Lake Brienz – Switzerland’s most idyllic lake!

Must-see locations, Switzerland22 comments

Lake Brienz is one of the prettiest, yet one of the most underrated lakes in Switzerland! The uniquely turquoise blue colours of the lake, the charming Swiss villages around it and the beautiful landscapes of the Swiss Alps make Lake Brienz one of the best places to visit in Switzerland and one of my absolute favourite Swiss Lakes!

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I had first visited Lake Brienz several years ago when I was an exchange student in Paris and had fallen in love with it and with Switzerland! I had then dragged my husband for a holiday to the lake a few years later. Fortunately, I’ve now been able to make innumerable visits to Lake Brienz since we moved to Switzerland! Continue reading below to see why I love the place so much and discover a complete guide to visiting Lake Brienz.

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Brienz wood carvings  at Lake Brienz promenade

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Where is Lake Brienz

Lake Brienz is located amid the stunning landscapes of the Bernese Oberland region in the heart of Switzerland. Lake Brienz is one of the two lakes which border Interlaken, the other being Lake Thun.

Lake Brienz promenade in Brienz Switzerland

14 km long and ~3 km wide, the glacier fed Brienzersee is one of the deepest lakes in Switzerland. The village of Brienz, which gives the lake its name, is located on its northern shore. It is one of the best places to visit to enjoy Lake Brienz.

Lake Brienz
Lake Brienz (Google Map data ©2020 ) – Click to expand map

How to get to Brienz

The train station at Brienz connects the lake to the Swiss train network. It takes a little over 2 hours to reach Brienz from Zurich on the train. From Interlaken, the train ride takes just about 20 minutes, though I would suggest taking the boat from Interlaken to Brienz since it’s so much more fun!

If you are driving, it would take you 1.5 hours to reach Brienz from Zurich. There are lots of parking options available at the tiny village – there are very large parking lots at the Brienz train station and at the Rothorn station a little inside the village. There are also several parking lots along the lake promenade as you drive into the village.

View of Lake Brienz

What is the best time to visit Lake of Brienz

We’ve been to this lake both during the summer and during the winter and every time it’s been fairly empty and we’ve had the most wonderful experiences! The turquoise colour of Brienzersee is very unique and it is one of the absolute best places to visit in Switzerland. The colour is more vivid during the summer so if you get the choice, pick summer, or spring.

Lake Brienz promenade in Brienz

Where to stay to visit Lake of Brienz

The little village of Brienz and its surrounding areas have several lovely options to stay at to visit Lake Brienz.

You can also base yourself at Interlaken or Lauterbrunnen since both are great locations to explore the Bernese Oberland region from.

Or do as we do and travel from Zurich on a day trip. For us, up to a 3-hour drive/ train ride is a day trip so we’ve covered a lot of Switzerland on day trips!

Best things to do at Lake Brienz

Lake Brienz cruise

Lake Brienz boat tour is one of the best ways to take in this awe-inspiring lake up close. Ferries operate between Interlaken & Brienz, with stopovers at Bonigen, Iseltwald, and Giessbach with multiple connections between April & October so you can take your time exploring each place. Bonigen & Iseltwald are small traditionally Swiss villages, beautiful for a stroll through. Giessbach is famous for its waterfall which you can reach by taking a funicular (or hiking up) from the ferry station.

Lake Brienz cruise

The ferry launch is located right at the train station in Brienz and behind the train station in Interlaken OST. If you have a Swiss Travel Pass, you do not need to purchase any other ticket to board a boat. Just show up on time – Swiss public transportation runs with clockwork efficiency! 

Stroll the Brienz promenade

Switzerland has many beautiful lake promenades and the most wonderful part is that they all have their own unique characteristics – whether it’s the flower-laden promenade of Montreux or the colourful buildings lined promenade of Ascona, all of them are breathtakingly pretty.

