Jungfraujoch, Top of Europe

Next to the Matterhorn, Jungfraujoch (3471m) is one of the most popular destinations in Switzerland. It’s the highest rail station in Europe and from the top you can see the famous Jungfrau, Eiger, and Mönch mountain peaks and the Aletsch glacier moving ever so slowly down into the valley. There’s an ice palace carved inside the glacier, outside viewing areas, an “adventure tour” educating you about the history of the Jungfrau railway and Swiss tourism, a panorama cinema “experience,” and of course, lots of restaurants and gift shops.

It’s very nice but not a must-do in my opinion. It’s very expensive (almost 200 CHF pp) and takes almost 2 hours on a train each way to visit, 1 hour in a dark tunnel. There are so many other wonderful mountains to visit at a quarter of the price and a fraction of the crowds. If you go, make sure to check the webcams to make sure it’s clear at the top. It’s not worth it to go up if you can’t see the peaks.

Caveat: we visited Jungfraujoch in July 2006. Most things are the same, but some attractions have been added to the Top of Europe complex that I won’t be reviewing here.

Getting There

You will need to take a mountain railway from the either Lauterbrunnen or Grindelwald in the Jungfrau region. Both locations are accessible by car (with ample metered parking) or train from Interlaken.

From either location, you will by a return ticket to Jungfraujoch. Both trains stop halfway at Kleine Scheidegg to switch trains to the Jungfraubahn, which will take you the rest of the way up and through the mountain to Jungfraujoch (about 55 mins).

This is a long journey and particularly difficult for little kids, who have to sit on a crowded train for almost 2 hours each way, half of that in a dark tunnel. Fortunately, our 2 year old (and the rest of the passengers, apparently due to lack oxygen) slept on the way back.

The Jungfraubahn can get very crowded during peak tourist season. Be aggressive.


Image courtesy Andrew Bossi, Wikimedia Commons

Tickets

This is an expensive journey. In 2016, an adult full fare return ticket from Lauterbrunnen to Jungfraujoch is 183.60. SBB Half Fare and Junior cards are valid. They offer other discounts for travel passes, including their own Jungfrau Pass. See current fares and ticket prices on the Jungfrau Region website.

SBB almost always offers discount combo offers that include transport from major Swiss cities all the way up the Jungfraujoch and back. For example, in winter 2016, SBB offers 20% off the whole journey, including a fondue lunch, which from Zurich works out to 165.20 CHF.

The Jungfrau trains are open all year round.

Check the weather

Before buying your ticket, check the Jungfrau webcams. There is no reason to go up unless you have a clear view.

We were advised to go early in the day, as clouds often move it after noon. But check the weather forecast, particularly the cloud and precipitation weather animations on Search.ch. Weather can change quickly in the mountains and you don’t want the clouds settling in during the 2 hours it takes you to get from Lauterbrunnen to the Jungfraujoch.

The day we wanted to go up, the clouds were obscuring the Jungfrau. So instead we did a hike from Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg instead. When we got to Kleine Scheidegg, we checked the webcams again and the clouds had cleared. So we bought ticket to ride the rest of the way up to the Jungfraujoch and it all worked out. Be flexible.

What to bring

Even though you won’t be hiking, bring winter jackets, sturdy shoes and sunglasses. Even in summer, it can be cold at the top. You will be walking on snow and ice (inside the ice palace), which can be slippery and wet. Little kids will need assistance walking. Bring sunglasses, for kids too, as the reflection off the snow and ice can be blinding at the top. We were not prepared and our poor two year old couldn’t bear to open his eyes outside unless he borrowed my sunglasses.

I’d leave stroller at home as there are stairs, snow and ice to navigate. I suggest you just carry little kids as necessary. If you have a baby backpack, take extra care walking on the ice so you don’t slip.

Where to eat

There are several restaurants at the top with great views, both self-serve cafeteria style and full service, at typical Swiss prices. At peak hours, it can be very crowded and hard to find a seat so be prepared to wait. I didn’t see any picnic areas, but I’m sure you could find a place to sit and eat a sandwich.

What to see and do

After 40 long minutes in a tunnel (bring something for the kids to do!), the train arrives at the Jungfraujoch Top of Europe complex. You’ll still be inside the mountain so follow signs to the viewing areas. The diagram below shows what is available (click to view larger). This image is a bit old, so some things may have been changed/added in the meantime. You arrive at the train station (#4). You can take a short lift up to the ice palace (#2). You can walk out onto the snow at the Plateau (#1) and get nice views. There are several restaurants with big views (#9-13). Take another lift up to the Sphinx Observation Terrace (#17), where you can walk around outside. I’ll give more info below about things we did. Other attractions are detailed on the Jungfrau website.

Ice Palace

The ice palace is close to the railway station, so it’s an obvious first stop. It’s a series of tunnels carved into the ice with lots of ice sculptures. It’s cold inside and slippery, so bring winter jackets.

Plateau

Near the ice palace, a path leads you outside to the Plateau (#1), a viewing area on the snow, from which you can see the impressive Aletsch glacier (shown below) and surrounding mountain peaks. You can see a panorama video of the Plateau here.

The Aletsch glacier.

The area is roped off as shown below. There wasn’t an immediate drop-off on the other side of the ropes, but I was a little nervous that my toddler would duck under the ropes and run off.

Sphinx Observatory

From the main complex, a lift (#17) will take you up to the Sphinx Observatory (#24) shown below. Here you can wander outside on the viewing platforms and get spectacular views.

Image by Julius Silver Wikimedia Commens

I hope you have fun! But if you don’t make it up to the Jungfrau for whatever reason, don’t worry; there’s so much to do in the Jungfrau Region, you won’t be disappointed.

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