Lauterbrunnen in Switzerland makes a good base if you are looking to explore the beautiful Bernese Alps and valleys. Nestled in between soaring mountains, Lauterbrunnen valley is best known for its many waterfalls. This area has been an inspiration to writers including J.R.R. Tolkien and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes. Indeed, with its rolling meadows with a background of cowbells and the white caps of the alps, a visit to Lauterbrunnen will leave you feeling inspired.
Itinerary for Two Days in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
This is a great itinerary to do with a rental car and is my recommendation for exploring Switzerland. If you decide to use trains to get around, you will have to leave some things out of your itinerary on Day 2. For those that prefer day trips from a larger city, you can join this tour that takes in the Aare Gorge and Rhone Glacier, visit Jungfraujoch near Lauterbrunnen on this tour, or visit Lucerne.
Day 1: Around Lauterbrunnen
Drive from Zurich towards Lauterbrunnen
Get a gondola ticket for Schilthorn peak and take the four gondolas up
Explore Schilthorn peak and have lunch at Piz Gloria revolving restaurant
Take the gondola down to Murren. Explore Murren and walk down to the carpark at Stechelberg
Have dinner in Lauterbrunnen and walk around town and view Staubbach Falls
Overnight in Lauterbrunnen.
Day 2: Around Meiringen
Visit St Beatus Caves and Falls
Drive towards Meiringen and park in the town
Hike in Aare Gorge
Visit Reichenbach Falls
Have lunch in Meiringen
Drive back towards Zurich making a brief stop in Lucerne, could have dinner here.
Overnight in Zurich or your next destination in Switzerland.
Getting to Lauterbrunnen
Car Having a car is going to be the easiest way to view all of these sights on a short timeline. From Zurich, the drive is about 2 hours. Geneva is about 2.5 hours, and Bern is the closest at less than 1 hour.
Switzerland has speed cameras and doesn’t legally have to warn you about them as some other countries do so it’s something to keep in mind.
Train routes to Lauterbrunnen go through Bern and Interlaken. If you are departing from Zurich or Geneva you will have to change trains at Bern and Interlaken. Trains are frequent and leave every half hour.
If you are going to be visiting several places in Switzerland, it may be worth considering the Swiss Travel Pass.
Flight Bern is the closest major airport to Lauterbrunnen for driving and taking the train.
Where to Stay in Lauterbrunnen
There are some very decent budget options right in Lauterbrunnen to help save money while traveling in Switzerland. If you don’t mind being car-free you can find nice accommodation in Murren. A short drive to Grindelwald, about 10km from Lauterbrunnen, will give you really great boutique hotel options.
Base Cafe is right in Lauterbrunnen and some rooms have views of Staubbach Falls. This budget accommodation is nice and clean and has a restaurant downstairs. The location is fantastic and I would stay at Base Cafe again.
Hotel Staubbach is right in town and has breakfast included. Reasonable price and views of the waterfall with clean rooms.
Boutique Hotel Glacier is located in nearby Grindelwald and offers up beautiful rooms with a spa and sauna available to guests. There is a restaurant on-site and fantastic views of the mountains.
Top Sights in Lauterbrunnen Valley
The Lauterbrunnen Valley in Switzerland is an outdoor lovers paradise. Two days and you will barely scratch the surface of sights and activities but it will leave you with a lifelong love of Switzerland. While the main mountain experience here is Schilthorn Peak, you could swap it out for taking the train to Europe’s highest railway station Jungfraujoch. You can buy your tickets for Jungfraujoch here.
Lauterbrunnen is an adorable village with alpine houses and makes for a great base overnight for visiting the Bernese Alps. With views of waterfalls and alpine meadows, this is definitely the kind of village that a lot of people are imagining a visit to Switzerland looks like.
Lauterbrunnen’s Most Famous Waterfall: Staubbach Falls
Staubbach Falls is visible from everywhere in the village, and is less than a kilometer from Lauterbrunnen. At a height of 297 meters, the falls end in a spray with most of the water lost to mist instead of hitting the ground below. The most spectacular time to view Staubbach Falls is after rain when the water launches itself off of the cliff above. Summer is the least spectacular time as there can be very little water flow. While the valley is home to many waterfalls, this is the one you will (hopefully) have a view of from your hotel. It’s lit up at night so it’s worth going out for an after-dinner walk to view the falls again.
Schilthorn overlooks the Lauterbrunnen Valley and the revolving restaurant at its peak was featured in the James Bond movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Don’t worry, if you can’t remember this particular location in James Bond. While you wait in line for the gondolas there are TVs that play the scene of Schilthorn from James Bond. Besides being movie famous, it’s a fantastic place to view the alps from. The views of Mont Blanc here are gorgeous and will be hard to tear yourself away from.
