Lake Brienz, one of Switzerland’s best known lakes, is located in the Berner Oberland region. It is sometimes referred to as a ‘turquoise gem’ due to its crystal clear, greenish-blue waters.
Along with Lake Thun, it is one of two lakes next to Interlaken in Switzerland. Lake Thun sits to the east, whilst Lake Brienz sits to the west of Interlaken.
There is plenty to do in this picturesque part of Switzerland. Visitors can enjoy all kinds of water-based activities in and on the lake itself. They can also explore the pretty villages in the surrounding area, or take a boat trip to drink in panoramic views of the mountain peaks around Lake Brienz.
Various day trips can be taken in the area, or travellers can relax with a drink – or even a Swiss fondue – while bathing at Hotpot Brienz. This local spot has a number of hot tubs seating between two and eight people, so you can enjoy the steamy waters while gazing out over the lake.
In summer, those staying in the region can bathe in the calm waters or cook up a barbecue by the shore. During winter, kayaking tours are a popular pastime – as is bathing in the ‘hotpots’ by the quayside. This is particularly appealing during spells of colder Lake Brienz weather.
An abundance of high quality accommodation in the area gives visitors the chance to stay a little longer. Read on to find out more about hotels in Brienz – as well as more detail on how to fill your lakeside days spent in this scenic region.
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Where is Lake Brienz?
So where is Lake Brienz in Switzerland?
Brienz Lake in Switzerland – Brienzersee in German – is located in the canton of Bern, to the north of the Alps. The peaks of the Bernese Oberland are reflected in its still waters.
There is a village of the same name located to the north-east of the lake’s shore. Lake Brienz spans almost 30 square kilometres, and is 14 kilometres long and 2.8 kilometres wide. As one of Switzerland’s five deepest lakes, the depth is up to 260 metres.
Forming part of the popular Interlaken tourism region, Lake Brienz is characterised by the surrounding mountains, waterfalls and villages. Cable cars plus rack and funicular railways transport passengers between the lake and the peaks.
This is a peaceful area, and visitors head to this part of the Bernese Oberland to cruise, kayak, bathe, ride, walk and explore.
Attractions and things to do around Lake Brienz
There are a multitude of things to do in the Brienz area. These include activities and trips on, in or by the water, as well as taking to the trails, visiting a museum or looking for waterfalls. Taking a Lake Brienz boat tour of some sort is also a must.
If you plan to stay near Lake Brienz or in the Berner Oberland and/or Jungfrau regions for a few days, it is worth considering purchasing a Regional Pass Berner Oberland. This transport and attraction pass includes free travel on almost all public transport in the region – including fifteen different cable car routes – as well as the Brienz Rothorn steam train ride and lake cruises, and discounts for 40+ attractions.
Lake Brienz cruises
Taking a Lake Brienz cruise means experiencing the incomparable views over the surrounding peaks from the water. This area’s landscape is wilder and more rugged than that in other parts of Switzerland. Some of the slopes feature dramatic sheer drops down to the water, making them seem larger than life.
A Brienz lake cruise offers plenty of photo opportunities and Insta-worthy moments, whether you snap the majestic peaks for posterity or manage to capture that precise shade of turquoise.
This is seen more strongly when the sun shines on the lake, although autumn or spring can be best as there is less chance of glare and over-exposure.
Jet boat rides
Taking a jet boat ride anywhere is always a thrilling experience that’s guaranteed to provide an adrenaline rush. At Lake Brienz conditions are often perfect, as the movement of the craft cuts through the calm waters.
This also feels safer than taking a jet boat trip on the ocean, where conditions can be more precarious.
A jet boat ride on Lake Brienz is the perfect way to feel the wind rushing through your hair, as the sun shines down over the lake, taking in those mountain panoramas as you whizz by at top speed – or perform completely circular turns.
Kayaking on Lake Brienz is a very popular activity among visitors to the region – particularly during winter. Bönigen is the ideal place to pick up a rental kayak.
Early morning is a great time to see the lake at its best, when the peaceful waters reflect the mountain peaks alongside. Later in the day is when waves might start to ruffle the surface.
