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Grindelwald or Interlaken: Which Is Better as a Base?

Last Updated on January 18, 2024 by Admin

If you’re torn between visiting Grindelwald or Interlaken for your next adventure in Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland, this article will provide you with valuable insights to help you make an informed decision. So which is better: Grindelwald or Interlaken?

Grindelwald or Interlaken: The Short Answer

When it comes to picking a base, both Grindelwald and Interlaken are good options. Surrounded by stunning places and mountains, these two towns also have good transportation links. You can also get to them by car, unlike the car-free villages of Wengen and Mürren. There are also a ton of hotels and restaurants in both towns.

Grindelwald is better than Interlaken if you want to be closer to mountains and beautiful hiking trails. Interlaken is better than Grindelwald if you plan a mix of indoor and outdoor activities and engage in a myriad of outdoor activities such as swimming, wake surfing, sailing, SUP, paragliding, and skydiving.

Visitors from all over the world might wonder: Is it better to stay in Grindelwald or Interlaken? We’ll talk about the different places we can visit nearby as well as the advantages of staying in each.

Key Differences: Grindelwald or Interlaken

The key differences between Grindelwald and Interlaken are as follows:

GrindelwaldInterlaken
Population: approx. 3,800Population: approx.  5,600
Total Area: 171.28 km2 (66.13 sq mi)Total Area: 4.4 km²
Elevation: 1,034 m (3,392 ft)Elevation: 568 m (1,863 ft)
Large municipality in the Bernese AlpsMain transport gateway to the Bernese Oberland Region
Highlights: Grindelwald First, Bachalpsee Lake,
Grindelwald Glaciers, Grosse Scheidegg, First Cliff Walk,
Pfingstegg, Männlichen, Eiger Glacier, Jungfraujoch
Highlights: Harder Kulm Mountain,
Thun and Brienz Lakes
Lake: Bachalpsee Lake (First)Lakes: Brienz (East) and Thun (West)
River: Black LütschineRiver: Aare

Grindelwald

Grindelwald as an alternative to Interlaken
Image of Grindelwald by TouringSwitzerland.com

Grindelwald is a famous mountain village in the Bernese Oberland, located at the foot of the Eiger (3,970 meters) and Wetterhorn (3,701 meters). Grindelwald is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Bernese Oberland.

The seven areas of Grindelwald are Bach, Grindel, Scheidegg, Wärgistal, Itramen, Bussalp, and Holzmatten. Each local person belongs to one of the seven areas (called Bergschaften in German), which are represented separately in the municipality. 

Grindelwald Valley is characterized by soft green meadows and mountain forests on one side, and rocky walls and icy peaks of the Eiger, Schreckhorn, and Wetterhorn on the other. The alpine summer here is short, and as with many other alpine villages, they mow the grass and dry it for use as hay in winter. Due to rainfall, the north-facing slopes have abundant grass.

As recently as 1860, the Grindelwald Glacier reached the outskirts of the village. Between 1860 and 1914, glacier ice was mined and exported commercially. In this way, Grindelwald gained its second name “Glacier village”. Unfortunately, millions of cubic meters of glacier ice have melted away in Grindelwald.

Grindelwald allows the same amount of livestock in winter and summer. A system like this is ecologically sound and prevents pastures from being overused. During the summer, a farmer can drive up the number of cows determined by the surface area. Cow rights are equal to one cow, four pigs, or eight goats. In Grindelwald, there are 2,174 cow rights and this number has remained constant for centuries.  

There are many places to visit in and around Grindelwald. Some of the highlights of the Grindelwald region include Grindelwald First, Bachalpsee Lake, Schynige Platte, Grindelwald Glaciers, Grosse Scheidegg, First Cliff Walk, Männlichen, Eiger Glacier, and Jungfraujoch.

