Grindelwald vs. Lauterbrunnen: Which one to pick? Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen stand out as two of Switzerland’s top tourist spots. Nestled in the Bernese Oberland region, they treat you to breathtaking Alpine vistas. I’ve been to both, and let me tell you, choosing between them isn’t easy. Each has its special appeal and beauty.
This article explores the charms and unique features of Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen, helping you make an informed decision when faced with the choice between these two captivating Swiss destinations.
Overview: Grindelwald vs. Lauterbrunnen
Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen are two well-known villages in the Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland. Both villages are famous in their own right and are surrounded by beautiful mountain peaks and stunning scenery. If you find it hard to decide between the two, that is understandable. Both options are great, but one may be more appropriate for you.
This article focuses on both Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen. So which is the better place to stay while traveling in the Bernese Oberland region? Is it better to stay in Grindelwald or Lauterbrunnen?
Key Differences: Grindelwald vs. Lauterbrunnen
The key differences between Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen are as follows:
|Population: approx. 3,800||Population: approx. 2,300|
|Total Area: 171.28 km2 (66.13 sq mi)||Total Area: 164.4 km2 (63.5 sq mi)|
|Elevation: 1,034 m (3,392 ft)||Elevation: 802 m (2,631 ft)|
|Large municipality in the Bernese Alps||Comprises major Lauterbrunnen Valley|
|Highlights: Grindelwald First, Bachalpsee Lake, Grindelwald Glaciers, Grosse Scheidegg, First Cliff Walk, Pfingstegg, Männlichen, Eiger Glacier, Jungfraujoch||Highlights: Staubbach Waterfall, Trümmelbach Waterfalls, Wengen, Mürren, Schilthorn, Stechelberg, Mürrenbach Waterfall, Gimmelwald, Kleine Scheidegg, Jungfraujoch|
|– Eiger Express cable car to reach Eiger Glacier|
– Cable car to Männlichen
|– Scenic train ride to reach Eiger Glacier|
– Scenic train ride and cable car to reach Männlichen
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 includeGrindelwald First, Bachalpsee Lake, Schynige Platte, Grindelwald Glaciers, Grosse Scheidegg, First Cliff Walk, Männlichen, Eiger Glacier, and Jungfraujoch.
Around 17 kilometers away from Grindelwald is another beautiful village called Lauterbrunnen.Lauterbrunnen is an idyllic village surrounded by waterfalls. The entire area is best described as a valley with 72 waterfalls. Lauterbrunnen is a great place to start exploring the Jungfrau Region.
Lauterbrunnen village is situated at the valley bottom of this magnificent U-shaped valley in Switzerland. Most of the residents of this valley are actually from Lötschental, the adjacent valley located in Valais. A road was said to have passed between the Eiger and Mönch on the way to Valais. It is said that the heights used to be much milder and more fertile.
By taking the train from Lauterbrunnen, you can reach the sunny car-free terrace of Wengen as well as Kleine Scheidegg. From Kleine Scheidegg, you can change trains to go to Jungfraujoch. You may access Mürren through Lauterbrunnen itself or via Stechelberg on the other side of Lauterbrunnen. In addition, if you keep ascending, you’ll reach Piz Gloria – the summit of Schilthorn at 2,971 meters above sea level.
Places to Visit: Grindelwald vs. Lauterbrunnen
Places to Visit near Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen
The following places are easily accessible from both Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen: Männlichen, Eiger Glacier, and Jungfraujoch.
It is a slower scenic train ride through Wengen and Kleine Scheidegg on the way to the Eiger Glacier and Jungfraujoch from Lauterbrunnen. It is possible to reach Männlichen by taking a scenic train to Wengen and a cable car from there.
Alternatively, you can travel from Grindelwald to all of these destinations via the Grindelwald First Terminal. At the terminal, you can take the Eiger Express gondola to the Eiger Glacier and finally to Jungfraujoch. If you wish, you can also take the cable car to Männlichen.
- Männlichen – Männlichen is a 2,343-metre mountain easily accessible from Wengen and Grindelwald. 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.
- 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.
Places to Visit near Grindelwald
- 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.
- 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.