Taking a Lake Brienz kayak trip also gives visitors the chance to marvel at the turquoise waters. They are this distinctive shade due to sediment particles that are fed into the lake by the Aare and Lütschine rivers. The colour appears particularly intense during spring and autumn.
Seeing how the lake, sunlight and wind interact – as your kayak glides along – can be intriguing, and varies according to what the weather in Brienz has in store.
Stand Up Paddle boarding is also an option on Lake Brienz. > Click here to check prices and details
Wood carving displays in Brienz
Switzerland is famous for its intricate carved wooden clocks and architecture. Fans of either – or both – will be delighted by witnessing the International Woodcarving Symposium. This takes place annually in early July.
Artists from all over the world who work with wood descend on Brienz Quay to show off their creations. It’s a one-off opportunity to see a range of impressively-carved pieces, typically sculptures expertly made from various kinds of wood.
Year-round you can admire wood carved statues along the waterfront and around Brienz village, and the Huggler wood carving gallery and shop at Hauptstrasse 64 is the perfect place to buy a unique Swiss souvenir.
Brienz is also home to Switzerland’s only violin-making school.
Brienz Rothorn Bahn
A nostalgic trip through time and views of the stunning Swiss countryside combine to make the perfect day out when you take a journey on the Brienz Rothorn Bahn. The Rothornbahn – Brienz’s famous steam train – transports visitors, via rack-and-pin railway, towards Rothorn Kulm summit station.
An uphill journey of around an hour’s duration lets you drink in sublime views over the turquoise lake waters and the surrounding mountainous landscape. Seeing and feeling the puffing locomotive in action, complete with traditional red carriages, is also a special experience in itself.
When in Brienz in the cooler months, the way to beat the winter blues is to soak in a hot tub by Brienz quay.
Hotpot Brienz hires out a range of hot tubs to share with your family or friends, and you can even do so while enjoying a Swiss fondue. Of all lake Brienz things to do, this is one of the most relaxing.
Hotpot Brienz offers a variety of package deals to tourists, including an evening in one of the hot tubs as well as fondue, drinks and even ski passes.
The hotpots – specially designed wooden tubs – for two are designed for couples, while families and groups can rent a larger one for four, six or eight.
Giessbach Falls and lunch at Grandhotel Giessbach
A trip to at least one Lake Brienz waterfall should be top of your sightseeing itinerary. One of the most popular is Giessbach Falls which provides an impressive, entirely natural show as the water tumbles in fourteen stages over 500 metres from the Giessbach Brook into the lake below.
The sight of the swirling white waters of Giessbachfälle near Brienz contrasts beautifully with the turquoise lake, while the thundering sound and refreshing spray are simply magical.
For the perfect day out, stop for lunch at Grandhotel Giessbach. This Lake Brienz hotel was completed in 1874 and the beautiful gardens and 22-hectare park in which it is located, is one of the reasons the hotel is so popular with guests.
The hotel also has an outdoor terrace offering diners superb views over the lake, mountains and directly to the waterfall.
There’s a path leading from the lake’s edge (next to the boat landing station) to Giessbach Falls. You can also board the Giessbachbahn, Europe’s oldest funicular, dating back to 1879, to reach the hotel.
Three Waterfalls Trail
If a visit to Giessbach Falls has left you wanting more, head next for the Three Waterfalls trail. This exhilarating trek from Bönigen takes you via Iseltwald to Brienz. The hike introduces visitors to three of the Interlaken region’s finest waterfalls.
The hike can be done in one trip, or broken up into several stages. Those who cover the whole trail can expect to see meadows, the lakeside, woodlands and jagged cliffs.
Other highlights on the trail include seeing the fairytale castle that is the Grandhotel Giessbach, and a ride on Switzerland’s oldest tourist funicular.
Ballenberg Open-Air Museum
Similar to other open-air museums across the world, the one at Ballenberg near Brienz allows visitors to sample the Swiss lifestyle of bygone days. Buildings that are hundreds of years old have been brought here from all over the country.
The natural landscape, farm animals and Wyssensee nature reserve and lake delight visitors of all ages, and the idyllic, unspoiled site also features stone paths, forest, green hills and unpaved roads. A break can be taken at the picnic tables or in the barbecue areas.
