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how touristy are Lauterbrunnen, Gimmelwald, Jungfau, Wengen, Grindelwald etc

I'm planning my next trip to Switzerland for June 2020. We've done the central (Bern, Zurich, Lucerne and all around Lake Lucerne), NE and Ticino areas of Switzerland already. I am looking for what to do for about a week between Aosta, Italy and Lucerne. I feel like we should do Lauterbrunnen, Gimmelwald, Jungfau, Wengen, Grindelwald (and also the Matterhorn), but it seems like with all the attention they get, that it's all a big tourist trap. Maybe too many photos with the colour filter turned up to 11?

I've lived around mountains all my life, so I don't need a "mountain experience". My Swiss friend who grew up about 50 km away tells me "Lauterbrunnen isn't so cute." On one hand I feel like I should at least see it (and will probably like it once I'm there) and on the other hand I look at the less-popular places I want to go and may have to pass on.

I guess I'm looking for a maybe 2 or 3 day itinerary that covers the best-of and less-touristy bits of the region. We like to hike and ride bikes and if there is a cable car experience that is unique that would be good (we're going up Rigi when we get to Lucerne, so I don't need to do one here too unless it's "not to be missed").

Looking forward to your more experienced opinions

Posted by
1248 posts

There are lots and lots of tourists from all parts of the world in this region. Grindlewald is especially dense with them. Going to the Jungfraujoch on a beautiful day means dealing with a huge number of people with the same idea.

But it's really easy to get away from all of that by hitting the hiking trails. Stay in one of the car-free villages for peaceful evenings - Murren, Wengen, and especially Gimmelwald.

Posted by
190 posts

I agree with you about the damn color filters, so annoying... Grindlewald seemed the most touristy to me. Many tour buses going in and out and turning around.. But there is a reason the area gets crowded, it is beautiful. Murren and Wengen are a little harder to get to, so they are less crowded. If you do the Jungfrau or Schilthorn early, you can avoid the masses. BTW, Rigi is cute, but it is not as spectacular as Schilthorn or Jungfrau.... If you then get out on some on the trails, you won't see many people at all. I guess that is the good thing about those bus tours, they are not interested in going outside "the box"... We recently did 4 nights in Murren, and I can't wait to get back, so in my opinion, it is worth the trip.

Posted by
888 posts

Murren did not feel touristy at all to me. There were tons of locals who were there day hiking and it just wasn’t that crowded. We were there in mid-July. Loved it.

Posted by
11905 posts

You have to distinguish between “touristy”, “tourist traps”, and “tourist-friendly”. These are mostly small villages that make their living from visitors and skiers, so most of the people there are tourists. That doesn’t man they are “touristy” in the sense of schlocky souvenir shops and Disney’esque fake attractions.

The only thing in the area I would label a tourist trap is the train trip up the Jungfrau. Overpriced, very crowded, and of no interest to anyone who has done some skiing at places like Whistler.

Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen have lots of cars and, in the case of Grindelwald, tourist buses. And shops selling Swiss Army knives, watches, etc. So I would label these more “touristy” than the car-free villages of Wengen and Muerren above the valley floor. Wengen is larger and has more high-end hotels. We prefer the feel of Muerren and the views from there. I find it also offers the best hiking right from your door. We have been 5 times now and have never been disappointed.

We like the views across the valley to the ridge of the Jungfrau massif from the far end of the village, in the area of Hotel Bellevue. You can get an idea of the view from their website:

https://www.bellevuemuerren.ch/english/hotel-rooms/

There is a less expensive hotel practically next door but I forget the name. Maybe hotel Jungfrau? But I don’t know if they have rooms facing the view with balconies, and for me that is a must.

If you really want to get away from tourists, I suggest you hike to one of the mountain inns in the upper Lauterbrunnen valley on the way to the Oberhornsee. There are three to choose from, and you can only get there by hiking, so you won’t find regular “tourists” there. You can see them on the Stechelberg website:

http://www.stechelberg.ch/schlafen-und-essen/berghotel.html

Posted by
180 posts

That's all super helpful, thanks! People at this site are the best.

Posted by
5528 posts

Yes Hotel Jungfrau in Mürren has rooms with a view.

Posted by
654 posts

I agree with what's been said so far. Grindelwald can be touristy, others much less so.

However, if you get on the trails, "touristy" disappears completely. Click on my name for a link to website that shows our dozen favorite trails in the area, with pictures, and then see what you think.

