Christmas in Vienna

Christmas in Vienna

western europe

11 things to do in Vienna this Christmas

This page contains affiliate links to products and tours that I have used for my own travels, purchased & enjoyed. Clicking these links does not cost you anything, however doing so will support Blue Eyed Compass and allow the site to continue.  THANK YOU!

From mid-November through Christmas day, Vienna, Austria transforms into a Christmas holiday snow globe. The city is full of quaint postcard-worthy locations just waiting to be explored. Spending Christmas in Vienna is the epitome of a holiday lovers’ travel dreams. Vienna is known as the Christmas hub in Europe (possibly the world!), in the sense that it oozes traditional holiday cheer, glittery decor and all things festive for Old Saint Nick’s celebration.

From magical Christmas markets to historic sites, and delicious treats along the way, I doubt any other city hosts a more festive Christmas season.

There are SO many posts on what is best to do in Vienna for Christmas, so along with my personal experience, I filtered through some of the bleh things to show you THE BEST things to do in Vienna this Christmas season:

Included in this post:

  • The best things to do in Vienna during the Christmas season
  • A sustainably focused christmas market!
  • Where to stay during the Christmas season in the city
  • How to get around the city
  • Travel tips for visiting Vienna during Christmas season

Top 11 things to do in Vienna, Austria this Christmas Season

(1) Explore all of their Christmas Markets

This list wouldn’t be complete without first mentioning Vienna’s Christmas markets. Imagine rows of sprightly decorated wooden covered stalls, each filled with their own unique, local fare. Some with holiday decorations, others with handmade toys, and the best ones serving a long list of mulled wine-like drinks. (Don’t worry drinking gluhwein is on this list, keep reading!)

Now, depending on how many days you plan on spending in Vienna for the holidays will depend on which Viennese Christmas markets you should check out. There are at least 5-10 Christmas markets in Vienna each season, if not more. Each one is unique with some having more food, or fewer stalls or the focus being on activities versus the vendors. The Christmas markets I would NOT miss while in Vienna would be:

  • Rathausplatz: this Christmas market is the market that you see in the majority of Vienna Christmas market pictures. The square in front of Vienna’s City Hall is completely transformed into an iconic holiday fairytale. With a mile-long market featuring an ice skating rink, a heart filled tree and ferris wheel, Rathausplatz Christmas market should be first on your list of Christmas markets to see when in Vienna.

 

  •  Stephansplatz Christmas Market: In the heart of the historic center of Vienna, the Christmas market at Stephansplatz is perfect for sharing a mug of mulled wine with strangers and enjoying roasted chestnuts. Especially if you are planning to explore the historic beauty of Vienna in between.

 

  • Karlsplatz Christmas Market: In front of the Karlskirche Church is the Karlsplatz Christmas market focused on handmade arts and crafts. This unique market has vendors who must make their items themselves and earn qualification from a jury panel in order to be a part of the market. Meaning you’ll see the most beautiful handmade items here. PLUS, this market has higher quality standards on its food and games as well. Any food or drinks sold here must be free of palm oil and organic. And it enforces strict sustainability foothold, where items like their carousel are built from used goods and runs on pedal power!

 

  • Christmas Village Maria Therisien Platz: centered between three top museums in Vienna, the Christmas Village at Maria Theresien Platz showcases a unique backdrop for visitors. It’s a beautiful traditional Christmas market with the holiday fare you’ll come to expect at these places.

*TRAVEL TIP-  the Christmas market vendors and styles can change year to year. If you are researching for your trip to Vienna during the Christmas season, be sure to reference multiple places for up to date information about the Viennese Christmas markets.

(2) Channel your Michelle Kwan persona & ice skate at Rathausplatz

The ice skating rink at Rathausplatz is not your typical American ice skating experience. Instead of an oval shaped rink, skaters are set up in a looping trail where they can skate in larger areas, but also go on an ice trail (where some areas are set on an incline for faster skating!).

This is definitely something any visitor to Vienna during Christmas should take part in. If at least to mortify yourself at how bad your are at ice skating, and watch young children zip right by you… oh wait, I’m just talking about my own experience with it.

(3) Enjoy a warm beverage & dessert at a famous Viennese cafe

If you’re a food-driven traveler like myself than you’ll be happy to know that Vienna is known for its decadent chocolate cake known as Sachertorte (cake). This cake recipe dates back to the 1830s when a 16-year-old chef apprentice had to fill in the last minute and created this delicious dessert.

Be sure to enjoy a slice (or two) while in Vienna, and hopefully at one of their historic cafes- Cafe Demel, Cafe Central or Cafe Sperl. Each of which is an opulent opposite to the ‘cafes’ we Americans are accustomed to.

However, if you would prefer a more modern cafe setting check out this list by Culture Trip.

(4) See the lights of the Belvedere Palace Christmas market at night

With some serious majestic flare, the Belvedere Palace Christmas market at night is incredibly beautiful. There are two parts to the Belvedere Palace, the Upper & Lower Palaces. The Upper Belvedere Palace has a lake in the front that reflects the Christmas market lights onto the water beautifully. This Christmas market runs through Christmas Eve so be sure to plan accordingly.

(5) Stroll along the holiday-decorated pedestrian streets on Christmas Eve nights

I can’t think of anything more ethereal or romantic than strolling along holiday decorated paths with a loved one. From the State Opera House to St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and then along the Graben to the Hofburg Palace, pedestrians can enjoy magnificently decorated streets, with monumentally large holiday light fixtures and themes in each direction. This stroll is the epitome of holiday romance.

My suggestion would be book an early Christmas Eve dinner and spend the remainder of your evening wandering around the historic center of Vienna.

