Ballenberg Open-air Museum

Ballenberg, an hour and a half from Zurich (south of Lucern), is an open-air living museum dedicated to olde tyme Swiss rural life. The photo above shows one of the traditional Swiss buildings transported and rebuilt at Ballenberg. They have lots of authentic old buildings you can explore, a guy making cheese, a lady weaving on a loom, a blacksmith, etc. It’s similiar to Colonial Williamsburg in the US, only in the US, the cheese guy would be hamming it up, speaking jovially in an olde tyme accent, giving colorful commentary on his work, getting the kids to help out in the task. At Ballenberg, the “cast” acted like we were getting in their way, grumping along, not making eye contact or saying a word. Still it was interesting and definitely fun for the kiddies. It’s also particularly good for visiting grandparents because they really appreciate all the history and crafts. The whole park is stunning, with gorgeous meadows overlooking the Bernese Alps. It’s a lovely way to spend a summer day.

Car: 1hr30 from ZH Trail: various in park Restaurant: yes
Public Transport: easy by train, bus Stroller: partial Fire pit: yes
Cost: medium Theme: Swiss culture Playground: yes

Getting There

Drive to Ballenberg, following signs to Freilichtmuseum Ballenberg. You can also take the public transport, by taking a train to Brünig-Hasliberg, then a bus to Ballenberg. One time, we took the train there from Zurich (about 2 hours) so we could relax and enjoy the scenery together. It’s a beautiful ride. There’s a combo ticket often available from sbb.ch that gives a discount on your Ballenberg entrance when combined with train travel. The trains I took had a special car for bikes etc, where I easily parked my stroller with my sleeping baby instead of having to pull him out and break down the stroller. In Luzern there’s a quick train change (like 5mins) so move with purpose.

Overview

The park is enormous so you’ll be doing a lot of walking and your kiddies will get tired. Don’t plan on seeing the whole park in one visit. Just pick a few of the “cantons” and enjoy them instead of rushing around. A lot of the buildings are very similar so you won’t be missing something amazing if you don’t walk into every building. My kids particularly enjoyed the saw mill and the nearby “village” which is a good sample of the park.

There’s a nice playground (with carousel) in the middle of the very large park, next to the restaurant (small and usually packed since it’s one of the only places to eat). I’d recommend picnicking as there are several very nice picnic spots in the park, some with fire pits and wood. Near the playground is some sort of kids maze in one of the barns. A couple of the kids I was with got lost in there and started screaming and we had a hard time crawling through it because the whole thing is kids size.

At the entrance/exit, there is a small chocolate “factory” where you can see someone making chocolate, aka pouring it into the molds. I thought the chocolate was only ok, but they have lots of interesting flavors. The gift shop has lots of ice cream for the trip home.

Now for some pics…


ballenberg fields overlooking the bernese alps


great outing for the grandparents


small parade with people in traditional swiss costume


loom lady


saw mill running on water power


some of the traditional buildings


house staged with all the props as if someone were really living there


view of Bernese Alps from Ballenberg

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