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First Time in Bernese Oberland (and Europe)

Hello all,

My wife and I will be traveling to Europe for the first time, and will have some time to spend in Switzerland! We are in our mid 20s and like hiking, the outdoors, and are excited to experience some of the Swiss culture. We plan on staying in the Bernese Oberland and should have 3 full days (maybe 4) in the area. From what I've read and looked up our plans our as follows (in no order):
1 day seeing First and Grindelwald, 1 day hiking through Laterbrunnen valley, and 1 day going to the top of Jungfrau (plan to see on the day with the best weather).

Does this look like a good itinerary for our first time? Looking at staying in Murren from what I've read, seems like a good mix of quiet, great views, and a couple bars for an evening drink. Also, what month do you recommend? It seems like July-August have the best weather but come with the most crowds.

Any advice is appreciated, thank you!!

Posted by
2526 posts

If staying in Mürren, it will be expensive and time consuming to visit Grindelwald and First. I've done it and in my opinion it's simply not worth it and especially given the glorious vistas and hikes in front of you. Summer will come with crowds...so what? Book your housing as soon as possible. Read and watch all that is available via Rick....good stuff. It's a fantastic part of the world. Have an amazing trip.

Posted by
3551 posts

You will have a wonderful experience hopefully u can stay 4 nites. There are many wonderful hikes , and the weather can come in quickly so it would be gd to have more options. Murren is ideal and stunning. Tour groups flood the area in summer hopefully u can go mid to late June would help a little with crowds. But reserve your lodging soon. Your plan route sounds gd. The family hostel in the valleyis quite gd with pvt rooms if u have sticker shock or cannot find a hotel room.

Posted by
866 posts

We did Murren in late June - early July and the weather was great and not too crowded.

I have never gone up the Grindelwald / Jungfrau side of the valley, so I don't want to dissuade you. I would just say (a) if those are your goal sights, I would stay on that side of the valley, perhaps in Wengen, as the travel connections from one side of the valley to the other are not ideal; and (b) if you are staying in Murren (and I think you should), you would be better served by doing the Schilthorn instead of the Jungfrau. From the Schilthorn, you get the awesome view of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau; easy connection to Murren; a nice place for breakfast at the top of the mountain; and plenty of options for hikes down the mountain.

The hike we did (and loved) was to come down from Schilthorn to the first station (Berg), get out and hike to Schutz Waterfall, and end up in Gimmelwald.

Posted by
1353 posts

Murren is stunning and a great place to stay, but I agree with Bruce - it seems most of your plans include the other side of the valley. We've stayed in Murren, Lauterbrunnen and Wengen on past trips. Loved all 3. We're staying in Lauterbrunnen on our upcoming trip this summer for 2 reasons. 1. We also do a lot of hiking (on both sides of the valley) and Lauterbrunnen is centrally located. 2. We always stay the Hotel Staubbach which I absolutely love! We get a room with a waterfall view. It's not a 4 star place, not cheap, but the owners are great and the atmosphere and rooms are fantastic.

Also - we are going in July this year. This will be our 5th time in the valley, but we've always gone in June. Last time we were unable to finish the hike we most wanted to do as it was too dangerous due to ice fields that hadn't melted. It was also technically still closed, however a few people were braving it. We'll be there in mid July and really hoping that will be far enough into the summer for the ice fields to be melted, but early enough to avoid bigger crowds. Although - I have to say the only place I ever felt "crowded" there was at the top of the Jungfrau.

Posted by
17971 posts

Wengen might be a better place to stay if you have the Jungraujoch in your sights.

Posted by
5697 posts

Another vote for the Schilthorn -- I chose it because the entire ride is outside, versus the inside-the-mountain ride to Jungfrau. (And it's much cheaper!) From Mürren lift station you can see live transmission of conditions at the top before you buy your ticket.

Posted by
1920 posts

Hi tc,

We did the RS Best of Switzerland tour in Sep 2016 and loved it so much we back on our own in Oct 2017. We stayed at the Hotel Alpenruh in Murren for 6 nights.

The trains and cable cars are easy and efficient so don't worry about getting around. We did several hikes in the area including the Mountain View Trail, Gimmelwald, and Trummelbach Falls.

We enjoyed Sunday brunch at the top of the Schilthorn (be sure to do the Thrill Walk at Birg on the way up or down). We also devoted a day to the Jungfrau and we are so glad we did it! We purchased tickets at the train station in Murren and it was easy to take the cable car and trains to get there. We purchased Swiss Half Fare cards (at the Zurich Airport) which made everything more affordable. With some of the passes you get a 25% discount on the Jungfrau but the Half Fare card gets you a 50% discount. It was a truly amazing day (my BF says it was the best day of our 3 week vacation)!

Hope you have a great trip.

Posted by
31821 posts

tc,

Mürren is a good choice for a home base in that area. However if you're planning to tour both sides of the valley, Lauterbrunnen is a more central location as it's the rail hub for the area.

July / August should be good for weather, but of course no guarantees, but you could also consider mid-to-late June or beginning-to-mid September.

You might want to have a look at the RS Switzerland guidebook, as there's lots of great information to help plan your touring in Switzerland. You should be able to find a copy at your local Library or larger bookstores. As this is your first trip to Europe, you may also want to have a look at Europe Through The Back Door, as that has lot of good information on how to travel well in Europe, and the differences you'll encounter there.

Are you planning to get around by train? Are you flying directly into Switzerland, or travelling from another country?

