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Wengen vs. Interlaken

Deerfield IL
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Wengen vs. Interlaken

In another thread a few weeks ago, someone asked about Wengen, and then changed her mind and decided to stay in Interlaken. Let me offer a comparison for other tourists trying to decide whether a stay in Wengen might be for them.

Interlaken and Wengen, though only about 6 miles and a 30 to 45 minute steep mountain train ride apart, are very different places. Certainly, many people could have a great time in either destination, or could happily stay in both of them, but most folks would prefer one over the other, depending on their tastels. Interlaken is a midsized Swiss tourist town perhaps akin to Aspen, Colorado; it features dozens of hotels and restaurants, including chains and family-run businesses, a fair number of stores, and an active nightlife by Swiss midsized town standards. It also features pretty Alpine and lake views on clear days and is close enough to the Alps to make Interlaken an international weekend or by-the-week overnight destination for skiers or day hikers (or those who just want to party with skiers!).

Wengen (pronounced ���VEN-ghen���), on the other hand, is a small Swiss tourist and farming village that isn���t just *near* the mountains, it���s *in* them, well up and on the very side of one of the Alps. Winter skiing and summer day hiking opportunities are mere steps outside the door, with a pricey ski tram in town. Wengen is much smaller and quieter than Interlaken. There are no cars, trucks, or buses allowed or seen in Wengen, except for a few vehicles owned by residents or businesses. (Murren is a similar, nearby destination across the Lauterbrunnen valley.) Everyone walks or, when he wants to leave town, takes one of the frequent trains or goes for a serious climb and hike, because that���s what it takes to get to any town ���nearby���. There are about twenty mostly family-run hotels, and there are homes for rent���as in Interlaken, some hotels and homes are open only during ski season-- some non-hotel restaurants, and a very few small stores in Wengen. You can certainly get drinks and good food in Wengen (I don���t want to convey the idea that it���s completely dead) and there���s more nightlife during ski season than in the summer, but anyone going for days with the primary goal of enjoying the nightlife or shopping would probably be much happier staying in Interlaken than in Wengen. On the other hand, visitors who want to ���get away from it all���, and would welcome quiet (particularly in the summer) and who want to stay up in the mountains, or who want to roll out of bed and start skiing in the long winter season, would probably prefer Wengen to Interlaken.

Besides the closer proximity to skiing and day hiking and the quiet, though, there���s another reason people might prefer to stay in Wengen. The Alpine views down and across the Lauterbrunnen valley below the village are breathtaking and world-class and immersively closer than those from Interlaken. You do need at least a little luck, though, as clouds or fog or rain or snow can sock the area in for days at a time with limited or no Alpine views. But with a little good fortune with weather, staying with this magical panorama in this village on clear days makes you feel as if you���re living in a different time and place, as if you���re in the setting of ���The Lord of the Rings��� filmed in New Zealand���after the orcs and ringwraiths have been dispensed with!

Even guests who don���t want to day hike or ski can enjoy riding the trains and visiting villages between or near either Interlaken or Wengen, but they���ll want to be sure to order a foreign tourist unlimited use Swiss Rail pass to be mailed home at least a couple of weeks *before leaving home* or else riding the trains would get very expensive. A particular highlight visible from Wengen and from the train going there, or up-close-and-personal walking from the train station in the village of Lauterbrunnen at the base of the valley below Wengen, are the spectacular long ribbon waterfalls that descend the towering valley walls and can be enjoyed best in the late spring and summer with snowmelt.

Booking this on our own, we added three nights in Wengen to a very good week-long Globus excursion tour of Switzerland and took the three plus hour ride on two trains from the Zurich airport to get there. We were so glad we did, because it���s a very different side of Swiss life that you don���t get on most of the tours, and it included the Alpine spectacle and experience we were seeking and otherwise would have enjoyed much less of and at more of a distance from the Globus bus windows. (Americans returning to the Zurich airport from Wengen should consider that they may well need to stay another night in Zurich or elsewhere first before flying home, as any early morning train from Wengen with a change of train in Interlaken would risk missing most flights from Zurich back to the states.)

One *highly* recommended half-to-full day adventure for anyone staying in either Interlaken or Wengen, if spectacular Alpine scenery is desired, and if the peaks are clear, and if one can afford the not-inexpensive surcharge even on top of any Swiss Rail pass, is to take the train past Wengen to the end of the line and the peak at Jungfraujoch, the Top of Europe, said to be the highest elevation train station in Europe. The train trip and the time you���ll spend at Jungfraujoch are unforgettable and well worth the cost on a beautiful day. Fortunately, you do not need to reserve seats on this train, and can decide to go on the spur of the moment when the weather is right. There is food service, but no hotels at Jungfraujoch, where you are perched near the top of an Alpine peak. You take the train back down the same day you go up, on any scheduled train you choose when you���ve had enough, without making a reservation.

