Bern, the Swiss capital. Interlaken – the world-famous town at the foot of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. These two must-visit places can be perfectly combined for a weekend trip to the canton of Bern.
No matter whether you live in Switzerland or visitor to our beautiful country: The Swiss Federal Palace and the picturesque old town as well as the Jungfraujoch at over 2500 metres above sea level are simply a must-see!
Bern Youth Hostel: Between the Federal Palace and a wellness oasis
I am amazed when I arrive at Bern Youth Hostel. Directly behind it, a little above, is THE Swiss Federal Palace. Every photo I take of the hostel has the Federal Palace in the background. If you look to the other side, you can see the river Aare (the youth hostel is about 100 metres from the bank) and a little further away the Gurten hill
Hostel is located in the famous Marzili district, which was first mentioned in the 14th century. The building was completed in 1956 by the famous architect Peter Indermühle and reopened in 2018 after 16 months of renovation.
Sustainability fact Bern Youth Hostel:
During the remodeling, strict ecological guidelines were followed in the selection of building materials. In addition, the youth hostel was designed to be 100% accessible – in cooperation with the «Denk an mich» foundation. The 172 m2 photovoltaic system on the roof of the Minergie building and the waste heat system also contribute to the positive ecological balance.
Bern Youth Hostel is in a great location, so I spend a lot of time in the neighbourhood. I use the 105-metre-long Marzilibähnli to avoid the steep road. I take a photo of Marzilistrasse with its small neighbourhood houses and walk along the Aare, imagining the Aare boats gliding by in the summer.
But I’ve yet to come to another highlight in the neighbourhood: The Hammam & Spa Oktogon. A good 15 minutes before the morning opening, wellness lovers stand in front of the Oktogon ready for a day of relaxation. Luckily, it’s directly opposite the youth hostel and you can practically jump into the pool after breakfast. Hammam means oriental wellness – not to be confused with an ordinary wellness facility. The tradition comes mainly from Turkey.
This is how it works:
After being given a «pestemal» (towel), wellness guests are invited to take a seat in the herbal steam bath for a «cleansing». Cooling down with cold water from a «tas» (tinned, silver bowl) is followed by several trips from the steam bath to the pool, from the pool to the micropeeling area, from the micropeeling area to the pool, from the pool to the soap cleansing area, etc. After visiting the hammam, you feel relaxed on the inside and cleansed on the outside.
If you get hungry after your wellness session, I highly recommend visiting the «Stärne-Märit» – if it’s still December. The Christmas market on the elevated «Kleine Schanze» park is one of the most beautiful far and wide.
There are numerous stalls for Christmas gifts and many more fine food stalls. Gingerbread of all kinds, churros, macarons and of course Älplermacaroni (alp-style macaroni), raclette but also all different types of burgers or even Tibetan momos (dumplings). What’s important is that you arrive with an empty stomach.
Those staying at the youth hostel benefit from the mobility ticket. This allows you to travel for free in Bern in zones 100/1001 as well as the Gurtenbahn, Marzilibahn (perfect for arrival), the Münsterplattformlift and even to Bern Airport.
Interlaken – exploring Switzerland’s hotspot
We continue by train to the Jungfrau Region. To be more precise, to Interlaken-Ost. There, Ueli, the youth hostel manager, greets me in a friendly manner. I’ve heard a lot about Interlaken – especially abroad. It’s not Zurich, Bern or Zermatt that are mentioned first when people abroad are asked about a well-known place in Switzerland, but: Interlaken.
So it’s time to get to the bottom of this fascination for the small town between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. Speaking of bottoms: At 260 metres deep, Lake Brienz is the deepest Swiss lake located entirely in Switzerland. And my first winter activity in Interlaken also starts on Lake Brienz. Namely in a blue winter kayak accompanied by a patient kayak instructor Sean from Australia.
From Bönigen (a short walk from Interlaken-Ost) we paddle the kayak on Lake Brienz and I learn the technique from the pro. Halfway through the activity, there is a stop at Ringgenberg Castle for a snack before heading back across the lake to shore after 2-3 hours. You won’t freeze in the kayak in winter – the team at the High Tide kayak school makes sure of that with warm equipment.
Back at the hostel, an extraordinary dinner awaits us at the 3a restaurant. The choice is yours at Interlaken Youth Hostel: Set menu from the buffet or à la carte, which is even freshly prepared. Show cooking in the youth hostel? We’ve got you covered! Chef Ali pampers guests with Italian and Asian dishes. External guests can also enjoy the delicious dishes every day.
Sustainability fact Interlaken Youth Hostel
The hostel in Interlaken also has ecological advantages. For example, the new building (opened in 2011) is the first accommodation facility in Switzerland to be built to the Minergie-P-Eco standard, thus meeting the highest ecological criteria. The building is supplied with heat and electricity via renewable sources from waste heat.
4000 m peaks near and far
Another highlight of the youth hostel in Interlaken are the spacious balconies on the third floor. They offer an unobstructed view of the landscape of the mighty 4000-metre peaks – which you can now visit even faster.
Since the opening of the new Eiger Express from Grindelwald in 2020, guests from Interlaken Youth Hostel can reach the Eiger Glacier from Interlaken-Ost station (the hostel is located directly at the station) within 58 minutes.
The panorama alone knocks the socks off even die-hard Swiss mountain fans, but that’s not even the best part. Because from the Eiger Glacier, the Jungfraujochbahn takes adventure-seekers up to 3500 metres. Past the Arctic Sea, through the face of the Eiger to the gap between the Mönch and the Jungfrau.
The Jungfraujoch is not just a vantage point – visitors can look forward to the Ice Palace, the chocolate museum, two restaurants and a kiosk with souvenirs. The railway up the Joch was completed over 100 years ago – a pioneering achievement in the Swiss mountain railway industry.
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