If any Swiss city looks like it has materialized from picture postcard, it has to be Interlaken. The city of lakes and mountains sits pretty amidst Bernese Oberland’s verdant beauty framed by the mighty trio of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. The lakes, Thun and Brienz, flanking Interlaken on two sides, only add to the city’s beauty. Interlaken has moulded itself into an important convention and conference centre, but has maintained its tourist-friendly side with equal aplomb.
The great outdoors of Interlaken has been made easily accessible by a well-connected network of cable-cars, boats, trains and funiculars. Take the world’s highest train to Jungfraujoch and be prepared to be amazed by the panoramas at the top. Interlaken acts as the jump-off point for excursions into the Alps. But the holiday experience doesn’t just stop outside the city. You have access to a whole lot of activities such as cycling, swimming, kayaking, canyoning and paragliding.
You can enjoy your share of adventure without leaving the city. But there are many more delights to be explored on the outskirts. The St. Beatus Caves is a series of karst cave systems whose recorded history goes back to the 6th century. The caves even have a legend that involves a dragon! You can learn more about their history at the Cave Museum right there on the site. Speaking of history, Interlaken has a good collection of interesting museums that preserve the city’s history.
Apart from the regular ones like the Tourist Museum for Jungfrau Region and Museum of Clocks and Mechanical Musical Instruments, there are a couple of unusual ones. The Swiss Woodcarving Museum is the only one of its kind dedicated solely to the art of woodcarving. The Toy Museum is a portal into a world of vintage dolls, teddy bears, construction kits and many more toys from the period between 1850 and 1960. There’s even a Sherlock Holmes Museum besides the thundering Reichenbach Falls that pays a tribute to his detective genius. It has an authentic recreation of the parlour of 221B Baker Street along with other objects related to his history.
There’s one unusual attraction over Lake Thun that will fascinate you. The Panoramabrücke Sigriswil is an impressive footbridge that spans the 130-metre-long Gummi Gorge and makes the lakeshore more accessible for pedestrians. It connects to the town of Oberhofen and offers stunning panorama of the lake in the bargain. Spiez is yet another idyllic town along the southern bank of Lake Thun. The attractions here include its castle’s 13th century keep, a 1000-year-old Romanesque Church and a museum document the town’s history.
If you’re ready to book your Interlaken holiday, here’s a closer look at Interlaken’s weather to help you decide the best time.
Peak Season : Summer (June to August) is the busiest season of Interlaken. Just like other Swiss cities, Interlaken warms up considerably during summer. The inviting warmth lures people outdoors as the trails come alive with activity. Both the lakefronts bustle with people participating in several events as the city’s streets are full of tourists. This is also the rainiest season of the lot, but it rains at irregular intervals, not enough to disrupt your plans. Hotel bookings are difficult to come by in this busy season, so book yours in advance or you may not be able to find one.
Shoulder Season : The in-between seasons of Spring (March to May) and Autumn (September to November) are fairly empty in Interlaken. If there’s any convention or conference scheduled during these seasons, you might see the attendees about town. Otherwise, there’s no rush at tourist spots and you can enjoy the city in relative peace. Late spring and early autumn are still good for outdoor activities like hiking, bicycle tours, canyoning and kayaking. But paragliding and swimming in the lakes will most probably stay closed until summer. Enquire beforehand about advance bookings or you may lose your room to a convention participant.
Low Season : Winter (December to February) is definitely a low season in Interlaken. And by low we mean there will hardly be any tourists around. But their place will be taken by adrenaline junkies and thrill seekers who flock to the powdered slopes for the exciting rush of skiing and snowboarding. If you decide to visit Interlaken during this season, you will find great deals on your accommodation and face almost no crowds at tourist spots. On the flip side, most of the outdoor activities will be closed for the season and will leave you with a curtailed itinerary.
Temperature - Spring hardly feels like spring in Interlaken with temperatures ranging between -3 to 10°C. But it gradually starts warming up towards the end.