Interlaken

Interlaken as an alternative to Grindelwald
Image of Interlaken by TouringSwitzerland.com

In a way, Interlaken is more of a base than anything else. It doesn’t have the same kind of views as Grindelwald. But it’s surrounded by two lakes – Lake Brienz and Lake Thun. Around these lakes, there are many pretty towns and villages like Thun, Spiez, Brienz, and Iseltwald. Also nearby are multiple castles, St. Beatus Caves, and more. You can also go on the Aare River

Interlaken is also home to two fantastic viewpoints – Harder Kulm and Heimwehfluh.

It’s also well connected to the Jungfrau Region, so you can visit Lauterbrunnen, Wengen, Grindelwald, and Mürren within a day. 


Places to Visit: Grindelwald or Interlaken

Places to Visit near Grindelwald

  • Männlichen – Männlichen is a 2,343-metre mountain easily accessible from Grindelwald by cable car. From Männlichen, you get a fantastic view of Mönch, Eiger, and Jungfrau.
  • Eiger Glacier – The Eiger Glacier lies on the northwest side of the Eiger Mountain. You can get to Eiger Glacier from Grindelwald with the Eiger Express.
  • Jungfraujoch –  The saddle between Jungfrau (at 4,158 m above sea level) and Mönch (at 4,110 m above sea level). It is also the location of the highest mountain railway in Europe at 3,454 meters above sea level.
  • Grindelwald First – First is a minor summit on the slopes of the Schwarzhorn in the Bernese Oberland. Most people know it as a cable car station above Grindelwald. Aside from hikes, two activities that stand out in this area are the Grindelwald First Flyer and the Grindelwald First Glider. Both are available from July to October. For the safety of visitors, it is subject to weather conditions.
  • Grindelwald First Flyer – The Grindelwald Flyer is an 800-meter zip line moving at 80 kilometers per hour. ​It starts in Scheckfeld and ends in Grindelwald.
  • Grindelwald First Glider – This is another thrilling experience you should try. The strap is in the form of an eagle and is attached to a pulley. It also moves at a speed of 80 kph while offering spectacular views.
Image of Grindelwald First by TouringSwitzerland.com
  • Grindelwald First Cliff Walk – High walkway suspended from the side of the mountain offering fantastic valley views.
  • Bachalpsee Lake – Walking there takes around 50 minutes from First. It’s so picturesque as you can see Schreckhorn reflecting in the lake. 
  • Upper Grindelwald Glacier – Between Schreckhorn and Wetterhorn, a vast snow field forms Upper Grindelwald Glacier (Oberer Grindelwaldgletscher in German). Its glacier tongue is at 1,400 meters and is one of the lowest glaciers in the Alps. 
  • Lower Grindelwald Glacier – Below Agassizhorn and Strahlegghörner lies the Lower Grindelwald Glacier (Unterer Grindelwaldgletscher in German). It is connected to the Finsteraar Glacier through the Finsteraarjoch.
  • Grosse Scheidegg – At an altitude of 1,962 m, the Grosse Scheidegg passes across the col between Switzerland’s Schwarzhorn and Wetterhorn mountains. You can reach Grosse Scheidegg with the Grindelwald Bus in 25 minutes from Grindelwald.
  • Pfingstegg – The starting point for hikes going to both glaciers in Grindelwald. You can reach Pfingstegg by cable car from Grindelwald. Additionally, there is a toboggan run and a fly line.
  • Staubbach Waterfall – The Staubbach Waterfall is a waterfall in Switzerland located just west of Lauterbrunnen in the Bernese Highlands. It falls 297 meters from a valley overhanging the Weisse Lütschine, before the end of the overhanging cliff.
  • Trümmelbach Waterfalls – There are ten glacier-fed waterfalls in Switzerland’s Trümmelbach Falls. It is accessible by a tunnel-funicular built back in 1913. 
  • Wengen – Wengen is 1,274 meters above sea level. On a terrace with a spectacular panorama, Wengen offers views of both Lauterbrunnen village below and the surrounding high mountains above. You can reach Wengen from Grindelwald via Männlichen or Zweilütschinen-Lauterbrunnen.
  • Mürren – Mürren is positioned a bit higher than Wengen, at 1,645 meters above sea level. There are also spectacular views of the bottom of the valley, and the town is quiet and car-free. It is smaller than Wengen.
  • Schilthorn – This is the summit above the village of Mürren and the highest mountain north of Sefinenfurgge Pass. It is around 2,970 meters above sea level.
  • Stechelberg – Stechelberg is a small village located at the base of the Schwarzmönch mountain in the Bernese Alps.
  • Mürrenbach Waterfall –  In five cascades, Mürrenbach Waterfall drops 417 meters to the ground, making it Switzerland’s highest waterfall.
  • Gimmelwald – A small car-free village, Gimmelwald is located between Stechelberg and Mürren. It is 1,363 meters above sea level.
  • Kleine Scheidegg –  Kleine Scheidegg is a mountain pass at an elevation of 2,061 meters. It is located between Eiger and Lauberhorn. Kleine Scheidegg makes a great starting point for excursions to Jungfraujoch and Lauberhorn. It is also the meeting point of two rack railways.

