Brienz is a charming, unassuming Swiss village set along the turquoise waters of Lake Brienz. Pretty as a picture, Brienz has certainly more to offer than I initially expected, including stunning natural landscapes. Brienz offers many things to do, whether you explore the village, the lake, or the mountains around.
Listed below are the 12 best things to do in Brienz, Switzerland.
1. Brunngasse and Brienz Old Village
Brunngasse lies in the oldest part of Brienz, along with Oberdorfstrasse. There are many wooden chalets dating back to the 18th century in this area. Window sills in these chalets are decorated with colorful flowers and elaborate wood carvings.
Brunngasse was voted Europe’s prettiest road once.
The houses in Brunngasse have been well-maintained and have a romantic and charming appearance. Walking up a short alley from the lake, you will be able to reach it fairly easily.
If you would like to read more about Brunngasse street, you can check out Brunngasse in Brienz – Europe’s Most Beautiful Street.
2. Woodcarving Museum and School
Due to the dense forests of walnut trees, maple trees, oak trees, and fruit trees in Berner Oberland, wood was abundant. Farmers in the region took advantage of the long winters to decorate all this wood and the resulting products during the winter.
Brienz is especially famous for its wood carving (Holzschnitzerei in German). Typically, these are wooden pieces of art that are found in many Swiss homes. Made popular by a man called Christian Fischer, Brienz turned into the center of wood carving in the country. In 1843, there were 300 wood carvers in Brienz. In 1980, only 90 remained.
To ensure the preservation of these important works and knowledge, the Swiss Woodcarving Museum (Schweizer Holzbildhauerei Museum in German) was established. It is the only museum in Switzerland dedicated to wood carving and wood sculpture.
Swiss Woodcarving Museum
A wide range of wood carvings from Brienz and the Bernese Oberland is currently on display at the museum. There are sculptures and reliefs, furniture and furnishings, small objects, toys, nativity figures, music boxes, wooden chalets, and more. The museum also features temporary exhibits.
The Swiss Woodcarving Museum can be found in Hauptstrasse 111. It is open from Wednesdays to Sundays. You can check the website (https://museum-holzbildhauerei.ch/en/) for the opening hours.
To continue the tradition of wood carving, there is also a Woodcarving School located in Brienz. This is open for the exhibition and sale of wood carvings. You also might want to drop by to check it.
The school is open from Monday to Friday during school hours. You can check the website (https://holzbildhauerei.ch/) for the opening hours.
With its idyllic setting, the little village of Iseltwald, Switzerland is like something out of a fairy tale. The village is in the Bernese Oberland Region on the southern shores of Lake Brienz. It’s a tiny place of just 400 people, set against the turquoise waters of the lake and the beautiful Swiss Alps.
The number of tourists around here in Iseltwald has increased recently, with several tourist buses stopping here each day. It’s a popular stop for hikers and tourists staying in the Jungfrau Region of Switzerland, as well as fans of the Korean show Crash Landing on You.
If you would like to learn more about Iseltwald, you can check out our article The Tiny Fairytale Village of Iseltwald, Switzerland.
4. Brienzer Rothorn
The valley station going up to Brienzer Rothorn is around 5 kilometers north of Brienz. Aside from having the possibility to ride one of the two remaining steam trains in Switzerland (the other being Furka) that travels regularly, the train travels in the UNESCO Entlebuch Biosphere. The locomotive of the steam train starts moving after the inflow of steam creates so much pressure to set the crankpins, crankshaft, and cogwheel in motion. The steam railway operates daily from June to October. It takes approximately 60 minutes to travel 7.6 kilometers from Brienz to Brienzer Rothorn.
The peak of Brienzer Rothorn is located in 3 cantons – Bern, Obwalden, and Lucerne. It towers at 2,350 meters above sea level. The views from the peak are amazing. You can see the Bernese Alps, Lake Brienz, Grimsel, and even Pilatus. The point where cantons Bern, Lucerne, and Obwalden meet has a granite stone marking it.