Weather - The first two months of spring feel no different from winter. The subzero temperatures may confine you indoors and play spoilsport with your plans. Snow is replaced by rain, which adds to the weather’s chill factor.
Significance - Interlaken starts taking on a green cover even as the surrounding mountains stay covered in snow. The city begins opening up gradually to welcome the summer which follows. You will find more and more attractions and tourist spots opening their doors for business. But the hiking trails remain closed until all the snow disappears. You can hop on to a cable car or a funicular and make your way to the top for some magnificent sights.
Why you should visit now - Interlaken is cold in this season and many businesses do not open until the end. Your days will mostly be spent indoors, either in one of the many museums or just lounging about your hotel room. But if this is your idea of a perfect vacation, then Interlaken will welcome you with open arms. Although, if you’ve ever wanted to try skiing or ice skating, this would be the perfect time to do so.
The Ballenberg Open-Air diving Museum is highly recommended for its detailed depiction of rural Swiss life. Old buildings from all over the county were transported and rebuilt here as a part of a permanent exhibit. Actors in period-appropriate dresses add more spark to the proceedings. Lake cruise is another great way to spend a chilly spring day. Though it may get cold at the lake, the stunning views of the surrounding mountains more than make up for the effort.
Towards the end of the season, when you can venture outdoors comfortably, explore the waterfalls around Interlaken. Visit the Reichenbach Falls, which were immortalised in a Sherlock Holmes story. You have a 30-minute hike after a funicular ride to the base camp. Rent a Trötti scooter on your way down for an exhilarating experience.
Things to know before the visit - Spring will still be cold and you will need to carry a thick jacket to protect against the cold. Be ready for instantaneous change of plans if weather plays truant. Keep an open itinerary, and an open mind, and you will really enjoy Interlaken in spring.
Tips - Along with a thick jacket, make sure to carry snow-proof shoes. These will come in handy if you encounter deep snow on mountain tops. Dress in layers so that you can easily adjust to a changing weather.
Temperature - Summer sees a warm weather take over the town, which is a relief after a chilly spring. The temperature stays between 10 to 18°C.
Weather - The sunny days drive away the last of the spring cold. The warm weather clears even the high passes opening them up for exploration. But this is also the city’s wettest season, so you should expect untimely spells of rain while you’re out and about.
Significance - Summer sees Interlaken in full bloom and everything that the city has to offer is available without exception. As the trails open up and wildflowers dot the slopes, your hikes are accompanied by some of the most spectacular sites you will ever lay your eyes on.
Why you should visit now - Interlaken offers you more options during summer. You are free to try any activity without being restricted by the weather. The lakefronts are buzzing with activity as swimming and wakeboarding seem to be the main activities around the lake. You can also go use a restored steam paddle boat for cruising the lake and uncovering secret beaches. Your outdoor activities will now also include biking and paragliding. In fact, you can enjoy some of the best paragliding in Interlaken in summer.
You can visit the museums for some quality indoor time. Interlaken has quite a collection of museums that display different aspects of the city’s history and heritage. The ‘World of the Great Aletsch Glacier’ is an interactive exhibit that unveils the secrets of Europe’s longest glacier which is 23 km long. The ‘Jungfrau Park - The fantastic Mysteries of the World’ lets you be a part of the exhibits for unique insights. It does a fantastic job of arousing your curiosity and offering a more immersive experience.
Summer also brings with an abundance of festivals that add colour and cheer to the summer air. One such celebration is the William Tell festival where amateurs dress up in medieval costumes and recreate Schiller’s iconic play. With so many options, it no wonder then that summer is the most crowded season in Interlaken.
Things to know before the visit - The hotel prices go up in summer and cost of travelling also becomes dearer. But even finding accommodation may prove to be a task. So, book your hotels in advance and you can also enjoy discounts on your bookings. Also, make sure you confirm your bookings before you land up at the hotel.
Tips - Light summer clothes and a pair of sturdy hiking boots will come in handy as you tackle the trails along the countryside. Always keep a water bottle with you and do not forget to carry a cap or a hat to protect your head against the sun.
