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Holidays to Switzerland Travel Podcast Episode 4 Transcript

May 25, 2024 Last Updated on May 25, 2024

Visiting Interlaken

You can see the full show notes and listen to this episode > here.

Welcome to the Holidays to Switzerland Travel podcast. Your host is the founder of holidaystoswitzerland.com and the Switzerland Travel Planning Facebook group, Carolyn Schonafinger. On this podcast, Carolyn will be joined by a variety of guests who share their knowledge and love of the country to help you plan your dream trip to Switzerland.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Welcome to episode 4 of the Holidays to Switzerland Travel podcast. Today, Today’s episode is all about the beautiful town of Interlaken in the heart of the Jungfrau region. Situated between two glistening lakes and surrounded by snow-capped mountains and lush meadows, Interlaken has been described as paradise on Earth, and it attracts visitors from around the world who come to appreciate its natural beauty. If you have the opportunity to visit Interlaken and the Jungfrau region, you’ll see why. In today’s episode, you’ll discover some of the top things to do in and around Interlaken from someone who knows it well. Don’t forget, you can find the show notes from today’s episode at holidaystoswitzerland.com/episode4. I hope you enjoy today’s episode. Welcome to another episode of the Holidays to Switzerland Travel podcast. Today, my special guest is Renato Julier of Interlaken Tourism. Thank you for joining us today, Renato.

Renato Julier

Thank you. Hello, Australia.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Can you tell us a little bit about Interlaken? It’s a very famous holiday resort in Switzerland. But what is it about Interlaken that attracts visitors?


Renato Julier

Well, it’s very easy to explain – Interlaken is in the word. It says Interlaken. It’s a Latin word for in between the lakes. So it lies in between the Lake Thun and the Lake Brienz. And it’s Interlaken itself. It’s a Swiss town, important and a well-known tourist destination in the Bernese Highlands. It’s like a main transport gateway to numbers of mountains and lakes, activities in the whole region. Interlaken itself lies at the foot at the bottom of the famous mountain trio Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. And it’s also the gateway to the famous Jungfrau region with the world famous Jungfraujoch, Top of Europe, the highest rail station in Europe. So Interlaken Interlaken, for me personally, it’s all of Switzerland at one place. So whatever people can imagine about Switzerland, like lakes, mountains, waterfalls, glaciers, shopping activities, adventures, Interlaken has it all. It’s really all of Switzerland at one place.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Sounds wonderful. You mentioned shopping there. What’s the permanent population of Interlaken? And what types of shops and services does the town have to offer?

Renato Julier

Interlaken itself has about 6,000 inhabitants. Interlaken is also like a melting pot where a lot of cultures are living together. We have a lot of various restaurants, Asian, Italian restaurants, even Swiss restaurants, they have a European food, Arabic food, whatever you like, we have it. We do have long opening hours till 10:00 in the evening, which is very convenient. We have a lot of shopping facilities, Yeah, also with big brands. This is very good. This is also attracting a lot of people from all over the world. Interlaken, with the main road, the Höhematte, between the two railway stations, Interlaken West and Ost, attracts people from all over the world. And it’s really unique in Switzerland because normally, shops, they close at 6:00 or at 7:00 in the evening, but not in Interlaken. Interlaken is just the opposite. People love to do shopping also in the evening.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Okay. And what about on Sunday? Because lots of shops are closed throughout Switzerland.

Renato Julier

Also on Sunday. Also on Sunday in Interlaken during a high season, shops and restaurants are also open. So this is really good. You have a lot of activities to do, which you can do in and around also the lakes. There are quite a lot of nice restaurants. You can get there by easy in a walking distance. Yes, we have, there are quite a nice variety of restaurants.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Okay, excellent. Now, Interlaken is very centrally located in Switzerland, so it’s easy to reach from all parts of the country. But if people that are coming don’t have a car, how frequent are the train services from between Interlaken and cities like Bern, Luzern, Zurich, et cetera?

Renato Julier

Normally, people will fly to Zurich. It’s probably the most convenient flight. If they are landing there, they have all in 30 minutes, they will have a train from Zurich to Interlaken. It takes more or less two and a half hours maximum. So this is very convenient. Even from Geneva, you will have trains, three hours. But you can also connect several cities together. For example, you can land in Zurich, then you can go on to Lucerne, and you could take, for example, the Golden Pass Panoramic Line, which is combining Lucerne, Interlaken, and Lake Geneva region, Montreux, for example, which is also a very beautiful spot. There’s a lot of things to see, but the most convenient way is a landing in Zurich, taking the train to Zurich, and then come to Interlaken via Bern or Lucerne. From Lucerne, you can take the Zentralbahn, which is just the train company name. It’s also a very nice panoramic train and the best way to discover Interlaken by train. You have a lot of possibilities and a very frequent transportation system which runs very frequent all 30 minutes. Even from Bern to Interlaken, it’s just one hour by train. You have direct trains.