Posted by
9500 posts

I will add to the chorus and endorse the general feeling: lots of people but so easy to get away. There are masses of people that visit the Schilthorn and Jungfraujoch but not too many that actually take a hike of 2 or 3 miles. Middle of the day and evening, the villages can seem quite empty as people are either on a mountain “experience” midday or day trippers have retreated (evening).

We happen to like Lauterbrunnen as a base (we are just finishing a two week stay here and this is our 6th time in the area) as w can easily go any direction: Mürren, Grindelwald, Wengen, Interlaken. Stay as many nights as you can. No one comes here and says they wish they had stayed less time.

Posted by
31185 posts

Nickelini,

Lots of good information in the previous replies! A few thoughts.....

Lauterbrunnen is the transportation hub for the valley, so it's a bit "busier" but I don't consider it overly "touristy". That's also my preferred location to stay as there are some nice hotels there and it's central to all the other locations you mentioned so it makes a good "home base". It gets a bit less sun that the villages higher up as it's on the valley floor, but I still consider it to be very scenic.

Gimmelwald is very small and tends to be quieter and less busy than the other locations. The evenings there are very quiet (almost boring) but a nice place to "chill". The Mountain Hostel tends to be a hangout for visitors in the area. As I recall they have a bar which even people not staying at the Hostel can visit.

The Jungfrau is a day trip location and a one of the most expensive trips that you can take in that area. I don't believe it's possible to stay up there (the closest location with hotels would be Kleine Scheidegg). It's not an area that would appeal to me as a location to stay. If you decide to visit the Jungfraujoch, it's important to check the weather prior to going there, as it won't be as pleasant an experience if the mountaintop is shrouded in fog. If you have altitude issues, that needs to be considered as the top is at about 12,500 feet.

Wengen is located on the opposite hillside from Mürren. It's very scenic but a bit larger, more touristy and posh than other locations in that area. It's also a "car free" village.

Grindelwald is considerably more "touristy" (IMHO) with larger and fancier hotels and souvenir shops selling the usual items. It's very popular for skiing in the winter and I believe some Olympic events have been held near there. One reason it's a bit larger is probably because vehicles can easily reach it, which means that tour buses can also reach it. It's very scenic but probably my least favourite of the towns in that area.

You didn't mention Mürren, which seems to be an overwhelming favourite with many here. It's a very scenic village with some good hotels and good hiking opportunities. One easy trip is to take the Allmend-Hubel Funicular up the hill and then hike (stroll?) back to Mürren, through pastoral alpine meadows and past grazing cows. Mürren is also a good place to stay if you're planning to take a trip to.....

The Schilthorn / Piz Gloria. This was made famous by the James Bond movie On Her Majesty's Secret Service back in the '60s. There's a revolving restaurant at about 10,000 feet which is a great way to see the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau while enjoying a fine meal. Like anything else in Switzerland, getting there is a bit pricey but it's a trip I always enjoy as the cable cars are spectacular.

The Matterhorn is some distance from the Lauterbrunnen Valley, so with only 2 -3 days, I'd probably skip it this time.

If you're planning to use a lot of the mountain lifts in the area, you might have a look at one of the Swiss Passes. You may find this to be helpful - https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/transportation/trains/switzerland-rail-passes .

Posted by
11203 posts

Your Swiss friend is right. Lauterbrunnen isn't so much cute as it is practical. Since it's at the base of the valley, it's the most convenient location for seeing both sides.

If you're looking for cute, Mürren and Gimmelwald will fill the bill much better than Lauterbrunnen.

But the point of the Berner Oberland isn't the villages. It's the mountains and the hikes. As someone who doesn't have ready access to mountains, I found it spectacular. I also loved the Canadian Rockies, and didn't find it a duplication to have seen both. However, that's coming from someone who's only been to these kinds of places a few times. If you're in the mountains frequently, you may or may not be as impressed as I was.

Do be sure to avoid Interlaken. It has exactly the kind of touristy, Disney vibe you're seeking to avoid. Large hotels, large tour groups, casinos, sex shops, jewelry stores, etc. Grindelwald has a bit of this, but still feels much classier. The other towns are not like this at all.

Lola's distinctions are good ones. The Berner Oberland villages cater to tourism-which is not the same as saying they are ruined by it.

Posted by
74 posts

You mentioned that you enjoyed hiking. I just returned from two weeks of a hiking vacation in the Berner Oberland (middle of September). I cannot imagine a better place in the world for a hiking vacation. There are many, many excellent hikes for hikers of all levels. We had very good weather and enjoyed 11 hikes in 12 days with only one day of low clouds and 15 minutes of rain. We were fortunate because the four days before we arrived and the day we left were full of rain. Based on three trips to the Berner Oberland, you can count on rain at least one day a week (or more if you’re unlucky).

