7 Things to Do in Lake Brienz with Tips and Visiting Info

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Switzerland has hundreds of lakes, but the ones you’ll absolutely love to see are in the Bernese Oberland, particularly in the Jungfrau Region. The lakes there are gorgeous. They’re fed with glacial water, which gives them a stunning turquoise color that’s simply breathtaking.

There’s Oeschinen Lake near Kandersteg, Bachalpsee near Grindelwald, and Lake Thun — the fairytale lake of Switzerland. Another is Lake Brienz, which, to me, is the most unreal when it comes to its size and color. At 29.8 sq km (11.5 sq mi) in size, this lake has an unbelievably bright turquoise hue. It’s a real spectacle, especially during sunny days. And if you’re planning to visit the Jungfrau Region for a few days and want to see a stunning lake, Lake Brienz is a place you won’t regret visiting.

Yes, it is! Especially since it’s more practical and convenient to visit compared to other lakes in the region, specifically high-altitude lakes. In fact, if you’re staying in Bern, Lake Brienz is an easy day trip option.

In a way, Lake Brienz is also more enjoyable because visiting it involves more than just hiking and sightseeing. Aside from boat sightseeing and hiking, you can also explore quaint villages (Iseltwald and Brienz) during your visit to Lake Brienz. An open-air museum (Ballenberg Swiss Open Air Museum), a picturesque waterfall (Giessbach Waterfall), and a nostalgic cogwheel train ride (Brienz-Rothorn Bahn) also await you here. Let me share the important details about them with you today.

Where exactly is Lake Brienz & how to get there?

Lake Brienz is one of the beautiful places you can visit near Interlaken, located in the Jungfrau Region of the Bernese Oberland in the canton of Bern. You can easily spot Lake Brienz on the map, as it’s the lake with the brightest turquoise hue.

Map of Bernese Oberland and exact location of Lake Brienz, Jungfrau Region, Switzerland
Map of Bernese Oberland and exact location of Lake Brienz

If you are from Thun, Bern, Lucerne, or any city in Switzerland, you’ll need to get to Interlaken first to explore Lake Brienz. This is the best choice if you’re traveling using public transportation. Interlaken serves as the gateway to the Jungfrau Region, and it’s here that you can find the boats, buses, and trains that go to the different attractions around Lake Brienz.

Of course, if you have a car, you can start your journey wherever you want. However, it might still be beneficial to park your car in Interlaken, as it offers the most amenities and parking options.

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When to visit Lake Brienz?

While Lake Brienz may look stunning and breathtaking in online pictures or on social media, this isn’t always the case.

As an outdoor destination, your experience at Lake Brienz is heavily influenced by the weather and season. But, undoubtedly, summer is the ideal time for a worthwhile trip to Lake Brienz. It’s when the weather is typically sunny, and the villages are picturesque. Most importantly, most of the tourist attractions and services in Lake Brienz are available to the public during the summer.

It’s also important to note that Lake Brienz’s boat service and the Brienz-Rothorn Bahn cease operations during winter. Only Iseltwald and Brienz are accessible in Lake Brienz during this season. On the other hand, one significant takeaway from visiting Lake Brienz during the warmer months is that summer is the peak season, and there are more tourists with whom you’ll share Lake Brienz. Expect long lines at ticketing desks, especially at the Brienz-Rothorn Bahn.

Anyway, do you want to see Lake Brienz at its best, when it’s so calm it appears like a giant blue mirror? Visit Lake Brienz very early in the morning — it’s when the lake’s surface isn’t disturbed by the boats running across the lake. When planning your trip to Lake Brienz, use a weather app as your guide to determine if it’s a good time for an epic view of Lake Brienz. The lake appears more magical when the atmosphere is calm, and the wind is minimal.

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How much time is needed to explore Lake Brienz?

Planning a trip to an outdoor destination and deciding how much time to spend at Lake Brienz can be quite challenging. This is primarily due to several factors, such as the operating schedules of transport services, weather conditions, the visiting season, and many other variables.

If you’re wondering how much time to spend at Lake Brienz during the peak season, when most places of interest and activities are available, here’s my suggestion:

Considering the suggested time to spend at each tourist attraction around Lake Brienz, you will need 3 days. However, 2 days would be sufficient if you’re interested in only the unique experiences at Lake Brienz (Ballenberg Museum, Iseltwald, Brienz-Rothorn Bahn, and Giessbach Waterfall). And 1 day should suffice if you simply want to appreciate the beauty of Lake Brienz (sightseeing in the villages and at Rothorn).