Ballenberg Swiss Open-Air Museum is is open from April to October. The museum can be easily reached from Brienz by car or bus. Bus number B151 departs from Brienz train station for Ballenberg West (Museum) every 30 minutes (journey time 14 minutes).
Meiringen and Reichenbach Falls
Just a short drive or train ride from Brienz is the pretty village of Meiringen, home to Reichenbach Falls.
The village also has a museum dedicated to Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, as the fictional character fell to his death at the waterfalls, along with his nemesis Moriarty.
Between early May and mid October, a trip on the Reichenbach funicular will take you to the waterfall’s base, where there are various viewing platforms to see the 120 metre falls and surrounding landscape.
Meiringen is just a 10-minute train ride from Brienz, or 15-minutes by car.
Other attractions around Lake Brienz
There are hundreds of other attractions to visit and activities to enjoy around Lake Brienz. Interlaken is home to a wide range of adventure sports and there are many mountain excursions available in the Jungfrau Region including trips to Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe, and the Schilthorn.
You can find more information about the many things to do in the region in this article.
Towns and villages around Lake Brienz
Often referred to as the gateway to the Jungfrau region, Interlaken lies between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. This popular town is set on the Aare riverbank, with the majestic Mönch, Jungfrau and Eiger in the background.
Interlaken is characterised by its flower-lined main promenade, the ‘Höheweg’. Here you will also find a large meadow from which visitors can gaze in awe at one of the world’s most iconic vistas. The meadow, known as Höhematte Park, is a great spot to sit and watch as paragliders float back down to earth.
Close to Lake Brienz, Interlaken makes a great base, as it’s easy to reach both the lake and the area’s other villages – such as Bönigen and Iseltwald. Lake steamers can also transport you to various points along the shore.
Adjacent to Interlaken is Bönigen, a village by the shores of Lake Brienz. This picturesque village features traditional wooden houses, some of which date back as far as the 1500s. It is a peaceful spot in which to spend time.
A visit to Bönigen allows travellers to sample the old-fashioned Swiss way of life, as well as revelling in the abundance of nature. The area is packed with brooks, rivers, alpine meadows and impressive mountain peaks.
Right on the shores of Lake Brienz, Iseltwald also has another watery attraction all of its own – in the form of Iseltwald Lido.
This glorious spot offers splendid views over the turquoise waters, as well as the chance to swim and soak up the sun. It’s open between May and September, and is number one on the list of things to do in Iseltwald.
At the Lido, there is a large, manicured lawn, and snacks and drinks are served at the bistro. In Iseltwald, Lake Brienz, swimming is safe, even for little ones, as there is a kids’ paddling pool.
A grand villa called Castle Seeburg, located on the end of the small peninsula of Iseltwald which juts into Lake Brienz, is one of the most photographed places around the lake. The villa is privately owned and is not open to the public but you can great views – and photos – of it from the lakeside.
The village of Brienz is located on the shores of the lake of the same name. Abundant in carved wooden chalets, it’s a must-see for anyone seeking an authentic Swiss landscape.
Known as Switzerland’s premier wood carving village, visitors can witness the process and results of this ancient craft, as mentioned above.
Families will also love Brienz Wildlife Park, situated just above the village. The animals can even be fed – with supplies bought on site only. The wildlife park in Brienz is a great place to see a range of native fauna like red deer, including bird life such as snow or screech owls.
Oberried am Brienzersee dates back to the dawn of the 14th century, and lies by the shores of Lake Brienz. This village is famous for a number of trekking trips that are offered – the “Hiking with 7 Goats” trek is a popular one.
Traditional Swiss woodcutters are also often spotted practicing their craft in the area.
Niederried also boasts an open-air pool. This incredibly beautiful spot has a barbecue area and offers free surfboard hire. There is also a lovely grassy lawn, plus picnic tables and benches.
Goldswil is known in the Lake Brienz area for its ruined church which dates back to the 11th century. The church was built in Romanesque style and featured an Italian-style clock tower, known as a Campanile.
