One thousand-foot waterfalls. Snow-capped Alps. Cows grazing in flower-covered meadows. Lauterbrunnen is what you think of when you think of Switzerland, that is to say, the hills are very much alive with the sound of music! Here waterfalls pour from dramatic cliffsides, while the Alps surround you on every side. The air is clean, the town is Medieval, and you really get a sense of village Swiss life that is very much in tune with nature. And with so many things to do in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland it’s impossible to leave without wanting to see more!
I recently went to Switzerland on a whirlwind tour, where I visited Zurich, Lucerne, Lauterbrunnen, and Zermatt to create the perfect 5-day Switzerland Itinerary. And while I loved every moment of visiting this clean, stunningly gorgeous country, there was one place I visited that left the biggest impression – Lauterbrunnen.
Lauterbrunnen is like stepping back in time. Everything feels fresh, simple, and the stunning beauty of nature takes center stage. Here, you can travel up the side of mountains by cable car to stay in the world’s most beautiful hostel in the Alps, where flowers bloom all summer and the sound of cowbells fill the air. There are even some surprises that are just waiting to be explored (like glacial waterfalls in a mountain!?).
So let’s dive in and see all things to do in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland!
Psst: Planning a visit to Europe or the Switzerland area? Check out some of our other posts to help you plan your trip!
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I had a ton of questions before heading to Switzerland. Like, how do I navigate the train system? (Easily, luckily!) How much German do I need to know? (Not a ton lot it turns out.) Can I survive on cheese and chocolate alone? (Apparently yes, though my body did start to crave a vegetable now and again.)
Since a thousand years is not a viable option, I’d say spending 5 days in Lauterbrunnen would be an excellent way to see the area while taking it nice and slow. Keep in mind Lauterbrunnen isn’t just a town – the Lauterbrunnen Valley area has plenty of small mountain villages to explore and excursions to do, so you can stay busy!
Your best bet will be to fly into Zurich Airport, then take a train about 2.5 hours from Zurich to Lauterbrunnen. You can always search the train schedule on google maps, and the trains are prompt and efficient. The trains are also very clean and super relaxing; you will literally be sitting and oohing and ahhing over the landscapes as you travel to your next destination!
I also highly recommend getting a 6-day 2nd class Swiss Travel Pass, which not only covers trains and cable cars but most of the excursion transportation for the different things to do in Lauterbrunnen. This pass pays for itself and takes the guesswork out of buying each ticket and excursion tickets. It’s really a lifesaver and a deal!
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Since these things to do in Lauterbrunnen are for warm-weather activities, the best time to visit Switzerland is July-October.
I visited at the end of September and the weather was nearly perfect – days in the mid-70s while some nights in the alps got into the 40s. That being said, you will be taking an excursion to the highest train station in Europe so you’ll want a winter jacket (I recommend packable down, which weighs almost nothing and takes up very little space in your bag) and winter boots for the snow!
September is also a great time if you want to see the parade of cows in Lauterbrunnen (the best kind of parade, trust me!).
Since it is so temperate during this time, you can expect to see lots of beautiful wildflowers and gardens, especially up in the Alps, where it’s like perpetual spring. As a person who loves flowers, I was blown away by the serene beauty of the environment. It really doesn’t get more picturesque or pristine than Lauterbrunnen.
Lia swore I didn’t need any German… but I think a little German goes a long way!
As a person who loves learning languages, I would have studied German on Duolingo if I didn’t spend two weeks frantically planning my 5-day Switzerland Itinerary. While nothing bad happened by not knowing any German besides greetings, I did have some lost-in-translation moments that would have been helpful with a tiny bit of conversational ability.
And though I keep saying “German”, be aware that German is only one of FOUR national languages of Switzerland. That’s right – Four. The official languages are German, Italian, French, and Romansh. How about that?
While Lauterbrunnen is located in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, expect to hear all these languages and more! Basically learn greetings in all these languages if possible – it’s like every person you talk to will greet you differently.
The most fun (and common) way to say goodbye is “Tschüss“(chuus), so at least learn that!
I discovered that since Switzerland is such a small country with only 8.5 million residents, they actually have their own apps which makes planning and navigating the country easier!
Here are the Swiss apps I used and a few others that will help with general traveling:
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Ahhh, the hills are truly alive with the sound of music in the Swiss Alps. Lauterbrunnen Valley has it all – meadows of wildflowers, snow-capped Alps, cows will bells on… You can wander in this pastoral paradise forever and never get over the majesty of its beauty. Below are the best things to do in Lauterbrunnen!