A word about clothing. Interlaken is warmer on summer evenings than Wengen, because of the elevation difference. I���d want to pack enough clothing to layer for very cool evening weather in Wengen even in the summer. Boots for snow in the winter and for mud in the summer (or at least some scruffy shoes) are advised in Wengen or anywhere else in or above the Lauterbrunnen valley. Jungfraujoch, on the other hand, is thousands of metres higher even than Wengen, and is snow-covered and cold year-round. If you���ll be spending time outdoors at Jungfraujoch (it���s optional after getting off the train, though most people do go outside at least briefly) and if it���s sunny, don���t do as I did last summer and leave the sunscreen in the hotel room. Be sure to wear sunscreen on *all* exposed skin. I wore a wide brimmed hat and gloves for hiking around the area for a couple of hours near the peak, and had a blast huffing and puffing in the very thin air, and got many unbelievable photos with a polarizer lens on my camera. But I forgot that the snow acts as a giant reflector on skin as well as on film-- skiers know this, but I forgot. So I also got a badly burned neck and underside of my chin and nose to go with my polarized photos. Ouch! When I got back to my Wengen hotel, the proprietor chuckled gently and knew exactly where I���d been and knew my mistake. He kindly didn���t say so, but I���m sure he���d seen other ���redneck��� American tourists as dumb as me!

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Wengen
Wengen
Jungfrau Region, Switzerland
Interlaken
Interlaken
Bernese Oberland, Switzerland
Murren
Murren
Jungfrau Region, Switzerland
Lauterbrunnen
Lauterbrunnen
Jungfrau Region, Switzerland
Zurich
Zurich
Canton of Zurich, Switzerland
Jungfraujoch
Jungfraujoch
2,438 Reviews
Bernese Oberland, Switzerland
Europe
Europe
World
Deerfield IL
9 posts
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21. Re: Wengen vs. Interlaken

schoonielake asked:

My husband and I and my 20 year old daughter want to go to the area Dec 23-26 ...so it will be Christmas. We really would like someplace cosy and festive if possible. Any suggestions. They would like to ski one day. tour the other two. Where did you stay in Wengren? I was thinking of the smaller villages but seems like they are booked leaving only hostels...not sure about that at 55.???

We are coming from Spain where our has been studying in Granda. We are trying to decide about the car thing...to drive or not to drive. We then are going to Geneva (pick up the boyfriend) then catch our plane in Paris on New Years. It is hard to understand distancesand time frames. Do you think this is too much?

I was only there in the summer. Wengen and the nearby towns are really winter resorts, so I'm sure they are spectacular for skiing and visiting at Christmas-time, which is why you're having trouble getting a reservation. I stayed at the Bellevue and commented about it on page two of the thread. We did not have a car in Switzerland and I do not recommend one to American tourists. Visitors are not allowed to even drive them to the town of Wengen. Take the trains! They are world-class there. Get an unlimited travel pass at least a few weeks before leaving the states and they are reasonably priced. If you wait until you get there, train tickets are expensive. The distances between towns are short by American standards-- in square miles, Switzerland is one-third the size of Wisconsin!-- but it can take awhile to get anywhere in the Alps unless you have a helicopter.

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Spain
Spain
Europe
Geneva
Geneva
Canton of Geneva, Switzerland
Paris
Paris
Ile-de-France, France
Wengen
Wengen
Jungfrau Region, Switzerland
Mannheim, Germany
Destination Expert
for Zurich, Mannheim
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22. Re: Wengen vs. Interlaken

>We did not have a car in Switzerland and I do not recommend one to American tourists. Visitors are not allowed to even drive them to the town of Wengen.

Ummm... it's not a question of visitors and permission - there is simply no road link to Wengen. The only thing that connects Wengen with the valley is the rail line. Same situation with Mürren and many other high-altitude, car-free villages in Switzerland.

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Wengen
Wengen
Jungfrau Region, Switzerland
Cedarburg, Wisconsin
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23. Re: Wengen vs. Interlaken

thanks for all the help !!! just what kind or a rail pass does one get for a few days 5 in switwerland? we wiil be traveling before in spain for a week. We maybe using the tain there do we get eurorail or a swiss pass? It is so confusing? any advise would be helpfull.

Wichita, Kansas
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for Wichita, Kansas
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24. Re: Wengen vs. Interlaken

“schoonielake”

I and others can respond to your questions about train passes for Spain and to and in Switzerland but it would be better in a new posting. It will get buried here.

Be fairly specific with your trip itinerary and sightseeing plans when in Switzerland.

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Spain
Spain
Europe
Portland
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138 posts
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25. Re: Wengen vs. Interlaken

Hi Homina,

We are planning a late Sep'06 trip to Berner Oberland. Just wanted to make sure that I read your comments right - are you saying visiting Murren is not such a great idea in summer? Is that right?

Thanks

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Murren
Murren
Jungfrau Region, Switzerland
Guildford, United...
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70 reviews
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26. Re: Wengen vs. Interlaken

Murren has absolutely magnificent views and is the perfect place for anyone who is fairly fit and enjoys mountain walking. The downside is that travelling to other places in the Oberland takes time as your options are train and funicular or cable car. Murren gets quite a few visitors during the day but it more or less silent on summer evenings, an advantage or disadvantage depending on what you enjoy.

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Murren
Murren
Jungfrau Region, Switzerland
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