Lake Brienz is one of the prettiest, yet one of the most underrated lakes in Switzerland! The uniquely turquoise blue colours of the lake, the charming Swiss villages around it and the beautiful landscapes of the Swiss Alps make Lake Brienz one of the best places to visit in Switzerland and one of my absolute favourite Swiss Lakes!
I had first visited Lake Brienz several years ago when I was an exchange student in Paris and had fallen in love with it and with Switzerland! I had then dragged my husband for a holiday to the lake a few years later. Fortunately, I’ve now been able to make innumerable visits to Lake Brienz since we moved to Switzerland! Continue reading below to see why I love the place so much and discover a complete guide to visiting Lake Brienz.
WHERE IS LAKE BRIENZ
Lake Brienz is located amid the stunning landscapes of the Bernese Oberland region in the heart of Switzerland. Lake Brienz is one of the two lakes which border Interlaken, the other being Lake Thun.
14 km long and ~3 km wide, the glacier fed Brienzersee is one of the deepest lakes in Switzerland. The village of Brienz, which gives the lake its name, is located on its northern shore. It is one of the best places to visit to enjoy Lake Brienz.
HOW TO GET TO BRIENZ
The train station at Brienz connects the lake to the Swiss train network. It takes a little over 2 hours to reach Brienz from Zurich on the train. From Interlaken, the train ride takes just about 20 minutes, though I would suggest taking the boat from Interlaken to Brienz since it’s so much more fun!
If you are driving, it would take you 1.5 hours to reach Brienz from Zurich. There are lots of parking options available at the tiny village – there are very large parking lots at the Brienz train station and at the Rothorn station a little inside the village. There are also several parking lots along the lake promenade as you drive into the village.
WHAT IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT LAKE OF BRIENZ
We’ve been to this lake both during the summer and during the winter and every time it’s been fairly empty and we’ve had the most wonderful experiences! The turquoise colour of Brienzersee is very unique and it is one of the absolute best places to visit in Switzerland. The colour is more vivid during the summer so if you get the choice, pick summer, or spring.
WHERE TO STAY TO VISIT LAKE OF BRIENZ
The little village of Brienz and its surrounding areas have several lovely options to stay at to visit Lake Brienz.
You can also base yourself at Interlaken or Lauterbrunnen since both are great locations to explore the Bernese Oberland region from.
Or do as we do and travel from Zurich on a day trip. For us, up to a 3-hour drive/ train ride is a day trip so we’ve covered a lot of Switzerland on day trips!
BEST THINGS TO DO AT LAKE BRIENZ
LAKE BRIENZ CRUISE
Lake Brienz boat tour is one of the best ways to take in this awe-inspiring lake up close. Ferries operate between Interlaken & Brienz, with stopovers at Bonigen, Iseltwald, and Giessbach with multiple connections between April & October so you can take your time exploring each place. Bonigen & Iseltwald are small traditionally Swiss villages, beautiful for a stroll through. Giessbach is famous for its waterfall which you can reach by taking a funicular (or hiking up) from the ferry station.
The ferry launch is located right at the train station in Brienz and behind the train station in Interlaken OST. If you have a Swiss Travel Pass, you do not need to purchase any other ticket to board a boat. Just show up on time – Swiss public transportation runs with clockwork efficiency!
STROLL THE BRIENZ PROMENADE
Switzerland has many beautiful lake promenades and the most wonderful part is that they all have their own unique characteristics – whether it’s the flower-laden promenade of Montreux or the colourful buildings lined promenade of Ascona, all of them are breathtakingly pretty.
The promenade at Brienz is one of the very best in Switzerland! Not only is it dazzlingly beautiful with the turquoise lake against the backdrop of the Alps, but also there are so few people! The place is not really on the tourist radar so you can enjoy the lake in peace.
Stretching for a few kilometres, the promenade is sprinkled with little benches/ reclined chairs, wood carvings that’ll make you stop in awe, and fun games (including a giant chess board). Little stone boundaries along the lake will invite you to sit and bask in the sun and experience some tranquillity.
ENJOY THE WATER – SWIM OR PADDLE!
You can rent a kayak, canoe or a stand-up paddleboard to enjoy the lake up close. There are several rental places along the lake promenade in Brienz.
There are swimming facilities at Bonigen, Iseltwald, and Brienz for those who fancy a swim in an organized ‘beach’ like area. If not, you can pick your spot and take a dip! There are stone steps leading down to the lake at several places, especially along the promenade in Brienz. Do be warned that the water in Lake Brienz is cold, even during the summer – remember the glaciers feeding it?!
I have at most dipped my feet in the water and it was lovely for a few minutes before I came back shivering! But don’t go by that and limit your experience, I’m not the most adventurous soul!
VISIT THE VILLAGE OF BRIENZ
The tiny little village of Brienz is one of the most romantic villages in Switzerland! Brienz will leave you charmed not only by its spectacular promenade along the turquoise Lake Brienz but also by the fascinating wood carvings everywhere.
