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Why “The Top of Europe” is the Stylish Adventure You Need

What it’s like basking in the beauty of the Jungfrau Region and Interlaken, according to one inveterate AFAR traveler.

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The VIP Eiger Express welcomes guests with comfy, swiveling leather seats.

JH Media

Ready for an adventure you’ll never forget? You can go to what feels like the top of the world, surrounded by raw Alpine beauty, in incredible style when you board the new Eiger Express gondola from Grindelwald Terminal to the Eigergletscher station. My trip started with a nonstop flight to Switzerland on Swiss International Air Lines, leaving me rested and eager to hit the ground running in this fantastic country. As a guest there, I was invited to experience the VIP Eiger Express, which is tricked out with eight red leather seats, all generously sized and able to rotate 360 degrees. That means views from every angle possible. And, in the middle of the gondola, a Champagne bar holds glasses, Champagne, wine, and snacks. (The new Grindelwald Terminal also has a Platinum Lounge where you can relax and enjoy complimentary coffee and things to nibble on while you wait.)

Sustainably Swiss

The Eiger Express among the highest cable cars in the world and minimally impacts the environment thanks to an innovative “tri-cable” system that uses less energy and only requires seven supports, meaning there’s no need to cut a path through the forest. Energy generated by the cable cars’ wheels turning heats the seats (windows are heated too so they don’t ice up or fog up to obscure the views) and the cars are wheelchair accessible allowing anyone to have this incredible experience.

Home to an abundance of restaurants, the brand-new Grindelwald Terminal is sustainably built too and the picture of Swiss efficiency. The building, all created with local wood and materials, shuttles some 3,000 to 5,000 people up the mountain hourly, with one gondola coming in and another going out. There are electric vehicle charging stations outside the terminal and its own hydroelectric station powers the cable network and trains, which also use regenerative braking to conserve energy.

The view from the top

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An ice sculpture in Jungfraujoch

JH Media

You can ski from Eigergletscher station or transfer directly to get to the top of the Jungfraujoch, which is known as “The Top of Europe.” The entire trip takes a mere 45 minutes, with epic views all along the way. And the peak rewards you with more unbelievable, far-reaching views.

Step inside through the Ice Palace’s tunnels carved into the mountain. One highlight is the ice carvings, including a replica model of the mountain inside the mountain. Being in the heart of this living, breathing glacier is a remarkable thing to behold. And cap it all off with a great restaurant right at the top serving traditional Swiss dishes with a side of even more panoramic views, the Restaurant Crystal.

Along with a very mixed group consisting of many Indian and Brazilian visitors, I shared the marvel of looking out at the longest glacier in the Alps (even though the fog of that afternoon). Of the many things that make this place so special, you don’t have to be a thrill-seeker to get the experience. You can feel the sense of wonder and adventure without having to even take a step, while skiers and mountaineers use the access it affords as their point to peel off and head deep into the glacier and back country. On the way back, the clouds had cleared, the sun was out, and you could see for miles in every direction. It was truly awe-inspiring.

Locally sourced deliciousness

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Hotel Glacier offers tasting menus using locally sourced ingredients

Sustainability makes many of the local restaurants stand out as well. At the boutique Hotel Glacier, located in the town of Grindelwald, the chef Robert Steuri creates three-, five-, and seven-course tasting menus using ingredients sourced within 20 miles of the hotel, including locally caught fish, and techniques such as fermentation, smoking, and dry-ageing.

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Winter at Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa

Daniel Reichenbach

A similar ethos welcomed me during my stay in nearby Interlaken at the Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa, which bills itself as “the Grand Dame of Swiss luxury hotels.” It’s indeed a fabulous, 150-year-old hotel with classical styling and contemporary touches, and a spa that blows your socks off, featuring a huge pool, week-long wellness programs, and products like creams and serums crafted from Swiss ingredients.

The hotel also boasts a hyper-local regional menu, in its new restaurant Radius, helmed by Swiss chef Stefan Beer, who doesn’t source food further than 25 miles from the hotel, employing the goods of local farmers, fishermen, and beekeepers in his inspired cuisine. In town, there are also several great options for authentic dining, including Brasserie 17, a lively local gathering spot with six beers on tap, and the more refined gastronomy on offer at Hotel and Restaurant Salzano.

Ice adventures and peaceful lake outings in Interlaken

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Aquatic types will enjoy the many activities offered in Interlaken such as kayaking.

A short train ride from Jungfrau, Interlaken is nearby many beautiful landscapes, including Schilthorn and multiple other mountains. In summer, it’s highly traveled due to its picturesque lake, and great restaurants, nightlife, and outdoor festivals. Visiting in winter provides a more special experience, in my opinion, an ideal stop for a couple of days if you’re skiing around Switzerland. You’ve pretty much got the place to yourself, and there are many excursions to take advantage of here.

Water lovers are in for a thrill here, too, even in the winter season. I went with Hightide Kayak School for serene winter kayaking on Lake Brienz. The beauty of the experience is hard to put into words. Covered in a gorgeous white layer of snow, the whole area was as silent as can be. You see your breathe in the air, yet you’re warm from the dry suit you have on. It’s nothing less than an entrancing winter scene as you glide across the lake, below nearby eagles’ nests and past historic monasteries. Elsewhere on a lake cruise on Lake Thun, you’ll find five castles (such as Oberhofen Castle and Hünegg Castle) lining the shores. It was an unforgettable way to bask in this wonderful winter destination.

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