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The Attractions of Grindelwald, Switzerland in Summer

by Roberto
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Grindelwald, Switzerland is one of several towns in the Bernese Alps all vying to host you on your Swiss summer adventure. We picked it as our base for three nights based on one specific trait; Grindelwald is one of the few towns in the Jungfrau region where cars can access. It may have been a been a logistical decision that forced our hand, but it was not one we would regret. Grindelwald impressed us in many regards; it’s accommodation, its alpine beauty, things to do, adventure, and atmosphere were as wonderful as anywhere that had come before on this trip.

We approached from Lauterbrunnen, and for anyone who has read my previous blog, or is simply familiar with the valley, this left Grindelwald with a lot to live up with. Strangely photos of Grindelwald hadn’t overawed me, but again the internet is awash with uncomplimentary photos. Plenty of me on there too.

As soon as we left Lauterbrunnen behind and started to make our way through the adjacent valley which houses Grindelwald we were kept in our state of awe. Waterfalls large and small fell from the cliff side, before they gave way to the sprawling town. The whole place is surrounded by large peaks, none more impressive than the brooding Eiger, its north face snow packed.

Why we chose Grindelwald as our Swiss summer base

Grindelwald‘s Stunning Views

Grindelwald has an appearance of constant greenery and many efforts are made to maintain this. Its a series of rolling hills all covered in bright green grass, with footpaths strewn among them. Walking on the long grass isn’t permitted and from a distance it appears the houses are just littered in fields. Its beautiful.

But Grindelwald isn’t all just green grass and houses. It is of course in the shadow of many mountains, and they are a playground of great activities. There are no fewer than twelve distinct mountain peaks, among them the Mittelhorn, Shreckhorn, and Wetterhorn. We didn’t manage any of these, but we did make it up to First Mountain, one of the minor ones at only 2168 metres high.

The sound of crickets and birds resonates around the valley and the views are some of the most stunning I have beheld.

The drive to town passes stunning landscapes

Our Grindelwald Hotel

Our Grindelwald Hotel for out three night stay was the Hotel Glitscherblick, a Swiss Chalet style hotel, with a wooden and floral appearance. As a three star we weren’t looking for opulence, and its location, set upon one of those rolling hillsides meant it was a ten minute walk from the town. It was easy downhill, but a struggle back up at the end of the day.

Despite its no frills approach the hotel endeared itself to us. Our host Rafaela, while not of the region, was extremely knowledgeable and beyond helpful. The friendliness of the Swiss is another positive attribute of a sensational country. We were given a pass which gave us a discount on some local attractions, and free usage of the towns public bus, which we never used. Rafaela was more than happy to offer in depth advice on anything local, and her ability to predict the weather was uncanny.

The hotel came with a kitchen area to cook your own food. There was always juices, water and coffee lying around for guests to help themselves to. Breakfast was served from here for the three days and had just enough variety to keep us interested. Our room again was comfortable and clean, while certainly not over the top in extravagance.

Hotel Glitscherblick Grindelwald
Our hotel
Hotel Glitscherblick Grindelwald
Hotel Glitscherblick Grindelwald
Hotel Glitscherblick Grindelwald

The Eiger North Face Views

While all of that was perfectly adequate and amounted to a nice stay, the location of the hotel is where plaudits must come. The patio and more importantly, our balcony, faced the Eiger north face. What a sublime view we were treated too. Sitting between two other mountains, the Eiger’s north face stands defiantly. It is 1200 meters of sheer snow and rock even in summer, and a stunning backdrop to any view. Better still when you can sit and have a glass of wine and appreciate it.

Grindelwald Switzerland in Summer
The setting sun gave the view a new lease of life

Staying in Grindelwald

The hotels are Grindelwald are all remarkably similar in price to each other. The best rated medium range include the Sunstar Hotel, Hotel Belvedere, Lifestyle Hotel, and the Hotel Alpenhof. At the upper end Boutique Hotel Glacier offers more modern facilities. Budget hotels are scarce as in most of Switzerland.