Places to Visit near Lauterbrunnen
- 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.
- 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.
Advantages: Grindelwald vs. Lauterbrunnen
Both destinations offer stunning natural beauty and a range of outdoor activities. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference. Below, we will outline the advantages of picking Grindelwald or Lauterbrunnen.
Advantages of Staying inGrindelwald
- Grindelwald is a larger and more developed town compared to Lauterbrunnen. There are more restaurants, hotels, and facilities there.
- The village of Grindelwald offers a 5-star hotel and several 4- and 3-star hotels.
- The mountains around Grindelwald offer some more adventurous activities – First Flyer, First Glider, Tobogganing on Pfingstegg, and Fly Line of Pfingstegg.
- Grindelwald’s fast and modern Eiger Express only takes 20 minutes to reach the Eiger Glacier.
- Grindelwald is surrounded by more glaciers.
- Grindelwald has more options for winter sports, such as skiing and snowboarding.
Advantages of Staying in Lauterbrunnen
- Lauterbrunnen, a cozy village nestled amidst towering peaks and waterfalls, is smaller than Grindelwald. It is the ideal choice for those seeking an authentic and intimate experience.
- There are no four- to five-star hotels in Lauterbrunnen.
- There are more sightseeing places around Lauterbrunnen (waterfalls, scenic hikes) than adventure or action.
- The slow scenic train takes one hour to reach the Eiger Glacier from Lauterbrunnen.
- There are more waterfalls near Lauterbrunnen compared to Grindelwald.
Hotels: Grindelwald vs. Lauterbrunnen
If you’re debating between Grindelwald or Lauterbrunnen, it’s worth noting that Grindelwald boasts a more extensive array of hotel options. However, if you lean toward uncomplicated lodging, Lauterbrunnen is a solid choice. Check out our recommended hotels in both Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen below.
Hotels in Grindelwald
- 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).
Hotels in Lauterbrunnen
- Hotel Silberhorn, Lauterbrunnen (3-star) – Enjoy the closeness to nature and a breathtaking view of the Staubbach Fall in the light-flooded winter garden of the Silberhorn Hotel. Only 150 meters from Lauterbrunnen’s train station, the Silberhorn Hotel is located off the main street. The Alpine-style restaurant offers Swiss specialties and a rich breakfast buffet. They serve 4-course dinners from December through April.
- Apartment Staubbach (Apartment) – This spacious apartment has three bedrooms and plenty of space for six people, making it a great choice for families or groups of friends. In addition to its impeccable views, the apartment has a fully equipped kitchen, flat-screen TV, and dining area outside.
- Chalet Chalet am Schärm (Chalet) – Chalet with six bedrooms, three bathrooms, and a fully equipped kitchen. Additionally, it is only a short walk from the cable car that runs from Lauterbrunnen to Grütschalp.
Final Thoughts: Grindelwald vs. Lauterbrunnen
Visiting the Bernese Oberland is such an enjoyable experience, and there is much literature and information about it. Your choice of a base will ultimately depend on your itinerary.
Grindelwald vs. Lauterbrunnen: Which is Better?
If you’d rather stay in the mountains and drive your car directly to a village, then you can choose between Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen. Grindelwald is perfect for people who want more adventurous activities, restaurants, and hotels with a more luxurious feel. Lauterbrunnen is suitable for those looking for something quiet, understated, and located between Wengen and Mürren.
When it comes to my personal preference, I tend to favor Grindelwald. It’s not just about the abundant restaurant options where you can easily dine after a day of adventures. Grindelwald also offers a wide array of activities, whereas Lauterbrunnen, in my opinion, feels a bit too small to stay in. But, of course, Lauterbrunnen has its loyal fanbase, and some folks adore it, choosing it over any other location, any day of the year.
The two locations are, nonetheless, quite close to one another. No matter what decision you make, you won’t regret it. They are both incredibly beautiful places, surrounded by majestic mountains and natural landscapes.
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- Stiftung UNESCO Welterbe Schweizer Alpen Jungfrau-Aletsch. Gentle and wild – the valley of Grindelwald, 1. Ausgabe 2011.
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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.