Brienz has a long history of woodworking and you’ll be able to see several carvings along the lake promenade and in the village. Brienz also boasts of ‘the most beautiful street in Europe’, Brunngasse. This street is lined with beautiful houses dating back to the 18th century – all decorated with wood carvings and lined with flowers – you’ll be hard-pressed to stop taking pictures here!
HIKE ALONG LAKE BRIENZ FROM ISELTWALD
Located on a small bay on Lake Brienz, Iseltwald is a postcard-perfect little fishing village which is ridiculously photogenic. A castle at the tip of its peninsula lends it a truly enchanting feel. Visit Iseltwald as a stop on the Lake Brienz cruise between Interlaken and Brienz.
For some of the best views of the lake & the mountains, you can hike along the shores of Lake Brienz between Iseltwald & Bönigen, and Iseltwald & Giessbach Falls.
TAKE THE STEAM TRAIN, THE BRIENZER ROTHORN BAHN
The only steam-powered funicular in Switzerland, the Rothorn Bahn operates from the village of Brienz and takes you to the summit of the Brienzer Rothorn. The train ride up to the summit is one of the most romantic ones in Switzerland – through forests & meadows and with spectacular views across Lake Brienz, the beauty of it all will leave you enthralled.
The sweeping views from the summit over Lake Brienz, Lake Thun and the mountains of the Bernese Oberland are some of the best in Switzerland. There are a couple of restaurants at the summit so you can grab a meal with a view!
The Brienz Rothorn Railway station is located right opposite the Brienz train station. It operates from June to October and is the most crowded (think long queues to buy tickets and to board) during the summer months of July & August. Buy your tickets ahead of time if you plan to visit during summer.
BEST VIEWS OF LAKE BRIENZ
Interlaken’s own mountain, Harder Kulm offers views like no other – from the stunningly blue Lake Brienz to the emerald blue Thunersee, with the peaks of Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau in the background.
Located at 1300 m, Harder Kulm is one of the best places to visit in Switzerland. Take in the spectacular views from the Zwei-Seen-Steg (Two-Lakes-Bridge) or from the castle-like restaurant next to it.
Harder Kulm is super easy to visit. Take the 10-minute cable car up from the gondola station located next to the Interlaken train station. The gondola that takes you up to Harder Kulm operates from April to November. Avoid the peak July – August season if you’d rather not stand in queues.
GOLDEN PASS TRAIN
Switzerland is known for its stunningly scenic train rides – the perfect combination of superbly efficient & clean trains and incredible natural beauty! The Golden Pass train line is one of the best of these routes – covering 3 mountain passes, 8 lakes, 6 cantons and 2 language regions!
You experience lush, green fields with cows grazing over them, chalet houses along the rolling hills framed against the backdrop of the Alps and beautiful lakes as you move from the German-speaking side of Switzerland to the French-speaking one. I have been on this train 4 times already and every visit has been incredible!
The first leg of the train from Lucerne to Interlaken traverses the entire length of Lake Brienz giving you ample time to enjoy the views and take (hundreds of!) pictures.
DRIVE BETWEEN LUCERNE/ ZURICH AND INTERLAKEN/ LAUTERBRUNNEN
Some of the best views of Lake Brienz are from the road as you drive towards Interlaken or Lauterbrunnen from Zurich or Lucerne. The lake appears shining in the distance as you wind down the mountain roads towards it and then stays parallel to the road for several kilometres – an absolute treat (maybe not so much for the driver!).
BEST THINGS TO DO AROUND LAKE BRIENZ
VISIT THE TOWN OF THUN
Thun is a town located on the shores of Lake Thun where the River Aare flows out of it. Lake Thun is the second lake that borders Interlaken, other than Lake Brienz.
Thun is located only a 45 minutes’ drive or a 55 minutes’ train ride from Brienz.
The best place to visit in Thun is the historic old town situated on the Aare, about a kilometre from the lake. Spend your time at the 12th-century castle in the middle of the old town, the beautiful covered wooden bridge and the bustling squares.
Lake Thun or Lake Brienz is a question we are often asked by our visitors and our answer always is Lake Brienz by far. The turquoise colours of Lake Brienz and the idyllic villages & promenades along it are unparalleled.
VISIT THE TOWN OF SPIEZ
Located on the southern shore of Lake Thun and dominated by a stunning castle, the little town of Spiez offers beautiful views over the lake and the mountains of Bernese Oberland.
Spiez is located only 10 minutes away from Thun.
A stroll along the lovely lake promenade in Spiez and a cruise on the lake make for a very relaxing visit.
Interlaken is the town most suited to base yourself at to explore the Bernese Oberland. It is quite centrally situated and has frequent train connections from all over Switzerland.
While Interlaken does not rank very high in my suggested list of places to visit in Switzerland, it does make for a worthwhile trip if you are exploring Lake Brienz. Take the funicular up to Interlaken’s mountain Harder Kulm for some panoramic views or take a stroll along the river and the beautiful buildings in town – Interlaken is a lovely place to spend the afternoon.
Have you been to Lake Brienz? What did you love the most about the lake? Planning to go? Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below.