(6) Experience an orchestra concert inside of a Palace

Each year the Schonbrunn Palace hosts an orchestra concert inside of their Orangery (an orangery is a room at a palace where they used to keep their spring/summer fruit trees safe during winter). Classy, romantic and entertaining, this concert is a beautiful way to spend a holiday evening listening to classics alongside opera singers and ballet dancers.

Click here to grab tickets to this concert at a great low price (compared to other sites)

Want more flexibility with the date(s) of your concert experience? You can also:

(7) Soak in the sounds of Strauss and Mozart throughout the city

At the Strauss and Mozart Christmas concert at the Kursalon – fun fact, the composer Strauss himself performed here once!

You can also watch a choir recital or church concert at the infamous St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Peterskirche or the Minoritenkirche. You can find more holiday concerts here with tickets below.

(8) Spend Christmas day sipping Baileys Spiked Hot Cocoa at the Schonbrunn Palace market on Christmas day

Vienna is Austria’s Imperial capital meaning we can thank the Hapsburg for the many beautifully constructed palaces throughout the city, like the extravagant Schonbrunn Palace. And what better way to soak up holiday charm & history than at the light yellow Schonbrunn Palace’s Christmas market.

This was by far our favorite market to visit in Vienna, besides Rathausplatz, as the vendors were more unique than in other locations. In fact, we found most of our gifts to bring home at the Schonbrunn Palace Christmas market. Plus you have an actual Imperial Palace as your backdrop throughout the market.

I don’t think it could emulate a European Christmas vibe any more than this place. *If you go on the weekends the Schonbrunn Palace Christmas market hosts advent concerts in the afternoons and evenings. And you schedule your tickets to enter the palace – why not do it all in one day!?

(9) Witness the Vienna Ballet or an opera effortlessly perform their holiday shows

The Vienna State Opera House, or Wiener Staatsoper, is a truly grand masterpiece in Vienna. Rebuilt after World War II, visiting this venue for a classic performance is a bucket list item for anyone visiting Vienna.

(10) Drink Weihnachtspunsch and Gluhwein with strangers

Weihnachtspunsch is Christmas punch & Gluhwein is mulled wine. These beverages can be found at every Viennese Christmas market. In fact, the vendors selling gluhwein will often have a long menu of drink options. My favorite being a ginger-based one, and course hot cocoa with Baileys. There are also non-alcoholic ones!

There are belly bar tables at each market, where it’s a great place to strike up a conversation with a group of strangers. Who knows, you may end up getting drinks with them later that day!

If it’s particularly cold outside during your visit, you can warm your hands on one of the unique mugs they serve their holiday punches in. In fact, you pay a holding fee for the mug and it’s returned when you give them back the mug. With the encouragement that drinkers end up keeping their mugs as souvenirs. I try my best not to be suckered into souvenirs traps but dang it did they have some precious mugs like this heart-shaped one that is currently in my cupboards.

(11) Staying for New Years & need a once in a lifetime idea? Attend the annual Hofburg Silvester Ball!

For those willing to don ball gowns and tuxedos, this could be a once in a lifetime event to attend. Imagine your wildest Disney princess moments coming to life while the New Year’s ball drops at midnight. Find out more here.

Where to stay in Vienna during Christmas season

The majority of sights to see and holiday markets are located within historic Vienna. So, visitors will want to stay within or nearby that area. However depending on your budget, it may be difficult to find lodging during Vienna’s Christmas season in the heart of the historic district.

If that’s the case, then I would suggest staying near Wien Mitte, Vienna’s public transportation hub.

Booking.com

How to get around Vienna, Austria during the holiday season

By train: Vienna, like many other European cities, has an excellent underground public transportation system called the U-Bahn. The stations are all centrally located and easy to find for the OBB. You can purchase tickets at their kiosk machines or ticket windows. Be sure to validate your ticket at the entrance! And each train car has easy to follow labels for which stations will be stopped at next.

By tram: similar to the U-Bahn, Vienna’s tram system is great for those who want to see the city while they ride. In fact, there is a circular tram line that is great for visitors to hop onto if they want a quick tour of the city (or if they’re cold and want to sit inside something insulated… yes, we did this, and enjoyed the 20-minute break from the cold). Again, you’ll want to validate your ticket when you enter the tram for the first time

There are of course taxis and Uber/Lyft’s available in the city, but the fun of travel is to walk around to see everything. Plus using public transportation and walking are two great ways to be a more sustainably focused traveler.

If you’re coming from the Vienna airport, I would suggest using the CAT (City Airport Train). As it’s a convenient and affordable option that the city offers. You can read more about it here.

Don’t forget to pack these items:

Tips for visiting Vienna during Christmas season:

  • Book a reservation for dinner for Christmas Eve & Christmas day if you plan to eat out. Many places will require reservations or be closed. I mean it. Reserve this NOW. We had difficulty finding vegetarian friendly menus for the holidays that had availability, and we booked in early November.
  • Bring cash with you to the markets. While some may accept credit cards, it’s best to have cash on hand to make purchases. Especially if you want a mug of gluhwein.
  • Bring reusable shopping bags with you to the markets. If you’re shopping and expect to explore for the remainder of the day, do yourself a favor and pack a reusable bag to hold your new gifts

Scroll through to see more images of Vienna during Christmas!

Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger, as well as freelancing web designer & photographer. I share real & honest information about traveling, how to do so sustainably, and ways to earn an income while working remote.

Follow Along!

Start your own blog today!

Set up your blog today by using my discount code for Bluehost – Click the image to get started.

Get $15 OFF your AirBnb!

Follow Along

How to use the CAT in Vienna

How to use the CAT in Vienna

western europe

This page contains affiliate links to products and tours that I have used for my own travels, purchased & enjoyed. Clicking these links does not cost you anything, however doing so will support Blue Eyed Compass and allow the site to continue.  THANK YOU!

