Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland, is straight out of a storybook. The small village of fewer than 3,000 residents is tucked away in a lush green valley textured with trees and wildflowers. The valley is surrounded by jagged cliffs, and massive mountains loom above.
In Lauterbrunnen, you’ll see waterfalls galore, snowy peaks, and clouds so close you could almost reach out and touch them.
When you envision Switzerland, you probably think of a place similar to Lauterbrunnen -- a mystical land of snow, water, towering trees, and crisp air. You’re right. But, until you see it for yourself, you might not truly understand what makes Switzerland so breathtaking.
I was in Lauterbrunnen for a whirlwind weekend, and those brief but magical hours there were some of my favorite travel moments so far.
There’s something about Lauterbrunnen that truly feels otherworldly. Maybe it’s the massive waterfall nearby, or the gargantuan mountains that separate the city from the rest of the world.
In case you need some convincing, here are five reasons why you absolutely must step into the storybook of Lauterbrunnen in the Jungfrau region of Switzerland. There’s something there for every traveler -- including you, dear reader!
1. It’s As Quaint As Can Be
The town of Lauterbrunnen consists of a small cluster of streets dotted with shops, lodging, small restaurants, and homes. The town is far from expansive, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in charm and beauty. Both visitors and locals enjoy this beautiful Swiss paradise.
During my visit, I spent a few hours simply exploring the small town. Its charming shops feature everything from ornate cowbells to high-quality Swiss ski gear, and I stopped by a cute cafe offering piping hot lattes and an ever-rotating list of soups.
For a quick bite, I recommend Airtime, a cozy breakfast nook with friendly staff packed with equally friendly travelers and locals. There, you can sip on a tasty latte or hot cocoa paired with a sweet treat; or if you’re fueling up for a day of exploring, there’s an assortment of savory breakfast meals to prep you for a day in the mountains.
For dinner, munch on traditional German food like schnitzel or sausage at Weidstuebli. Hotel Oberland is another worthwhile dining option. It’s part hotel, part superb fine dining. A popular and well-known Swiss dish you can enjoy there is the savory grated potato rosti.
It won’t take you long to explore the town of Lauterbrunnen, but I strongly suggest that you allow a couple of hours to get a feel for the small, quiet village in the valley.
2. It Overlooks A Massive, Towering Waterfall
Lauterbrunnen has been nicknamed the Land of 72 Waterfalls, and for good reason. Small and large waterfalls alike are visible from Lauterbrunnen, and several waterfalls in the area are easy to reach and even more gorgeous the closer you are to them.
Legend has it that the village of Lauterbrunnen was J. R. R. Tolkien’s inspiration for The Lord of the Rings. I could see why Tolkien was moved by the lush green valley full of waterfalls.
Staubbach Falls, located on the edge of town, is a leisurely walk from the heart of the village.
Once you’re at the base of the waterfall, grab a walking stick (supplied by the town) and begin the brief -- but somewhat intense -- trek up to the waterfall. The terrain isn’t rough since it’s a paved trail, but it’s on the steeper side.
The trail will lead you right behind the waterfall, providing you with a view of Lauterbrunnen and the valley through the ghost-like veil of falling water. I can’t recommend this experience enough. It’s free, takes less than 2 hours, and the views are worth the exercise!
At Trummelbach Falls, a series of 10 waterfalls sculpted into a cave, you'll see surging waters up close and enjoy lovely lookout points. Keep in mind that it’s best to go early in the morning before the tourist surge!
After getting a sense of Lauterbrunnen and its valley, it’s time to see the Jungfrau region in all its rugged, jagged, impressive glory. Bring your hiking boots and wear layers -- it’s likely you’ll need ’em.
3. It’s Home To The Highest-Altitude Man-Made Spot In Europe
A visit to the Sphinx Observatory is an adventure perfectly suited to travelers looking for unforgettable experiences. The trek up to the observatory isn’t much of a trek at all -- you’ll simply take various lifts from Lauterbrunnen -- but the views are entirely unmatched.
The observatory is the highest-altitude man-made structure in Europe. You heard that right!
Tours of the area aren’t free by any means, but ascending higher and higher into the Swiss Alps is an unforgettable experience. You’ll get to the observatory by passing through Jungfraujoch, the highest-altitude train station in all of Europe.