Lauterbrunnen is the main village that sits in Lauterbrunnen Valley, where 72 waterfalls flow from the thousand-foot cliffs on either side of the valley (including Trümmelbach Falls). The name “Lauterbrunnen” means “many springs”, which is no surprise as you stroll around the valley listening to the sound of rushing water all around you.
The village was first mentioned in writing in 1304, and its medieval charm is still prevalent today, with its chalet-style buildings, window boxes over-flowing with colorful flowers, and the tall church spire in the middle of town.
Something you’ll notice about being in a valley surrounded by cliffs is how dramatically the light changes from one hour to another: the entire town can be covered in shade by mid-afternoon as the sun passes by the cliff walls. Life here is dictated by nature and less by human force, and there is a “village time” aspect to it.
That being said, the town of Lauterbrunnen itself is a bit “touristy”, so expect to see plenty of souvenir shops, and of course, tourists.
Some of the things to check out in the town of Lauterbrunnen, in order from the train station into town are:
Hiking is one of the best things to do in Lauterbrunnen, and this hike blends stunning views with a fabulous destination. Hiking up to Sprutz waterfall, is well, a hike, we’re talking about 700′ up and a mile to reach it. And though that may sound like a lot – it’s worth the effort – you will get the most breathtaking views of the alps I had on my entire trip on the way up and back. It should only take about 40 minutes up (so they say), but plan closer to an hour (about two for the total trip) since it seems everyone in Switzerland is a faster hiker than I am (I literally watched 60-year-old Swiss women practically run by me). Bring lots of water and start early!
To get there, you will follow the sign to Mürren outside Mountain Hostel (which is right by the cable car station if you don’t end up staying there) which will take you up a path past meadows and up the hill overlooking Gimmewald. Along the way, you’ll go through various gates to keep those pesky cows from trying to escape. Once at the top of the hill, you’ll reach a forest of pine trees and a sign for “Sprutz Waterfall” which you will follow up!
Once you’ve climbed deep into the forest, you’ll see another sign for “Sprutz” pointing left, and will follow the sound of water as you hike down to a glorious waterfall that spills over a cliff edge creating a cascade – that you can actually walk behind!
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On a sunny day, the mist from the gushing water is refreshing, and from the waterfall you can look beyond the pines, admiring the snow-covered alps while paragliders gently float by in the distance. A lot of people actually come to this area to paraglide, and you totally can take a tandem paragliding ride… But not me!
Once you get your fill of the stunning waterfall scenery, head back in the same direction you came, taking big deep breaths of the towering pine trees. Just don’t be tempted to continue forward on the path under the waterfall or else you’ll do a large loop, which will take you back on the main path ultimately but will add quite a bit of time to your journey.
As you leave the forest, you’ll be treated to the most stunning view of Gimmelwald below and the alps looming like titans in the distance. Take a seat at the first bench you find and enjoy the views and have a snack. You earned it!
As I’ve mentioned, Lauterbrunnen is home to plenty of waterfalls. You can hear water rushing in the distance from pretty much wherever you are. But what about waterfalls… inside a cliff face?
Located just a quick bus ride away from town, Trümmelbach Falls are subterranean glacial waterfalls, where over 5000 gallons of cold glacial runoff per second surges down through the boulders to pools below. The effect is chilling, misty, and magical – you can feel the raw force of nature just feet from your fingertips.
It takes at least 30 minutes to explore the falls, from taking the lift up inside the mountain (an adventure in itself) to winding your way back down through tunnels, paths, and platforms taking in the rushing water, but you could easily spend much longer here. With each set of stairs you climb and tunnel you pass through, you’ll find a new stream of relentless, stunningly turquoise glacial water gushing downwards. It’s as pure and clean as water can get.
The experience is thunderingly loud, since you are literally in caves where water is plummeting down, and the ground is pretty wet, so wear good shoes and a warm jacket. There is also a small fee to get in, but totally worth it for the unique and fantastical experience.
After your glorious, life-changing hike through a watery mountain, stop in Restaurant Trümmelbach, which is the building right next to the road. This little self-serve cafe has your basics – delicious little sandwiches, fries, and fresh meringue. I got a cucumber and cheese sandwich, a delectable raspberry meringue, and a cup of espresso and sat outside, enjoying the ever-regal presence of the Alps. This is how you live your life to the fullest!