You reading this post means you are already an excellent sustainable traveler (and a smart one too!). Researching how to travel from the airport to the city centre using public transportation is imperative when it comes to fast-tracking your vacation enjoyment.

Vienna has an awesomely convenient transportation system called CAT, or City Airport Train, which transports riders from the Vienna airport to Wien Mitte, a central location within historic Vienna.

It is easy to use, cost-saving, efficient, and something I would definitely recommend to anyone trying to get from the Vienna airport to City Centre.

Read on for an easy How-To guide for Vienna’s City Airport Train (aka CAT).

Included in this post:

  • The perks of taking the CAT
  • How much the CAT costs
  • How to buy tickets for CAT &
  • An additional way to get to the center of Vienna from the airport

How to get to Vienna from the airport

What is the CAT?

The CAT is short for City Airport Train and is Vienna’s streamlined train service to and from the Vienna airport to its city centre. The CAT stops at Wien Mitte in Vienna. Which is the main transportation hub in the city of Vienna.

Benefits of using the CAT in Vienna:

  • You can safely and easily check in your luggage so that you don’t have to lug it onto and off of the train
  • CAT passengers can print their boarding passes at the CAT terminal in Wien Mitte
  • Certain airlines have partnered with CAT, so that passengers can check-in their luggage at the CAT terminal in Wien Mitte straight to their departing plane!

Find the airlines HERE : Austrian, Lufthansa, Eurowings, Swiss & Brussel Airlines

  • The CAT is direct to/from the airport and Wien Mitte. There are no additional stops to worry about.
  • It only takes 16 minutes to get to or from the airport- you can beat so much city traffic!
  • If the CAT is delayed more than 30 minutes & you miss your flight, they will cover your flight costs. And if your missed flight requires an overnight stay, they’ll cover those costs as well. CAT calls it their CAT Travel Guarantee
  • They offer storage lockers for your luggage FREE of charge!
  • Their train cabins are spacious & very comfortable
  • There are newspapers & magazines supplied on the trains
  • There are WLAN and power outlets at each seating area

How do I get from Vienna airport to City Centre?

The CAT-platform is a short five minute walk from the Vienna airport entrance, from both the Check-In area and baggage claim areas.

Once you’ve landed in Vienna you’ll want to go to Terminal 3 at the Vienna Airport. Once at Terminal 3 exit to go outside and walk to your RIGHT. There will be signs pointing you in the correct direction. You will then take an elevator down to the CAT station.

You can purchase your ticket(s) at the baggage claim hall from their kiosks or their counter.

Trains depart from the airport to the Wien Mitte station every 30 minutes until 11:07pm.

*Timetable of CAT train in Vienna

Where does the CAT stop in Vienna?

The CAT goes to and from the Vienna Airport to Wien Mitte. Wien Mitte is one of the main stations for all public transportation in Vienna.

How do I get to Wien Mitte from Vienna’s city centre?

Visitors can easily get to Wien Mette and the CAT station by using Vienna’s public subway system. called U-Bahn. The public transportation stations are in another part of the Wien Mitte, so travelers need to walk from the CAT terminal through the mall. It’s an easy walk, and all indoors.

See the map below for Vienna’s metro system.

How much is the train from Vienna airport to City Centre?

The CAT costs between 12-21 euros. See their pricing here

Taking Vienna’s CAT to the airport

Inside of Wien Mitte is the CAT station. It operates like a mini airport terminal where you can check into your flight on their kiosks, purchase your train tickets and potentially even check in your luggage. There is a comfortable waiting room and storage lockers as well.

Once you have your tickets you can hop onto the train. It departs every 30 minutes from 5:37 am-11:07 pm, with only a 16-minute train ride to the airport.

*Timetable of CAT train in Vienna

How to buy tickets for CAT Vienna?

You can purchase tickets for the CAT in Vienna a few ways:

  • At the counter of the Wien Mitte CAT station
  • From a CAT vending machine at the CAT station
  • At the airport: in the baggage claim hall from their sales staff or their vending machines

If you’d prefer to pre-purchase your ticket in advance, you can do so HERE. However, you will pay an extra bit in change. So consider your time of arrival and departure.

How to get to Vienna’s City Centre by train?

In addition to the direct CAT, there is also a public train called the Schnellbahn S7. A regular ticket costs only 3.90 euros, with an average travel time of 25 minutes as it makes multiple stops.

Passengers can find the Schnellbahn by following signs at the baggage claim hall and Check-In hall

Tips for taking the CAT in Vienna to & from the Vienna Airport:

  • Keep in mind once you arrive at the CAT station in Wien Mitte you need to transfer to the Vienna metro. This is a 5-10 minute walk inside of the Wien Mitte mall.

  • CAT is not a part of Vienna’s public transportation system, so you will need to purchase different tickets to use their metro system

Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger, as well as freelancing web designer & photographer. I share real & honest information about traveling, how to do so sustainably, and ways to earn an income while working remote.

Follow Along!

Start your own blog today!

Set up your blog today by using my discount code for Bluehost – Click the image to get started.

Get $15 OFF your AirBnb!

Follow Along

Foolproof Visitor’s Guide to Interlaken Switzerland

Foolproof Visitor’s Guide to Interlaken Switzerland

western europe

An Ultimate travel Guide for Interlaken, Switzerland!

Note: this post contains affiliate links to products we love and have purchased ourselves. Clicking these links doesn’t cost you any extra money, and you’re supporting us by doing so. You can view our disclosure page for additional details

The stunningly pristine alpine village of Interlaken, Switzerland is one that visitors to Central Europe must add to their destination bucket list. Nestled between two alpine water lakes, Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, and epic views of snow capped Alp mountains, this area of the Canton of Bern, Switzerland continues to be a breathtakingly beautiful stop for visitors. It is also home to one of the world’s thrill-seeking capitals. Imagine having access to turquoise waters for windsurfing and kayaking, and being in proximity to major Alp mountains like the Jungfrau, for extreme sports. With so much to see, do and explore in Interlaken I guarantee you’ll leave wanting to come back to this paradise in central Switzerland.