Carolyn Schönafinger

It’s really convenient and there’s lots of services. Yes. Now, I’ve been fortunate to visit Interlaken on many occasions, so I know that there’s some fantastic things to see and do in the area but if you were advising a first-time visitor, what would be your recommendations for the top five things that they should do when they’re in Interlaken?

Renato Julier

There are a lot of things which you should discover in Interlaken because Interlaken has a lot of points of interest, a lot of attractions in and around the lakes which are easy accessible in walking distance by train, by boat, or even by car. I would say number one where you should go definitely is Jungfraujoch, Top of Europe. It’s the highest train station in Europe, which lies on 3,454 metres above sea level. You can start in Interlaken, you you can take the train. If you go up to Jungfraujoch, Top of Europe, when you are on the Sphinx, you can enjoy a beautiful panorama to the longest glacier in the Alps of Europe, the Aletsch Glacier. It’s your, you are directly in the heart of the Alps. It’s a part of the UNESCO World Nature Heritage. You have a beautiful view to the longest glacier, 23 kilometres long, 900 metre thick, pure eternal ice. This is really impressive. Even on the Top of Europe, you have the possibility to see snow, to feel real ice. You can also go inside of a glacier and touch real snow and ice. This This is a really fantastic experience.

Renato Julier

Then Interlaken is also the European capital of adventure. In Interlaken, everything is possible regarding adventure, sports, so whatever you like to do on water, in water, in the air, on Earth, everything is possible. I can easily recommend you to do a paragliding flight. It’s very impressive over rivers, waterfalls, lakes, and mountains, glaciers. This is really impressive and the once in a lifetime experience. Then why not do a very nice hiking tour just behind Interlaken? There’s a Lauterbrunnen Valley with 72 waterfalls. Very, very impressive spot. Why not doing a hiking tour there? You can use Interlaken easily as a gateway, as a starting point to do very nice and impressive hiking tours. Then why not do some wellness activities? In Interlaken, you find there quite a big choice of beautiful hotels from one star to five star superior hotels. Why not enjoy some spa activities, some massage, whatever? It’s also always a good idea.

Renato Julier

For me, one of very nice activities, probably kayaking on the Lake Brienz is a very nice spot, turquoise lake, very beautiful, impressive colour. Doing the kayaking tour, this is probably one of the best thing what you can do and how you can enjoy the nature and the pure nature in and around Interlaken.

Renato Julier

This is really nice. If you like to do sustainable tourism in Interlaken, you can do it perfectly.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Okay. The kayaking, it’s possible to do that all year round, is that right?

Renato Julier

Yes, all year round. Even in winter, it’s more impressive. Even in winter, it’s more impressive to do some winter kayaking. It’s It’s very safe because they’re working in a small group, so you will also get some safety instruction and everything. It’s also a once-in-a-lifetime experience just to enjoy a kayaking tour on the lake.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Great. Now, you mentioned before some of the adrenaline activities that are available. You suggested that people try paragliding. What are the other extreme sports that they can try out in Interlaken?

Renato Julier

What I said, everything is possible for paragliding, to skydiving, kayaking. There is a ropes park, for example, for families, which is very nice. Yeah, even bungey jumping is possible. There is river rafting, canyoning in the rivers. So you have you have quite a lot of choice. You have a very big, big choice. One of my favourite activities, for example, jet boating on the Lake Brienz. This is also doable the whole year round. It’s a very fabulous experience to do some turns and some thrills with full speed on the motor boat on Lake Brienz. That makes a lot of fun. There are also other activities, some soft adventure activities, which are very nice to do, like even paragliding or parasailing, which is very impressive as well.

Carolyn Schönafinger

It’s always lovely, I think, to see all the paragliders coming into land in the centre of Interlaken there in the park.

Renato Julier

Yes, this is true. It’s very impressive to see. Normally, we have thousands of paragliders every year. It’s very well known Interlaken in itself. It’s like a paragliding capital now. Everybody wants to do it. It’s very cheap, by the way, and it’s a nice experience.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Okay, fantastic. You mentioned the Rope Park is a great place for families, but what other things are available for families with smaller children?