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Grindelwald Town

Grindelwald first appeared in texts around the 12th century, but many archaeological finds from before this date were found in the area. Its greatest role in history probably was at this time when Duke Berthold of Zahringen, defeated a coalition army of nobles in the Grindelwald valley. This allowed him to expand his territories in the Berner Oberland, and as a result to found the city of Bern, the Swiss capital.

The town then fell under the direction of the powerful Interlaken monastery for many centuries. Grindelwald did have castle overlooking it in the late middle ages, but this has long disappeared. Its church is the only remnant of times past, but this has been rebuilt four times, finally in 1793.

The village you see today is one that grew from the tourism explosion of the late 19th century. Its a town built for year round visitors, to the snow peaks in winter, but also for the summer explorer. There are no shortage of Swiss chalets, and the synonymous blend of sculpted wood, wooden window shutters and flower boxes was everywhere. Its a look I could never grow tired of looking at.

The town is so attractive throughout, and while it won’t take you an afternoon to explore, it will delight you each time you wander in search of food. The central square has intriguing carvings of local wildlife, and with the towns backdrop, perfect for taking photos.

Grindelwald Switzerland in Summer
Grindelwald Switzerland in Summer
Grindelwald
Grindelwald Switzerland in Summer
Grindelwald
Grindelwald Switzerland in Summer
Grindelwald
Interesting art around town

How to get to Grindelwald

Grindelwald is well served by both road and rail links. Lying only 20 km from Interlaken it’s easily driven reached on surprisingly flat roads. I expected more altitude gaining hairpin bends. It also has a railway station with lines coming from Interlaken and Lauterbrunnen, but also going on deeper into Jungfrau, to Kleine Scheidegg and Jungfraujoch, the station located at the top of Europe. For more info consult the jungfrau.ch site.

Grindelwald Switzerland in Summer
Grindelwald train station

Fantastic Feasts and where to find them in Grindelwald

Eating in Switzerland was always a challenge, and a balancing act between necessity and what we considered good value. The general rule is ethnic restaurants are better value, with Swiss restaurants been the most expensive. For the best value, supermarkets are always the way to go, and there is one option in Grindelwald. Coop is very central and has hot food options, but closes at 7pm. We took some food back to our hotel on day one in Grindelwald, and subsequently decided to eat out our other days there. As a lunch option its perfect.

Our two best recommendations on where to dine out ( based on where we ended up) are Hotel Steinbock, and Alte Post Restaurant. Hotel Steinbock’s specialty is pizza and grill, and we both settled on the half roast chicken with chips. For Fr 57 for two with some soft drinks its somewhat reasonable too. Alte Post satisfied our desire to eat Swiss Cervelat sausage with rosti, even if, ahem the sausage was a bratwurst. Don’t tell anyone. This was better value at Fr 42.

Hotel Steinbock Grindelwald
Chicken at Hotel Steinbock
Alte Post Restaurant Grindelwald
Swiss Sausage and Rosti at Alte Post

Best Things to do in Grindelwald Switzerland in Summer

Grindelwald really comes into its own with its outdoor activities. Hiking trails lead in every direction. Honestly we didn’t hike as much as we should/ could have. The area has some impressive hiking trails including the massive Eiger trail and the First loop. Here are my best suggestions on how we tried to the most of the towns facilities.

Hiking to the Grindelwald glacier

Firstly let me put it out there that this was a massive travel fail. I had read that the Oberer Grindelwald glacier could be hiked to, but i’m not sure how up to date my source was. But don’t let that put you off this hike. I drove to a location at the Hotel Wetterhorn, where the parking lot is the ideal starting point for a hike upwards. As I climbed I met a local, and that’s where the harsh reality that my endeavor was futile kicked in. Access was no longer possible here as the glacier had receded over the past years and was now inaccessible.

