauterbrunnen and how stunning it is - call it Lauterbrunnen and not the Interlaken area. Same for Murren, Wengen and all the other wonderfully scenic villages and sights - if you're talking about them then call them by name and not just the Interlaken Area which helps new travelers to understand the differences in the villages.
Avoiding generalizing all of these wonderfully unique villages as Interlaken will definitely help people to understand more clearly.