At the top of Schilthorn, you can dine in the rotating restaurant made famous in James Bond, Piz Gloria. Prices are quite similar to any other dining place in the area. After lunch, you can crawl through a wire tunnel above the peaks. Definitely, a unique experience to have in Switzerland for those unafraid of heights.
You reach Schilthorn peak by a series of cable cars. The nearby village of Stechelberg is where the first cable car starts. You then have to take three more cable cars before reaching the summit, stopping in Gimmelwald, Murren, and Big. The cable cars have great views of the mountains. If you are there around when school begins or ends, you will see the school children commuting to school using the gondolas.
Alpine Meadows and Villages above Lauterbrunnen Valley
After visiting the peak of Schilthorn, you can stop at Murren and walk around the village and down to the parking lot at Stechelberg. Murren is a cute alpine village that is car-free and is only accessible by cable car or train. From the village, you get views of the three huge mountains: Jungfrau, Eiger, and Monch. The walk down does take about an hour and a half so you will want to have snacks and water on hand. You can follow the serpentine road but you can more or less walk in a straight line down the mountainside. Look for paths down and make sure to close any ropes or gates that you use to respect the farmers and any livestock they have in the fields.
The walk down to Stechelberg will reward you with sweeping views of the Swiss Alps. The whole time you will hear the gentle clanging of cowbells of the cows that are grazing in the meadows. If you are visiting in the spring or summer, wildflowers will dot the green fields. The walk down also takes you by some of the many waterfalls that surround the Lauterbrunnen valley.
St. Beatus Caves and Falls
Located close to Interlaken, St. Beatus Caves is named for St Beat, the dragon hunter. St Beat was a 6th-century monk that apparently hunted the dragon that lived in these caves. The waterfalls outside of the caves might bring to mind more fantasy characters. The falls here may have been the inspiration behind JRR Tolkien’s Rivendell as he hiked in Lauterbrunnen Valley in 1911. The cave system is fairly small and you don’t need too much time to visit here. There are free guided tours included with your ticket that leave every half hour in English, German, or Chinese. The restaurant here is a great place to have a midmorning snack of coffee and Swiss pastries.
For visiting Reichenbach Falls and Aare Gorge, you can just park in Meiringen and walk to both locations. I recommend going to Aare Gorge first so you can buy the combined ticket with Reichenbach Falls. I did it the wrong way around and it ended up costing more money. After a visit to the falls and gorge, return to Meiringen and have lunch here.
Aare Gorge Canyon Walk
Aare Gorge is very close to Reichenbach Falls and the canyon walk was the highlight of the day. The beautiful glacial water cuts through limestone cliffs up to 50 m high on either side. People have been visiting Aare Gorge since the walking paths opened in 1889 and it is a popular destination in the Lauterbrunnen Valley.
Sherlock Holmes Waterfall: Reichenbach Falls
The 120 m high Reichenbach Falls is made famous in Sherlock Holmes as the place where Sherlock faces and is murdered by his nemesis, Professor Moriarty. Aside from its book and movie fame, the falls are beautiful and it’s easy to see how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was inspired by them. Located near Meiringen, to access Reichenbach Falls you can take a wooden funicular to reach them. The funicular takes you back in time as the wooden carriages originally used for electricity workers.
Lucerne is featured on many travel wishlists for Switzerland and with its pretty covered bridge, it is worth a quick stop. This trip to Switzerland was mostly focused on the natural beauty that Switzerland has to offer but if you are driving from Lauterbrunnen to Zurich, you should stop. Only spent about 40 minutes here, giving just enough time to see Chapel Bridge and the River Reuss.
Travel costs in Lauterbrunnen
So, how much does Lauterbrunnen cost? Switzerland is expensive. There’s no getting around it. It’s why most itineraries to Switzerland are fairly short, this one included. The best way to cut costs is to try and stay in cheaper accommodation. Just to give you an idea of the cost of travel, here are the two-day expenses for travel to Lauterbrunnen. Swiss francs (CHF) to US dollars are almost equivalent right now.
Great Addition to any European Itinerary
Lauterbrunnen in Switzerland is a great addition if you are doing a Eurotrip. It gives you the highlights of Switzerland with the scenery you picture in your dreams. If you only have two days in Switzerland, definitely consider a visit to Lauterbrunnen and skipping the cities. After a visit to Lauterbrunnen, the Switzerland trip continued on to another 2 days in Zurich.
By Kirsten Wendlandt