It’s said the altitude yields views of France, Germany, and Italy, and visiting can tick off several boxes on a European bucket list. Going to the highest-altitude building and train station on the continent? It sounds like a good deal to me!
The observatory itself is closed for business, but visitors can take advantage of the stunning views from several lookout points.
4. The Hikes Are Unforgettable
While you’re in Lauterbrunnen, you won’t need a car to get around. You can rely on cable cars and trains.
When I visited Lauterbrunnen, I knew that I needed to take advantage of the surrounding mountains, and I’m so glad I did. I can’t recommend the hikes there enough.
Thankfully, there are hikes for every skill level. I took a cable car to Murren, a car-free village carved into the Alps, and went on a 3-hour easy-to-moderate hike on the North Face Trail. For fast walkers, the hike would take closer to 2 hours, but I wanted to take my time and enjoy the scenery.
The trail took me through the forest and massive valleys, over creeks and small streams, and past large waterfalls through snow and misty rain. I hiked on a foggy day, so I had limited visibility of the Alps, but that didn’t negatively impact my experience at all. The beauty of the mountains was with me every step of the way, regardless of the views from lookout points.
I loved the North Face Trail and it was perfect for my skill level, but there are many options out there, depending on your skill level and how long you’d like to hike. During your 72 hours, plan for a day of exploring up above Lauterbrunnen -- and if you’re up for it, a hike!
5. It’s Not Far From Other Beautiful Parts Of Switzerland
One of the great things about Lauterbrunnen is that it’s close to a number of other gorgeous Swiss destinations. If you want to explore the mountains, hike, or ski, you can easily -- and affordably -- get to Murren or Grindelwald. If you want to explore Swiss culture in a city setting, Lauterbrunnen is just a short train ride from pretty Interlaken, and I provide additional details on how to get there and where to stay below.
How To Get To Lauterbrunnen
When I traveled to Lauterbrunnen, I snaked up from Lake Como, Italy. My trip could easily be classified as more of a trek because I had to switch trains a handful of times even though the two spots are only about 150 miles apart. All the train-switching made the experience feel more like an adventure, but getting to Lauterbrunnen doesn’t have to be so complicated for you.
If you’re already in Switzerland, I suggest heading to Lauterbrunnen from Zurich or Bern. Zurich is about 80 miles northeast of Lauterbrunnen and only a train or bus ride away. The same is true of Bern, which is about 40 miles northwest of the valley. If you’re exploring Europe -- or just Switzerland -- by car, keep in mind that once you reach Lauterbrunnen, you’ll need to rely on cable cars to get you where you need to go rather than driving. For that reason, I recommend traveling to Lauterbrunnen by train. There are a handful of trains going to and fro several times each day.
If a train is your method of transportation, regardless of how much money you spend on the ticket, you’ll likely need to change trains at the Interlaken station just a few miles outside of Lauterbrunnen. Once in Interlaken, it’s a straight shot to the Lauterbrunnen, where the charming heart of Switzerland awaits.
Where To Stay In Lauterbrunnen
In between long hikes and tours, I stayed at the Valley Hostel. Hostels can be hit or miss, but I loved my stay there and would absolutely check in again. That said, Lauterbrunnen has a host of other overnight options that are a bit plusher as well.
Hotel Silberhorn takes the cake because of its great views, notable amenities like a sun terrace and free breakfast, and the unique bedrooms. Hotel Oberland is another winner because it’s attached to one of the finest restaurants in Lauterbrunnen, Restaurant Oberland, and it offers competitive rates.
There are a handful of homestays that provide sweet views, interesting interior design, and the luxury of space and privacy. If you’re journeying to Lauterbrunnen for the views, consider this particularly incredible Airbnb with unparalleled views of Staubbach Waterfall on the edge of town. For a more isolated stay, consider a private chalet removed from the hum of the village. Last but not least, this affordable apartment rental offers an impressive deck and won’t cost you a fortune.
No matter where you’re going next, Lauterbrunnen is an ethereal, mountainous escape from the hustle and bustle of life. Consider a stop there the next time you’re in Europe!
Planning a trip to Switzerland? The Lake Geneva region of the country is not to be missed. Zurich, near the border of Germany and Switzerland, is only 80 miles northeast of Lauterbrunnen. Or, if you’re on your way to France, pencil in some time in Bern, Switzerland's charming capital city. No matter where you travel in the country, stunning destinations abound!