Lauterbrunnen is a village in the Bernese Oberland of Switzerland, with a population of 2290 in 2018. It lies in a dramatic sheer-sided U-shaped valley, with scores of waterfalls - its name means "clear springs" but is often rendered as "loud springs" for their roar in spate. At an elevation of 800 m it's accessible from the lowlands, linked from Interlaken by road in 1834 and by rail in 1890, boosting the tourist trade. Tolkien was 19 when he hiked through in 1911, later to render its landscape as Rivendell. But as the railways wound higher up the mountain, ski tourism followed, leaving Lauterbrunnen as just the place you change trains. It's still a hiking destination in summer, and a budget alternative to the higher resorts.
The Tourist Office is opposite the railway station. It's open W-Su 08:30-12:00, 13:15-17:00.
For inter-city routes, travel via Interlaken, which has trains every 30 min from Bern.
Change at Interlaken Ost for the BOB train - the Berner Oberland-Bahn. Don't get off at Interlaken West, which is town centre.
You need to be in the front portion of the BOB train. This runs every 30 min and takes 20 min via Wilderswil and Zweilütschinen (where the rear portion divides for Grindelwald) to Lauterbrunnen. The last train up is at 23:00. From here there's a cablecar to Grütschalp (for Mürren), the WAB mountain railway to Wengen, Kleine Scheidegg and Jungfraujoch, and a Postbus to Stechelberg for the cable-car to Gimmelwald, Mürren, Birg and the Schilthorn. Eurail passes get you a 25% discount on the BOB and WAB trains but are not in themselves valid for travel beyond Interlaken. A Swiss Travel Pass is valid to Lauterbrunnen, Grindelwald and Mürren and gets you 50% discount on the WAB trains.
1 Lauterbrunnen railway station is north end of the village.
You can get here by road but parking is often congested with visitors to the mountain villages where cars aren't permitted. The multi-storey parking lot by Lauterbrunnen railway station has a minimum of 5 days in winter (Fr. 66) and 3 days in summer. There's a short-stay at Kirchenparkplatz 500 m south near Staubbach waterfall, and another 3 km south for Trümmelbach falls. The car park at Stechelberg cable-car station is Fr. 8 for 12 hours and Fr. 12 for 24.
Lauterbrunnen straggles along Fuhren its main street. You can walk from the station to Staubbach Falls, and by a longer hike to Trümmelbach.
KuBus 141 runs every 30 min from Lauterbrunnen station to Trümmelbach and Stechelberg (15 min), for the Schilthorn cable-car. The last bus is around midnight, connecting with the last cable-car to Mürren.
Bus 142 runs from Lauterbrunnen to Isenfluh on the northwest slopes, where you take a cable car to Sulwald (adult Fr. 6.40). There are hiking trails, no ski pistes but a toboggan run back to Isenfluh.
Imboden Bike Rental is on main street 100 m south of the railway station, open daily 09:00-18:00.
- Village centre is lined with chalet-style buildings but is a broad busy thoroughfare, artfully concealed in the tourist brochures. It doesn't have the rustic ambiance of traditional Alpine villages - these perch atop the cliffs lining both sides of the valley.
- 1 Staubbach Falls come into view 500 m south of the station. There are multiple view points at its foot, accessible free 24 hours. The stream falls 297 m sheer from a hanging valley, dispersing into spray as the winds buffet it. It's at its best during early summer snow-melt or after heavy rain, and can fade to a dribble by September. In summer you can also hike up to enter a tunnel, which emerges onto a ledge behind the falls.
- 2 Trümmelbach Falls (3 km south of Lauterbrunnen). April-Oct daily 09:00-17:00. These are ten subterranean falls. You either take the funicular or hike up to the entrance to the viewing galleries. Trümmelbach is the torrent carrying the glacier meltwater from the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, 20,000 litres a second. Tumbling within it are boulders that have carved out the chutes and corkscrews of the falls, making the mountain shudder with their din. It's always cold and damp within, however sunny the valley. Adult Fr. 14, child Fr. 6.
Skiing: a cross-country or langlauf trail follows the hiking route to Stechelberg, see below. The valley floor has no Alpine downhill skiing, you have to ride up to Mürren or Wengen, which is why accommodation down here is much cheaper.
Hiking: there are many hikes in the mountains above, but several trails start from the valley floor.
Wengwald and Wengen are reached by a trail west from town centre. You can ride back from either on the WAB train.
To Trümmelbach Falls, follow the ratty main road until it swings left at Hotel Horner, then take the side lane by Staubbach Falls. Stay on this quieter side until the trail branches east at Buchen, crossing a footbridge to the main road and Falls entrance.
Stechelberg is reached by continuing south on the lane at Buchen instead of branching for Trümmelbach. Falls cascade on either side as the valley walls close in: very scenic, and you may have it to yourself as it's not on the tourist circuit.
Tanzbödeli, meaning the dance-floor, is a glacial cirque, a little plateau overlooking the south end of the valley. Ascend either along the shoulder of the mountain from Stechelberg or by the steep route from Gimmelwald, 6 km each way.
For Oberhornsee you start on the same trail from Stechelberg but tend to the left / east side of the valley, ascending to a scenic small lake, 8.3 km.
Skydive Switzerland operate from the heliport 1 km south of town, year-round weather permitting. They offer training, jumps for the experienced, and "tandems" (Fr. 450) suitable for tourists. Their helicopters ascend to 4000 m / 13,000 ft, which gives you a 45 sec freefall descent then a five-minute canopy ride.
The Co-op by the station is open M-F 08:00-18:30, Sa 08:00-17:00.
Along main street are Stefan von Allmen Bakery, Base Cafe, Food Point Kebab, Oberland within the hotel, Flavours Cafe, Airtime Cafe, and Schützen within that hotel.
- Hotel Horner hosts the village pub, south end of Fuhren by the lane to the falls. It's open daily and serves food 09:00-00:00.
- Fuhren is main street, with Steinbock by the station, then Silberhorn.
- Valley Hostel, Fuhren (200 m south of station), ☏ +41 33 855 2008, firstname.lastname@example.org. This 3-chalet hostel is great value, comfy, clean and well-placed for transport. Dorm Fr. 30 ppn, double room Fr. 76.
- 1 Hotel Oberland, Fuhren (300 m south of station), ☏ +41 33 855 1241. Good mid-price hotel. B&B double Fr. 150.
- Hotel Crystal next door is nowadays an annexe of the Oberland.
- Towards the falls are Hotelschützen, Staubbach and Horner.
- 2 Camping Jungfrau, Weid 406, ☏ +41 33 856 2010, email@example.com. Campsite open all year with great views and facilities. Tent Fr. 30, tourer Fr. 40.
As of Feb 2022, the town has 4G from all Swiss carriers, extending the length of the valley from Interlaken to Gimmelwald. 5G is creeping its way up the valley but has not yet reached Lauterbrunnen.
- Ride the cable-car up the west cliffs to Gimmelwald for hiking and Mürren for skiing, and the summit of the Schilthorn.
- The WAB train ascends the east slopes to Wengen and Kleine Scheidegg, and all the way up to Jungfraujoch.
- Grindelwald is in the other branch of the valley, with skiing, hiking and the Grosse Scheidegg pass.
- Interlaken is where you return to the lowlands, for all onward destinations.