Step back in time—and take time to unwind and activate the senses—as you explore the Region of Bern, in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, where you’ll find fairytale medieval villages, set among natural splendors. The city of Bern itself, the capital of Switzerland, features nearly four miles of original arcades lining the cobblestone streets of the old city, and pubs and restaurants serving up tremendous charm and traditional food (like the Emmentaler cheese or delightfully crispy potatoes called Rösti) under ancient arched ceilings.
On this scenic trip, whether driving or enjoying the country’s superb public transport system, you’ll pass by quiet, flowing rivers and charming Emmental farmhouses, as gentle hills mark the end of the pre-Alpine region, and blend into the Seeland plains. For the active traveler, the chalet village of Gstaad, a premier wellness destination, and the Jungfrau Ski Region are close by for world-class slope action in winter and stunning hikes and vistas in summer. And the adventure capital of Europe, Interlaken, also offers activities like winter kayaking, toboggan rides, and upwards of 137 miles of winter walking trails, in addition to summertime thrills including paragliding excursions with magnificent views.
Touring through the idyllic, family-friendly chalet villages of Adelboden-Lenk-Kandersteg will bring you to a hiker’s haven in summer and a winter sports paradise when the temperatures drop. A multitude of world-class wellness resorts offer respite and rejuvenation whether you partake of vigorous activity or not.
Itinerary / 5 DAYSPLAN YOUR TRIP
DAYS 1-2Bern and Gstaad
Looking for some intellectual stimulation? Here’s a smart idea: after touring around the old city, visit the Einstein Museum, where the famed physicist conceived of the groundbreaking Theory of Special Relativity (E=mc2).
Drive or take the train to the chalet village of Gstaad in the Bernese Oberland, which attracts bold-faced names for its famed shortest “shopping mile” in Switzerland, top-tier hotels like the 5-star Park Gstaad, a marvel of understated refinement, and luxury properties such as the family-owned Hotel Gstaaderhof. The latter is a short walk from the train station and ski slopes. Smaller neighboring villages are a draw for families with children.
It is no wonder the area has also become a prime wellness destination. Where better to take in the calming, healing powers of nature? Gstaad is rife with rushing mountain streams, forests, and gently rolling green hills all set against a spectacular Alpine backdrop. A thrilling hot air balloon ride will allow you to see it all. It’s also a paradise for fine diners, with more than 100 restaurants, ranging from cozy Raclette spots to acclaimed gourmet temples.
Get the best of both worlds with a fondue backpacking expedition. (That’s two words you probably never dreamed would go so deliciously together.) Head out on the ultimate cheese adventure, by foot, bike or snowshoe, traveling to specially designed huts containing large fondue pots, with plenty of room for up to eight people. Order your backpack a day in advance—it holds everything you need for a mouth-watering outdoor experience, including a choice of traditional or truffle fondue from a local dairy and crusty bread from a nearby bakery. Keep the fromage fun going with a trip to the cheese grotto at Gstaad Dairy, where you’ll marvel at more than 3,000 wheels of cheese on display. Or visit a Family Stable Farm to experience the handmade process of making cheese, and enjoy lunch with the family.
Spectacular lakes dot the region, from the crystal-clear blue Blausee, steeped in local legend (lore is that it’s in eternal memory of the deep blue eyes of a beautiful maiden who died of a broken heart here) to the pristine waters of Lake Oeschinen, fed by glacial brooks of nine-thousand-foot peaks of four mountains. In summer, the destination is a paradise for swimmers and hikers alike, with more than 186 miles of well-groomed hiking trails (including a wheelchair-accessible circular hiking trail). Cycling and mountain biking routes abound as well. And in winter, the Adelboden-Frutigen-Lenk ski region features a 130-mile piste network, winter hiking on the Adelboden sun terrace, and cross-country skiing and tobogganing trails.
For those in need of some R&R, a growing number of wellness havens populate the area, resulting in Adelboden being the first destination in Switzerland to be awarded the Alpine Wellness holiday resort certificate. The Cambrian, a Design Hotel, features heated indoor and outdoor pools (the latter with postcard-worthy views), a Finnish sauna with steam baths and rain showers, and treatments including an intensive massage that incorporates bamboo canes.
A visit to Harder Kulm, the nearest mountain to Interlaken, also provides breathtaking views. Overhanging Zwei-Seen-Steg (Two Lakes Bridge) has an even more astounding vantage point: from a glass floor section, you can see three mountains and the turquoise waters of Lake Brienz and the deep blue hues of Lake Thun. A 100-year-old funicular railway gets you to the top in just 10 minutes. From there, it’s just a short path from the mountain station to the Panorama Restaurant, resembling a mini castle, with sweeping (sunset) views of Interlaken, and authentic Swiss dishes.
Stay in one of 70 stylish rooms at the historic Grandhotel Giessbach, featuring turn-of-the-century charm and modern comfort, a natural swimming pool, and Les Cascades restaurant, which overlooks the Giessbach Falls.
And for those interested in medieval history, tour any of the five fairytale castles or twelve 1,000-year-old churches (built by Rudolf II, King of Burgundy and Lombardy) surrounding Lake Thun.
DAY 5Jungfrau Region
Your first stop is Grindelwald, where a cable car from the valley station will take you up 7,113 feet above sea level, to marvel at breathtaking views of the north face of Eiger. A leisurely one-hour hike to Bachalpsee lake is a must for anyone visiting the area; there, you’ll delight in the snow-capped peaks reflected in crystal-clear waters. If you have a taste for adventure, check out the 2,625-foot First Flyer zip line.
Movie buffs won’t want to miss a tour of Schilthorn-Piz Gloria, where the 1969 James Bond flick On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was filmed. A cable car runs every 30 minutes from Stechelberg to the summit, with the revolving restaurant Piz Gloria offering views of the surrounding mountains. Check out the Interactive Bond World exhibition, 007 Walk of Fame, and the 656-foot long Thrill Walk, a rocky path down vertical walls of rock massif.
After that you’ve more than earned a passionfruit Jungfrau Martini—shaken, not stirred, of course—at the five-star Romantik Hotel Schweizerhof’s lobby bar in Grindelwald. Follow it up with an evening of games in Otto’s Bowling Cellar downstairs or one of the hotel’s other events, such as Dinner in the Dark. There’s of course a spa complex on property too, complete with indoor swimming pool, Finnish sauna, bio sauna with light therapy, and a private spa—the perfect way to soak up some more serenity before heading home.