Those who wish to stay here may also do so. The rustic and cozy rooms of the mountain hotel Rothorn Kulm will allow you to wake up to the impressive panorama of Lake Brienz and the Bernese Oberland. If you are lucky, 693 mountain peaks await you from the Central Swiss Alps to Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau.
From Brienzer Rothorn, you may hike further to Türren (3 hours), Brünigpass (5 hours), and Planalp (2 hours 30 minutes). You may also hike back to Brienz via Mettli (4 hours 30 minutes) or Planalp (5 hours). The summit track is only 15 minutes long.
Seats are not guaranteed so you will have to reserve your spot using http://shop.brienz-rothorn-bahn.ch.
5. Giessbach Waterfalls
You can find the Giessbach Waterfalls on the southern shore of Lake Brienz, about 77 kilometers from Bern. It gets its water from the Faulhorn-Sagis Valley, which flows into Lake Brienz. There’s a footbridge near the waterfalls where you can see the water coming from above and going down.
Thanks to a Swiss teacher named Johannes Kehrli, we can access the Giessbach Falls easily. The historic Grandhotel Giessbach is located near Giessbach Falls, adding to its charm.
If you would like to learn more about Giessbach Waterfalls, you can check out our article Giessbach Falls Near Interlaken, Switzerland.
If you would like to hike around Giessbach Waterfalls, there is a beautiful trail called Three Waterfalls Hike. This hike starts at Bönigen boat station and then leads you to Erschwandenbach Falls, Mülibach Falls, and Giessbach Falls before ending in Brienz.
6. Ballenberg Open Air Museum
Throughout the Ballenberg Swiss Open-Air Museum, you will see beautiful fields, meadows, and trees. There are also animals such as rabbits, chickens, pigs, goats, cows, ducks, and more. Ballenberg is alive with more than 250 farm animals.
In this huge museum in Hoffstetten bei Brienz, there are at least 100 residential and commercial buildings. With stately farmhouses, most buildings, barns, and more, Ballenberg Swiss Open-Air Museum is the perfect getaway from Brienz.
If you would like to read more about the Ballenberg Swiss Open-Air Museum, you can check out our article Ballenberg Swiss Open-Air Museum, Hofstetten bei Brienz.
7. Wildpark Brienz
Located near Brienz village, Wildpark Brienz is a small, free zoo. Since there are no parking spaces nearby, it is best reached by hiking from the main street. While walking to and from it, you can see Lake Brienz; it is worth the trip if you are in the area.
As mentioned, you do not have to pay to visit here. However, if you wish to feed the animals, you will have to put some coins in the box. A box with some animal food costs CHF 1 each.
Wildpark Brienz is only a small one, so I would recommend stopping by only if you’re already in the area. In case you are interested in visiting other larger zoos in Switzerland, I recommend either the Zurich or Basel zoos.
8. Lake Brienz
Lake Brienz is a scenic lake with crystal-clear waters. Its turquoise waters are gorgeous and its background of mountains is majestic. The gorgeous lake is fed by the river Aare and the stream Giessbach. The lake is 14 kilometers long and 3 kilometers wide.
It is a bit smaller than its neighbor Lake Thun. And because it is more peaceful compared to Lake Thun, this lake is more conducive to fishing.
You will also be able to cruise here on some boats. For example, the paddle steamer Lötschberg, built back in 1914, cruises on Lake Brienz twice a day during the summer months. The steamboat stops at the following ports: Interlaken East, Bönigen, Ringgenberg, Iseltwald, Giessbach, and Brienz.
9. Axalp ob Brienz
Sports enthusiasts will enjoy Axalp near Brienz. Hiking and mountain trails can be found here in the summer. There is a popular theme trail here dedicated to woodcarving called Schnitzlerweg Axalp.
During the winter, it becomes a small ski resort with a family-friendly atmosphere. There is a chair lift and several drag lifts in the small ski area. There are also 15 kilometers of slopes on a terrace overlooking Lake Brienz.
If you would like to read more about other small ski resorts in Switzerland like Axalp, you can check out our article 33 Small Ski Resorts in Switzerland.
