The spectacular Giessbach falls on the Brienzersee near Interlaken prove yet again that there is no end to the supply of amazingly beautiful things in Switzerland. To reach the falls, you take a short ferry boat, then a short funicular up to the Grandhotel Giessbach, where you have a full view of the falls. You can hike up the falls as far as your little ones’ legs will carry them, with some sections taking you underneath the roaring falls. Then back to the restaurant for a delicious meal with a view. There’s also a playground and a grassy area where the kids can run around. We loved this outing and would certainly do it again and take visitors.
GPS: 46.754387, 8.038132
Falls & Hotel: GPS: 46.735041, 8.023358
|Car:||1hr20 to Brienz ferry|
|Train:||2hr30 to Brienz ferry|
|Trail:||1-2 km, optional|
|Skill:||moderate, some steep sections|
|Open:||late March thru late October|
The Giessbach falls are on the south side of the Brienzersee, east of Interlaken. The falls are best reached by a short ferry ride from Brienz, which drops you off at the bottom of the falls. You can take a short funicular up to the Grandhotel Giessbach, where there is a fantastic view of the falls and the lake. You can hike up along the falls to get a closer look (about 1 km). After your visit, you can walk down from the hotel to the lake, instead of taking the funicular, and get some nice view of the lower falls.
The map below shows the hike from the hotel up the falls. #1 is the first bridge, just 200m from the hotel. #2 is the walkway under the falls, only 150m farther up the trail. #3 is the second bridge with a few of more falls and a chute, about 600m further, but also gaining 300m in elevation. The trail from #1 to # 3 is narrow, lumpy, steep with switchbacks, difficult for very small children. But it’s short, at only 1 km one way. I think it’s worth the effort. Pics of all these viewpoints are below.
I highly recommend reaching the falls by taking the ferry from Brienz. Much more fun and scenic. Coming from eastern Switzerland, take the ferry from Brienz. Coming from western Switzerland, you can catch the ferry in Interlaken instead.
By car: Drive to Brienz and follow signs to the ferry and Brienz Rothorn. There are a few metered spots next to the ferry dock and more metered parking areas on the hill next to the Brienz Rothorn. On a nice weekend, it can be very busy and hard to find parking. So go early!
By train: take a train to the Brienz train station, which is adjacent to the ferry dock.
The ferry takes only 11 mins from Brienz to Giessbach. The ferry runs from late March to late October. In summer, it runs once an hour. In 2016, an adult half-fare return ticket from Brienz to Giessbach was 9.10 CHF. SBB Half-fare and Junior cards are accepted. Ferry travel is included in some regional travel passes. Check their website for current prices and timetable, which varies by season.
If you want to drive directly to the hotel and falls, drive west toward Interlaken, taking exit 29/Brienz. Turn left on Bächlischwendistr. which turns into a narrow local road that heads up the mountain into the woods. Just before you reach the falls and the Giessbach hotel, there is a parking lot for hikers and guests. Continue on foot along the road for a couple minutes until you reach the waterfalls.
The ferry from Brienz drops you off at Giessbach where the funicular will take you up to the hotel and waterfall viewing area. Here is lakeside area where the ferry drops off and you wait for the funicular.
You can walk up to the hotel or take the historic funicular up to the hotel (claims to be the oldest tourist funicular in Europe). The funicular is rather pricey and the ride short, but it was all part of the experience and we enjoyed it.
The waiting area.
Fun historical details.
The funicular drops you off on a path below the hotel, as shown in the left pic below. You can see the falls from here, but you should definitely walk up for a closer look.
It’s an easy walk up to the first bridge (#1 on above map), shown below, which has the best view of the falls. Here are pics from two visits, showing the varying amount of water.
Here is the first bridge over the falls.
After this first bridge, you can continue hiking up the trail to see more falls. No strollers. It’s a little hard for very little kids, but it’s short. The trail looks like this:
Just a few minutes up the trail, about 150m, the trail forks to the right leading to a walkway under the falls as shown here (#2 on above map). To continue hiking up, you need to go back under the falls and rejoin the trail leading up the mountain. If you continue on the path under the falls, it will lead back down to the hotel on the opposite side of the falls.
If you continue hiking up, after another 600m (about 30-40 minutes with our kids), you reach another bridge with a view of the chute shown on the right (#3 on above map). On another visit, I continued hiking up to see if there was another nice lookout, but there wasn’t. Eventually the path ended at a paved road and another hotel, but no viewpoint. So best to head back down from here.
The view is great from this second bridge. See how little the hotel is down there.
On a clear day you can see the Rothorn and other mountains on the north side of Brienzersee.
Once you are done admiring the falls, head back down to the Giessbach hotel for lunch. The hotel has a huge patio, either overlooking the falls or the lake as shown below.
View of the lake from the hotel restaurant outdoor seating.
This is a rare case where I recommend eating at the restaurant. While the prices were the same as most average mountain huts, the food was much better and attractively presented. You can see below my spaztle with mushrooms and my creamed corn soup with popcorn sprinkled over it. Yum! My 6yr old was very happy with his aelplermagronen (mac n’cheese) while our 2.5yr old slept in his stroller and had a hot dog later at the kiosk. I ate there another time with friends and the food was just as good as I remembered.
The kiosk below the hotel patio has some cheap snacks like hot dogs, sandwiches and popsicles.
Near the hotel, there is a large grassy field and small playground. I think this is part of the hotel grounds, but no one seemed to mind us playing there. You could picnic there too.
From the hotel, you can walk down along the falls to the lake, which I recommend. It’s less than 1 km but it took us about thirty minutes with our little kids walking slow and looking at everything. This part of the trail is paved or smooth gravel and easy with a stroller.
Some of the lower falls.
Last bridge over the falls right before you reach the lake.
Then catch the ferry back to Brienz. I hope you enjoy it!
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