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When you get hungry after hiking or wandering through subterranean waterfalls (which you will!), it’s time to head to Restaurant Weidstübli, a traditional Swiss restaurant that is a part of the hostel Camping Jungfrau, located at the foot of the famous 1000′ tall Staubbach Waterfall. How’s that for ambiance?
On a beautiful day, there is plenty of outdoor seating beneath the white and red striped awnings, with red geraniums blooming all around you. It’s like being in a Swiss movie, or just like, in Switzerland, which you actually will be if you eat here!
Order their leaf/vegetable salad that comes with carrots, sprouts, red cabbage, and plenty of vegetables to offset all the cheese and chocolate you will consume. For your main course, you have to try the “Äpler” Macaroni, which is a take on the classic Swiss Käsespätzle.
Basically, this dish is Rigatoni noodles in a creamy cheese sauce with cubes of potatoes and crispy fried onions on top. It also comes with a side of apple sauce, which as weird as it sounds, is the perfect sweet foil to this savory, decadent dish. Also if this sounds weird to you, you have also not met my husband, who loves eating apple sauce despite not being a child. To each his own, I guess!
It may not be the most traditional version of Käsespätzle I have ever eaten, but it was certainly my favorite. Plus this is the perfect place to sit and enjoy the Alps, and maybe if you’re lucky, meet some friendly English-speaking tourists, like the couple from Texas I met who love Lauterbrunnen and spend weeks here every year. That’s the way to do it!
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Gimmelwald is a little village near the town of Lauterbrunnen. Whereas Lauterbrunnen rests in the valley, Gimmelwald is located about 800 feet up – yes, it’s located up on the cliffs that surround the valley! But never fear, getting there is easy, you just take the bus from Lauterbrunnen to the Stechelberg Cable Car station. The first stop is Gimmelwald!
Once you arrive in the pure air of the alps in the town of Gimmewald, you’ll only hear the sound of falling water, birds chirping, and the bells ringing around the neck of cows grazing in the pastures. There are no cars in Gimmewald and no new buildings – only the sounds of nature and wildflowers everywhere which seem to be in perpetual bloom. Even Rick Steves loves visiting Gimmelwald, saying, “If Heaven isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, send me back to Gimmelwald.”
As you wander around Gimmelwald, make sure to pop into the Honesty Shop, located next to Mountain Hostel (which should absolutely be your home base for exploring Lauterbrunnen!). Inside, they have snacks, souvenirs, and you guessed it, no one working there! No cameras, no supervision of any kind, just good old-fashioned honesty. If you decide to buy something, there is a box to deposit your money in. What a beautiful concept!
In all honesty, there isn’t much to do in Gimmelwald, but rather just be. Walk around, look at the old houses in this little town which was built in 1346, enjoy the wildflowers and beautifully maintained gardens, and stare into the Alps looking like Titans in the distance.
Located another 1000 feet up is Mürren, which is the second stop on the cable car! All you’ll do is hop on the cable car by Mountain Hostel in Gimmelwald and you will be in Mürren in minutes.
Mürren, like Gimmelwald, has no cars and is your idyllic alpine village, but with more stores, restaurants and visitors than the tiny Gimmelwald. You’ll see plenty of tourists hiking through the village, and drinking from wooden water fountains where you can fill up your water from the runoff of glaciers. The water is potable, in fact, all of Switzerland’s water is drinkable unless otherwise noted. Some pure, glacial refreshment!
While Mürren is a popular ski destination in the wintertime, in the summer and fall hikers come through to visit the local shops and enjoy the slower pace of life. Mürren isn’t so much about “doing”, but “experiencing”, being in the moment, and taking in the pure atmosphere of the Alps. Unless you want to do the via Ferrata, which takes doing to whole new heights!
Stop in the local shops and find something you can only get in the Alps – I picked up a “bloom tea” made with meadow wildflowers to take home to a friend as a gift. Also talk to the local cows (they won’t judge), their bells ringing across the fields, and stop to look at the dahlias and edelweiss growing in the local gardens. It’s like time simply doesn’t exist here.
During the summer between mid-July to early September, you can take an Alpine Cheese Tour in Mürren, where you can see how cheese is made while on a guided tour with locals. The tours begin at 7:45am at the Mürren cable car station, and you must make reservations there up until the evening before the tour (you can by email too on the website).
