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Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland is one of the country’s foremost tourist destinations. Inevitably, those who want to visit it will need to decide where to stay. Those who would rather drive directly to a village may eventually opt for either Grindelwald or Lauterbrunnen. For those who would prefer to stay in a car-free village in Bernese Oberland, there is the option of staying in either Wengen or Mürren.
If you would like to check out our article regarding staying either in Wengen or Mürren, two car-free villages in Bernese Oberland, you can read it here: Wengen or Mürren: Which is the Better Base?
As mentioned earlier, the alternative is to drive directly into Grindelwald or Lauterbrunnen from your home. The advantage of doing this is that you won’t have to juggle multiple suitcases while riding the train or cable car.
Grindelwald and 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 options, 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.
As recently as 1860, the Grindelwald Glacier reached the outskirts of the village. In this way, Grindelwald gained its second name of “Glacier village”. Unfortunately, millions of cubic meters of glacier ice have melted away in Grindelwald.
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.
Around 17 kilometers away from Grindelwald is another beautiful village called Lauterbrunnen. Lauterbrunnen is an idyllic village surrounded by waterfalls. As a matter of fact, 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 in 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.
Some of the other highlights of the Lauterbrunnen region include Staubbach Waterfall, Trümmelbach Waterfalls, Mürrenbach Waterfall, and Gimmelwald.
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 with a 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 – 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.
Advantages: Grindelwald vs. Lauterbrunnen
Advantages of Staying in Grindelwald
- Grindelwald is larger than 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.
Advantages of Staying in Lauterbrunnen
- Lauterbrunnen is smaller than Grindelwald. People who prefer a small and authentic town will like it.
- 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
Hotel options in Grindelwald are more extensive compared to Lauterbrunnen. However, if you are happy with simple lodging, you can opt for Lauterbrunnen instead. Listed below are some recommended hotels in both places:
Hotels in Grindelwald
- 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.
- Derby Swiss Quality Hotel (3-star-superior) – Right by the train station, this 3-star superior hotel offers alpine-style rooms and a rich breakfast. For half-board guests, the hotel offers a four-course meal served in the dining room. The hotel also has an à la carte restaurant serving local Bernese cuisine.
- 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.
- Chalet Rosa B&B, Lauterbrunnen (Bed and Breakfast) – In a historic building in Lauterbrunnen village, Chalet Rosa offers stunning mountain views, clean rooms, and bathrooms with showers. This place also serves breakfast. A limited number of parking spaces are available based on availability.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Where Is Eiger Express? Here Is an Overview
- Zurich To Lauterbrunnen Train: All You Need To Know
- Zurich To Grindelwald Train: All You Need To Know
- Kleine Scheidegg and How to Get There
- Most Beautiful Waterfalls in Switzerland
- Mountains Close to Interlaken Worth Visiting
- Wengen, Switzerland: 8 Reasons To Love It
- Jungfrau and Jungfraujoch: What Is the Difference?
- Jungfraujoch – When is the Best Time to Visit?