Grindelwald or Interlaken: Which Is Better as a Base?

Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland has many picturesque villages and towns like Thun, Wengen, Mürren, Lauterbrunnen, Grindelwald, and Interlaken.

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.

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.



Grindelwald and Interlaken

Grindelwald and Interlaken are two well-known villages in the Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland. These two villages are famous, each in their own right; and they’re surrounded by gorgeous scenery. You may find it hard to choose between the two. They’re both good options, but one might work better for you. 

In this article, we’ll talk about both Grindelwald and Interlaken. Where should you stay in the Bernese Oberland? Do we recommend staying in Grindelwald or Interlaken?  


Key Differences: Grindelwald vs. 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: Aare

Grindelwald

Image of Grindelwald by TouringSwitzerland.com

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

Grindelwald Glacier reached the outskirts of the village as recently as 1860. Grindelwald got the nickname “Glacier village” for this reason. Unfortunately, millions of cubic meters of glacier ice have melted away in Grindelwald.

In and around Grindelwald, there are tons of things to do. Highlights in the Grindelwald region include Grindelwald First, Bachalpsee Lake, Schynige Platte, Grindelwald Glaciers, Grosse Scheidegg, First Cliff Walk, Eiger Glacier, and Jungfraujoch.

Interlaken

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

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 vs. 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 from 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.
  • 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 with a 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 overhanging cliffs end.
  • 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 – 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 the 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 in 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.
  • 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 the Suldtal.

Advantages: Grindelwald vs. Interlaken

Advantages of Staying in Grindelwald

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


Image of Mürrenbachfall 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, 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.

Summary

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.


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