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Ballenberg Swiss Open-Air Museum, Hofstetten bei Brienz

Last Updated on September 21, 2023 by Darla Uhl

Despite the fact that most museums are indoors, there are some that are outdoors. The Ballenberg Swiss Open-Air Museum is one such museum. The museum’s name implies that you’ll spend a good deal of time outside. Since there are many different houses at Ballenberg Swiss Open-Air Museum, you will need to walk outside in well-kept pathways to get from one place to another.

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Overview: Ballenberg Swiss Open-Air Museum

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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, especially if you’re in Brienz, Interlaken, Bern, or somewhere nearby.

Opened in 1978, Ballenberg Swiss Open-Air Museum grew from 16 objects to 25 two years later. Eight years on and it counted 61 buildings.  Over 100 different buildings are available today.

It’s an interesting museum because each house is an actual historic building that was carefully dismantled and reconstructed on this site. You get a glimpse of someone’s life or trade when you go to their house.

It may display someone’s business, such as a ceramics studio, a smithy, a hat shop, or a rope factory.  Artifacts are exhibited using images, text, machines, videos, or a combination of all of them. In special cases, the trade is even demonstrated through live workshops or guided tours. 

Let’s take a look at what you can expect at the Ballenberg Swiss Open-Air Museum.

Ballenberg Swiss Open-Air Museum: What to Expect 

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. In fact, Ballenberg is alive with more than 250 farm animals.

There is a variety of building types, such as farmhouses, granaries, residential houses, barns, food stores, etc. Outside each house or building, you’ll find a brief description. An insight into everyday rural life in Switzerland can be gained from kitchens, chambers, and living rooms inside residential houses.

There is an herb garden attached to a store selling items you would normally find in a Swiss drugstore.

You can just get a map from the entrance and go around the Ballenberg Swiss Open-Air Museum, as you like. Wheelchair users can take the à la carte route, which is a 2-kilometer loop. There are 12 stops along the à la carte circular trail, and you can go to each house in a wheelchair. 

Livelihood as seen in Ballenberg Swiss Open-Air Museum

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The museum emphasizes the importance of Switzerland’s farming and trade roots. Most of Switzerland’s arable land has been used and adapted by its farmers so that they can grow crops and care for livestock. In this way, the Swiss have always had their own source of nutrition and food, although we do import some products from abroad.

There is a lot of dairy production in Switzerland, so cheese and chocolate are popular. Nowadays, the Swiss export some of their most popular goods, and chocolate is one of its most well-known products.

Another interesting thing at Ballenberg Swiss Open-Air Museum is that you will find craftsmen and women working in the buildings with old tools and equipment, performing traditional work.

A nice little shop called Hausgemachtes is located in one of the houses (House 331), where you can buy products produced in Ballenberg itself or in one of the nearby villages.

 Houses in Ballenberg Swiss Open-Air Museum

Ballenberg Swiss Open-Air Museum has a systematic collection and exhibition of traditional cultural assets, educational approaches, and a broad public orientation. Seeing them gives us an idea of rural life and what everyday objects used to look like.

One of the things I like about the Ballenberg Swiss Open-Air Museum is that sometimes it looks like a typical Swiss village. There are times when you just have a single house and other times when you have a group of houses or a little reconstructed village.

Most houses will have some kind of furniture on display. Those living in villas have elegant, well-appointed furniture, whereas those in simpler houses have basic tables, chairs, and beds.

Some interesting houses that you might want to check out are the following: Richterswil House, Villnachern House, Therwil House, Ostermundigen House, and the Brülisau House.

How to Get to Ballenberg Swiss Open-Air Museum

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Ballenberg is easily accessible from Brienz, Interlaken, Bern, and Lucerne. The best way to reach it by public transport is by taking the bus from either Brienz or Brünig. It’s also possible to walk from Brienzwiler train station (a 20-minute walk).

In both Ballenberg entrances (West and East), there is ample parking space.

AddressMuseumsstrasse 100
3858 Hofstetten bei Brienz
BusBallenberg West, Hofstetten
Ballenberg Ost, Brienzwiler
TrainBrienzwiler (20-minute walk)

Final Thoughts: Ballenberg Swiss Open-Air Museum

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There are so many fascinating things to discover about Swiss rural life at the Ballenberg Swiss Open-Air Museum. As opposed to seeing pictures of houses, you are able to go inside them. You can also gain a deeper understanding of Switzerland’s culture this way.

I believe this is one of the best museums in the country due to the fact you were able to live and experience what it is like in reality. The Ballenberg Swiss Open-Air Museum is a must-see for everyone. It’ll be tons of fun and you’ll learn a lot. 

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Darla Uhl is the owner of 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.

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