Interlaken & Unterseen
Switzerland is a country full of majestic natural beauty, adventure, and tranquility. The regions of Interlaken, Unterseen, and Lauterbrunnen are some of the most beautiful areas in the country. The Swiss Alps will have you awe-struck, while the people will make you feel like you belong. Adventure junkies will feel overwhelmed with opportunities and chocolate lovers will experience pure bliss. Give yourself plenty of time to fully take in all that this amazing country has to offer.
Interlaken is a resort town in central Switzerland located within the Bernese Oberland mountain region. The Aare river runs between the town, connecting two major Lakes, Brienz and Thun. This glacier water runs in between the mountain ranges, creating a valley-feel to this quaint town. Within the Interlaken region is a small town called Unterseen. This is where we stayed during our visit to Switzerland. It is where most of the locals reside and far less touristy than Interlaken. The residents of the town consider themselves a separate entity from Interlaken. It was an interesting dynamic to see. Everyone was extremely friendly and gave us recommendations through out our entire stay. Both towns are lovely in their own way. If you’re looking for a more quiet, local spot, Unterseen is the ideal location for your home base. If you’re looking for a more happening area with luxury resorts, then Interlaken is your best bet. Unterseen is a better option for those on a budget, while Interlaken can be quite pricey.
After many hours of research and feelings of hopelessness, we finally found the perfect accommodation in the Interlaken region. The Aarburg was exactly what we were looking for. It is a combination of a bed & breakfast, hotel and hostel. To be honest, we weren’t exactly sure what they considered the place, but it was our best find on Airbnb. We were looking for an affordable option that had a view. Unfortunately, Interlaken is expensive and we had trouble finding the right place within our budget. The Aarburg is located in Unterseen, right on the outskirts of Interlaken. It is an adorable town on the Aare river. The town felt more like a village with all the local shops and restaurants. We felt like we were in a Christmas movie. All of the staff at the hotel were friendly and very accommodating. Coming from Paris, we were happy that everyone here spoke English! Chris was the on-site B&B manager during our stay. He was so helpful, not only with our accommodation, but also with activity suggestions. He let us use the washer and dryer to clean our clothes and even helped us when we couldn’t figure out the Swiss machines. The rooms were nothing fancy, but they were spacious and had everything we needed. They even had a small kitchen with dishes in case you wanted to cook. One night we opened a bottle of wine and enjoyed the views from our window. Another perk was the hearty and delicious breakfast they provided each morning. However, our favorite aspect of The Aarburg by far was the incredible mountain views from our bedroom. We left the windows open every night, just to let in the clean, fresh air.
We can’t speak enough of the excellent customer service that we received while staying at The Aarburg. Thank you to Chris and the rest of the staff for making our stay in Unterseen so pleasurable!
We were in a perfect location for all over our planned activities. The train station was within walking distance, which seemed to be our base for activities and travel. We enjoyed taking in the scenic views during this 5-10 minute walk. Pretty much anywhere in town can be accessed on foot,but taxis and buses are always available. Interlaken is such a charming town that we preferred to walk!
The Swiss are very intellectual and active people. Most people speak multiple languages and everyone seems to be involved in outdoor activities. We tried to take advantage of all that Switzerland had to offer during our short stay. Our first adventure was river rafting with The Alpin Raft tour company. We couldn’t have asked for a better experience. The tour guides were extremely knowledgeable and took pride in their safety training. They made sure we felt comfortable at all times, so we could enjoy the ride. Cruising through the Alps on the river Lütschine was an unforgettable experience. The white rapids were even more exhilarating than we expected. We did the Class 4 river option. It was perfect going in the summer because the snow melts down from the glaciers and fills up the river. The serene view and exciting rapids were a blast! We can’t imagine a better rafting experience. At the end of the river, we all jumped out of our tubes into Lake Brienzersee. It was freezing, but somehow was one if the most real, refreshing experiences we’ve ever had. We felt so one with nature. Even though we were shivering, we were exploding with pure joy. It was an excursion we will never forget!
Don’t forget to bring your GoPro and accessories. We recommend a chest mount instead of a head strap or handle, because you’re more likely to lose the camera during extreme rapids. Check out mount options here.
The next day, we decided to indulge in our thrill-seeking cravings. We were still hyped from our river rafting and wanted to continue the fun! We decided to use Alpin Raft again and go canyoning. We booked the 6 hour Grimsel canyoning tour. The company was kind enough to give us a discount for booking both tours with them. We were stoaked! Not knowing what to expect, we were a little nervous driving up the windy roads of the famous Swiss alps. When we got to the top, we began our descent with a 50 meter rappel off the cliff. Terrified, we trusted our highly trained guides and hopped down the mountainside. This was the beginning of adrenaline-filled adventure.
The rest of the canyoning experience was filled with jumps, zip lines, and slides all the way down the mountain. The guides were amazing when it came to safety precautions. They showed us exactly what to do and more importantly, what not to do. One if them would always go first and the other would be the last one (except the rappel). Trust was a huge factor for us and we felt that we were in excellent hands. Our group of about 12 people made the experience even better. Everyone got along and were so encouraging of one another. We had a very diverse group, yet we all had a blast together. It was a nice unexpected bonding experience!
When we got to the bottom of the mountain, the guides provided us with sandwiches, snacks and drinks. We celebrated our accomplishment with a couple of beers! After we all reminisced on our journey, we headed back to base.
