Leaving Zermatt was tough. We grew to love that little town tucked in the mountains during our week-long stay there. We were excited to move on to Bryan’s most anticipated destination though—Interlaken. Interlaken literally translates into Between Lakes, so we knew to expect a town between two lakes. It’s also surrounded by gorgeous Swiss mountains and known as Europe’s adventure capital. We were excited to do some hiking and see the landmarks, waterfalls, and mountain viewpoints. We walked through the tiny town of Interlaken and a few things jumped out immediately. The town is adorable and looks like what you expect a Swiss town to look like. It came off very touristy—lots of tourist shops, chain restaurants, advertisements for the same 5 things. But that never dissuades us as we strive to find the hidden gems in the most crowded of places. We checked into our hostel, Backpackers Villa, and unpacked our things and talked briefly to one of our roommates. Our hostel was built in what I would have called a tall ski chalet, but in Switzerland is just a big traditional home. Everything was clean, and their kitchen was huge with multiple cooking stations. They even had a silent meditation room that I used to do my yoga every morning (I did this 30 day yoga challenge in January: https://yogawithadriene.com/free-yoga-videos/dedicate-a-30-day-yoga-journey/). Our stay also included free breakfast, free access to indoor pools, and free entrance to Ice Magic! I was excited to get my ice skating on!!
At dinner we noticed a peculiar thing—the kitchen was packed to the brim. With Asians. Literally, I stuck out like a sore thumb—and we were in Switzerland, where most people assumed I was a local walking around. Haha I couldn’t help but laugh at the irony. After I managed to get a spot to work at and secured some stovetop space, I got to work making our dinner. We sat down and ate in the dining room while getting plenty of stares from everyone else there. Bryan and I noticed a pattern—almost everyone was wearing exclusively black, Adidas track pants, and Adidas slide-on sandals. The one or two that wore other colors I silently cheered on for going against the crowd. It was like being back in high school when the Ugg obsession took over. I’m admittedly not very fashionable, but I still opted against those because looking like I lived in Siberia from the shin down while wearing a jean mini skirt never really appealed to me…
Anyways, after exiting the Twilight Zone, we went upstairs to plan our excursions for the next few days. We asked the concierge for tips on transportation to various hikes and recommendations only to be disappointed time and time again. That trail is really challenging and has some great views, but it’s closed due to the snowstorm. That waterfall is amazing! But it’s closed in the winter. Usually you can hike up to that viewpoint, but we wouldn’t recommend it during the winter. Womp, womp. WOMP. All of our high adventure, low cost options were closed for the winter. We could splurge and ride a train up to a mountain peak for some 360 views, but when we looked up the elevation, it was lower than what we had already seen in Zermatt, so we felt like it wouldn’t be worth the price tag. So, we altered our plans.
Our first day we walked ALL over Interlaken. We began by walking to Lake Brienz. The path to the Lake would be a perfect path to bike on, but we wanted to get our steps in! The lake itself is gorgeous and peaceful—we only came across 1 other person while there. We made our way back and had lunch. After lunch we ventured on our longer walk to Lake Thun. We walked through idyllic quiet Swiss neighborhoods and vast stretches of fields along the Aare River, whose color is so turquoise you have to blink a few times to make sure it’s actually that color. Just before the Lake, we came across a castle ruin. The most peculiar thing about this castle ruin was there was a tree growing on the roof of one of its high stone walls. We had to check it out. We walked around the perimeter of the ruin and wandered inside one of the towers. Sure enough, you could climb the stairs to the top for a bird’s eye view of the area surrounding Lake Thun. There are plaques around the castle explaining its history. Named Weissenau, this castle’s origins are unknown, although it was first mentioned in writing in 1298. The castle was supposedly built as a warehouse and a stronghold securing a main road through the Alps on behalf of the German king. By 1530 however, this castle was abandoned. Originally the castle was on an island and what we thought was an expansive depressed front yard was actually a harbor for trading! This harbor went away after 1893, when the River Aare was rerouted to where it flows now. It was interesting to see the original plans compared to what exists today, especially since we were entirely wrong about the harbor.
Afterwards, we walked the rest of the way to Lake Thun. On the way we passed some fishing houses, which were these tiny cabins that were side-by-side built up on the lake’s edge. Each one was decorated differently, some not at all, but you could tell some were the party cabins. Lake Thun also has gorgeous turquoise water and of course the mountains jutting up along its edge. We admired it for a while before heading back to our hostel for round 2 of fighting for kitchen space.
The next day we took the train to the other side of lake Thun to its namesake…the town of Thun! Bryan had looked up a few places to visit, so I got to just follow along and take pictures and admire the town. Thun has a picturesque and charming Old Town which surrounds the Aare River.
We first walked around Old Town, in and out of various shops and bought a few necessities we’d been looking for. We then made our way to Thun castle, which was unfortunately closed, but we were still able to walk through the courtyard. The castle dates back to 1180.
We then went on a hunt for some lunch and found a hidden gem. The food we craved the most in Europe was some spicy Mexican food—it is SO hard to find! Luckily, we stumbled upon Parada 30—and they had vegan options. It’s been a while since we’ve had good guac and I savored every bite!
We then walked along the River Aare towards Lake Thun. On the way, we climbed up several steep steps to Jakobshübeli. At the top we were rewarded with an amazing view of Thun and the surrounding Alps. There was even a plaque showing the various mountains we were looking at and their peak elevations.
We then continued walking along the path that followed Aare River to Lake Thun, and I couldn’t help but notice how many locals were out enjoying the sunshine as well. People were stopping and having conversations with their friends, dogs were playing catch with their owners, and kids were running around like little maniacs. The neighborhoods were charming and set to the most beautiful backdrop I could imagine. It was a little slice of heaven. For a moment, I imagined living there, but then realized I would be bored out of my mind in such a small town.
That evening we did what I was looking forward to most ICE MAGIC! It’s a unique outdoor ice rink in Interlaken that only happens during the wintertime. It consists of 4 ice rinks linked together by ice trails. The ice trails had some fun curves and even some slight inclines! There was plenty of music playing and even a photo booth along one of the trails. We had a blast! Although, if you’re a skater or a former one, bring your own skates. Mine were so dull, I felt like I was ice skating on 2 butter knives. I could barely stop without my edges slipping. At least it put Bryan and I on the same level. Afterwards, warm yourself up with some glühwein. If you go during Advent, you’ll also get to experience their Christmas Market.
So, our recommendations for visiting Interlaken and Thun would be that it’s preferable in the summer when everything is open! We learned on this trip that to experience Switzerland you need to visit during both the summer and winter seasons. We loved our time in Zermatt, and I don’t think we’ll experience skiing/snowboarding better than those Swiss/Italian Alps! We also enjoyed Interlaken and Thun, but we wish we had been there during the summer for all the great hikes and waterfalls, Oh, well, I guess we’ll just have to go back!!