You can decide for yourself how long to spend at Lake Brienz by checking the estimates of the average time spent by tourists at each of Lake Brienz’s tourist attractions. See the estimates below.

  • Ballenberg Swiss Open Air Museum: 3 hours + 1 hour travel time
  • Brienz-Rothorn Bahn (round trip): 2.5 hours round trip + 1.5 hours preparation and sightseeing
  • Iseltwald: 3 hours (meals included)
  • Giessbach Waterfall: 6 hours (segway meal in the hotel) 
  • Brienz: 3 hours (meals included)

You might also want to visit Harder Kulm, a viewpoint that offers some of the best views of the Jungfrau Region and Lake Brienz. A visit to Harder Kulm takes about 2 to 3 hours.

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Author’s comments

Visiting an alpine lake like Lake Brienz offers many advantages.

They range from the simple, refreshing fresh air that’s perfect for our lungs, to an unexplainable calmness that often leads to moments of life-changing introspection. I’ve personally experienced the latter! These benefits are some of the reasons why I love alpine lakes and why I’m so passionate about them. And indeed, these little gems, beyond the awe-inspiring views, can be the best things you’ll discover when visiting Lake Brienz.

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Beautiful experiences awaiting you in Lake Brienz, Jungfrau Region, Switzerland
Beautiful experiences awaiting you in Lake Brienz

1. Marvel: Iseltwald

Among all the attractions around Lake Brienz, Iseltwald is definitely my top pick. This quaint village is worth visiting during a Lake Brienz trip because it offers the ultimate views of the lake. It’s one of the most picturesque places in the Bernese Oberland, and it’s just one of the beautiful reasons why Iseltwald is a must-see.

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What to expect in visiting Iseltwald?

The village, perched on a peninsula, provides panoramic views of Lake Brienz, which, to me, looks otherworldly. When the weather is calm at Lake Brienz, the surface of the lake resembles a giant turquoise mirror, reflecting the sky and the craggy mountains on the opposite side. The view becomes even more impressive when you see Seeburg Castle.

Seeburg Castle, Iseltwald’s main landmark, stands at the tip of the village’s peninsula, catching the eye. Its white, elaborate facades contrast beautifully with the dark green mountains and turquoise waters of Lake Brienz, creating a stunning sight. As soon as you lay eyes on the iconic Seeburg Castle, with the mountains in the background and the turquoise waters of Lake Brienz reflecting both, I’m certain you’ll be marveling too!

To enhance your experience, visit the finest viewpoints of Seeburg Castle from the village. These viewpoints can be found at the restaurants lining the bay of Iseltwald. In the alfresco seating, you can indulge in some delectable cuisine — not only will you be treated to a feast for your taste buds, but your eyes will also be in for a treat.

If you’re planning to get to Iseltwald from Interlaken, you have a couple of options. You can take a scenic 45-minute boat ride or reach there in just 25 minutes by bus.

2. Hike: Giessbach Waterfall

Did you know that Lake Brienz boasts a rather impressive waterfall? This waterfall, known as Giessbach Waterfall, serves as a natural landmark of Lake Brienz. While it may not be as renowned as the angelic Staubbach Falls in Lauterbrunnen, Giessbach Waterfall is remarkable for its size and form. Standing approximately half a kilometer in height, this massive waterfall is known for its stunning 14-step cascade, which is so breathtaking.

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What else to expect in Giessbach Waterfall? And how to go there?

For landscape photographers who relish capturing long exposure shots, Giessbach offers an opportunity to snap that one epic photo. A visit to Giessbach Waterfall comes with a bonus that architecture enthusiasts will find delightful. Nestled amidst the forest is the Grand Giessbach Hotel, a 19th-century Swiss-style castle-like hotel that exudes an air of grandeur.

You can get to Giessbach Waterfall directly from Interlaken in three ways:

  1. A 23-minute drive via A8 highway
  2. Boat ride (approximately 1 hour)
  3. 1-hour 2-bus-rides journey via Brienz (Bus #470 to Brienz then Bus #155)

If you prefer public transportation, I recommend taking the boat over the bus. Needless to say, it’s a more scenic route that you’ll likely enjoy more.

Upon arriving at Giessbach Waterfall by boat, it’s worth trying the funicular that connects the Giessbach ferry station and the Grand Giessbach Hotel. This funicular, one of the oldest in Switzerland, will evoke beautiful nostalgic feelings, especially when paired with the Grand Giessbach Hotel. Anyhow, you can still reach Giessbach Waterfall by hiking, should you opt not to ride the funicular.

