Need suggestions on which town to stay in for four-days in the Berner Oberland area in mid-May 2019. We want to do some hiking, do the Jungfraujoch (Top of the World), and the Schilthorn. Any suggestions on towns and accommodations would be greatly appreciated!
We liked staying in Grindelwald. Many choices for hotels and dining. Stunningly beautiful views. Excellent transportation options.
Most of us here stay in one of the four villages in the Lauterbrunnen Valley - Lauterbrunnen (in the valley), Gimmelwald or Mürren (up the Schilthorn side of the valley) or Wengen (up the Jungfrau side of the valley). All four have advantages and disadvantages, and all four have their ardent fans. You really can't go wrong with any of the four. Of these four, private cars are only allowed in Lauterbrunnen; the other three have some local utility vehicles (so they're not traffic free) but no private cars.
Gimmelwald is too small for me, with only a couple of places to eat and no ATM or grocery store (very important in this very expensive country; the restaurants cost a lot, but the supermarket prices are not bad at all). Rick is very attached to Gimmelwald because he's been coming for many years and has gotten to know local families. If, like the rest of us, you don't have this kind of connection, you may not be as wowed as Rick is by it. Mürren is my favorite - still quite small, but just big enough. Lauterbrunnen is the most convenient for both sides of the valley, but the cars make it less atmospheric, and you get valley views instead of views from on high (still very pretty, just different). And Wengen is larger than the others (again, still no private cars).
Grindelwald is over in the next valley. It's larger than the other four I discussed above, and does have private cars as well as local buses. It's farther from the Schilthorn, but would be easily accessible for the Jungfraujoch via the train from Grindelwald to Kleine Scheidegg.
Any of these will work well. The one to avoid (unless all the others are booked solid) is Interlaken, which is near but not in the Alps. Unless you want or need a large store (Migros in Interlaken came in very handy when I wanted an inexpensive replacement for my broken day bag), a sex shop, a casino, a jewelry store, or a "Paksitani" restuarant (that's what the sign said, like Punxsutawney Phil in Groundhog Day), just use Interlaken to change trains, buses or boats.
Consider looking for apartments in this area. A friend of mine found a studio apartment (basically, a room in someone's house, but with its own kitchen and bathroom) in Mürren, for about a third of what a hotel was charging. He's not going until June, so I won't know how his stay worked out until then.
We just returned from Hotel Murren in Murren and loved it ! We woke up to the cow bells in the fields !
We hiked all over the mountains, but loved the hike from Gimmelwald down into Stechelberg. We even ate every night at the restaurant at the hotel.
I'm a huge fan of Wengen. While I enjoy visiting Gimmelwald and Mürren for day hikes, I think their position at the far end of the valley makes them less ideal as bases. I love Wengen because it has both rail and cable car links between the Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald valleys. This makes it ideal if you're looking to cover hikes in both areas, cutting down transit time. The transportation is also all unified under one system (unlike Gimmelwald/Mürren, where the Schilthorn cable car is not included with the rest of the regional trains/lifts).
You can see what is covered by the pass on the Jungfrau website (there is an additional charge for the Jungfraujoch):
I stay at the Hotel Alpenrose in Wengen, which is a little bit away from the main part of the village and therefore even quieter. It has clean, lovely rooms, beautiful common areas, and some amazing views.
For your days, I think with only four days in the region both the Jungfraujoch and the Schilthorn might be a little too much of the same. I'd pick one (Jungfraujoch for me) and then focus the rest of your time on hiking. There are so many beautiful places to see!
Claire, what do you mean by this: unlike Gimmelwald/Mürren, where the Schilthorn cable car is not included with the rest of the regional trains/lifts).
It really doesn't make sense, and it's not accurate. All of the Swiss Transport System is well integrated. Of course the transports you speak of are included. Swiss Travel Pass covers all of that as well as all of the lifts and trains in the area. You'll get discounts on the higher private rail lines like the Jungfrau. But the STP covers Stechelberg to Gimmelwald to Murren to Schilthorn 100%.
We stayed at the Hotel Alpenblick this summer and loved it. One of the few rooms that had a 2-room suite that slept a family of 4 at a reasonable price. Very quiet and amazing views off our balcony!
Tim, I believe Claire is speaking of travel on the Jungfrau Pass, a local pass which covers travel in a certain area, but does not include the Schilthorn:
A regular Swiss Pass, on the other hand, includes full coverage for travel up the Schilthorn.
Note that in May the lift up to Maennlichen from Wengen does not operate until June 1. From the Grindelwald side it does operate in late May on certain dates.
As far as where to stay, everyone who has been there will probably recommend the place they stayed. That means it is all good. But some locations are better than others for views, or for hiking access, or for nightlife, or for whatever.