Places to Visit near Interlaken

  • Harder Kulm – Harder Kulm can be reached from Interlaken by walking through the English Garden and crossing the bridge to the Interlaken Harderbahn. It is located 1,321 meters above sea level and provides fantastic views of Interlaken. Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau, Lake Thun, and Lake Brienz can be seen from Harder Kulm, too.
  • Thun – Thun is a breathtaking lakeside town on the banks of Lake Thun. In Thun, you will find two castles (Thun and Schadau), a picturesque old town, museums, and places to bathe during summer.
  • Spiez – A gorgeous lakeside town near Interlaken with several beaches and a castle.
  • Iseltwald – Iseltwald with its peninsula, the Seeburg castle, and its lakeside promenade is a peaceful little village to visit near Interlaken. Boats stop here in summer.
  • Lake Thun – The bigger of the two lakes beside Interlaken, you can cruise around Lake Thun, swim, or try one of the water sports.
  • Lake Brienz – Lake Brienz is great for sailing, canoeing, windsurfing, wakeboarding and more. Take a ride on the Brienzer Rothorn to get some great photos of Lake Brienz.
  • Giessbach Waterfalls – Giessbach Waterfalls get their water from the high Faulhorn-Sagis Valley. From there, it flows into Lake Brienz
  • Rosenlaui Valley, Glacier, and Gorge – An absolutely beautiful and peaceful pocket of land in the Reichenbach Valley. The gorge has thundering waterfalls and bizarre cliff formations. It is definitely worth visiting.
Image of Reichenbach Falls by TouringSwitzerland.com
  • Reichenbach Falls – Beautiful waterfalls famous for being featured in Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Final Problem.
  • Aare Gorge – Known for its limestone formations, Aare Gorge is a large piece of bedrock that stretches 1,400 meters long and 200 meters deep between Innertkirchen and Meiringen. 
  • St. Beatus Caves – The caves and the museum are located inside the Niederhorn Massif. Outside, you can walk around a garden with beautiful waterfalls. Take good walking shoes and bring a jacket since the cave can get chilly.
  • Blausee – Blausee is a gorgeous lake in the Kander Valley roughly 38 kilometers away from Interlaken. Open all year round, this destination is worth visiting any time of the year. With the exception of one day per year, swimming in Blausee is not allowed.
  • Höheweg – The shopping street in Interlaken in case you are on the lookout for souvenirs, jewelry, or watches.
  • Bönigen – Bönigen is a traditional village with wooden houses and chalets from the 16th century. You can find the village of Bönigen on the lower shore of Lake Brienz.
  • Axalp – Axalp, right above Lake Brienz at 1,535 meters above sea level, is the starting point for a lot of hiking trails from spring until autumn. In winter, it is transformed into a small ski resort with 15 kilometers of slopes for young and old alike.
  • Ballenberg Open Air Museum – This open-air museum features various centuries-old buildings from the different cantons of Switzerland. They have typical farm animals such as donkeys, cows, chickens, rabbits, and cats. In some houses, you will learn about specific trades or you will be able to interact with musical instruments or handicrafts.
  • Milibach Waterfall – This waterfall can be found near Brienz. Best visited right after a rainy day.
  • Pochten Falls – A waterfall found at the end of Suldtal.