The church has historical importance, even though just the foundations and clock tower remain.
A circular path leads from the church at Goldswil to Ringgenberg, where there’s a ruined castle. En-route there are fabulous views over the Interlaken area and Lake Brienz.
The remains of the castle complex dominate the northern shoreline of the lake, and its tower has a viewing terrace.
Packed with Bernese history, Ringgenberg is a must-visit for history fans.
How to get to Lake Brienz
Travelling to the Lake Brienz area in central Switzerland is simple. The largest town, Interlaken, is very well connected in terms of national and European transport.
About two trains per hour travel to and from the Swiss cities of Bern, Geneva, Zürich and Basel. There are also good onward links to European destinations like Paris, Vienna, Berlin, and Milan.
The available road links are also very good. Interlaken connects the Lake Brienz area with the Swiss autobahn network, and routes are well signposted.
The village of Brienz takes around 20 minutes to reach by rail or road from Interlaken.
If you want to know how long it takes to travel from Zurich to Lake Brienz, or Interlaken to Brienz village by car or train, check the approximate timings listed below.
- Brienz to Interlaken: 0h:20 by train/0h:20 by car
- Interlaken to Bern: 0h:50 by train/0h:45 by car
- Interlaken to Basel: 1h:55 by train/1h:35 by car
- Interlaken to Zurich: 1h:55 by train/1h:35 by car
- Interlaken to Geneva: 3h:00 by train/2h:15 by car
It is also possible to travel from Interlaken to Lake Brienz by boat. The relaxing journey takes around 75 minutes and there are at least four services per day during the summer months. The boat pier is located close to Interlaken West train station.
Where to stay at Lake Brienz
If you’re looking for a hotel in the Brienz area, here are some recommendations. These are some of the very best hotels on or near to Lake Brienz in Switzerland.
Interlaken: Swiss Inn & Apartments
The Swiss Inn and Apartments are very conveniently located close to Interlaken West Train Station and central Interlaken, yet are positioned in a peaceful residential area.
This is one of the most popular hotels in Interlaken and offers a range of air-conditioned hotel rooms and self-catering apartments. There is WiFi throughout, plus private parking and a train station shuttle service. All are provided free of charge.
Giessbach Falls: Grandhotel Giessbach
Occupying a grand building dating from 1874, this property offers superlative views over Lake Brienz and the Giessbach Falls. One of the two restaurants has a summer terrace, and dining here is very popular among people visiting the waterfall. This is probably the most popular restaurant in the Brienz area.
The Grand Hotel Close to Brienz also offers a chemical-free outdoor pool with gorgeous lake views, free WiFi and parking and direct access to the oldest funicular railway in Europe. It is set among 22 hectares of parkland.
Brienz: Garten Hotel Lindenhof
The hotel Lindenhof in Brienz village has a Finnish sauna and herbal steam shower. Each room has its own unique style, featuring wall murals, and these are spread across a number of buildings.
Brienzer Rothorn acts as a backdrop, while to the front there are sweeping views over Lake Brienz. The small, on-site restaurant specialises in local cuisine, and has a garden terrace for al fresco dining.
The Garten Hotel Lindenhof is one of the most popular Lake Brienz hotels.
Ringgenberg: Hotel Brienzersee
Hotel Brienzersee occupies a lofty position above Lake Brienz, yet is just five minutes’ drive from central Interlaken. Ringgenberg’s boat, train and bus stations can also be reached on foot in just a few minutes.
A range of contemporary style rooms is offered, some of which have balconies and lake or mountain views. There is a bar serving snacks as well as drinks, and guests are given an Interlaken Visitors’ Card for free use of local public transport.
There are so many enjoyable things to do at Lake Brienz that you can easily spend a few days in the area. With its location close to Interlaken, Lake Brienz’s villages also make a great base for visits to the Jungfrau Region’s many attractions.
If you are looking for a tranquil but picturesque place to stay, with excellent transport connections to the Berner Oberland’s top sights, you can’t go past Lake Brienz. The turquoise lake, nestled below a string of mountain peaks, is the perfect place to recharge your batteries!
To read our full guide to Interlaken and the Jungfrau Region, > click here.