We are a few months into our year-long career break in Switzerland and one word keeps coming up: Mürren. “My niece is coming to visit for the weekend, where should we take her?” “Where do you want to spend your birthday weekend?” “Is there a place you have visited so far that captures the essence of Switzerland best?” “Where would you like to play tennis with Roger Federer?” The answer to all of these questions, for me, is Mürren and the Lauterbrunnen valley.
“You’re a Mürren snob,” Jana told me a couple weeks ago. Perhaps it was my quip about “booking Mürren last in your trip to Switzerland/Europe so as not to spoil all the other places.” I didn’t object. We had just returned from a three night stay over my birthday weekend in Mürren. I was battling bronchitis, but it was hard not to feel better when the clouds parted and I caught a glimpse of the dramatic mountain scenery you are a part of there. Mürren is a tiny, car-free, alpine village perched on the side of a cliff high above Lauterbrunnen valley. You have 360 degree views, with the most dramatic being the three summits of Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau just across the valley. But the views don’t just go up, they go way down into the lush green crevice of the valley with glaciers and snowfields melting into waterfalls before your eyes. You will see many pictures of these views, but they don’t do them justice, you have to experience this place in person.
Accessible by train/gondola, Lauterbrunnen and Mürren are about 2.5 hours away from the major Swiss cities. One day trip out of Basel to Lauterbrunnen included a walk outside of town to the stunning Staubbach falls. You can hike right up into the mountain side underneath the cascading water. From there, it is a couple hour walk along the valley floor to Stechelberg, where you can take a gondola up to Mürren for lunch/dinner. Along the way, you bask in the view of the 72 waterfalls (not all are running at the same time, usually), awesome peaks and glaciers, and watch the paragliders and base jumpers in squirrel suits landing around you. If you are a photographer, you won’t be able to decide where to point your camera first. We took the kids on the walk and they only complained about how tired they were for the last hour. On one of our hikes there was a thunderstorm with heavy rain, in a brief break from the weather several base jumpers took off and landed right next to us. Jana asked them if the lightning made them nervous. They said yes, but I guess if your plan A is to jump off a cliff wearing a glorified windbreaker, then plan B of getting a little wet while doing it doesn’t really change your situation much.
Jana and I had visited Mürren seven years ago on vacation and are excited to be able to go back many times during our year in Switzerland. Our three-day weekend trip happened to be during the first weekend in August, which is when Mürreners celebrate Dorffest. We had no idea what Dorffest was until we heard strange noises (cowbells) coming from below our room overlooking the main drag on a rainy Sunday morning. To our surprise, there was a parade coming and it was led by a dozen or so cows wearing flower headdresses.
There were marching bands, fire brigades, men swinging cow bells in unison, and people handing out alcohol, candy and fondue following the cows. The girls ran down and got some candy. The festival went on most of the weekend with concerts and even a serenade from carolers walking through the streets singing at 1 a.m.
From Mürren, you can hike down through Gimmewald to Stechelberg. It takes a couple hours, but stopping in Gimmewald helps rest the legs. There are a couple small restaurants there and even a pretty cool playground for the kids.
From Gimmewald, you have the option of hiking or taking a gondola the rest of the way down to Stechelberg, or going back up to Mürren, with a gondola if you don’t feel like hiking. With the two kids in tow, we took the gondola back up for lunch. A short funicular train ride up the mountain from Mürren is Allmendhubel, and an even more picturesque playground where the girls played for a couple hours before walking down a trail back to Mürren.
Further up the mountain is the Schilthorn, featuring a rotating restaurant/James Bond museum with spectacular views. The structure that is now a circular restaurant was featured in the movie “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” On sunny days, taking the gondola up to the Schilthorn and hiking back down to Mürren is a popular outing.
For those rainy days, there is a sports complex in Mürren that includes an indoor pool. We spent a rainy afternoon there with the kids before the clouds broke in the evening with spectacular dusk alpenglow off the nearby peaks.
I recommend staying at least two nights in the village. There are several hotels and AirBnB rentals. Most of them have awesome views. You’ll want to stay at least a couple days in order to make sure you get at least one sunny day to take pictures and hike around. But, the nicest places go quick. We booked our AirBnB in February for a trip in August. In the evening after the tourists clear out, you can stroll the empty chalet-lined streets in peace. We stopped at Hotel Alpina for dessert a couple times. It has great views and the staff was very kid-friendly – they even had a box of Legos they brought out for kids to play with in the dining room.
Yes, I am a Mürren snob. But, spend a sunny summer weekend here and tell me that you are not one, too.