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Grindelwald, Switzerland holds a very special place in my heart. In this article, we run through our experience over 48 hours in this magical village before recommending the best things to do in Grindelwald. We have comprehensive travel itineraries from all over the world at our travel page and some great photography tips here. If you have any questions please post them below. On with the show…
Our Experience in Grindelwald
We arrived at the Euro Airport: the international airport for Basel (Switzerland), Mulhouse (France), and Freiburg (Germany). Turning right, we were in Switzerland. A novelty for two people from a country with 2000kms separating us from our neighbouring nations.
With train tickets that cost more for the one-way journey, than the return flights from London, we boarded a train to Grindelwald. Sometimes, beauty has its price. And the second that the clock hand hit our designated departure time, we pulled out of the station.
Rolling through the countryside, a high-speed blur of Swiss chalets and green pastures, we decided that we could make a quick trip down the Aare to take a dip in Lake Brienz (German: Brienzersee) when we changed trains at Interlaken Ost. With the midday sun in the late 20s, there were surprisingly few families scattering the small pebble beach we found looking out to the Augstmatthorn in the distance. Boys swung nets to catch tiny fish off rocks, while girls rode Shetland ponies through the lake’s shallower waters. As for us, we slid down over the slippery rocks into the crystal blue water.
The train from Interlaken to Grindelwald was the quickest 30 minutes of the trip, snapping picture after picture of the looming mountains as we came closer. We had arrived. After taking in the view of the mountains surrounding us, and valleys below, we found our way up to Gasthof Panorama – our home in the hills. Before we could do much more, the sun began to illuminate the clouds with warm pink shades, contrasting against the darkening grey and green rock faces.
As the sky went from pink to black we headed down to the centre of the town for dinner. A friendly local heard us debating what we felt like eating and gave us a couple of recommendations. The first place was full to the brim, with a waiting list that extended past closing time. So we headed to the second, the restaurant at the Eiger Selfness Hotel. We sat on the street front and ordered the traditional Swiss dish: Rösti (grated potato with your selected topping). One three-meat for the carnivore and one vegetable and cheese for the vegetarian served in a frying pan.
Finishing the Rösti with a lion’s share of meat and a block of cheese in our respective bellies, we debated why the Swiss are all so slim over a large glass of grappa. For those who are unfamiliar with the Italian liqueur, it consists of grape skins, seeds and stalks that are left over from the winemaking process and is supposed to help with the digestion of heavy meals. With a 20-minute hike uphill to our guesthouse, we were ever so hopeful that this would be the cure to our meat/cheese overdose. At the top, on the terrace, we finished off the second glass of grappa (for good measure) and the day was done. Tomorrow, we were going up – way up!
Recovering from a restless sleep of wild meat/cheese induced dreams, we attempted to devise a plan of action for the day. Three cups of coffee in, pamphlets entitled “Things to do in Grindelwald” and maps scattered over the table, we had too many options and not enough days to discover them all. Our guesthouse hosts came to our aid, simply by their dismay that we would begin anywhere other than Kleine Scheidegg.
Kleine Scheidegg (“minor watershed”) is a mountain pass situated between the Eiger and Lauberhorn peaks. At 2061 meters, it’s actually higher than the neighbouring Grosse Scheidegg. From there you could walk up to get a view of all the major hits: Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.
We walked down to the station passing pristine gardens and chalets decorated with flowerbox windows. The flowers are natural mosquito repellants. With train tickets and some further advice from the boy at the office, we were on our way up. When we told people in London that we were going to the Swiss Alps, more than one seemed confused at the thought of going in summer. Sure, it’s a ski resort town. And sure, we are not rock climbers. But in summer the Alps, are quite possibly at their best. You aren’t battling with scores of people, and the temperature is mild and comfortable.
When the snow has melted, alpine flowers begin to scatter the surface. Many of these only grow above a certain altitude. Braunvieh cows graze on lush mountain pastures filled with these flowers and hundreds of different herbs not found in the valleys. This diet gives them a culinary high that, together with the fresh mountain water and greater freedom of movement, leads to the production of Switzerland’s sought-after alpine cheese.
We made our way up the trail to Eigergletscher, passing a reservoir (complete with three park benches facing each of the mountains and freezing cold foot baths). Resting/sunbaking on rocks looking out to the snow-covered mountaintops, ravens and bi-planes gliding overhead, we contemplated our next move along the Eiger trail.
The famous north face of the Eiger (Nordwand: North Wall) is 1,800 meters of rock and ice, the biggest north face in the Alps. Since 1935 at least 64 climbers have died attempting it, earning it the German nickname Mordwand, “murder(ous) wall”.
Described as moderately difficult for the experienced hiker, the Eiger trail was, for the most part, a well-graded path. To be fair, we were walking on a downward gradient, rather than up. But a stark difference from some other scree covered trails we have experienced. Passing streams and waterfalls, we came to a crossroads where the path to Grindelwald went both left and right. The left was shorter. We chose the right. The right path down to Grindelwald involved a pretty nice forest that we wanted to explore. What we didn’t know then is that the trail passed by a snow cave, validating for us the extra 30-minute walk.
