Switzerland, May 2017: The Lauterbrunnen Valley & Spiez

The train from Lucerne to Interlaken runs on a scenic path known as the GoldenPass route. We booked special tickets to reserve seats in one of the train’s panoramic cars which were nice but certainly not necessary to appreciate the views along the way. From Interlaken, we took a train to Lauterbrunnen, cable car to Grütschalp, and finally another [very scenic] train to Mürren. All of these seemingly disparate public transit systems are actually all linked by SBB which makes it very easy to plan and book journeys, even when you need to change lines many times!

We stayed five nights in Hotel Bellevue in a room with a balcony with views to the towering Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau mountains across the valley. Our first order of business to get acquainted with the town was to grab some mountain bikes and ride around. We underestimated the difficulty of some of the paths and overestimated our mountain biking ability, but we had fun creating our own loop to enjoy the natural landscape!

On our first full day, we set off on a hike to the valley floor. The walk from Mürren down to Gimmelwald, a sleepy small town dotted with alpine homes and farms, is easy and on mostly paved paths. The path down to Stechelberg is steeper and more of a mountain trail. You walk down through the forest, past a waterfall, and then to a little wooden bridge over a river (at 46.541119, 7.891385). A little bit further down into the valley floor we grabbed a well-deserved refreshing ice cream sundae at Hotel Restaurant Stechelberg.

We set our sights north at this point and started the three-and-a-half mile walk toward Lauterbrunnen. Though the walk is flat (in fact slightly downhill on average), our legs were aching from the hike down from Gimmelwald! We broke up our walk with a stop at Trümmelbach Falls, a series of powerful waterfalls slicing their way through the mountain on the east side of the valley. The 11 CHF admission price is a bit steep, but it’s worth a look! We grabbed lunch at Restaurant Oberland before grabbing the cable car and train back to Mürren.

The Mountain View Trail, running between Mürren and Grutschalp, is one of a series of well-known and well-marked “tourist” hikes in the area. We grabbed the train to Grütschalp and hiked the path southward. We liked this way as you get the steepest part of the hike out of the way first. The views of the mountains from this path are incredible (hence the name…). At one point we were smack dab in the middle of a beautiful meadow full of wildflowers surrounded by incredible vistas in every direction (around 46.588046, 7.883744). This is why we visited in spring—the mountains are still snow-capped and the meadows are flush with flowers. It’s a bit risky since it can also be rainy or foggy, but we absolutely lucked out with the weather.

We followed the path to Allmendhubel above Mürren and had planned to grab lunch at the restaurant there. Unfortunately, it was closed so we snacked on some fruit chew candies we had grabbed from the hotel front desk (danke!). Fueled by sugar we hiked back down to town. There was a surprising lack of people on the paths that we hiked during our stay. I think we ran into three other people during the whole three-hour hike. Absolute tranquility.

We took the next day easy to rest our legs. There is a cable car (Schilthornbahn) that runs from Stechelberg up to Schilthorn, stopping in Gimmelwald, Mürren, and Birg. Like many things in Switzerland, it’s pricey, but it’s a fun ride and leg-friendly way to the summit. The cable car and summit is heavily James Bond-branded to commemorate the mountain’s appearance in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. It’s a bit over the top, but you just have to roll with it! The summit offers great panoramic views, which were partially obstructed by clouds, and in early June was still covered in snow, which we don’t get to see much in London!

The North Face Trail is another popular tourist hike. We hiked up to Suppenalp from Mürren and made our way across to Spielbodenalp. The wildflowers in some of the meadows we came across were so vivid and quintessentially alpine. We also came across some cows in the path on our way back to Mürren. Hello, friends!

During our stay, we took advantage of meals at our hotel, whose restaurant is well regarded and partially why we chose to stay there. We had dinner there every night, trying everything from the schnitzel and fried chicken to the baked potato, spaghetti and salad, and even cakes and pies. Everything was tasty. We made it a habit to have late post-hike lunches at Edelweiss (Schnitzel, pizza) which offers yummy food on a panorama terrace perched right along the edge of the cliffs with dramatic views down to the valley.

We stopped in Spiez on Lake Thun to break up the ride back to Zurich the day we left. There’s not much to do at this lazy lakeside town other than spending some time at the beautiful Spiez Castle and visiting the surrounding stunning gardens with a variety of plants and flowers. After pasta and ice cream at Riviera by Elio, we hopped back on the train to get to the airport for our flight home.

Our hope for this trip was to leave feeling refreshed and recharged. Mission accomplished. Lucerne is now one of our favorite cities and unplugging deep in the Alps allowed us to reconnect with nature, breathe what must be some of Europe’s freshest air, and forget about the chaos of the big city. Somehow I don’t think it will be long until we’re back in the Alps again… Until then, we’ll be dreaming of our time in serene Switzerland.