On multiple trips to Switzerland, we have stayed in Grindelwald, Wengen, and Murren, several times each.
Grindelwald is a large village that allows cars and buses, which is a negative for us. But the views from town are wonderful, looking up at the main peaks and the north face of the Eiger, and there are multiple hiking opportunities right from town. The village offers more lodging, restaurant, and nightlife opportunities, as well as good access to the Jungfrau railway.
We stay in Wengen because of a wonderful lodging opportunity there, Hotel Baeren which is simple and low-key, moderate in price, and has the best food around. Take half-board here and you will have excellent meals, locally sourced and carefully prepared. I have not taken hiking trails straight from this town, and the lift to Maennlichen may not be running, but the Jungfrau train will be.
Muerren is the place that has become our favorite. The views from the far end of town, across the valley to the Jungfrau massif, are magnificent. The town itself, like Wengen, is car-free and pleasant for walking. Accommodations run from the very affordable Chalet Fontana (with now views but a great location) to nice lovely hotels apartments with view balconies. You have immediate acces to the Schilthorn and many hiking trails (although some will not be snow-free in May). But to go up the Jungfrau, you will have two cross the valley to the other side (which I always regard as an opportunity, not an onerous task).
Hi Tim, sorry for the confusion. I was indeed referring to the very local train/lift pass for the area, the Jungfrau pass.
As you say, the Swiss system is extraordinarily well-integrated and the Swiss Travel Pass can be great if you're doing lots of travel between cities (or within certain cities/towns). I wasn't assuming they would have this for their travels. If they do, then yes, I understand the Schilthorn is now covered by the Swiss Travel Pass.
If they only have one or two destinations in Switzerland (Berner Oberland and one city, for instance), it may be cheaper to just buy regional tickets and then look at what passes they need locally.
It's always a fun exercise ahead of any Swiss trip to price out what travel pass (or passes) to buy to match your itinerary, given how many options there are!
I haven't read all the previous replies, but a few thoughts on your question.
The most "efficient" place to stay in that area is Lauterbrunnen (IMHO), as it's the rail hub for the area and central to both sides of the valley. There are some good hotels there as well as a Hostel. Although it's on the valley floor and doesn't have the spectacular views found in Mürren, I find it very scenic and since I'm usually out touring all day, that's not a big concern. Given that you want to visit sights on both sides of the valley, Lauterbrunnen would be my suggestion.
Depending on the touring you want to do in that area and the mountain lifts you'll be using, you could also look at the Berner Oberland Regional Pass.
I mispent many youthful days in Gimmelwald at Lena's hostel back in the 80s.
We finally revisited in 2014.
We stopped on our way at the magical Thun Castle on Lake Thun. Well worth it.
We stopped a night at the gorgeous rustic Alpenhof in Stechelberg. Ridiculously cheap, wonderfully friendly hosts.
We then hiked up the short steep trail to my magical Gimmelwald. We spent 5 nights with Tim and Walter at the mighty old creaky Mittaghorn.
Our days were spent hiking. First a quick walk up to Murren a funicular ride to Allmendhubel and the short pleasant hike back.
A nice little hike to the beautiful Sprutz falls and beyond.
A ride up to the Schilthorn then a long glorious hike back.
A beautiful hike to Kilchbalm. I also squeezed in a quick jog down to the Alpenhof then a dash back up the hill to the Miitaghorn.
A hike to Murren train to Grutschalp then a brilliant hike out to Sulwald and return.
Took the cable car back to Stechelberg for another night at the Alpenhof. We also took a look at the Trummelbach.
Left most of our gear at the Alpenhof before hiking up to the Ober Steinberg Mountain Hotel. This is not optional, you must spend a night at this place. There is no electricity or hot running water but it is a magic, magic place.
Continue hiking well beyond the hotel some, great scenery. I sent some friends here for their honeymoon.
We hiked back down to pick up our gear at the Alpenhof. Pretty bloody sad to leave the area but we had some other places to see further a field. Of course we missed lots. We always do but we just make sure we delight ourselves with what we do get to see.
We chose to spend our $ on the incredible Gornergrat train in Zermatt rather than the Jungfraujoch so I can't comment on it.
In my young days I was a handy mountain runner. I managed to run most of the hiking trails back then. Gimmelwald to Wengen and up to Kleine Scheidigg. Gimmelwald over Tonzbodeli to Ober Steinberg, Oberhornsee and lopping around via Schmadri Hutte. A huge day. Up and down the Schilthorn via a couple of different paths. A couple of other high trails as well.
I stayed in Lauterbrunnen several years ago, and appreciated its location as far as transportation, etc. However, I stayed in Murren in Sept., and enjoyed being up in the mountains. I would recommend Hotel Alpenblich. The owners were very nice and helpful. Depending on where your room is, there can be a lot of steps to climb.