Through the forest, and finally at the bottom, we caught the bus back into town. There we got a table at Onkel Tom’s Hütte (the first place recommended by our friendly local on the first night, but where we couldn’t get into). Full of delicious pizza and beer, we made our way to our guesthouse, just in time for the rain from that night’s thunderstorm to start coming down.
Things To Do In Grindelwald
Grindelwald in Summer is a magical place. It is home to some of the best hiking in Switzerland. Be sure to come here at that time of year if you’re looking to do any tramping. So we’ll start by looking at the very best of the activities in Grindelwald:
Is it Winter?
If yes then go Skiing/Snowboarding. Staying in Grindelwald gives you access to three world-class ski resorts Bodmiarena, Grindelwald-First and Kleine Scheidegg-Männlichen. For the flatlanders, there are a number of cross-country skiing paths for you to take with the primary trail running for almost 7km. If you’re planning on heading to Grindelwald in Summer then keep reading below:
By far one of the most popular destinations in Gridelwald, and one that is worth your time. “First” is the starting point for many hiking trails and has some pretty fun “tourist activities” too. The First Flyer and the trottibikes (mountain scooters) are great fun if you’re into going fast. For a more leisurely time (or if you spent all your money getting to the top) you could take one of the many free hikes that start here.
The Eiger trail is a six-kilometre jaw-dropping hike that takes you directly beneath the Eiger’s north face. This climbing route up the mountain is a near vertical slab of rock that extends for over 1600m. Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting you climb that one, just walk around it and marvel! To begin the walk you need to take the Jungfrau railway to the Eigergletscher (Eiger Glacier). From here, there are a number of different hikes you can take. The Eiger Trail is by far the best! This walk is around 6km if you want to quit and take the train back down. But, for the more adventurous (or if you liked the photos above) you can continue to walk back down to the town. I highly recommend doing this, just make sure you are fairly fit! It’s a lot of downhill walking, and stairs.
If you want to just go straight to the top, and skip all the mediocrity, then prepare your Mastercard (you’re gonna need to free up some credit) and head up to Jungfraujoch. The Jungfraubahn is one of the most amazing railway journeys that you can take on this planet. While most of the journey is inside a mountain, you can marvel at the achievement that you’re sitting in as you make the 50min journey to the Top of Europe. You begin around 2000m and end up on top of Jungfraujoch at around 3500m.
Lake Bachalpsee sits at around 2250 metres and provides some of the most iconic imagery that you’ll encounter in Switzerland. The walk is around 50 minutes each way, through breathtaking fields of flowers, serenaded by cowbells. Plan your trip to the Lake on a nice bright day with little wind and you will be treated to double the view. The reflections of Schreckhorn, Wetterhorn and Finsteraarhorn provide you with ample opportunity to improve your Instagram following!
Some more ideas:
Travel to Grindelwald
Grindelwald is well connected by public transport (like everything in Switzerland). You may have to sell your first born to afford the ticket price, but like everything in Switzerland, it’s worth the money! Have your camera ready as the journey will keep you captivated. Here are a list of distances and time taken to get to Grindelwald via different methods (courtesy of Swiss Vacations).
|Destination||Distance||Travel Time in Minutes|
|km||miles||by Train||by Car|
|St. Moritz||306||190||369||approx. 250|
Best Hotels in Grindelwald
You’re probably getting the theme by now. If you haven’t already sold your child and maxed out your credit card, you’re going to want to look for a place to stay while you’re here. There are plenty of options to choose from when it comes to accommodation in Grindelwald. At the top end, there is the 5-star Schweizerhof and at the lower end, there are plenty of options for camping. Compare all of the prices in the app below.
Should I go to Grindelwald?
If you’ve made it this far, then you’re probably pretty keen to get to Grindelwald. I know I was when I first learned of this magical place. While living in Switzerland I made regular visits to Grindelwald to explore (and try to capture) all it has to offer. While it isn’t for the ultra cash-conscious consumer, it can be done in a relatively affordable manner. If you are happy to splash some cash, then you will be treated to an experience that you’ll remember for the rest of your life!
What to Bring to Grindelwald?
Pack for adventure during the day and have something nice for the evening. We recommend picking up the best travel backpack and one of the best mirrorless cameras for travel so you can easily store and capture your journey. Backpacks always work best in small European towns whereas suitcases are a clacky nightmare. You’ll want some nice hiking boots for your trip into the mountains so check out Amazon before you hit the road!
New Zealand travel photographer based in London, UK. He was taking photos from a very young age in the backcountry of New Zealand before moving abroad. Since doing so he has taken workshops and tried to help get as many people into this art as possible. Featured in NZ Herald, Stuff.co.nz and many photography publications it’s safe to say he loves his photography!