Posted by
874 posts

tc

I always tell my young (20-30s) co-workers to get out and hike Switzerland in the summer! This is the time in your life when you have the energy to enjoy the World and Switzerland is amazing! I have been to Switzerland many summers starting in the early 80's. Out of all the trips, I honestly prefer to go the first two weeks of July. (Keep in mind the European school will start summer vacation around July 20th for approximately 6 weeks - so try to miss this time if you want to avoid crowds). Murren and the hiking trails were not crowded at all this past July (2nd - 15th) and we had perfect 80 degree weather the entire time. Another vote for the Schilthorn. It is a short cable car ride from Murren and if you go early in the morning - you can have a nice brunch in the restaurant . Don't forget to try the Skyline walk at Birg on your way down. I prefer the Schilthorn over the Jungfrau which will be crowded anytime you go. While the journey to the Jungfrau and views from the top are awesome, the crowds made me feel like I was in line for a Disney attraction! To help you plan your trip, Download the sbb.ch train app. It is great tool for helping you figure out the train system. Purchase train passes at Zurich airport is also very easy and recommended. If you want Murren book NOW. Chalet Fontana, Murren is a great B&B but is very popular. You have to email directly. http://www.ferntree.ch/chalet/fontana.

Margaret

Posted by
34 posts

Donna - we are traveling in April from Basel (our cruise ends there) to Interlaken and then staying in Grimmelwald. I was going to order the Swiss half fare card before we leave the USA. Is there any reason not to pre buy it before we leave? We are only staying 2 nights, and hope to do the Schilthorn on arrival in the afternoon, and Jungfrau the next day. Any suggestions? Will it be too snowy to hike down partway from the Schilthorn? We leave early the last morning (7:00 am) to catch a train to Paris for 2 nights. I am hoping the Swiss half fare pass will give us a discount on the fare. I have been trying to book the train from Bern to Paris, but it is not available yet. The comments I have read say to travel back to Basel to catch the train to Paris, but Bern appears to be an hour shorter travel time (starting in Grimmelwald. 5 1/2 hours to Basel then Paris, 4 1/2 hours Bern to Paris). Any suggestions would be appreciated.

I chose Grimmelwald for 2 reasons - it seemed easier to get to Jungfrau then Murren, and faster to travel to Interlaken to get an early train than Murren. Do you think that is a good choice?

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you all so much for the advice!!!! After your input, definitely looking at switching Jungfrau for the Schilthorn. The hikes down look awesome too. Looking right now for going late June or early July, thanks for letting me know about the school time ending! Going to be flying into Paris, flights form Florida are really great right now. Then taking the train from Paris into the region, unfortunately looks about a full day of travel but looks well worth it. I'll see if I can find a copy of RS guide.

Posted by
30293 posts

tc, I hope you don't mind if I reply to happy traveler who has jumped on your thread.

happy traveler you should be aware that in April you may find the fields nearby a little strong, as as soon as the snow has run off the farmers fertilize their fields with liquidised winter cow deposits which come with their own perfume.

You constantly talk about a Grimmelwald. There isn't one of those. There are two extremely different places with quite similar names which you seem to have conflated. Gimmelwald is a village, a wide spot on the cable car route up to the Schilthorn via Mürren. In April, check that the cable car to Gimmelwald is running. They normally shut down for about a month in April for repairs and annual maintenance and passengers need to approach the other way or use the freight cable car.

The other similar name is Grindelwald, a large town in a completely different valley. They get tour buses, cars, and lots of tourists. and have a view of the Eiger. No cars or other vehicles in Gimmelwald - completely different.

April is too late for snow sports and too early for hiking (mud) so is very much the off-season. Between the two Grindelwald will have more things going on simply from its size, even in the off-season.

Posted by
1920 posts

Hi happy traveler,

You need to do some research to figure out if the Swiss Half Fare pass will be the best value for you. If you are only staying 2 nights, it may be more cost effective to just purchase individual tickets. Here is the link to an article to help you decide.

https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/transportation/trains/switzerland-rail-passes

There is an SBB office at the train station in Basel where you can talk to a person and purchase your tickets. I don’t think you can use the pass for travel outside of Switzerland. The train system in Europe is very easy to navigate, it makes more sense once you’re there.

https://www.sbb.ch/en/station-services/railway-stations/basel-sbb-station.html

In April, it will probably be either snowy or muddy so I’m not sure you will be able to hike down from the Schilthorn. The hikes we did were mostly on paved paths.

Fyi, we spent our week in Switzerland prior to embarking on a river cruise in Basel. This was the best vacation we ever had. Hope yours is too!

Posted by
34 posts

THANKS SO MUCH for the info Donna!! We live outside of Akron, I see you are in Cleveland:) We are doing the Viking cruise from Amsterdam to Basel. Is that the one you did - in reverse? If so, any advice for the stops on the cruise?

Posted by
1920 posts

Happy traveler - I sent you a private message with info on the Viking river cruise.

Posted by
1 posts

I, too, will be heading to Schilthorn in June. Looks like we'll be staying in Murren. I was happy to find that the trip is free with the Swiss Travel Pass. Does anyone know if everything is open on Sunday?

Thank you in advance,
Rachel

Posted by
31821 posts

For those travelling in April, note that the Schilthornbahn cable car will be out of service for maintenance from 23.04. – 27.04.2018. You can still reach Mürren via the BLM route, but getting to the Schilthorn won't be possible during the maintenance period (AFAIK). Staying in Lauterbrunnen rather than Gimmelwald might be prudent.