Long Weekend in Interlaken: The lazy way to scale a peak to reach the 'Top of Europe' in Switzerland

Melissa York
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When I go to Switzerland, I want a mountain right in my face. Not behind a hill, not a short hike away, not even in my peripheral vision, I’ve come here for Alpine scenes and, by God, I will have them. That’s what led me to Interlaken, which has three huge peaks to gawp at, the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau, and some of the best scenery, not just in the Bernese Highlands, but in the whole of Switzerland.

Where to stay

The biggest of the three, the Jungfrau, is known as the ‘Jungfrau massif’ in local parlance, which I believe means bloody massive mountain. Luckily, there’s a hotel directly opposite, Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel and Spa, and that’s a fair size, too. Spanning 224 rooms, it’s actually two hotels that were knocked into one in 1899, then topped with a striking dome.

During WWII, it was the headquarters of the Swiss Army and a steel and glass boulevard was added in the early 1990s (pictured above) so you can stroll between the old building and the new. Modern features, like the enormous anti-ageing Nescens spa, sit alongside elegant Belle Epoque-era reading rooms. Most impressive of all is the Salle de Versailles, a 400-capacity end-of-the-century ballroom that even the Beast, of ‘Beauty and the’ fame, would have the horns for.

How do I get to the mountains?

Alright, alright, give me a chance. There are guided hikes for all abilities up the Jungfrau. Seasoned climbers can scale the peak in about four hours, and it’s snow-capped all year round. Lazy mountain lovers can take a cog-wheel train from Interlaken station, which is a five minute walk away, and let that wheeze its way up instead. Needless to say, it’s delightful, and the station, Jungfraujoch, is called the “Top of Europe” as it’s the highest train station on the whole continent.

The food

After all that cog-wheeling, you can eat up on the piste – there are a plethora of cafes willing to pile melted cheese on potatoes for you – or return to the hotel for something a little more refined. For light salads and a mountain in your mush, La Terrasse is an alfresco space with great views; for Mediterranean fine dining, Quaranta Uno is like eating in an exquisite French orangery. For after dinner schmoozing while watching the sunset over a pink-tinged Jungfrau, there’s the Salon Davidoff, a walk-in humidor that’s amply-stocked with cigars and port.

What do I do afterwards?

Inside the hotel, there are two indoor tennis courts, and three outdoor tennis courts, a gym with classes, and two whirlpools to unwind in. A particularly striking past time seems to be paragliding; hundreds of bewinged tourists fill the skies every hour of the day.

If you’re a movie fan, Schillthorn in Murren is where On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was filmed, and Interlaken also seems to have been a favourite of Bollywood director Yash Chopra, attracting many Asian visitors to the region. Coming up for winter, there is, of course, the obligatory Christmas market and the enthusiastically-named Ice Magic skating rink, not to even mention the skiing. When the weather’s fine, a boat trip along Lake Thun is blissful.

Need to know

Stay in a Deluxe Double Room at Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa from CHF 849 (approx. £653) per night including breakfast, admission to the Nescens Spa and use of the fitness centre. To book visit victoria-jungfrau.ch or call +41 33 828 28 28

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