Lake Brienz promenade in Brienz Switzerland
Brienz promenade

The promenade at Brienz is one of the very best in Switzerland! Not only is it dazzlingly beautiful with the turquoise lake against the backdrop of the Alps, but also there are so few people! The place is not really on the tourist radar so you can enjoy the lake in peace.

Brienz promenade - relax on the lounge chairs

Stretching for a few kilometres, the promenade is sprinkled with little benches/ reclined chairs, wood carvings that’ll make you stop in awe, and fun games (including a giant chess board). Little stone boundaries along the lake will invite you to sit and bask in the sun and experience some tranquillity.

Lake Brienz promenade chess board

Enjoy the water – Swim or Paddle!

You can rent a kayak, canoe or a stand-up paddleboard to enjoy the lake up close. There are several rental places along the lake promenade in Brienz.

Boating on Lake Brienz

There are swimming facilities at Bonigen, Iseltwald, and Brienz for those who fancy a swim in an organized ‘beach’ like area. If not, you can pick your spot and take a dip! There are stone steps leading down to the lake at several places, especially along the promenade in Brienz. Do be warned that the water in Lake Brienz is cold, even during the summer – remember the glaciers feeding it?! 

I have at most dipped my feet in the water and it was lovely for a few minutes before I came back shivering! But don’t go by that and limit your experience, I’m not the most adventurous soul!

Visit the village of Brienz

The tiny little village of Brienz is one of the most romantic villages in Switzerland! Brienz will leave you charmed not only by its spectacular promenade along the turquoise Lake Brienz but also by the fascinating wood carvings everywhere.

Wood carvings in Brienz 2
Brienz wood carvings

Brienz has a long history of woodworking and you’ll be able to see several carvings along the lake promenade and in the village. Brienz also boasts of ‘the most beautiful street in Europe’, Brunngasse. This street is lined with beautiful houses dating back to the 18th century – all decorated with wood carvings and lined with flowers – you’ll be hard-pressed to stop taking pictures here!

Brunngasse street Brienz

Hike along Lake Brienz from Iseltwald

Located on a small bay on Lake Brienz, Iseltwald is a postcard-perfect little fishing village which is ridiculously photogenic. A castle at the tip of its peninsula lends it a truly enchanting feel. Visit Iseltwald as a stop on the Lake Brienz cruise between Interlaken and Brienz.

For some of the best views of the lake & the mountains, you can hike along the shores of Lake Brienz between Iseltwald & Bönigen, and Iseltwald & Giessbach Falls.

Hike along Lake Brienz
Hike along Lake Brienz (Google Map data ©2020 ) – Click to expand map

Take the steam train, the Brienzer Rothorn Bahn

The only steam-powered funicular in Switzerland, the Rothorn Bahn operates from the village of Brienz and takes you to the summit of the Brienzer Rothorn. The train ride up to the summit is one of the most romantic ones in Switzerland – through forests & meadows and with spectacular views across Lake Brienz, the beauty of it all will leave you enthralled.

The sweeping views from the summit over Lake Brienz, Lake Thun and the mountains of the Bernese Oberland are some of the best in Switzerland. There are a couple of restaurants at the summit so you can grab a meal with a view!

View of Lake Brienz

The Brienz Rothorn Railway station is located right opposite the Brienz train station. It operates from June to October and is the most crowded (think long queues to buy tickets and to board) during the summer months of July & August. Buy your tickets ahead of time if you plan to visit during summer.

Best views of Lake Brienz

Harder Kulm

Interlaken’s own mountain, Harder Kulm offers views like no other – from the stunningly blue Lake Brienz to the emerald blue Thunersee, with the peaks of Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau in the background.

View of Lake Brienz from Harder Kulm Interlaken Switzerland

Located at 1300 m, Harder Kulm is one of the best places to visit in Switzerland. Take in the spectacular views from the Zwei-Seen-Steg (Two-Lakes-Bridge) or from the castle-like restaurant next to it.

Harder Kulm is super easy to visit. Take the 10-minute cable car up from the gondola station located next to the Interlaken train station. The gondola that takes you up to Harder Kulm operates from April to November. Avoid the peak July – August season if you’d rather not stand in queues.

