There’s something comforting about the fact that the Swiss Alps look just how you picture them in your head — the dramatic mountains, the verdant fields, the quaint wooden homes with colorful flowers spilling from each windowsill. Stepping off the train in Grindelwald, a town snugly situated in the famous Jungfrau mountain region, feels like stepping into a postcard. But in this case, you can actually reach out and touch your surroundings.
Grindelwald has a population around 4,000 people, but its infrastructure and accommodations belie its small size. That’s because tourists from as close as neighboring Swiss cities and as far away as the United States and South Korea flock to the area each year to partake in its many outdoor activities. Skiing is a popular pastime, but recent years have seen an uptick in options stretching from spring through fall, making Grindelwald and the surrounding towns within the Jungfrau region a year-round destination for visitors — whether they come for adrenaline-spiking mountain thrills or to commune with nature via scenic strolls, local wines and spa treatments.
Here’s what to do once you arrive, with options for summer, winter and in-between. But first, you have to get there.
How to Get to Grindelwald
Most of Switzerland is accessible by train, so while it’s easy to drive across the country’s well-maintained roads during the warmer months, there’s no need for a rental car. And you won’t want one when it’s snowing. Instead, stick to the reliable train system. Swiss trains run like Swiss watches, and stations are well-marked. Score a Swiss Travel Pass if you’ll be traveling multiple days, then download the SBB Mobile app to access timetables, plot routes and pull up tickets from your phone.
Grindelwald is about three hours from Zurich and four hours from Geneva — you can hop on trains directly from the airports of both gateway cities — and it’s less than two hours from Bern. Each option takes you through gorgeous countryside, so even the transit time feels like a productive part of your vacation. Once at Grindelwald station, you can walk or take a taxi or bus to anywhere in town.
The 9 Best Off-Season Destinations for Winter TravelFrom cities famed for spring flowers to summer beach towns, it’s time to expand your frosty season travel prospects
What to Do During Summer
Good hiking is easy to come by in the Jungfrau region, with plentiful trails and routes that begin from town via a quick train ride, gondola or funicular. The Eiger North Face draws serious alpine climbers who attempt to scale the formidable mountain. But you’re just here to walk, so enjoy the much less strenuous hike along the base, a feat you can accomplish in less than three hours.
Schynige Platte is accessible via a vintage railway that takes you uphill to a restaurant and lookout. Embark on a choose-your-own-adventure hike — options range from roughly 1.5 hours to six hours — and you’ll trek through rolling meadows with multi-peak panoramas always within view and the unmistakable sound of cowbells ringing in the distance. There’s also Harder Kulm, a mountain accessible via funicular that provides a shady, forested path that starts and ends at a restaurant and lookout point. It sits high above Interlaken and looks down upon the town’s two lakes: Brienz and Thun. In the distance, you’ll likely spot paragliders cutting through the air as they descend slowly back to earth.
One of the best experiences for visitors is actually four experiences in one. Take the gondola up from Grindelwald to First, and you’re presented with four unique ways to get back down — two by air and two by land. First Flyer is a seated zipline that whisks you down the mountain at a top speed of about 50 miles per hour and lets you experience flight from a bird’s eye view. This face-down experience sees you and three friends strapped prone to an eagle-shaped glider, then shot quickly backward up the mountain before you’re released to descend back to where you started, taking in the craggy mountaintops and green valleys.
Back on solid ground, you’ve still got two modes of transportation to tackle before returning to Grindelwald village. The Mountain Cart is a three-wheel, gravity-powered vehicle that you must navigate down a winding path, passing by cows and hikers at surprisingly fast speeds. It leads to the Trottibike, a standing scooter that you’ll take on a paved path through fields and around bends until you reach the finish line and a well-deserved beer. Each activity is bookable on its own, or pick up the Adventure Package to hit all four in a row.
No trip to Grindelwald or the Jungfrau region is complete without a visit to Jungraujoch, aka the Top of Europe. There’s no need for speed here — it’s just a relaxing gondola and then train ride up until you reach the top at 11,330 feet above sea level. Given its altitude, Jungfraujoch is blanketed in snow and ice all year, so you can reasonably start your journey wearing a T-shirt and end it in a parka. Check out the observation deck, and on clear days you’ll get unfettered views of the surrounding mountains and glaciers. There’s also an ice palace that lets visitors tread carefully through indoor pathways and rooms stocked with creative ice sculptures, plus a restaurant and chocolate shop.
What to Do During Winter
Skiing is the obvious choice when visiting in winter, and Jungfrau region slopes are famous for a reason. If you want to barrel down a mountain, you can readily do so, with three nearby ski resorts (Grindelwald-Wengen, Grindelwald-First and Mürren-Schilthorn) covering every type of terrain, from gentle rolling hills to halfpipes. But there’s more to this area than skiing.
Jungrau’s mountains offer more than 30 miles of sledding hills, including the longest sledding run in the world. Big Pintenfritz is only reachable by foot, and it takes about two and a half hours of snow-slogged trudging to arrive at your destination. But once there, those brave enough to attempt it are rewarded with a 9.3-mile downhill ascent. If that seems like too much work, there’s also the Jungfrau Eiger Run, a four-section sledding safari that changes topography and views along the route. Fox Run is a quick track that requires a racer’s concentration and tactical turns, and Ritas Speedway on Männlichen mountain is a friendly, all-ages option that bends through the trees as you head down to the village.
The Jungfrau region has more than 60 miles of groomed hiking trails, letting snowshoers traipse through this winter wonderland comfortably. First Flyer, First Glider and Jungfraujoch are also open year-round, so you can bundle up and take flight or observe the snowy mountain from the top of the world.
Whether you’re skiing, sledding, snowshoeing or none of the above, Grindelwald’s après scene is alive and well. That means fireside cocktails, wine, fondue and hearty meat-and-potato dinners are never hard to find, especially in town where many of the best restaurants are conveniently stashed inside hotels. Enjoy some well-earned R&R before starting your adventures all over again tomorrow.
This article was featured in the InsideHook newsletter. Sign up now.