The hiking trail leads to the source of the waterfall. Be prepared for an uphill climb that might be challenging for newbie hikers. The hiking trail passes over and under the cascades of Giessbach Waterfall. At certain points, you can catch a glimpse of Lake Brienz and the Grand Giessbach Hotel, with water flowing in front of you.

The hike to Giessbach Waterfall becomes interesting only after reaching Schweibenalp, which is 350 meters above the Grand Giessbach Hotel. It can take you 1.5 to 2 hours to reach Schweibenalp, but rewarding views of Lake Brienz should welcome you at the top. Included in the view is the charming village of Brienz — another town that is also a beautiful destination on Lake Brienz.

3. Wander: Brienz

If you’re looking for a budget trip to Lake Brienz and want to discover the beautiful little details of this spectacular part of Switzerland, the villages are the perfect places to be. Lake Brienz has two charming villages. Aside from Iseltwald, there’s Brienz.

Along with other villages in the Jungfrau Region (e.g., Lauterbrunnen, Wengen, Mürren, Gimmelwald, and Grindelwald), Brienz is a perfect destination for those who want to experience the quaintness of the Swiss countryside. Most importantly, the streets of Brienz are filled with Swiss artistic culture, making it a must-see destination.

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What to expect in Brienz? How to get there? (read my tips!)

A stroll in Brienz feels like a moment straight out of a fairy tale! The streets are layered with cobblestones, and you’ll pass by half-timbered chalets that are heavily decorated with flowers

It’s not just a simple walk, though. Your eyes will be drawn to the little details along the way, from the wooden mailbox to the rustic metal door lamp. As you stroll, you’ll surely notice the flower pots in Brienz. They’re extraordinary pots; some are shaped like dogs or cows. I was even pleasantly surprised to see that shoes were used as pots for plants.

Make sure to explore the shoreline of Lake Brienz, as you may come across wooden sculptures that will acquaint you with the region’s culture. Brienz is renowned for its wood carving, and wandering around the village is the best and most cost-effective way to discover it. Indeed, Brienz is filled with little things that a wanderlust would want to see.

But what is there not to miss? It’s Brunngasse. This is a street in the village center known for the most charming scenes in Brienz. For the most scenic part of Brienz, head to Evangelisch-Reformierte Kirche Brienz. From here, you can enjoy an overlook that stretches from the village to the snowy peaks of the Bernese Oberland’s eastern mountains.

There are three ways to get to Brienz from Interlaken.

  1. By driving, you can reach Brienz within 21 minutes.
  2. Using public transportation (bus #470), getting to Brienz takes about 32 minutes.
  3. Riding a boat takes approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.

4. Discover: Ballenberg Swiss Open Air Museum

The northeastern shore of Lake Brienz is the ideal place in the Bernese Oberland to experience Swiss culture firsthand. Your journey to discover Swiss culture can begin in Brienz and be enriched by a visit to the Ballenberg Swiss Open Air Museum, which can be easily reached by taking bus #151 from Brienz.

The Ballenberg Swiss Open Air Museum is a fascinating cultural destination that immerses visitors in the rich history and traditions of Switzerland. It’s the place to explore over a hundred authentic, original buildings and interact with skilled craftsmen and farmers who demonstrate traditional crafts and farming practices.

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What you can expect more in Ballenberg Swiss Open Air Museum

As you wander through the Ballenberg Open Air Museum, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped back in time, embarking on a journey through Swiss culture and history. You’ll see over 100 historic buildings and 200 farm animals that the Swiss people have lived with and used for a living for the past 200+ years. My interest in traditional architecture is well satisfied here!

If we share the same interest, you won’t be disappointed. You can also watch cheese making, blacksmithing, and traditional folk performances, and even try your hand at bread making and cooking — experiences that make a visit to the Ballenberg Open Air Museum so memorable.

If you want to learn more about the Ballenberg Swiss Open Air Museum, you can check their official website in the resources section of this post.

5. Thrill: Brienz-Rothorn Railway

Well, there’s another tourist attraction that might make you even more excited to visit Lake Brienz. It’s the Brienz-Rothorn Bahn which is a 7.6-kilometer railway located on the eastern side of Lake Brienz, connecting the summit of Rothorn to Brienz.

In my opinion, it’s the most unique experience that one can have during their trip to Lake Brienz. Dating back to 1892, it is considered one of Switzerland’s oldest alpine railways. You’ll be going up to the mountains to see all of Lake Brienz through a thrilling, nostalgic train ride experience! And yes, believe it or not, the Brienz-Rothorn Bahn is older than the cogwheel train in Schynige Platte.