10. Brienz School of Violin Making
Violins are also known to be produced in Brienz. Violin making is taught at the Brienz School of Violin Making (Geigenbauschule in German) in Brienz. The school was founded in 1944 and is the only one of its kind in the country.
The staff will be happy to give you a guided tour of our facility (up to 25 people) and explain how the Brienz School of Violin Making works. Tours are priced at CHF 200 during working hours and CHF 300 outside of them. Tours will have to be arranged in advance with the team.
You can check their website for more details: https://www.geigenbauschule.ch/.
11. Trauffer World of Experiences (Trauffer Erlebniswelt)
You can learn more about woodcarving at Trauffer World of Experiences (Trauffer Erlebniswelt in German). In addition to learning about craftsmanship, you can buy from the shop, eat at their restaurant, or stay at the hotel. You can carve your wooden cow (if you are 12 years or older) or paint your cow. When the weather isn’t great, it’s a great place to go.
Ballenberg Open-Air Museum is just a short distance from Trauffer Erlebniswelt.
You can find out more about Trauffer World of Experiences on their website: https://en.trauffer.ch/erlebniswelt/.
12. Brünig Dampfbahn
While the steam train Brünig runs only for a few days each year, it offers a fascinating way to spend time in Brienz. You can either take the train from Interlaken Ost or Meiringen.
Because it doesn’t go very often, it’s best to check the website (https://bruenig-dampfbahn.ch/) for the most up-to-date information.
Summary: 12 Things to Do in Brienz Switzerland
Brienz, a picturesque town in Canton Bern, is a treasure trove of highlights that enchant visitors with its diverse offerings. And while Brienz might not be as famous as Lucerne or nearby Interlaken, it still offers plenty of activities.
One of the must-see attractions is the Brienzer Rothorn, a majestic mountain that can be reached by a historic steam train, providing panoramic views of the surrounding Alps.
Brienz is renowned for its woodworking heritage and trade, but it offers much more than that. For outdoor enthusiasts, Brienz offers a plethora of hiking trails that meander through breathtaking landscapes, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the pristine alpine nature. So if you are considering hiking around the region, here are some hikes near Brienz that you might want to check out:
- Three Waterfalls Trail – Böningen to Brienz – 5 hours and 15 minutes
- High trail Brienz to Oberried – 2 hours and 30 minutes
- High trail Oberried to Ringgenberg – 2 hours and 30 minutes
The village is also graced by the stunning Lake Brienz, featuring crystal-clear turquoise waters and nearby attractions such as Iseltwald and Giessbach Falls. And to relive the nostalgia of a bygone era, the steam train Brünig takes passengers on a scenic journey, traversing the picturesque landscapes in the heart of Switzerland.
There are so many things to do in Brienz, particularly if you are interested in art or woodworking crafts. With its captivating sights, rich heritage, and abundance of activities, Brienz is a haven for those seeking an authentic Swiss experience that combines natural beauty, cultural immersion, and unforgettable adventures.
- AT Verlag. Alte Tradition, in Holz geschnitzt. Faszination Schweiz: 150 bekannte und unbekannte Ausflugziele. Das Beste Reader’s Digest, 1997.
- Brunngasse in Brienz – Europe’s Most Beautiful Street
- How Do I Get From Interlaken to Brienz?
- Top 12 Stunning Places Near Interlaken
- Most Beautiful Lakes Near Zurich
- 12 Most Beautiful Lakes Near Geneva
- Giessbach Falls Near Interlaken, Switzerland
- The Tiny Fairytale Village of Iseltwald, Switzerland
- Ballenberg Swiss Open-Air Museum, Hofstetten bei Brienz
- Interlaken: 8 Reasons Why You Should Visit
- 8 Beautiful Towns Near Interlaken, Switzerland
Darla Uhl is the owner of TouringSwitzerland.com. Her home is in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. Having lived almost 20 years in Switzerland, she's traveled extensively all over the country.
Darla's favorite regions to visit in Switzerland include Engadin, Lake Geneva, Bernese Oberland, Ticino, and Valais. She loves spending time with her family, hiking, visiting museums, and reading books.