We plan on staying in BO for 4 nights and spend the majority of time hiking. My question is which town should I use as a home base? In particular how difficult is it to get luggage to the higher towns like Wengen or Murren using the many trains and lifts? We don't travel as light as Rick, but each of us will have one medium size suitcase.
It is not difficult, but you will have to carry your bag from the train station. I'm sure you can pay to have it hauled for you, but I do not know about that; you could ask your hotel. If your plans involve more hiking on one side of the valley than the other (Wengen or Murren), that is an argument for staying on that side. If your plans divide things equally, there is no particular advantage to one over the other. There is also no advantage to staying in Lauterbrunnen for the same reason: what you save by being in the middle you lose by being in the middle. The valley is lovely but sleeping in the mountains is really preferable.
We've stayed in Murren twice and I like the geography and how it's situated best. Unlike Lauterbrunnen, it's 5,000 ft up and surrounded by the Alps. It's mind-blowing beautiful.
Luggage should not be an issue. You put it on the train or cable car, then collect it and walk to your hotel. We have stayed in Wengen and Mürren several times. We love both, but there are more interesting hikes right from your door at Mürren. But be sure to take one day to travel across the valley and hike at Mannlichen.
Nick, we've stayed in Lauterbrunnen, and Murren, and are planning to split our stay between Wengen and Lauterbrunnen this trip. The bottom line is you won't have trouble with your luggage in any of the villages, and they are all wonderful places to stay! It's just a matter of what kind of feel, and view you want. Wengen and Murren are both car free villages and are slightly smaller than Lauterbrunnen. Murren is the highest of the 3. You can look across the valley and down a little and see Wengen. Staying in Lauterbrunnen you can have a great view of Staubbach falls which can be nice. Wengen seems to me to be a little upscale from the other two villages. You'll have a great visit no matter what you decide. Due to you lack of packing light you might look for somewhere to stay that is not too far from the station. There are a couple of hotels in Wengen that provide a shuttle service with a golf cart from the train station to the hotel.
We love Wengen and found it to be a perfect place to stay. The hotel that we stay in(Alpenrose) picks us up at the train station and delivers luggage to our room. There is a call system to the hotels right in the ts and the shuttle arrives in five minutes. Murren is nice with great views also but Wengen definitely feels more upscale.
Another vote for Murren here. As someone who has been to the region several times, I just loved it; the setting is beyond pretty and the location is very convenient for exploring all the Bernese Oberland has to offer. Fact is, you can't go wrong with any of them (Lauterbrunnen, for example, is a very handy-base for going to the cable car that takes you to Schilthorn/Piz Gloria observation deck, from which you'll enjoy head-spinning, mind-blowing 360-degree views!), but for me, personally, Murren offers the best of everything. I loved the idea of sleeping "up in the mountains!" And, not to complicate matters, but there is always Gimmelwald, which Rick praises to no-end/waxes poetic about (and, w/ good reason, the setting is spectacular), but it's certainly a tad too "rustic" for some (although, of course, that's a big + for others)! Whatever you choose, you are sure to enjoy; you're off the one of the most beautiful regions Europe has to offer.
Chris, Regarding your suggestion for Thams Chinese Restaurant, that's the one on the left on the lower road just as you get into the village from the train, right? We never went in because it had so many signs all over it that made it look tacky, and the prices even for Muerren looked high to me. What is it for you to suggest it highly? We will be back in Muerren soon and perhaps we should give it a go...
One more vote for Murren! The views are heavenly and hiking is spectacular.
Thank you so much for all your replies and advice. It looks like we will be staying in Murren. Any advice on hikes? We are in good shape and have spent time hiking in the mountains in USA and Europe. Looking for nontechnical hikes but want challenging, long hikes on trails.
Nick, my favorite hike in the area is the North Face Trail. You start by taking the funicular up to Allmendhubel from Murren. For us it was a 2 1/2 hour hike, but we made the mistake of taking the Very STEEP trail ending in Gimmelwald. I'm in fair shape, but my knees were screaming for the last 1/2 hour. We're going to do this hike again this summer, but will end in Murren instead of Gimmelwald. Rick discusses some hike in his Switzerland book. There is also a book by Donald Chmura called "Exploring the Lauterbrunnen Valley" that has very good descriptions of several hikes in the area.
There are good hikes descriptions on both Gimmelwald websites, gimmelwald.com and gimmelwald.ch We really enjoyed the hike to Rotstockhütte; we made it a loop by going up from Mürren and returning by a different route to Gimmelwald. Took about 6 hours as I recall. The hike to Oberhornsee would be at the top of my list when we return. We have never had enough favorable weather to fit that one in. For a half-day hike, maybe to combine with a half day in the valley for Trummelbach Falls, consider the hike into the Kilchbalm cirque from Gimmelwald.