Plan b brought me back to the hotel and to seek out a different route. However late snow meant that some routes were not open, due to the risk of avalanches. But, and thankfully there is a but, the Hehlischopf area that I found myself in was blessed with stunning views. The map below is a handy overview for hikes in this area.

Hotel Wetterhorn is also an ideal starting point for a hike up to Pfinstegg, which is worth a visit. I backtracked here because Pfinstegg was very much on our itinerary.

Grindelwald Switzerland in Summer
Source pfinstegg.ch

Pfinstegg Summer Toboggan

Returning to the hotel from my aimless hike I picked up Beata before heading to the Luftseilbahn cable car station. As earlier mentioned it is possible to hike up the area, roughly being an hours hike from Grindelwald. The cable cars cost Fr 22.40 for two, using the discount from the hotel. It’s a good flight over the town of Grindelwald too, with the best aerial views that we experienced of its green pastures and chalets.

The summer Toboggan run is the highlight of the station up here, but the facilities also include a cafe and playground. Lockers are provided for free so you can engage in the fun without any worries for your personal belongings. The Pfinstegg Toboggan costs Fr 6 per run and it may take a few goes to get a feel for it. It’s cuts a zigzag path down the grassy mountain side, with great views down below to the town.

It’s a circular route with a lift that takes you back up to the starting point, should walking up a hill not be your thing (hard thing to avoid in Switzerland though). You determine the speed by pushing forward on the lever, so if you give it enough welly it can hit up to 45/ph. I wouldn’t advise it on the bends though. To get the best out it, let whoever is in front of you get a good head start, so the only one slowing you down is yourself. Here’s a video of my second attempt.

Pfinstegg Summer Toboggan
Pfinstegg Cable Car
My Toboggan Run

Grindelwald First Mountain – Top of the Grindelwald things to do

First Mountain is the main centre for summer sports in Grindelwald and with its selection rightly so. At 2168 metres it’s minor compared to its neighbouring peaks but that means it’s accessible and has much to offer on its flat summit.

Firstly let’s get basics out of the way. You can hike from Grindelwald up the 1000 metres rise of the trail to First, which I wouldn’t fancy. A hike down is the more taken on challenge, and we met several people who were doing this. The easier route takes you to the gondola station in Grindelwald. Now comes the tough news.

If you have invested in a Swiss Rail Pass (more on that in my Lauterbrunnen blog) then you have already felt the pinch. If you haven’t like I, then brace yourself. Choosing to undertake one activity each at the top, the total cost worked out at Fr 134, or a whopping €120. If I was making a habit of this I would buy that pass. At least it was a return ticket.

From here it’s a good 40 minute cruise from the town, past meadows and ever impressing views, before the green gives way to snow as you approach the summit. Just enough time for me to get over the financial shock. The summit is the last of three stations, with the option to dismount and start hiking at each points.

First Mountain, Grindelwald Switzerland in Summer
Gondola to First Mountain

First Mountain Activities

Once on the summit, you’ll be glad you took your jacket and warm clothes (did I mention it’s a must here). The temperature drop is huge, and it was 9 degrees in June. But there’s plenty to get that blood flowing again. First’s main attraction is it’s 800 metre zip line, the First Flieger. But besides that there’s the First Cliff Walk, the First Glider and the First Mountain Carts. The First Glider is a reverse zip line where you and three others are sent back up on a glider before thundering back down. The mountain carts allow you to traverse down to the lower stations, using the altitude as your accelerant. The other two we tried for ourselves.

First Glider
The First Glider with three brave souls

But the fun doesn’t stop there. The hills are alive with great trails linking much of the region. From my first (no pun intended) research of this area the hike to Lake Bachalpsee was a must for me. It’s a secluded glacial lake, surrounded by peaks and in a word, heavenly. The 6km circular route is a relatively easy hike too. But the late snow had the last word on it; the lake walk was closed due to avalanche risk. We may not have made it there, but you can read the full guide here on hiking to Bachalpsee from My Faulty Compass.