How to get to Interlaken

        No matter what destination you are coming from, getting to Interlaken is quite easy. By taking one of Switzerland’s timely and efficient trains, you can arrive to the center of the town of Interlaken and begin your exploring soon after.

        There are two train stations in Interlaken – Interlaken Ost and Interlaken West. Interlaken Ost is closer to the Old Town part of the city, while the Interlaken West station is closer to Lake Thun. I visited Interlaken after a long weekend in Zurich, and with one easy to make connection in Bern, found ourselves at the Interlaken Ost train station (as it was closer to our AirBnb) marveling at the beautiful mountains right behind the train station. Which were dripping in natural waterfalls and springs. You can look up Swiss train schedules here.

        There is also an airport in the area called Belp Airport. However, it is typically much cheaper to fly into a major airport, like Zurich International, and take a train, rather than spend an exorbitant amount on a flight to a smaller airport like the Belp Airport.

        And of course you can reach Interlaken by car. Depending on where you are staying this may be a great option so that you don’t have to rely on public transportation (however, public transportation in Switzerland is very reliable). You can utilize the Sepp app to find and pay for parking in Switzerland, and here is a map of where you can find parking in the central part of Interlaken.

Where to Stay in Interlaken

        Deciding on where to stay can be a challenging feat for any trip. You want to have balance between great location, price, value and more. Since Interlaken is known for more beyond its city lines, such as outdoor adventure sports, there is an overwhelming amount of options. Here are quite a few options for travelers on different budgets visiting Interlaken:

    Looking for traditional Swiss architecture?

    Stay in Interlaken City. This is the urban part of Interlaken, and is very walkable. This is also where a lot of the adventure sport companies will have visitors meet near.

    Lodging in Interlaken City

      Looking for lake views?

      Stay on one of the lakes that hug Interlaken, Lake Thun or Lake Brienz. We stayed at a beautifully renovated AirBnb that had stunning views of Lake Thun (and heated bathroom floors, second best feature next to the lakeside views!)

        Looking to stay outside of Interlaken?

        Here are a few options for wanting to stay somewhere that isn’t in the main part of Interlaken:

        • Lauterbrunnen- only a few kilometers south of Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen is best known for its quintessential Swiss chalet style homes, and beautiful landscape views.

        Lodging in Lauterbrunnen

          • Grindelwald- the mountain village of the Eiger mountain, there are lots of activities to participate in here for both summer and winter months.

          Lodging in Grindelwald

            • Thun- the main town that Lake Thun was named after. Thun felt much more traditional Swiss than the (quite frankly) over touristed area of Interlaken City. It also felt like there was much more to see if you weren’t doing outdoor adventure activities during your entire time to this area of Switzerland.

            Lodging in Thun

              Looking for convenience to travel elsewhere?

              Stay near Interlaken Ost, which is the east side of the town. It is close to the larger train station. It is also near the touristy areas; meaning lots of souvenir shops and over-priced/under value eateries.

                While I could link to multiple different hostels, hotels and B&Bs, I understand that it’s important to look at all of your options, so instead I would suggest making your own independent decision (as you know your travel style better than I ever could). I typically book through AirBnb or Booking.com.

                Hafen Lodge, AirBnb

                Where to stay in Interlaken, Switzerland

                When should you go to Interlaken?

                The best Time of Year to visit Interlaken

                        The best part about Interlaken is that it’s always a good time to visit! It really depends on what you want to do while you are there. If you’re looking for winter sports, then you can’t beat skiing or snowboarding in the Swiss Alps. If you want to be able to casually walk around and enjoy the european charm and beautiful landscapes then springtime and summer are great. And yes, it does warm up in Interlaken, even though it is near the Swiss Alps. It can get up to the mid-70s during the summer months.

                        I would suggest that you keep your budget in mind when deciding when to visit Interlaken (or any part of Switzerland for that matter). It is a fairly expensive country, and can become even more expensive during busy seasons such as mid-summer months and major holidays like Christmas.

                How many days should you stay/visit Interlaken?

                        Similar to the best time of year to visit Interlaken, the number of days you should spend in this area is dependent on what you want to while there and your preferred travel style. You could spend a solid three days there and be able to explore Interlaken, have an adventurous excursion, like paragliding, and enjoy half a day on a boat cruise of one of the lakes.

                        If you prefer a slower paced travel experience, then I would suggest taking a week here. That way you can enjoy going to the top of Jungfrau (which you would want to wait to do until the sky is clear, see more about this below). As well as be able to spend an entire day exploring the town of Thun (my favorite place during my trip to Interlaken). You would also have time to go on a few hikes, and feel as if you have experienced all that Interlaken city has to offer.

                How to get around Interlaken & the surrounding areas

                        Interlaken is conveniently compact so exploring the city center is easily done so on foot. However if you are staying outside of the city center you will be able to take their local bus lines.

                        In order to find which route/s to take I would suggest using Google Maps or Rome2Rio. For all of our travels we use these two options. The best part is that most hotels will have free bus cards for their visitors, so be sure to ask the front desk when you check in. Even our AirBnb host had bus cards for us to use. There are of course taxis you can take around as well, but the buses were always on time, and conveniently close to everything we needed.

                        Don’t forget that Interlaken is situated between those two shockingly turquoise watered lakes, Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. There are boats that you can take around the entirety of the lakes with multiple stop off points that I would highly recommend (keep reading to find those below!). You can purchase tickets for the boats at the tourist office or at their docks. Here is a map of the stops on both lakes.