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What to expect in Brienz-Rothorn train ride, facts, and tips.

Aside from the epic views of Lake Brienz and the 600+ peaks that you can spot while riding the Brienz-Rothorn Bahn, what’s so memorable about your journey is the train ride itself.

The train journey on the Brienz-Rothorn Bahn is like no other. Unlike most electric trains in the Jungfrau Region, the Brienz-Rothorn Bahn uses steam and diesel locomotives. As you ride, you’ll hear the engine chugging and see steam puffing out of the funnel. It’s as if you’ve been transported back 100 years in time.

What’s nicer about the train ride? It is that you’ll be sitting on coaches with wide-open windows (which can be closed if the weather becomes unpleasant). You can really hear the chugging of the engine and see the breathtaking surroundings as you ascend to Rothorn. Worry not that you may inhale the steam that the engine releases through the funnel. When I last checked, the engine was at the back of the train, and the coaches were in front (at least on the way up). The steam is left behind the trail.

At the same time that you’ll feel nostalgia, you’ll also definitely feel some thrill. As the steam locomotive ascends a 20% to 25% gradient, you’ll feel a rush of adrenaline coursing through your veins. All the while, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of meadows and dizzying cliffs.

Overall, the one-way train ride on the Brienz-Rothorn Bahn is a memorable throwback journey that lasts an hour. To fully experience everything, plan for half a day, which includes the round-trip train ride, preparation, and sightseeing on top of Rothorn.

Where can you begin this train journey? The Brienz-Rothorn Bahn station in Brienz is located a stone’s throw away from the ferry and the large parking lot beside the shore. It’s a 10- to 15-minute walk if you are from the village center (i.e., Brunngasse).

Before you go, make sure to check the dates of operation of the Brienz-Rothorn Bahn at their official website, linked at the end of this post. Usually, they only operate during summer, from May to October. Their website has all the tips that you need to know. So make sure you read them before everything.

6. Relax: Boat Cruise

Did you know that there’s another nostalgic experience awaiting you in Lake Brienz aside from the Swiss Open Air Museum and Brienz-Rothorn Bahn train ride? It’s a relaxing cruise on the steamship “Lötschberg.”

Lötschberg is the ship that you must catch if you’re visiting Lake Brienz if you want to feel that you’re back in the days of the Belle Époque. It’s the most stylish vessel sailing on Lake Brienz, chugging along as it takes visitors from one beautiful place to another.

As you might have expected, Lötschberg also has a restaurant. If you are going straight to Brienz from Interlaken, you can take advantage of this for a more unique experience! You can check bls.ch (linked at the resources) to learn more about Lötschberg.

By the way, if you are spending a day in Lake Brienz (and Lake Thun) for a day, you can take advantage of this unlimited boat ride day pass.

7. Fun: Watersports

If you have plenty of time, why not turn that extra time into fun? No matter if you’re in Interlaken, Bönigen, Iseltwald, or Brienz, you can easily find rental shops and water activity providers where you can borrow kayaks, canoes, and boats.

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A pleasant day for renting a boat or kayaking in Iseltwald or Lake Brienz, Jungfrau Region, Switzerland
A pleasant day for renting a boat or kayaking in Iseltwald or Lake Brienz
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One of these providers even lets you ride a jet boat for one exhilarating lake experience. The activity organizer is called Jet Boat Interlaken, which is located beside the ferry terminal of Bönigen. Do you want to book your jet boat experience and other watersports in Lake Brienz? You can check and reserve the available water sports in Lake Brienz here.

Resources

To help you plan your visit to Lake Brienz, I’ve provided some links below. These links will give you more information about the tourist attractions mentioned in this post. You can also find visiting information and booking forms through these links.

If you’re planning a visit to the Jungfrau Region and Lake Brienz and haven’t yet arranged your stay, my partner’s platform offers some of the best hotel deals across Europe. It even includes a map feature to help you easily find a conveniently located hotel. Please note that this is an affiliate link. If you make a booking through this link, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. This is a wonderful way to support my efforts in creating more useful content like this. Your support is greatly appreciated!

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If you’re looking for more ideas on where to go in Switzerland or how to enjoy this country, my 6-day and 4-day Switzerland itineraries could be helpful. They focus on destinations in Lucerne, Thun, and Bern. Included in my itineraries are some of the country’s charming and magical attractions, such as Oberhofen Castle, Chapel Bridge, Zytglogge, and more. Check them out!

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