The tour includes an hour hike of about 2.3 miles from Mürren to the Schiltalp Restaurant where the cheese is made and includes breakfast, and of course, plenty of cheese tasting! It’s a great way to see how all those cows contribute to the Swiss’s livelihood, plus you get a beautiful morning hike and get to pick a local’s brain.
It’s about a 45-minute hike down to the village after and you will have experienced a stunning hike to start your day. That’s the Swiss life!
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For another activity in Mürren, head toward the Allmendhubel-Bahn, the funicular on the side of the mountain in the middle of town. After a brief 4-minute ride up, you’ll find yourself with an even higher overlook of the Alps, which we can all appreciate.
While there is a restaurant and a big playground for the kids here, the main draw is the Flower Trail, which isa downhill hike back to the town of Mürren (you’re welcome). It’s about 1.3 miles, and should only take about an hour, but you will get to see all kinds of wildflowers growing on the hills (up to 150 varieties), and the trail even weaves through the forest a bit for the full German experience.
You’ll see flowers in yellows and blues and pinks, and of course, the stunning, white Edelweiss if it is still in season. Fields of flowers surround you, with the bright blue sky and mountains in the distance. This is your cue to sing!
For more specific info on the Flower Trail, the Swiss Family Fun’s guide will tell you everything you need to know.
Once you reach Mürren, you may be hungry, so pop into one of the local cafes like the ultra-cozy Café LIV. Here you can grab some coffee, a sandwich, and maybe a piece of cake before heading back to Mountain Hostel (or wherever you’re staying) or our next point of interest!
You never want to miss an opportunity to get high in the Alps, high in elevation, that is! Schithorn is one of the tallest mountains in the region at 2,970 meters ( or 9,744 feet). Besides getting stunning views of the surrounding Alps, Piz Gloria (the summit building) on Schithorn is known for being featured in the 1969 movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, so you can be sure there is plenty of Bond ephemera to explore!
Up top at Piz Gloria, you can do such Bond-related activities like dine in the 360°-Restaurant, check out Spy World (an interactive Bond exhibit), and the outdoor “walk of fame” which traces the Bond filming location. Besides the somewhat hokey Bond experiences, the best thing that awaits you are the views – the Piz Gloria Viewing platform gives you 360-degree views of the Alps with views of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau peaks. The air doesn’t get any cleaner here, and you definitely feel like you’re standing on top of the world.
Once you’re done with Piz Gloria, take the cable car down to the next stop of Birg (though you can also do this experience first, if you like!). Birg sits at 2677 meters (or 8783 ft) and the main activity here is the Thrill Walk, which as it sounds, is a thrilling way to see more of the stunning Alps, wildflowers, and rolling green hills. This 650ft path winds down along the vertical walls of the craggy mountainside, where you’ll gaze down through the metal grate path, cross mesh bridges, and even pass over sections of glass! Not great for those scared of heights, but great for views!
There are a few other activities at the Birg stop, like a restaurant, a viewing platform, and a 2-mile out-and-back hike to Grauseeli to see an excellent example of a glimmering Swiss lake for those perfect photo opportunities.
To get to Schilthorn and Birg, you’ll take the same cable car line that connects the Lauterbrunnen Valley (Stechelberg), Gimmelwald, and Mürren – the next two highest stops are Birg and Schilthorn. The cable cars run every half hour and it’s just a matter of taking the next cable car up at each station, making it hard to get lost! The cost to get to Schilthorn from Mürren is about $46 with a Swiss Travel Pass (50% off the full price), but that includes the stop at Birg and all the activities (sans food).
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“Did you hear? There’s a cow parade!” “Are you going to the cow parade?” The town was buzzing and one phrase was uttered by every mouth – cow parade. What was this cow parade? Why was this cow parade? Could this cow parade be as adorable as I had hoped? Yes, yes it was.
The cow parade happens in Lauterbrunnen from September through early October, the exact dates changing slightly each year. But if you are in the area you will know. People will be lining the streets and waiting for one of the most unique things to do in Lauterbrunnen!
The cow parade is quite an easy concept – the farmers move their cows down to the valley for the fall because the mountains are about to get real chilly. But the Swiss love their cows, so they send them down in style.
Adorned with flower crowns, and enormous ringing bells, the cows moo their way through town in a jaunty fashion, with tourists (like myself) oohing and ahhing over these precious mountain dwellers in their finery.