                 

                LAKE THUN

                • If you want to explore Lake Thun, then you would board near the Interlaken West train station
                • It takes about two hours to get to the town of Thun
                • Best stop off points: Oberhofen Castle, St. Beatus Caves, Spiez
                • Not every boat that departs from Interlaken West will be a multi-stop boat, so be sure to ask which one will stop at each spot
                • Map of Lake Thun boat docks here
                • Boats operate year round, so you can enjoy a round about boat trip on Lake Thun even in the winter

                LAKE BRIENZ

                • If you want to explore Lake Brienz, then you would board near the Interlaken Ost train station
                • It takes about one and a half hours to get to the town of Brienz
                • Not every boat that departs from Interlaken Ost will be a multi-stop boat, so be sure to ask which one will stop at each spot
                • Map of Lake Brienz boat docks here

                Why should I go to Interlaken?

                Check out this blog post that includes

                Eight Reasons why you NEED to visit Interlaken, Switzerland

                  Things to do in & around Interlaken

                  Interlaken is known as an adventure seekers destination, so there is no shortage of things to do in this area of Switzerland.

                  • Spend time outdoors on a scenic hike

                  Hiking is an all time favorite travel activity of mine, and an excellent way to burn off those vacation meal calories when traveling. Interlaken has so many options when it comes to their hikes. You can find ones that are range in length and difficulty. Wherever I’m traveling to, I almost always use the All Trails app to research and choose which hike/s I want to go on. Download the app here!

                  Cost: Free!

                  • Become a bird, and paraglide!

                    Each morning you’ll be able to see paragliders swinging lightly through the clouds down to the center of Interlaken. So, why not be one of them? This fairly carefree adventure is great for those just beginning to go outside of their comfort zone (which I can say from experience, as I’ve tended to lean towards the safe side until I went paragliding in Interlaken).

                    After reviewing a few companies (based on price, reviews, years in service & level of professionalism) we chose to book with Paragliding Interlaken. Their staff were very accommodating and we loved our guides. Push past those fears of heights and enjoy a birds eye view of Interlaken!

                    Cost: 170 CHF

                  • Step up your game & be a daredevil

                    While paragliding is a wonderful activity, if you’re feeling up for an even greater adrenaline rush, Interlaken also has companies that offer skydiving, canyoning, white water rafting, ice climbing and bungee jumping. Luckily Paragliding Interlaken has lots of options for the adventurous type. *Add in Tripadvisor link if approved for their affiliate program

                    Cost: depends on activity, ranges from 40 CHF to 400+ CHF

                  • See if the legend is true, by visiting St. Beatus Caves

                    There is a legend that says Saint Beatus defeated a dragon that was living inside of these caves. You’ll have to see for yourself if you believe it to be true, but either way you’ll be greeted with stunning waterfalls both in and outside of the caves. The caves are open from March to November. Find more details about visiting here.

                    Cost: 18 CHF

                  • Take a relaxing boat cruise on Lake Thun or Lake Brienz

                    Interlaken is great for providing ways to view this beautiful country from both above the clouds and on the shorelines. A lake cruise is a wonderful way to spend your day and they offer plenty of hop on/off stops for further exploring.

                    Lake Thun cruises depart from the ferry dock near the Interlaken West station, while the Lake Brienz cruises depart of the ferry dock near the Interlaken Ost station. Both are easy to find once you’re at the train stations. You can find the timetables here. The more difficult decisions you’ll make is which lake to cruise on. Both feature turquoise waters and stunning views of the Alps. If you have time consider going on both! Cruises are offered April through October, and there are winter cruises on Lake Thun (only).

                    COST: starting at 35 CHF

                  • Step back in time at the Oberhofen Castle

                    Since you’re already going to take a Lake Cruise (which is my number one suggestion for those visiting Interlaken!), you might as well stop off from the Lake Thun cruise to explore the Oberhofen Castle.

                    My standards for visiting a museum and castle have become somewhat particular … after plenty of travels, I’ve seen quite a few and have decided to spend my money wisely when visiting, as not all are created equal … and I would definitely recommend walking through Oberhofen Castle.

                    We found this 13th century castle and museum to be informative, engaging and loved the way the interior has been maintained. There are also English gardens outside that you can walk around in, for picture perfect moments with loved ones (unlike these hilarious attempts we made here… not quite sure what we were trying, but sleep deprivation probably had something to do with us thinking it was a good idea, haha).

                    Overall it is an enchanting lakeside with beautiful architecture, and remains one of my favorite stops while we were in Interlaken, Switzerland. 

                    Cost: 10 CHF, Oberhofen Castle Visitor Information

                  • Treat yourself to a first class cocktail

                    Put your fancy pants on & enjoy a cocktail at Interlaken’s finest hotel, the Victoria Jungfrau Hotel. In between all of your outdoor adventures, be sure to treat yourself to a high class atmosphere. The Victoria Bar offers traditional English tea times on the weekends as well.

                    Cost: depends on what you order

                  • Walk around Interlaken Old Town

                    There are two sides to Interlaken’s town centre, the main street and the streets north of the main street leading to the river.

                    The Main street is strictly shopping and mostly for tourists. I wouldn’t skip past it too quickly but you don’t need to spend too much time here. If you’re looking to buy some Swiss chocolate, Swiss Army Knives or souvenir type items then this is where to go.

                    After you’ve finished with your shopping, head north through the small collection of streets that lead to the river. Here you will find more traditional buildings decorated with baskets of flowers and colourful window shutters, including the Interlaken Monastery and castle.

                    Cost: free!