For a full list of hikes and activities at First, the Jungfrau.ch website is a great resource. The area also plays host to a large restaurant. Ones ticket gives you free reign to travel up and down in the gondolas to your hearts desire.

First Cliff Walk by Tissot

The First Cliff Walk thankfully was very much open. And amazingly free. It’s a suspended walk around the top of the mountain. Wobbly knees and good views are guaranteed, as well as come spectacular photos. The walk reached its climax with an elevated platform that extends out from the cliff, suspended and supported only by what hopes is Swiss engineering. Besides the inevitable queue to take ones place at the end, it lives up to its thrilling billing, and spectacular shots are a guarantee.

First Flieger – The most fun to be had in Grindelwald

First Flieger or First Flyer is the 800 metre zipline that descends from the top station at First down to the second station. Its top speeds are said to hit 84 km/hr. The queue when we arrived was said to be an hour long, so we made it our intention to do it first. That hour did no favours for our nerves, and we honestly thought twice about doing it. The longest zip line I ever done prior was about 20 metres. But the conversation with a fellow Irishman we met in the queue meant the time ticked away quickly.

We need not have worried. Soon we were strapped in and braced for the worst. The instructors were an affable bunch, making jokes about the age of the seat, and keeping us for what seemed an eternity waiting. The zipline gates flew open, and all our worries subsided in an instant. It was a stunning experience to glide through the air, and it certainly never felt we hit those speeds. The snow covered landscapes and mountain top vistas were given a new viewpoint with our descent. Were it not for the hour queue we would happily have gone again. It stands as my most easily recomendable experience in Grindelwald.

  • First Flieger Grindelwald
  • First Flieger Grindelwald
  • First Flieger Grindelwald
  • First Flieger Grindelwald
  • First Flieger Grindelwald

First Flieger Zipline action cam video

Glacier Canyon Grindelwald

The Gletscherschlucht Grindelwald is located about 2 kilometres from the town centre. It’s easily reached by local bus line 2 or car and there is plenty of parking at the location. A restaurant is among the facilities here. Entry cost me Fr 17. Its advisable to wear hiking gear inside, it is wet and with the wind cutting through the canyon, quite cold. The canyon was formed by the lower Grindelwald glacier, which has receded leaving the narrow canyon behind. The entrance is through a cave, and with the classical music playing here, has an ethereal feeling. From here it opens out into the narrow canyon with the large walls extending far above.

A path is built into the rock face that cuts through the rock face at times. The circa one kilometre long route brings one alongside the glacial river, which at one point is supplied by a waterfall. Perhaps the highlight within for me was the opportunity to drink glacial water. Spouting from within a cave from a spring in the wall, the water was near freezing, and as refreshing as any I have ever tasted. Man made attractions can be found inside too, such as the spider web, a net suspending you above the river.

Take a Trip to Lauterbrunnen

If you haven’t already done so on the way to Grindelwald then take that trip to Lauterbrunnen now. For full suggestions on how to get there and to make the most of it, check out my blog on why you must visit Lauterbrunnen.

Re-live some Sound of Music magic

Ok so maybe this would be more appropriate around the Interlaken area, but sometimes you have channel your inner Julie Andrews. Here I am make an enormous fool of myself.

Thoughts on Grindelwald Switzerland

Grindelwald Switzerland in summer is the perfect location for a trip and an ideal base for exciting activities. It’s very accessible by car and train, and has many rail and cable car links on into the Alps. It has a wonderful atmosphere, friendly locals and astounding scenery. Give this area a go, you won’t regret it as the base for your Swiss adventure.

Other blogs from my Swiss Travels

Interlaken
Switzerland on a budget and other travel tips
Travel Guide to Bern

If you liked or were inspired by this blog, a comment, pin or share would be much appreciated.

Many thanks for reading,

Carpediemeire

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