I was lucky enough to just happen to be there while it was happening, so I was able to see this as I took myself and my luggage down to the train station. For more information about the parades and to check the dates, keep the eye on the Newly Swissed Blog.
Since you’re traveling in the alps region you may want to go all the way. All the way… up!
Jungfraujoch: Top of Europe is the highest railway station in Europe at 3,454 meters above sea level (or 11,332 feet) and sits on the saddle of two 4000+ meter mountains of the Bernese Alps: the Jungfrau and the Mönch. Getting up this high affords you stunning views of the Alps on a clear day and views of the Aletsch Glacier, which is the longest glacier in Europe and a World Natural Heritage Site.
The name itself is a bit of a misnomer, in that if you visit Zermatt you can go to Mountain Glacier Paradise by cable car which is at 3883 meters (12,739.5 feet) which is higher up (check out my 5-Day Switzerland Itinerary on how to do this!).
Something else to know about Jungfraujoch is that it is expensive, about $200 (about $150 with the recommended Swiss Travel Pass’s 25% discount) per person but it’s definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And if you’re in Switzerland, do it!
It takes about an hour and 45 minutes to get to Jungfraujoch from Lauterbrunnen, and you will have to start at Lauterbrunnen railway station and take the train to Kleine Scheidegg (sit on the right side for the best views of the Alps, though a lot of the ride is through a tunnel). Your Swiss Travel Pass covers your fare to Wengen (the stop before Kleine Scheidegg), but past that you will get a 25% discount on the rest of the journey including to Jungfraujoch. Once at Kleine Scheidegg, you’ll hop on the Jungfraujoch train that is going to take you to the top!
Give yourself at least 4 hours to explore Jungfraujoch once you arrive, as there is plenty to do at the top from movies to kitschy displays to an ice palace to hiking the majestic Alps! There are plenty of restaurants and shops as well, so you won’t go hungry and you can easily spend more money. Take the elevator up to the main viewing platform, called the Sphinx Terrance, for exceptional views of the Alps and the Aletsch Glacier.
The most beautiful thing you can do up top is to hike to Mönchsjochhütte, a little hut located 2.4km (about 1.5 miles) from the main building. This gives you the most stunning views of the glacier and makes you feel towering over the world as you take in the Alps all around you. Be aware it is a slight hike up, and at this altitude, a short distance can feel much longer. It is a snow-covered trail, so wear a good jacket, shoes, and sunglasses for the bright snow. Once you reach the hut, you can warm up inside and even eat a meal if you’re hungry. Give yourself at least 2 hours to do this hike round trip, and be prepared to spend about 4 hours total here with the hike!
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Lauterbrunnen is an amazing place to stay for two days, two weeks, or two months! Of all the places I visited in Switzerland it was the place I wish I would have stayed in longer. It feels rural, pristine, and the epitome of natural beauty.
Mountain Hostel Gimmelwald is where I stayed during my time in Lauterbrunnen, and it has the most stunning views right outside your window. It’s located in the little village of Gimmelwald, one cable car ride up from Lauterbrunnen, and it gives you a higher vantage point viewing the mountains.
This hostel was originally a farmhouse built in 1563 and they serve beer and pizza from the hostel bar, and also a complimentary breakfast, which is typical of Switzerland – cheese, meat, milk, fruit, cereal, coffee, and more spread out on the bar. They have dorm rooms and also private rooms if that’s your jam!
On a side note, Lia stayed here way back when, on her first-ever backpacking trip. It’s what led her to fall in love with backpacking and hostels, which led her to quit her job and travel – and start this blog! So you know, lots of cool stuff happened here.
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While most of your adventures will be warm (during the daytime it is around 70 degrees), at night and during any mountain excursions you will want warmer clothing (especially since there is snow on the mountains).
Here’s the best clothing to pack for your trip (for men and women, and everyone in between):
Note: We didn’t list out everything here, so make sure you pack plenty of basics!
About the Author: Richie Goff is a Louisville, Kentucky native with a great love of the outdoors. When he is not growing flowers for fun, he is the Editor-in-Chief of Practical Wanderlust and Let’s Go Louisville. He has been a friend of Lia’s since high school, and they have taken plenty of their own disaster-prone adventures together!
Are you packing your bags and singing “The Sound of Music” at the top of your lungs yet? Which of these things to do in Lauterbrunnen are you excited to do first? Drop your comments and questions about visiting Switzerland in the comments below!
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