                  • Explore the top of a lesser known Swiss Alp, the Neiderhorn

                    Below are the top Swiss Alps to visit when you’re near Interlaken, Switzerland. However, I’ve come to love exploring the lesser known places while traveling and you will not be disappointed by taking half a day (or a full day if you want to hike up) experiencing the top of the Niederhorn. This was suggested to us by our AirBnb host, as was the restaurant that is located at the midway point.

                    You can either hike from the bottom to the top, or take the funicular. In fact, you can ride the funicular to different heights of the mountain. So if you want to ride halfway up and hike the rest (or vice versa) you can!

                    Cost: the cost has varied since we visited, I would ask your local lodging to find this for you

                  • Soak up another breathtaking view at Harder Kulm

                    Harder Kulm is a viewpoint in Interlaken. People call it Interlaken’s own mountain as the view looks down directly over the town. Visitors take a quick ten minute cable car up to the top, and can walk out over the extending platform to spectacular views of Interlaken and Unterseen from above.

                    *The cable car cost is a bit pricey, so be sure to plan to go only on a clear sky day. I would suggest visiting around sunset is best. There is also a panoramic restaurant with a glass viewing platform.

                    Cost: (for the funicular) 38 CHF

                  • Visit the beautiful Giessbach Waterfalls

                    On the south side of Lake Brienz are the Giessbach Waterfalls. Arrive either by ferry or bike, then take the funicular to the Grand Hotel Giessbach, which has incredible views. Of course you can always hike up or down instead of taking the funicular, if you want to spend more time outside enjoying Switzerland’s hikes.

                    For more details on the hike, check out this blog post.

                    Cost: 10 CHF

                  Day Trips from Interlaken

                   Just as it’s smart to have a somewhat planned out itinerary for things to do in Interlaken, there are so many beautiful places around the area that you should consider as well.

                   

                  Be enthralled with Thun Switzerland

                  Enjoy your lake cruise on Lake Thun over to the town that the lake was named after, Thun. You can enjoy your time walking through the colorful town, and the uphill walk to the Sleeping Beauty-esque castle, Thun Castle. You may even catch some surfers riding the structured tides at the wooden bridges in the town center. Yes, that’s right, Thun has wooden bridges just like Lucerne!

                  Step back in time at Unterseen

                  This medieval town is walkable from Interlaken, and worth half a day trip for those who enjoy meandering through charming European towns.

                  Explore the famous mountain of Jungfrau

                  Visitors can hop into a cogwheel train all the way to the top of the mountain and take in breathtaking views of the Swiss Alps. There is a Snow Park open during the summer months, which is great for snow tubing, skiing or snowboarding.

                  It takes two hours to get to Jungfrau from Interlaken, and I don’t believe there are any restrooms on the trains. It’s accessible 365 days a year. There is also a Jungfrau pass that’s great for those who want to explore more than one mountain town near Interlaken, as it will save you money if you want to participate in many of those activities. You can purchase the Jungfrau Travel Pass HERE.

                  Battle your adventure fears in Grindelwald

                  No, I don’t mean the J.K. Rowling (author of the Harry Potter novels) evil Grindelwald, I mean the outdoorsy, very popular mountain town, Grindelwald. Not only is the main town of Grindelwald postcard worthy for Switzerland, there are also lots of outdoor activities for both summer and winter months. Here are more details on what to do in Grindelwald.

                  Take postcard worthy images in Lauterbrunnen

                  You’ve probably seen snapshots of this Swiss town with its iconic waterfall falling near the main town. Visitors can easily take a train or car from Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen, and capture pictures you will cherish for years.

                  Take a scenic train ride

                  There is something magical about train rides that weave you through the countryside, especially a countryside as adorably picturesque as Switzerlands. Take the Schynige Platte cogwheel train from Wilderswil. Only a ten minute drive or bus ride from Interlaken. *Be sure to check the weather forecast before choosing which day to do this, because if it’s cloudy outside then you won’t see the wonderfully beautiful scenery, which makes this trip worth it.

                  FUN FACTS about Interlaken, Switzerland

                  Both Lake Thun and Lake Brienz are turquoise and blue due to glacial particles. These tiny particles drip down the Swiss Alps and sink to the bottom of the lake, purifying the water as they go on their descent.

                  Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

                  Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger, as well as freelancing web designer & photographer. I share real & honest information about traveling, how to do so sustainably, and ways to earn an income while working remote.

                  Follow Along!

                  Start your own blog today!

                  Set up your blog today by using my discount code for Bluehost – Click the image to get started.

                  Get $15 OFF your AirBnb!

                  Follow Along

                  Travel Guide to Bern, Switzerland

                  Travel Guide to Bern, Switzerland

                  western europe

                  An Ultimate Guide for what to see & do when traveling to Bern, Switzerland

                  (and what to skip!)

                  Note: this post contains affiliate links to products we love and have purchased ourselves. Clicking these links doesn’t cost you any extra money, and you’re supporting us by doing so. You can view our disclosure page for additional details

                  Experience the effortlessly charming city of Bern, Switzerland. The fifth largest city in the country, and Switzerland’s capital, Bern is a compact but adorably picturesque city. A place that was once home to the physicist Albert Einstein, known for bears, Berenese dogs and the colorful River Aare, Bern is perfect for a city break and is still an off-the-radar gem of Switzerland.

                  Below you will find a detailed travel guide to Bern, Switzerland including where to stay, why you should visit Bern and the top things to do in the city.

                  [If you found your way here through my Sustainable Travel page, then you may just be interested in my findings and viewpoints on Barenpark. Click here to scroll to that section.]

                  Why go to Bern?

                   Why should I go to Bern?