Temperature - As autumn creeps in after summer, it banishes the warmth and begins to prepare Interlaken for its cold winter. The temperatures average between 0 to 14°C.
Weather - The mercury begins dropping at a steady pace and the rain adds its chill to the air. Though it doesn’t rain as heavily as in summer, it is enough to cool down the weather. While early autumn is not that bad, the latter part gets really cold.
Significance - The summer tourists bid goodbye to Interlaken along with the season. As the city empties out, it begins settling down for the winter. Many hotels and businesses close down early due to the cold and the lack of tourists. But, on the bright side, you almost have the city to yourself.
Why you should visit now - Interlaken is a different beast in autumn. After all the hustle and bustle of the peak season, the city has a tranquil air which makes it seem like a different city altogether. This is the perfect time to explore the city’s culture and history in its many museums. Autumn is also the season of grape harvest and you can indulge in some epicurean pursuits fuelled by the harvest season.
The town of Spiez plays host to the annual grape harvest parade. Children dance in the streets dressed as grapes. A decorated carriage, led by a brass band, carry barrels of wine. It is quite a spectacle that has to be experienced first-hand. As the days grow shorter, the higher passes and trails begin to shut down by October. The hillsides are alight with different hues of reds, golds, oranges and yellows, before the trees drop their foliage for winter.
You can witness a 300-year-old culinary tradition of festive cattle drive, in September. Herds of cattle are led down from the mountains for ‘apportioning of the cheese’. Locals dress up in traditional Swiss costumes to mark the event. But the best part of this tradition is the genuine Swiss cheese that you get to taste at the end.
Things to know before the visit - As the city empties out you will see the hotel rates fall and travel becoming pocket-friendlier. The hiking trails will remain open until October, after which they will be shut down for winter.
Tips - The temperature varies greatly over the season. So, depending on what time you’re visiting, carry an appropriate jacket and dress in layers. A pair of sturdy boots will always come in handy.
Temperature - Interlaken experiences a typical Alpine weather with subzero temperatures and lots of snow. The temperatures usually hover between -5 to 1°C.
Weather - The weather remains chilly throughout the season, but January and February see the lowest temperatures. It gets even colder in the mountains owing to the cold winds high up.
Significance - Skiing, snowboarding and ice skating are the highlights of winter in Interlaken. As the city disappears under a cover of snow, it is time to head indoors and enjoy the piping hot culinary delights on offer.
Why you should visit now - This is a bit of a contradictory season in Interlaken. While the winter cold ensures that no tourists stay back, it still gets crowded with the professional daredevils who answer the call of the slopes. In the hotels and resorts near the slopes, the prices will rise and their availability will go down dramatically. But in the city, the rates will be more reasonable as it will be a little deserted. One noteworthy outdoor event that happens in winter is the Christmas Markets. These traditional get togethers give locals a chance to catch up with friends.
Young and old indulge themselves with festive specialities such as cakes, eggnog and cookies. If you’re looking for adventure, hit the slopes and take a lesson or two. It’s relatively easy once you get the hang of it. Otherwise just plan your days around museums. If weather permits you can even take a cable car to mountain tops and treat yourself to the spectacular views. Surprisingly some paragliding series are operational even in winter. Enjoy the thrill of gliding over a snow-covered landscape seeming like an alien world.
Things to know before the visit - Some areas of Interlaken will be crowded and the hotel prices will be high. With a little search online you can score a good deal on your travel and accommodation.
Tips - Carry your heaviest woollens and appropriately sturdy shoes. A thermal suit will help you stay warmer. Remember, if you get snow in your boots, remove your wet socks immediately. A good pair of sunglasses will protect your eyes from the ice glare and a good moisturizer will protect your skin.
Interlaken is a town with a quintessentially Swiss heart. With a long and colourful history, it has many stories to tell. If you’ve decided your time of travel, book your Interlaken holiday online. For a more personalised holiday, drop into your nearest Thomas Cook branch.