Renato Julier

Yes, what I said, the adventure park or even the Ropes Park is very impressive or always a good idea for families. Then we have also all-weather activities like the Funky Chocolate Club. This is a very nice spot in Interlaken where you can create your own chocolate by doing a workshop. During this workshop, you will learn all about cacao beans, and you will create your own chocolate with your favourite ingredients. It means that after the workshop, you will get three bars of chocolate produced by yourself. This is also a fantastic experience because everybody loves Switzerland and even Swiss chocolate, which is always the best souvenir and the best thing to share. But there are other activities like the Saint Beatus Caves. In Interlaken, you can also easily visit some caves with beautiful mood lighting systems, and you can even hear the rushing of the river behind you. This is also a very nice spot, easy, doable. You can walk inside of a nice natural cave. This is also a nice spot. But if you want, you can also rent a bicycle, bicycles in Interlaken and also ride around. It’s very easy because the surrounding is flat, it’s safe, and you can discover the whole nature.

Renato Julier

So there are a lot of things to do in and around Interlaken, even for families.

Carolyn Schönafinger

And what about swimming? Do most families go swimming swimming in the lake or are there swimming pools?

Renato Julier

Swimming in the lakes is possible, but the temperature is very cold, actually about 18 degrees. And the water is very clean and very pure. It means there are not a lot of fish inside because they will not find a lot to eat. But the water is very cold, 18 degrees, and then very clean. But we do also have a public swimming pools, if you prefer, or we have also several hotels in Interlaken, which are offering their own pools or their own spa facilities. So this is quite nice.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Yes. Okay, great. Now, Interlaken Tourism is also responsible for promoting some of the surrounding villages as well. Can you share some information about a few of these villages and why our listeners should visit them?

Renato Julier

In and around Interlaken, you You find a lot of very nice spots which you can easily get there, for example, by using a boat on both lakes. There are regular boat cruises on Lake Thun, even on Lake Brienz. For example, Brienz is a very nice spot. It’s the wood carving capital. You will find these tiny wooden typical Swiss houses. Beautiful village. Just behind Brienz, there is also the Ballenberg. It’s the the name of the Swiss Open Air Museum. If you want to learn more about Swiss history, Swiss architecture, it really looks like a village. You can visit all the houses, you can go inside, you will learn all about Swiss handcraft, about Swiss tradition, you can feed a cow, you will see Swiss animals around, you can feed them. This is a nice activity, even for families. This is a very nice spot, Brienz.

Renato Julier

But we have some more like Spiez. Spiez is the name of the village on the other lake side on the Lake Thun, and they have a beautiful winery. In Interlaken, you can also do wine tasting in Spiez. You can also do some theme walks in and around the wine yard. So this is also a nice spot.

Renato Julier

And nearby the Lake Brienz, you will find more than five castles. You can also visit them, for example. And also the experience on the lake is really fantastic by using a boat to discover all the beautiful spots. Last but not least, Thun. Thun is probably the biggest city in the destination. Beautiful mediaeval city with impressive old town, shopping facilities, and beautiful castles, and parks, and bridges. A lot of people, they are comparing it with Lucerne. It’s also very famous as a tiny Lucerne, by the way. And the views from the castle are just amazing over the lake, looking back towards Interlaken. Yes, it’s very nice. In Interlaken itself, you will not find a castle, but there is also the River Aare, which is combining both lakes. And it’s very impressive because you have several canals who are passing through Interlaken. So you have Venice in the Alp. It’s very nice. Yes.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Beautiful. Now, aside from the popular excursions and the sites that you’ve already mentioned to us, are there any hidden gems that you can let us in on that visitors may not normally get to hear about. Any secret places you can share with us?

Renato Julier

Of course, there are many secret places. I would say number one is probably the easiest spot to get there, but a lot of people, they don’t know it. It’s Harder Kulm. It’s Top of Interlaken. It’s, I would say, the house mountain or the main mountain of Interlaken. Just to get there, it’s quite easy because you can take a funicular which takes you up in eight minutes. You have a beautiful restaurant with folklore shows every evening. And there’s also the Two Lake foot bridge where you can stand out and you can see both lakes, the Jungfrau mountain at the same time, and Interlaken with those surrounding. This is very impressive.

Renato Julier

There’s another spot, which is also one of my favourite spots. It’s called Giessbach. Just to go there, it’s like in a fairy tale. You can start in Interlaken, you can take the boat, and in one hour, you will arrive in the Giessbachsee. It’s really at the bottom of the lake. Then you can walk up or take the oldest funicular in the whole Switzerland, which brings you up in five minutes to a beautiful old historic hotel. And behind the hotel, there is a waterfall which runs down 500 metres in 14 steps.