Our experience in the Swiss alps over those two days is hard to put into words, but it was truly an adventure of a lifetime. Both rafting and canyoning with the Alpin Raft crew was amazing. We never felt unsafe and not one minute of boredom ever occurred. We can’t wait to return to Interlaken and visit Alpin Raft again!
After recovery from our canyoning voyage, we were recommended by Chris to check out Harder Kulm. At the top of this mountain is an overlook with views of the Oberland region, not to mention the famous Jungfrau mountain. The Harder Kulm elevation is a little over 4,000 feet high. To reach the peak, you can hike or take the Harder railway. We headed up around sunset time so we took the railway. The last rail goes up at 2055 and is a short 10 minute scenic ride. Not going to lie, the trip down in the dark is a little freaky, but we made it safely! You can purchase the tickets at the railway office or online here. One roundtrip ticket is 16 CHF per person.
When you reach the peak, be sure to checkout the overview and get a bunch of pictures! Afterwards, head to the Harder Kulm Panorama restaurant. The views from the restaurant are unreal. There is indoor and outdoor sitting. Outdoor seating is the way to go! Make sure to try the cheese fondue! Restaurant hours are from 0930 to 2230 in the summer and 0930 to 1730 in the winter. Be aware of the times because we showed up about an hour before closing and they limited our menu options. We regretted heading up at dark. In retrospect, we would have headed up at least an hour prior to sunset for better photos and a less rushed dining experience.
Food & Drink
Our first stop in Unterseen was a cute, small cafe called Ladelokal. Sitting alongside the river Aare, we enjoyed a couple small plates and brews. They were some of the best beers we’ve had! Honestly, we don’t remember much about the food because we were so distracted by our incredible views. Cool, emerald glacier water roared past our seats as we soaked in the moment. It was a nice welcome to the area. Ladelokal was recommended by Chris from The Aarburg. We loved the amazing location and friendly staff!
By far one of our best experiences in Switzerland was at a local restaurant in Unterseen, Bären. From the moment we walked in to this quaint spot, we knew this was a local’s hangout. We were the only tourists in the place, but the staff and customers made us feel at home. Two Swiss men got word of our recent engagement in Paris and decided to tell the entire restaurant. Everyone cheered us on and toasted to us. We felt like celebrities! The guys hung out with us for the rest of the evening and taught us all about the Swiss culture. They told us about Interlaken and their home, Bern. We sipped on wine and talked for hours. At the end of the night, our new friends even insisted on paying for our bill. They were the nicest locals we have ever met internationally. We love meeting people from around the world. It really makes you appreciate the area you’re visiting even more.
In regards to the restaurant itself, the food was the local Swiss cuisine. The cheese fondue was amazing and the entrees are definitely…interesting. They consist of lot of hash browns, meat, and eggs. Not our favorite international dish, but it was still tasty! The service was phenomenal and it was right around the corner from The Aarburg.
Funky Chocolate Club
The pictures alone are probably enough to convince you to check this place out, but if you need an actual review…her ya go! Hands down, this is the best hot chocolate we have ever had. I mean, chocolate on top of more chocolate. There is nothing more Swiss than enjoying a cup of hot cocoa while admiring the Swiss alps. Be sure to stop by the Funky Chocolate Club when visiting Interlaken. They even have chocolate workshops that looked like a blast. If you’re a chocolate lover, this place is a must! Great service, even better chocolate. Yum!
How to get there
Getting to Interlaken can be a little bit of a hassle, but it was absolutely worth it! Everything went smoothly (except Gregg getting his credit card stuck in an atm, oops!) on our journey. The best way to access Interlaken is to fly into Zürich and take the SBB train from the airport to one of the two main Interlaken stations. Total travel time is roughly 2 hours once reaching the Zürich Flughafen railway. This is the airport terminal which you will depart from. Unterseen is about a 5 minute walk from the Interlaken West station. The Interlaken hotels can be reached from either the Interlaken Ost or West station, depending on location.
Take the Zürich Flughafen line to Bern. From Bern, you will take the train directly to Interlaken West (Unterseen) or Ost (Interlaken). Check out the SBB site for timetables, maps, and ticket purchases. We purchased our tickets at the railway station, but for peace of mind, you can always book and plan ahead. Luckily, English is the primary language and we never had issues asking for assistance. The airport is modern and the signs consists of a lot of symbols, so be wary that it may take a little time to get around.
Switzerland is one of our favorite countries for many reasons. The landscape is beautiful. The people are beautiful. The amount of activities are limitless. Not to mention, the cleanliness and overall natural beauty of the land. The air is fresh and the water is clean enough to drink. Being one with mother nature and getting a break from the city life is one of the best memories from our travels. We met so many wonderful individuals during out trip. Everyone was relaxed. There was no rush, no traffic, no stress. It just seemed like an amazing way of life. We cannot wait to return to this dream vacation spot! Interlaken and Unterseen sure did win over our hearts.
- Research directions ahead of time, if you’re not planning on using international data
- Stay in Unterseen for budget-friendly accommodation
- Activities we wished we had time for: Jungfrau hike, alpine slide, waterfall tours in Lauterbrunnen, paragliding
- Pack clothes for outdoor activities
- Strike up a convo with the locals and other tourists!
- Invest in a GoPro and accessories
- 1 CHF = 1.01 USD
- Expect everything to be expensive!!