Golden pass train

Switzerland is known for its stunningly scenic train rides – the perfect combination of superbly efficient & clean trains and incredible natural beauty! The Golden Pass train line is one of the best of these routes – covering 3 mountain passes, 8 lakes, 6 cantons and 2 language regions!

Lake Brienz Switzerland view from promenade

You experience lush, green fields with cows grazing over them, chalet houses along the rolling hills framed against the backdrop of the Alps and beautiful lakes as you move from the German-speaking side of Switzerland to the French-speaking one. I have been on this train 4 times already and every visit has been incredible!

The first leg of the train from Lucerne to Interlaken traverses the entire length of Lake Brienz giving you ample time to enjoy the views and take (hundreds of!) pictures.

Drive between Lucerne/ Zurich and Interlaken/ Lauterbrunnen

Some of the best views of Lake Brienz are from the road as you drive towards Interlaken or Lauterbrunnen from Zurich or Lucerne. The lake appears shining in the distance as you wind down the mountain roads towards it and then stays parallel to the road for several kilometres – an absolute treat (maybe not so much for the driver!).

Best things to do around Lake Brienz

Visit the town of Thun

Thun is a town located on the shores of Lake Thun where the River Aare flows out of it. Lake Thun is the second lake that borders Interlaken, other than Lake Brienz.

Thun is located only a 45 minutes’ drive or a 55 minutes’ train ride from Brienz.

The best place to visit in Thun is the historic old town situated on the Aare, about a kilometre from the lake. Spend your time at the 12th-century castle in the middle of the old town, the beautiful covered wooden bridge and the bustling squares.

Covered wooden bridge in Thun
Aare flowing through Thun in Switzerland

Lake Thun or Lake Brienz is a question we are often asked by our visitors and our answer always is Lake Brienz by far. The turquoise colours of Lake Brienz and the idyllic villages & promenades along it are unparalleled. 

Visit the town of Spiez

Located on the southern shore of Lake Thun and dominated by a stunning castle, the little town of Spiez offers beautiful views over the lake and the mountains of Bernese Oberland. 

Spiez is located only 10 minutes away from Thun.

Spiez Switzerland

A stroll along the lovely lake promenade in Spiez and a cruise on the lake make for a very relaxing visit.

Visit Interlaken

Interlaken is the town most suited to base yourself at to explore the Bernese Oberland. It is quite centrally situated and has frequent train connections from all over Switzerland. 

Interlaken Switzerland

While Interlaken does not rank very high in my suggested list of places to visit in Switzerland, it does make for a worthwhile trip if you are exploring Lake Brienz. Take the funicular up to Interlaken’s mountain Harder Kulm for some panoramic views or take a stroll along the river and the beautiful buildings in town – Interlaken is a lovely place to spend the afternoon. 

Harder Kulm - epic places to visit in Switzerland

Have you been to Lake Brienz? What did you love the most about the lake? Planning to go? Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below.

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22 Comments

  1. I can see why you fell in love with it! What a place to visit in high school too! I have heard of this area before, and just how beautiful it is. I would love to visit this place – the landscape and scenery are stunning and who doesn’t want to see the prettiest street in Europe?! ?. I’ve pinned this hidden gem for future planning.

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  2. Its so funny how the crazy blue waters seem to reach deep into people’s hearts – Everyone in the world must think it is beautiful! 🙂

    It blows my mind how few people there are in your photos near Lake Brienz! How is this not crammed with people admiring those views!?

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  3. That certainly is a beautiful lake! I hope that I can make it there one day. I do love a good glacial lake!

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  4. Magical place. So many things to do and the view from Harder Kulm is amazing.

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  5. Lake Brienz looks so idyllic! It reminds us a bit of Zell am See in Austria and also of Lac d’Annecy in France. We hope to explore more of Switzerland soon!

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  6. Lake Brienz looks so ethereal. Switzerland is indeed a living fairytale with its picturesque landscapes. We missed this lake on our two visits to Switzerland, hope to make amends next time.