Renato Julier

So this is really impressive to see. And also the view which you have from the hotel to the lake, this is very unique. And for me, it’s a very magical power place. And it’s probably also the biggest wellness area in Switzerland. You have a beautiful park around about 10,000 square metres, big. It’s a lot of history. It’s a lot of nature. This is everything at one point for me. This place, this is really probably one of the most beautiful places in the universe.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Okay. I have to admit, I haven’t been to Giessbach. That’s one of the places I’ve got on my list for next time I get back to Switzerland. It sounds wonderful. The falls, there’s water coming over all year round or only in the summer?

Renato Julier

You can go there the whole year round, but I prefer to go there in spring because then you will see a lot of water which is running down. But for me, the best season to travel or to discover Switzerland is probably autumn because everything is full of colours. The leaves are falling down. It’s still warm enough. Everything is open, but you can smell already winter. It means that the mountains are already covered with snow. This is for me the best season to discover Switzerland, and it’s not, it’s too crowded. You can really enjoy Switzerland in the most beautiful colours. This is really important to say. It’s also regarding the price. Normally, you will get better rates in autumn than in summer during the high season when everybody is travelling around.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Okay. Yeah. Excellent. Now, you’ve already mentioned getting to some of those little villages and towns by a boat. But if people don’t have a car when they’re staying in Interlaken, the the rail system around the local area is excellent as well, isn’t it?

Renato Julier

This is excellent. I think this is probably one of the main reasons why people love to go to Switzerland. Everybody knows that we have a good public traffic system. You can also buy a ticket. It’s called the Swiss Travel Pass. It’s all in one ticket where you can use all buses, all trains, all public boats. You have also a free entry to more than 200 museums Switzerland. Normally, you get also a lot of discounts to many panoramic trains, for example, to many excursions in and around Interlaken. So this is very helpful. And what I said in Interlaken, this is probably the biggest, this is probably the most important thing why you should come here. Everything is easy reachable by train, by boat, by bus, walking distance. You can even swim to some places, which is very nice as well. This, this is a big advantage for everybody. This is really sustainable tourism in a way. I think this is also a good experience. The Swiss Travel System, you can buy it easily through a website. It makes a lot of fun because the public traffic system in Switzerland runs very well.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Now, what choices do people have when it comes to finding places to stay in Interlaken?

Renato Julier

Regarding accommodation, you find a quite big choice of accommodation. We do have different hotels. We have about 200 hotels from one star to five star superior. There are apartments as well, hotels. In Interlaken, you find a lot of hotels. It means easy, cheap hotels, BNBs or 20 campsites in the whole holiday region. This is also very unique. You will find even youth hotels. You will find accommodations for every taste or every budget, whatever you prefer. If you need support or help or whatever, we will be there for you. You can always contact us and we will help you to find your perfect accommodation for your stay.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Excellent. Now, you already mentioned that you feel that autumn is your favourite time in Switzerland. What temperatures does Interlaken reach in summer and how cold does it get in winter on average?

Renato Julier

First of all, I have to say that Interlaken is more a summer than a winter destination. So more or less 60% of all tourists are visiting Interlaken in summertime. Also in winter, you find a lot of things to do in Interlaken. So Interlaken is probably more the hub to the Jungfrau region, to the ski area. So because Interlaken lies only 600 metres over sea level, so it’s not very high. So the temperatures in winter are not very cold. But actually, we have temperatures about 24 degrees outside. So it’s a really nice temperature. It’s not too cold, not too hot or not too warm. You can really enjoy summer in a nice surrounding with nice temperatures.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Lovely. Well, thank you so much for talking to us today. It’s been great to hear a bit more about Interlaken. And I’m sure you’ve inspired everyone who listens to this podcast to add Interlaken to their itinerary.

Renato Julier

Yes. Thank you so much, Caroline. It was a very nice discussion with you. See you hopefully soon in Switzerland and in Interlaken.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Thanks very much, Renato.

Thank you so much for listening. For more great resources on planning a trip to Switzerland, make sure you visit holidaystoswitzerland.com, where you’ll find trip planning tips, destination guides, information on transport, including Swiss rail passes, and much more. You’re also encouraged to join the Switzerland Travel Planning Group on Facebook, where you can ask questions and chat to other past and future travellers to Switzerland. You’ll find show notes from today’s episode at holidaystoswitzerland.com/podcast, and be sure to subscribe to the Holidays to Switzerland Travel podcast so you never miss an episode.

You can see the full show notes and listen to this episode > here.