Perfect Day in the Perfect Alpine Town: Gimmelwald

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Gimmelwald is Switzerland’s best-kept secret, one that has been wonderfully hidden and faithfully maintained by its forward-thinking people. Beautifully stuck in tradition, and the simple, pure pleasures of life, Gimmelwald is the perfect place to experience the Alps. In all of our travels, it’s the closest we’ve found to everything being exactly as it should be. What follows is our recommendation for how to spend the perfect day in this most perfect alpine hideaway.

Begin your day’s adventure by purchasing some cheese and dried meats from a local farmer, and order some bread the night before from Ester’s Guest House. Most of the homes in Gimmelwald have handmade signs out front advertising local alp cheese and other homemade goods that can be purchased on the honor system. While the farmers are out tending the fields, simply pop inside the door, take what you’d like from the refrigerator inside (it’ll be clearly marked with prices), and leave the required change on the table. That’s right, everything is on the honor system, so don’t be bashful about gathering the fresh makings of your own delicious picnic to enjoy later from one of the thousand breathtaking views along your hike through this wonderland.  

View of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau from the top of Schilthorn, with the mid-station stop of Birg in the foreground.

View of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau from the top of Schilthorn, with the mid-station stop of Birg in the foreground.

Having collected your picnic, ride the sturdy Swiss-engineered gondola up to the top of the Schilthorn. Here, 10,000 feet up, you’ll step off the gondola to sweeping views of Europe’s tallest peaks, with the luxury of lingering at restaurant Piz Gloria sipping a warm drink. Though Piz Gloria is obnoxiously smothered in James Bond paraphernalia in an attempt to cash in on its use in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, even the bathrooms are for ‘Bonds’ and ‘Bond Girls’ and politely ask you to ‘Shake, Don’t Stir’…, when you get past the innuendos you’ll be able to enjoy A View to a Kill… Sorry, couldn’t help it. No one will ever enjoy that movie. But the views from Piz Gloria are honestly to die for… 

After the sun has warmed the mountainside, and your coffee or hot chocolate has warmed you, begin to walk back down toward your perfect alpine hideaway. The nice thing about hiking here, you don’t have to climb uphill if you don’t want to. If you don’t want to start from the Schilthorn, you can still take the gondola up from Gimmelwald to Mürren, and from there hitch a ride on the funicular up to the Allmendhubel, another perfect place to walk back down the side of the valley through natural pastures of solid wildflowers. Along the way you’ll come across alpine huts, some of which may offer light food and drinks for purchase. Each summer a few free spirits, or city-folk looking to get away from the stress and speed of their congested life, move to the hills to staff these huts for a few months. They spend their summers helping the farmers by tending to the cows at higher elevations, while the farmers harvest hay down below. Find a bench along the trail, or your own piece of pasture, to sit down, enjoy your alp cheese and dried meats you purchased for your picnic, and simply enjoy the awesome creation around you. 

Allmendhubelbahn out of Mürren.

Allmendhubelbahn out of Mürren.

Returning to town, make for the Mountain Hostel for the best view you’ll ever have while enjoying pizza and beer. You’ve earned every bite. Or, make your way to Mürren, the more developed town a short walk or gondola ride away, for a more robust meal. Just make sure your lodging is back in Gimmelwald. You’ll fall asleep with a view of the stars, the far away sound of water falling from the mountaintops, a world away from your worries and cares, and the story of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau in your dreams.

Need more logistics to make this day a reality? Read on for more helpful information.

Getting There

There’s a reason Gimmelwald has been able to maintain its old-world lifestyle and traditions: there’s only one way in and out. There are no roads to Gimmelwald, which means no sounds of cars to pollute this pristine place. Your only modern transportation option to Gimmelwald is a single gondola. Of course, you can hike there, but if you brought any luggage other than a backpack, or just don’t feel like walking a few thousand feet up a steep cliff, that means you’re taking the gondola.

The gondola departs from Stechelberg cable car station and climbs the Schilthorn mountain, stopping first in Gimmelwald before continuing on to the more touristy town of Mürren. Stechelberg station can be reached after taking a series of trains, first to Interlaken Ost, then to Lauterbrunnen. Departing the train in Lauterbrunnen, cross the street and board the yellow PostBus, which will take you to Stechelberg, the end of the road in the Lauterbrunnen Valley. From there, hop on the gondola that so effortlessly climbs up the treacherously steep slopes that Gimmelwald is nestled upon.

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Getting Around

If you plan to stay more than a day, plan to buy either a 4-day cable car pass, or the 6-day pass, at 140 CHF or 160CHF per person, respectively. If that sounds like a lot of money, it is, but buying single fares for each ride will add up much quicker, and remember, the only real method of transport other than walking is the cable car. Having a pass also makes trips into Mürren for food much easier to stomach.

Where to Stay

The other reason Gimmelwald has been able to maintain is seclusion: the locals were able to intentionally declare their town an avalanche zone. That means large developments such as hotels and resorts are not allowed. Your options are the small but comfy Mountain Hostel, or renting a room from a local. Thankfully, the townspeople have made this rather easy, and setup their own website where you can view most available options for rent, with links to directly contact the respective owners, or book through airbnb for a few others. You won’t go wrong with any option, but to truly enjoy the generous and kind Swiss hospitality, book a room at Esther’s Guesthouse or Olle and Maria’s B&B. Both offer options to purchase breakfast, which is a nice touch considering the limited restaurant options in the immediate vicinity.

Because rooms in Gimmelwald are limited, they book up quickly. Thankfully, Mürren is a short walk or cable-car ride away, with plenty of lodging options.

Where to Eat

Outside of local alp cheese and dried meats purchased directly from farmers, there are limited options in Gimmelwald for food. Such is the price of seclusion, but if you come with the knowledge of where to find your next meal, you’ll be able to enjoy your seclusion even more. The Mountain Hostel at the bottom of town serves pizza and beer, with a view to die for. For breakfast, you can order pastries or bread the day before at Esther’s Guest House. For more options, and more formal dining experiences, you’ll need to head to Mürren. Just keep in mind the time of the last return cable car, otherwise you’ll have a 30 minute walk back in the dark.

For a dining experience with an even better view, hop in the cable car and head up to the top of the Schilthorn to Piz Gloria restaurant. With views of the Jungfrau, the “Top of Europe,” we can’t think of a better place to stop and sip a warm drink.

If for some reason you need more convincing, take a look at why Gimmelwald is the perfect alpine hideaway, and let us know your thoughts or questions in the comments below.