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  7. Boat tour sounds intriguing and the views are amazing! I haven’t been to Switzerland yet, but it’s on my list, and this lake is now too!

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  8. The lake looks so beautiful and the village around it seems so quaint! I can’t believe it’s not more popular.

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  9. You had Darcee at Golden Train & you had me at Steam Powered Funicular. I dont know why but I just love riding Funiculars all around the world. Makes my inner child so happy!
    So I will admit I had never even heard of Lake Brienz but man when we finally get over to Interlaken, the town of Brienz & the The turquoise colour of Brienzersee are definitely going to be bucket list worthy side trips! Those views are absolutely amazing. I have no idea how anyone can handle swimming in that glacier fed lake…that sounds miserable, but I would explore all around it for sure! This is amazing!

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  10. This place looks so magical and your pictures are awesome! The views of Switzerland are one of the world’s best views!

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  11. This is a fantastic guide for Lake Brienz, absolutely complete and full of inspiration to visit. Thanks for sharing, the photos are captivating!

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  12. Lake Brienz is so beautiful! It looks so calming and idyllic. I can’t wait to visit Switzerland, it’s right up the top on my European bucket list because of the most amazing landscapes like this.

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  13. Oh, it is like a postcard! So idyllic and charming. I wish we would have spent more time in Switzerland than passing through on the train, but definitely hope to return. The water reminds me of the lakes here in the Alberta Rocky Mountains because of the glacially fed turquoise hue, but the village is quintessential Switzerland. Would definitely add this to the list of must-see villages for our next adventure.

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  14. I absolutely love your musings and website! You lay your articles out beautifully and without a single stone unturned! I can’t wait to visit Switzerland one day and this makes me want it faster!

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  15. Oh wow, your pictures look absolutely breathtaking! I’ve never heard of Lake Brienz before (clearly I’m not alone if there are so few people visiting – if people knew, they would be busy I’m sure). However, it looks like somewhere that I would love to see firsthand. The colour of the lake, the picturesque backdrop… AND I can rent a canoe? Sold!

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  16. Every time I read your blog, Smita, I have the urge to jump on a plane and spend some quality time traveling through Switzerland and see everything. It is so stunning, and Lake Brienz is certainly no different.

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  17. I grew up here!! It’s so funny that you posted about Lake Brienz and the Brienzer Rothorn Bahn because that is the trip I gave my mother as her 60th birthday gift last year. We took the little train up the mountain, ate there, then walked back down. It was great, and only a one hour drive from where my mother lives.
    Having been there, it is absolutely worth a trip and on a nice summer day, you couldn’t ask for a better destination.

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  18. Looks so dreamy! Switzerland is one of my favorite places of all, wonderful country to cycle in. the lakes are fantastic too

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  19. How lucky are you to live in such a beautiful country, so accessible that you can easily visit so many lovely places each weekend? Switzerland has an amazing reputation for its natural beauty and Lake Brienz is a fabulous example of this. The turquoise waters are simply stunning as are the mountains in the background. Would love to perhaps base myself at Interlaken and explore in every direction while soaking in such a tranquil atmosphere. Something to dream about while stuck with the COVID 19 restrictions.

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  20. What a gorgeous lake! I love how the mountains come down to meet it. I haven’t been to Switzerland in over 30 years–I’d love to go back.

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  21. I have a feeling I would absolutely love Switzerland. I’m in awe of mountains and small characteristic villages. Lake Brienz looks stunning – I mean the view from Harder Kulm is wow! The promenade is so cute with the art pieces and some great places to sit – you look so comfy in the reclining chair!

    Reply

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About me

Gruezi! My name is Smita, a part time traveller and a novice travel writer, currently living in Switzerland. So far I’ve been what you might call a serendipitous traveller! I got a chance to visit several amazing places more by chance than by design. I would love to put all my extensive travel planning to good use by sharing it with you and hope that these inspire you to visit all those famous, and not-so-famous locations! Read More

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