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*I spent 3 days in Interlaken in July 2012 and it’s a fascinating place! In this blog post, I am going to give you an overview of the city, and provide travel tips and recommendations for things like culture, attractions, food, nightlife and more. Everything you read is based off my own experiences.
I had the opportunity to take a train through the entire country of Switzerland. Never in my life have I seen a more beautiful, peaceful and picturesque scenery. The luscious, green landscape looked like something directly out of a Dr. Seuss book.
Switzerland is sandwiched between Germany, France, Italy, Austria and Liechtenstein, and is geographically divided between the Alps and the Swiss Plateau. The country has about 8 million people and comprises of 4 spoken languages of German, French, Italian and Romansh.
Switzerland is not a member of the European Union or the European economic Area. They seem to be happy with their own governing system and way of life. As a matter of fact, Switzerland is one of the richest countries and has the highest wealth per adult in the world. The Swiss just seem to have their own fantasy world created for them with peace and prosperity, and nothing is stopping them anytime soon.
Here’s a quick 3 things to keep in mind about Switzerland:
– It is probably the most beautiful country you’ll ever see
– They have the best naturally purified drinking water (and chocolate) in the world
– Everything is extremely expensive
Why is it so expensive?
Such great amounts of wealth, combined with a high standard of living, directly relates to the prices being insanelt jacked up. Take my word for it- DON’T underestimate how pricey everything is in Switzerland. Especially if you are coming from a nearby country, such as France or Italy, the Swiss Franc currency might make you cry.
For example: A McDonalds happy meal was $15 when I was there (June 2012), and a standard beer was $12 at a bar. That being said, you CAN do Switzerland on a budget and that’s exactly what I did. You just need to do your research beforehand and find the cheapest hotels, food stands, etc.
Alright, let’s get into some quick facts:
– Currency: Swiss Franc (CHF)
– Language: 64% German, 20% French, 6.5% Italian, <1% Romansh, and the rest are immigrant languages
– Population: 8.2 million people
– In 2013, Switzerland had the 4th highest nominal GDP per capita in the world (behind Luxembourg, Qatar and Norway)
– Switzerland has more than 1,500 lakes. No matter where you are in the country, you will be within 10 miles from a lake.
– 70% of the country’s terrain is covered in mountains
– Hydroelectric power generates 60% of the electricity in Switzerland
– Switzerland has one of the lowest crime rates in all industrialized countries
– Switzerland’s economy is based highly on skilled workers in areas such as micro technology, hi-tech, biotech, pharmaceuticals and banking.
– In 2012, Switzerland had the 2nd longest life expectancy (after Japan)
– A Swiss man named Patek Philippe invented the wristwatch in 1868. Today, Switzerland is the largest wristwatch producer in the world
– The Swiss army knife was also invented in Switzerland in 1891
Culture & People
Switzerland has a “cabin” feel to it. The entire time I was there, it felt like I was up north somewhere camping with my family and friends. Perhaps it was a combination of the beautiful terrain, the wooden houses, the mountains, and the laid back atmosphere.
Switzerland is a quiet country. The natural beauty of the landscape and forest overpowers anything significant happening on land. It’s incredible to experience a place like this in the world.
Swiss people are very generous, hard working and charming. They live by the motto “Unity, yes; Uniformity, no.”
Essentially, they take pride in their environment, have an enormous wealth in cultural activity and a long tradition of freedom. I met a few locals and I must say that they were really inclined to get to know me and my story. Usually, Europeans aren’t always interested to hear about my personal life, but the Swiss were generally interested. That says a lot about the generosity of the people.
Arts and Crafts are huge in Switzerland. For over a half a millennium, the Swiss watch industry has had a flawless reputation. The textile craft industry (wood sculpture, ceramics, etc) also has captured worldwide attention, and you will see multiple of these stores around the country.
I encourage you to gain the courage to make some new local friends! Click this link to learn the Top 10 German Words to keep in your back pocket 😉
What to Do?
Interlaken has many awesome things to do in the outdoors.
Interlaken It is known as the outdoor sports capital of the world. You can do anything from hiking, hang gilding, paragliding, skydiving, bungee jumping, white water rafting, canyon swings, YOU NAME IT. Even though these outdoorsy activities are expensive, they are a once-in-a-lifetime experience and absolutely worth the thrill!
Interlaken also has great access to a beautiful part of the Swiss Alps, as well as many incredible fresh-water lakes. In addition to the amazing natural beauty, this town is has a very peaceful and relaxing touch, with a bunch of little shops, beautiful architecture nice streets. The word ‘community’ is literally a perfect word to describe this awesome town.
When I was in Interlaken, a few friends and I decided to go bungee jumping. It was the single most epic/amazing/adventurous/incredible thing that I’ve ever done. Jumping out 150 meters high from a gondola in the middle of the Swiss Alps over a giant freshwater lake. I still can’t believe I did that.
Since then, I have been bungee jumping 3 other times around the world (India, Korea and Latvia) — but this one was still the most thrilling!
For a more complete list of things to do, check out my post on 10 Things to Do in Interlaken.
The food in Switzerland has many cultural influences, given its close proximity to France, German and Italy.
Historically, Switzerland is a country of farmers, so traditional Swiss dishes are made from fresh, simple ingredients like potatoes, vegetables and cheese.
Like I mentioned before, the food is all very expensive. If you are traveling on a tight budget, like I was, then just go for the local food stands that you see anywhere on the street. Even the gas stations have pretty good pre-made sandwiches for cheap. I am confident that if you look heard enough, you can find a street meal for under $10, like a hot-dog or bread & cheese sandwich.
Lastly, get your hands on some fresh made Swiss Chocolate! It’s some of the best in the world.
If you want to learn more about the best local foods, then please read my post on 5 Swiss Foods to Try!
I can’t really give any specific advice on the nightlife in Interlaken, because I was there to explore the beauty of the nature and not to get drunk.
There were a few bars scattered throughout the main cities that you can check out. Just make sure to buy local beer at a store and drink it before you go to save money. My hostel in Interlaken was called Balmer’s Hostel, and it had a built in club/bar downstairs, so that was where I drank and socialized every night.
They actually had a Hawaiian themed party when I was there, and it was a blast! If you are looking to meet some fellow backpackers and sleep on a budget, then I would definitely check out Balmer’s. They also will set up any outdoorsy activities that you want to do, and they give you FREE breakfast (so clutch!)
Thanks for reading my post, and I hope tat you are convinced that Switzerland is a great place to visit!
Have you been to Switzerland before? Comment below and share your experiences!