Interlaken vs. Lauterbrunnen: Which is Better?

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 Interlaken 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?

Alternatively, you can drive directly to Interlaken or Lauterbrunnen from your home or with a rental car. In doing so, you won’t have to juggle multiple suitcases while riding the train or cable car.



Interlaken and Lauterbrunnen

Interlaken 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 Interlaken and Lauterbrunnen. So which is the better place to stay while traveling in the Bernese Oberland region? Is it better to stay in Interlaken or Lauterbrunnen?  


Key Differences: Interlaken vs. Lauterbrunnen

The key differences between Interlaken and Lauterbrunnen are as follows:

InterlakenLauterbrunnen
Population: approx. 5,600Population: approx.  2,300
Total Area: 4.4 km² (1.7 sq mi)Total Area: 164.4 km2 (63.5 sq mi)
Elevation: 568 m (1,863 ft)Elevation: 802 m (2,631 ft)
Main transport gateway to the Bernese Oberland RegionComprises major Lauterbrunnen Valley
Highlights: Harder Kulm Mountain,
Thun and Brienz Lakes
Highlights: Staubbach Waterfall, Trümmelbach Waterfalls, Wengen, Mürren, Schilthorn, Stechelberg, Mürrenbach Waterfall, Gimmelwald, Kleine Scheidegg, Jungfraujoch

Interlaken

Image of Interlaken by TouringSwitzerland.com

Interlaken serves as more of a base than anything else. Located between Lake Brienz and Lake Thun, Interlaken is also surrounded by two lakes.

Around these lakes, there are many pretty towns and villages like ThunSpiezBrienz, and Iseltwald. Also nearby are multiple castles, St. Beatus Caves, and more. You can also go on the Aare River

There aren’t as many high mountains nearby in Interlaken as in Lauterbrunnen. However, if you reach a good viewpoint like Harder Kulm or Heimwehfluh, you’ll be rewarded with some fantastic views.

Even though it’s not as near as Lauterbrunnen to the rest of the Jungfrau region, it is still well connected it. So you can easily visit LauterbrunnenWengenGrindelwald, and Mürren within a day. 

Lauterbrunnen

Image of Lauterbrunnen by TouringSwitzerland.com

Around 12.5 kilometers away from Interlaken 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 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.

Some of the other highlights of the Lauterbrunnen region include Staubbach Waterfall, Trümmelbach Waterfalls, Mürrenbach Waterfall, and Gimmelwald.


Places to Visit: Interlaken vs. Lauterbrunnen

Places to Visit near Interlaken

There are many places to visit near Interlaken. There are many tourist attractions nearby, such as those around Lake Thun and Lake Brienz.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Places to Visit near Lauterbrunnen

Image of Kleine Scheidegg by TouringSwitzerland.com
  • 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.
  • MürrenMürren 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.
  • 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.

Advantages: Interlaken vs. Lauterbrunnen

Advantages of Staying in Interlaken

Image from Harder Kulm, Interlaken by TouringSwitzerland.com
  • Interlaken is larger than Lauterbrunnen. In that area, you can find more restaurants, hotels, and facilities.
  • A variety of hotels are available in Interlaken, ranging from luxury hotels to hostels that are more budget-friendly.
  • Train travel from Zurich to Interlaken takes 1 hour 56 minutes, compared to Lauterbrunnen (2 hours 23 minutes). Interlaken is also closer to Bern, Geneva, and Basel compared to Lauterbrunnen.
  • Compared to Lauterbrunnen, Interlaken is closer to many other beautiful Swiss towns such as Thun, Brig, and Murten.
  • In Interlaken, you can mix indoor and outdoor activities. There are more options for rainy days, including visiting St. Beatus, Thun with its museums and castles, and Rosenlaui Gorge.
  • Interlaken is located near two beautiful lakes. You should choose it over Lauterbrunnen if you plan to do a lot of swimming. Aside from wakeboarding and sailing, you can also do SUP.

Advantages of Staying in Lauterbrunnen

Image of Mürrenbachfall in Lauterbrunnen by TouringSwitzerland.com
  • Lauterbrunnen is closer to the mountains in the Jungfrau Region. Choose it if you want to visit the mountains near and around Jungfraujoch. You are also closer to the beautiful villages of Wengen and Mürren compared to Interlaken.
  • Lauterbrunnen is smaller than Interlaken. People who prefer a small and authentic mountain village will like it. 
  • There are no four- to five-star hotels in Lauterbrunnen. There are more wooden chalet-style houses there. For a more traditional or authentic feel, choose Lauterbrunnen.
  • The slow scenic train takes 38 minutes to reach Kleine Scheidegg and one hour to reach the Eiger Glacier from Lauterbrunnen. 
  • There are more waterfalls near Lauterbrunnen compared to Interlaken. The Trümmelbach Falls in Lauterbrunnen is well worth a visit.

Hotels: Interlaken vs. Lauterbrunnen

Image of Hotel Victoria Jungfrau in Interlaken by TouringSwitzerland.com

Hotel options in Interlaken 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 Interlaken

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 Royal St Georges (4-star superior) – Close to the Harderbahn Funicular and Interlaken’s center, Hotel Royal St. Georges has a large, elegant lobby, restaurant, spa, and relaxing rooms. Personally, I loved staying here.

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.

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: Interlaken vs. Lauterbrunnen

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

Both locations are quite close to one another. There is no doubt that both places are incredibly beautiful, surrounded by mountains and beautiful landscapes. It doesn’t matter what you decide – I’m sure you won’t regret it!

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.


Related Posts: Jungfrau Region

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