                          There are so many beautiful places to visit Switzerland and its surrounding countries, yet I would still highly recommend a visit to Bern, and here’s why:

                          The city is meticulously preserved, which is most likely why it’s old town (also called the aldstadt) was named a UNESCO World Heritage site all the way back in 1983! Literally every corner you turn there are picture perfect places to soak up. And it doesn’t hurt that life is slower paced than many other major european cities. So, you’ll be exploring a ‘big’ city but enjoying it as if it’s a small town.

                   

                  Fun fact: Bern, Switzerland earned its name from the founder around the early 1900’s after he apparently killed a bear who came too close to the city while it was being built. (More about how this fact led to a not too pretty, in fact very negative, animal rights situation… more on that later. Keep reading to find out!) Since then, the city’s flag and emblem has always shown a bear.

                  Where is Bern?

                  Bern, Switzerland is located southwest of the major city of Zurich, and only an hour train ride from the crisp blue lakes bordering Interlaken. The city is hugged by the beautifully bright & clean River Aare

                    Where to stay in Bern?

                            The city of Bern goes farther beyond the altstadt (old town), so be sure to book your lodging inside of the old town area, as this is where the charming, picturesque part of the city is located.

                            We stayed at the Hotel Savoy Bern and loved it! The location was not only within walking distance to the main train station (which will save you money from having to order a taxi or public transportation), but the rooms were very spacious, had great views and the interior was modernly beautiful.

                            Be sure to check out other lodgings options – I typically use Booking.com as they list more than just hotels. There are luxury homes, B&Bs and apartments. Lodging options in Bern, Switzerland

                      How long should I stay in Bern?

                      We stayed in Bern for three nights and felt like we were able to leisurely enjoy our time here. One day would not be enough, so I would suggest at a minimum two full days and depending on your travel style, at most four nights.

                        If you’re planning visits to other parts of Switzerland, be sure to explore my other posts about this enchanting country here!

                          How to get around Bern:

                                  While there is an airport near Bern, it’ll be much easier to arrive by train. Once you arrive via train, it is a five to ten minute walk to get to the old town part of the city. Bern’s old town is shaped like a horseshoe bend with the turquoise River Aare giving it its shape. Once there you will notice that there are trams and buses available. However, we did not once use them as the city is so accessible on foot. In fact, most of the traffic you’ll see will be pedestrian foot traffic.

                                  Bern, Switzerland has recently installed bike stations throughout the city, which I would definitely recommend utilizing. You could bike around all of the old town in half a day this way. Check out this map for the location of the docking stations within the old town of Bern.

                            Walk around Berns beautifully preserved old town

                                      The city of Bern has transformed into a metropolis since it was rebuilt after a terrible fire in the early 1400’s. However the aldstadt has kept its european charm and has remained intact since the 15th century rebuild. Known for its 6 kilometers of ‘covered arcades’ – not actual arcades, but outdoor promenades – locals refer to them as “Lauben” – they are the longest weather sheltered shopping promenade in Europe

                                      While you’re walking around, try to find the Kindlifresser statue, aka the Child Eater statue. Yep, you read that correctly. There is a statue with a man eating a sack of babies… no one is quite sure what it depicts, but it should be a great example of the boogeyman tactics for parents to use.

                              Fun fact – there are over 100 fountains in this small old town!

                                Ogle at the Zytglogge

                                          The Zytglogge is a famous astronomical clock. It was Bern’s western city gate back in the 12th century, and is now a major site to see in the old town part of Bern. This 800+ year old clock still functions with all of its mechanical figures, and on the hour you can watch it ‘perform’. There is a museum/walk through tour you can do, but truth be told, I felt this was unnecessary. But I suppose it depends on your love for clockwork.

                                    Walk to the top of the Bern Cathedral

                                              A dominant landmark in Bern, this cathedral is the tallest religious building in all of Switzerland. Not only is it a great workout walking up the 222 steps, but the view is beautiful. I’m personally not always a fan of views from super high up because you miss out on so much detail, but the view from Bern Cathedral is perfect in terms of height without being too far away. It’s also the highest place to view the city from.

                                        Visit the Rosengarten

                                                  Bern’s Rosengarten is great for both a relaxing afternoon in a charming park and vistas of the entire city from across the River Aare. It is an uphill climb to reach the park, but you are rewarded with great views of Bern. There is a statue of Einstein sitting on a bench that is perfect for capturing cute pictures with the historical figures.

                                                  The Rosengarten would be good to visit even in the fall, and for sunset as the sun dips below the city skyline.

                                            Explore the Bundeshaus

                                                      The Bundeshaus is the Swiss Federal Assembly building in Bern. I’ve become particularly choosey when it comes to spending my travel time inside of museums and historical sites, so while I typically wouldn’t suggest going inside of a government building, the Swiss do it justice. They offer FREE tours of inside the Bundeshaus, however will be closed to the public if parliament is in session. You can find the dates they are closed here.

                                                Shop at the Parliament Square weekly market

                                                          In front of Bundeshaus is Parliament Square, which is great for people watching, and where Bern hosts a weekly market. Every Tuesday and Saturday morning you can enjoy local produce and Swiss foods.

                                                          Maybe you’ll feel inclined to buy some treats and then enjoy them while sitting on the steps in the back of Bundeshaus. This part of the building sits against the River Aare so will provide a nice relaxing place to enjoy a morning treat.

                                                    Channel Albert Einstein’s intelligence

                                                              Learn about the famous physicist and his life while he lived in Bern, Switzerland by visiting the house he used to live in. This house museum is where he lived when he developed his famous theory of relativity. Overall, it was a fairly interesting place to visit as Einstein had a unique life and also traveled the world.

                                                              (There is a good cafe directly below it as well)

                                                        Swim in the Aare

                                                                  If you plan on visiting Bern in the summer, than I’d suggest packing a swimsuit as you can swim in the beautifully clean River Aare. I can’t speak personally about this as we visited in the fall, but a local gave us the following information on how to swim in the Aare in Bern : enter at Eicholz recreation area and float down to the Freiban Marzili.