Advantages: Grindelwald or Interlaken

Advantages of Staying in Grindelwald

Grindelwald as an alternative to Interlaken
Image of Grindelwald by TouringSwitzerland.com
  • Grindelwald is closer to the mountains and beautiful hiking trails. Choose it over Interlaken if you plan to do a lot of hiking.
  • Grindelwald is closer to the mountains in the Jungfrau Region. Choose it if you want to visit the mountains near and around Jungfraujoch.
  • Grindelwald is better if you plan to ski a lot. It is right on the Grindelwald-Wengen and Grindelwald-First winter sports area. The Mürren-Schilthorn ski area is also nearby. The ski resorts in and near Grindelwald are bigger than the ski resorts near Interlaken.
  • Grindelwald is better if you plan to spend most of the time outdoors. Some of the most gorgeous scenery in the Bernese Oberland region can be found here. Grindelwald is surrounded by more glaciers and the Eiger Express only takes 20 minutes to reach the Eiger Glacier. 
  • The mountains around Grindelwald offer some more adventurous activities – First Flyer, First Glider, Tobogganing on Pfingstegg, and Fly Line of Pfingstegg. 
  • Grindelwald has a mountain village feel, whereas Interlaken feels more like a proper town.

Advantages of Staying in Interlaken

Interlaken as an alternative to Grindelwald
Image of Interlaken’s Japanese Garden by TouringSwitzerland.com
  • Interlaken is easier to get to from Zurich by train.
  • Interlaken has more hotels and restaurants compared to Grindelwald.
  • Interlaken is better if you plan a mix of indoor and outdoor activities. You’ll find more museums and castles if you come during a rainy time.
  • Interlaken is closer to two big beautiful lakes. Choose it over Grindelwald if you plan to do a lot of swimming. You can also do wake surfing, sailing, and SUP.
  • Interlaken has paragliding, hang gliding, and skydiving.
  • Interlaken is closer to mountains such as Niesen and Stockhorn.
  • Although there are ski areas near Interlaken, such as Axalp/Brienz, Habkern, and Beatenberg-Niederhorn-Hohwald, these are smaller ski resorts compared to the ones near Grindelwald. Choose Interlaken if you would rather go to a smaller ski resort than a larger one.

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Hotels: Grindelwald vs. Interlaken

Hotel options in Interlaken are more extensive, but Grindelwald offers a wide range of accommodation options. Listed below are some recommended hotels in both regions:

Hotels in Grindelwald

Image of Grindelwald Hotels by TouringSwitzerland.com
  • Hotel Fiescherblick – Managed by brothers Matthias and Lars Michel, Hotel Fiescherblick stands as one of the best hotels in Grindelwald, having reopened its doors in December 2022. Its restaurant is under the guidance of an accomplished chef. Grindelwald First Valley Station is just a short stroll away.
  • Romantik Hotel Schweizerhof Grindelwald (5-star) – A 100-meter walk from the train station, Romantik Hotel Schweizerhof Grindelwald boasts panoramic views of the Eiger, an indoor pool, and gourmet cuisine. The hotel also has a lounge bar and nicely furnished rooms. 
  • Belvedere Swiss Quality Hotel (4-star-superior) – A beautiful 4-star superior hotel located just a few minutes from the center of Grindelwald, Belvedere Swiss Quality Hotel is a great place to stay. Among its amenities are a gourmet restaurant, a piano bar, an indoor pool, and a spa. During the winter season, there is a private ski bus. 
  • Bergwelt Grindelwald – Alpine Design Resort (4-star) – Within a 2-minute walk of First Grindelwald, Bergwelt Grindelwald – Alpine Design Resort has a 24-hour front desk and room service. This 4-star hotel also offers concierge services, allergy-friendly rooms, a bar, and free WiFi throughout the hotel. Guests can enjoy its outdoor pool, indoor pool, fitness center, garden, and restaurant year-round.
  • Parkhotel Schoenegg (3-star) – The Parkhotel Schoenegg in Grindelwald offers a central location with serene surroundings, featuring a modern wellness area, indoor pool, and various room options showcasing mountain views. Guests can enjoy a 5-course dinner, a traditional English-style bar, a playroom for kids, and access to business facilities including free internet. The hotel has renovated rooms, breathtaking views, and exceptional service.
  • Hotel PINTE (3-star) – Hotel PINTE is a modern chalet-style hotel located 2 minutes from Grindelwald First. Grindelwald’s train station is also nearby. In addition to an indoor pool and a spa, the hotel offers a 24-hour front desk as well as a continental breakfast.
  • Hotel Caprice – Grindelwald (3-star) – This hotel is very conveniently located near the train station, making it a wonderful choice. It is only a few steps away from cable cars and buses. The hotel offers modern, clean, and comfortable rooms with fantastic views of the Eiger. Additionally, the hotel offers a spa. You can get breakfast and snacks here. You will need to go somewhere else for lunch and dinner, but they can offer you a discount on a 5-course meal at a nearby hotel (Hotel Alpina). 
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Hotels in Interlaken

Image of Hotel Victoria Jungfrau in Interlaken by TouringSwitzerland.com
  • Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa (5-star) – A luxurious and elegant hotel with distinctive design and decor, marble bathrooms, and views of the Jungfrau mountain.
  • Swiss Hotel Apartments (5-star apartments) – With spacious rooms equipped with a kitchen, balcony, dishwasher, microwave, refrigerator, and coffee maker, it’s the most affordable and convenient place to stay in Interlaken. It’s also just 80 meters from Interlaken Ost train station, so you can easily get there from Zurich and Geneva airports. 
  • Hotel Interlaken (4-star) – This 4-star hotel, conveniently located next to the Japanese Garden, offers good value for money in pricey Interlaken. It’s just a short walk from Interlaken Ost train station, and the staff is friendly and helpful.
  • Hotel Bellevue (4-star) – This boutique hotel is near Interlaken West train station. Each room has a balcony with a view of the mountains. 
  • Hotel Bernerhof (3-star) – The Hotel Bernerhof is an affordable, central hotel right opposite Interlaken West train station. It has modern rooms and a restaurant that serves Swiss food. 
  • Interlaken Youth Hostel (Hostel) – A convenient hostel located near the Interlaken Ost train station. They have clean and basic accommodations, plus breakfast is included.

Final Thoughts: Grindelwald or Interlaken

The Bernese Oberland is such an enjoyable place to visit, and there is a lot of literature about it. Which base you choose depends on your itinerary. 

Interlaken is a good base if you want to visit the mountains and the lakes in the Bernese Oberland. Grindelwald is a great base if you prefer higher mountains and don’t need the lakes.  

In Grindelwald, it’s all about the mountains, whereas in Interlaken there are towns, villages, castles, and museums plus the water.

The two locations aren’t that far apart, so you can easily visit the other one if you wish to. Whichever choice you make, you won’t regret it. Both places are really beautiful, with majestic mountains and natural landscapes.

TIP: For a couple of days in the Jungfrau Region, consider buying an unlimited transportation ticket so you can travel by train, boat, bus, gondola, and gondola on all the valid routes. You can get your ticket from GetYourGuide here – Jungfrau Travel Pass: Unlimited Transportation Ticket. The ticket covers Interlaken Ost, Lauterbrunnen, Grindelwald, Kleine Scheidegg, Grütschalp, Winteregg, and Mürren. Jungfraujoch tickets aren’t included, but you can get them at a special price.

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Resource

  • Stiftung UNESCO Welterbe Schweizer Alpen Jungfrau-Aletsch. Gentle and wild – the valley of Grindelwald, 1. Ausgabe 2011.

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Darla 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.

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