I’m 70 years old and an intermediate-level hiker. On this trip, my hikes included: (1) North Face Trail (out of Murren), (2) Sefinen Valley Trail to Kilchbalm (out of Gimmelwald), (3) Eiger Trail (starting from Eigergletsher Station), (4) Hohenweg 2400 (from Grosse Scheidegg to First station and return), (5) Schnige Platte to Weber’s Hut (on the way to Faulhorn) and return, (6) Oeschinensee (from Kandersteg lift and hiking around and above the lake), (7) Kleine Scheidegg to Mannlichen (summit) and return, and (8) First station to Chrinnenbogen (Marmot's Trail) to Grosse Scheidegg (via Hohenweg 2400). Most of the hikes took about three and a half hours (some less and some more) at a moderate pace and a stop or two to chat with other hikers.

If you're a more advanced hiker, the hike from Schnige Platte to Faulhorn (lunch) to the First station is a classic Swiss Alps hike and hard to beat. If you want a real challenge, try Murren to the top of Schilthorn (or the reverse). Wish I could do it, but it's too tough for me.

Regarding where to stay, there are many good options as other posters have indicated. I’ve stayed in both Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald and have visited Murren, Wengen, Gimmelwald and Stechelberg several times. All are different and have their particular strong points. We prefer staying in a flat in a Swiss chalet in Grindelwald with a balcony with views of the Eiger and glacier fields (less expensive than many hotels). There are also more restaurant options in Grindelwald. As noted by others, Grindelwald is larger and attracts more tourists, but we find them easy to ignore.

Posted by
7201 posts

Of course it’s touristy (full of tourists). It’s Bollywood central and the area is inundated with Indians making their trip of a lifetime. Be prepared for a bit of culture shock when dealing with large crowds there. Orderliness and queuing are not traits you’ll usually find. Pushing and shoving and crowding is now more the norm than not. The Jungfrau experience has been vastly changed over the last 10-15 years with wayyy too many people clamoring for the experience.

Posted by
689 posts

We spent 4 nights in Wengen in Summer 2017 and felt we made the right choice after visiting Grindelwald, Murren, Gimmelwald, Kleine Scheidegg and Lauterbrunnen. Being up in the mountains was better than in the valleys. Wengen has the best main drag/commercial area compared to Murren and KS although the latter two have more dramatic views. The hike from the top of the Mannlichen down to KS and on down to Wengen was great.

Posted by
69 posts

Hi Nickelini,

As a fellow Vancouverite, I hope my two cents might be helpful. I, too, have grown up around mountains for all but 10 of my 73 years. We have made many. many trips to Whistler, summer & winter and have driven the Canadian Rockies and seen Banff and Jasper. I am pretty confident when I say to you that it won't be just another " mountain experience" . We stayed in the Lauterbrunnen Valley with a RS Tour in Sept of 2015 and then after the tour returned and stayed in Mürren for several days. I still get chills when I look at my photos and remember the breathtaking view from the deck of the Bellevue Hotel and the Schilthorn. I think my family got quite tired of me raving so much about the area after we got home. We did not find it " touristy" and did not experience what Tim of Knoxville describes. I agree with Fast Eddie - stay in one of the car-free villages for peaceful evenings (Mürren gets my vote) and hike down to Gimmelwald and take the cable car up to the Schilthorn - we took Ken's advice and enjoyed a nice lunch in the revolving restaurant at the top of the world. Felt like you could reach out & touch the mountain peaks.
You have been given lots of good advice by the posters here and you are right " people at this site are the best" !
Go and enjoy the unparalleled beauty of the region - I bet you won't be disappointed.

Posted by
544 posts

Murren is an incredible place to stay for 3 days (check out Chalet Fontana for accommodations). But only convenient for travelling on the west side of the valley (Gimmelwald, Schilthorn, Winteregg, Grutschalp). Wengen and Grindelwald are bases for the east side (Jungfrau). Lauterbrunnen is most convenient if you want to go to both sides, but as has been said its a notch lower on the cute/quaint scale.

Posted by
2023 posts

We have visited Switzerland several times in May. Stayed in Wengen and it was not touristy nor was Murren. Last trip we took train to the Jungfrau --it had been maybe 10 years since we had taken train up there. It was packed with tourists. The exterior viewing area has a zip line now and there were lots of kids enjoying it. The dog sledding has been discontinued. There are some nice hikes from Wengen. We made a mistake in taking Rick's advice to see Murten--a complete waste of time.