                                                            Enjoy the sunset with a view

                                                                     Grab a bottle of wine or some beers from a local store and enjoy the sun setting over the rust red rooftops of Bern at the Rosengarten or from the back side of the Bundeshaus (Parliament Building).

                                                                Take it slow & people watch

                                                                          I loved the pace of the city of Bern. A city that felt effortlessly slow paced. My suggestion, pick up a cup of coffee in the morning and sit in one of the squares to people watch. There was a square close to our hotel that had a life size chess set. We watched a group of older men play while starting their day with espressos, beers and cigars. It’s moments like these where you can begin to feel the heart of a place you travel to.

                                                                          Another way to immerse yourself in a new destination is to…

                                                                    Take part in a local event or festival

                                                                              As Bern is the capital of Switzerland there are quite a few events that you can attend. We stumbled upon a cultural food festival while there and loved it. You can find more of Bern’s events here.

                                                                                Translated this means the Bear Park. As an animal lover and protector I am always hesitant about visiting and suggesting others to visit places that house (unfortunately, ‘house’ is a light term used here, when often it’s a prison) animals of any kind. I try my best to research prior to visiting and especially spending any money on places like these.

                                                                                Unfortunately, Bern housed a cement bear pit since its inception of officially becoming Bern in the 1500’s. Looking at pictures of what it used to be, which was maintained up until 2009, it makes me feel really sad that that went on for so long. Happily though, the Bern bear pit has been transformed into a bear park. The park is over 65,000 square feet in size, is fitted on a sloping hill with plenty of grass areas for the current bear occupants to enjoy who were transferred from Scandinavia or born in captivity. (Personally, I feel that it’s extremely odd that we ship animals around like property to different zoo’s.)

                                                                                  Barenpark is free to visit in Bern. And while the space provided for them now is much much better than the cement hole in the ground they inhabited for hundreds of years, it’s still limiting for what a wild animal should have access to. For example, bears enjoy water and currently the bears at Barenpark can see the water rushing by but have no access to it. Talk about dangling a treat in front of someone face, and preventing them from having it for their own ‘safety’.

                                                                                  I suggest visiting as you can see for yourself the conditions they’re in, and may it be a reminder, note for the future or nugget of a lesson for you to better understand the rights that animals should have.

                                                                          What are your thoughts on this?

                                                                             Not to end on what may feel like a negative tone, let me conclude by saying that Bern has much more to offer than their Barenpark. If you choose to visit this charismatic city (which I highly suggest you do!), be sure to enjoy it in its entirety by visiting and doing the items I listed above. Bern is great for taking it slow, and is one of the few places in Europe that still feels off the beaten path in terms of popular cities to visit in Switzerland.

                                                                              [Curious about why there are so many people at the same destination as you? Read about Over Tourism here]

                                                                                TIPS for visiting Bern, Switzerland:

                                                                                • Switzerland is expensive, so be sure to visit a grocery store for lunch or breakfast (and maybe some wine) to save yourself from racking up your expenses too high
                                                                                • Swiss German is the language spoken in Bern
                                                                                • Stay in the old town part of the city Bern, once there, everything is walkable
                                                                                • Visit Bern, Switzerland in the summer to swim in the River Aare, visit in the winter months for the Christmas markets
                                                                                • More general facts about the city of Bern

                                                                                  Want to see more?

                                                                                  Scroll through these pictures of from our trip to Bern, Switzerland

                                                                                    Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

                                                                                    Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger, as well as freelancing web designer & photographer. I share real & honest information about traveling, how to do so sustainably, and ways to earn an income while working remote.

                                                                                    Follow Along!

                                                                                    Start your own blog today!

                                                                                    Set up your blog today by using my discount code for Bluehost – Click the image to get started.

                                                                                    Get $15 OFF your AirBnb!

                                                                                    Follow Along

                                                                                    Visiting Mount Pilatus, Switzerland

                                                                                    Visiting Mount Pilatus, Switzerland

                                                                                    western europe

                                                                                    Switzerland’s mysterious mountain

                                                                                       According to Middle Age legend, Mount Pilatus was first inhabited by one or more dragons with healing powers.  As visitors creep upward in the steepest cogwheel train, these mythical dragons seem to loom closer as you slowly cross through cloud cover.  With the slow approach to the top, you will pass through barely fenced farms with cattle and goats roaming, traditional wooden cottages home to large cowbells hanging up and the occasional crow skimming the clouds.

                                                                                     Once at the top, walk about the hotel, gift shop area, and most importantly the outdoor deck space.  This place clings to the peaks surface and on a clear day allows for trail walking and panoramic views of valleys in between Alp summits.      

                                                                                    If you’re already in Lucerne for the day, you can purchase tickets at the Pilatus Lucerne store in the Aldstadt (Old Town) area of Lucerne.  They did a wonderful job describing how to get to Mount Pilatus.  Essentially you take a train from the Lucerne station to Alpnachstad.

                                                                                    We chose the visit option that was 83 CHF.  It included the cost of train tickets, the cogwheel ride up, cable car down and the bus back to Lucerne.  In total it took us 3.5 hours to visit, however it was very cloudy and snowing at the top so we didn’t spend tons of time up there.  There are short trails you can walk up there- dress accordingly for it by wearing hike worthy shoes.

                                                                                    Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

                                                                                    Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger, as well as freelancing web designer & photographer. I share real & honest information about traveling, how to do so sustainably, and ways to earn an income while working remote.

                                                                                    Follow Along!

                                                                                    Start your own blog today!

                                                                                    Set up your blog today by using my discount code for Bluehost – Click the image to get started.

                                                                                    Get $15 OFF your AirBnb!

                                                                                    Follow Along