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Family-friendly adventure in Switzerland. A little larger than Bhutan — and like that peaceful Asian kingdom, landlocked and punctuated by towering peaks — Switzerland is blessed with the kind of geography that makes it the envy of other nations the world over.
Here, in the centre of Europe, is a country of soaring mountains, rolling grassy hills and plains spread across valleys and plateaus where cattle graze, and picture-perfect Alpine lakes filled with clear, still water that stoically reflect the lofty peaks. This variegated, dramatic scenery has delighted travellers for centuries, and continues to impress and inspire all that witness its extraordinary splendour, whatever the season.
Plenty of that striking topography is on view from the short trip between the town of Interlaken, set between two lakes as its name suggests, and Schilthorn, a summit in the Bernese Alps. The voyage, in a sense, is a superlative summary of Switzerland’s outdoors, with lakes, rivers, waterfalls, forests, cliffs, mountains, snow, stunning views, and the chance to see native birds, deer and owls.
The Journey to Schilthorn made easy with Swiss Travel Pass
Savvy visitors will embark on the journey using the Swiss Travel Pass, a multi-day ticket that allows users to travel on unlimited expeditions around the country by boat, bus and train, giving them access to some of Switzerland’s most scenic regions. Prices start at Swiss Francs 232 (or S$334) for three days with the best value offered by the 15-day ticket, priced at Swiss Francs 429 (or S$617).
The train from Interlaken departs from Interlaken Ost station, a key railway junction that connects three different train lines, and is also an important interchange for local bus service. From Interlaken, the carriages trace the Bernese Oberland line and wind their way to Lauterbrunnen, a municipality situated in a deep valley at the foothills of the Bernese Alps.
From here, the journey transfers to a bus that climbs to Stechelberg, a village at the base of Schwarzmönch (meaning black monk) mountain that is also notable as the starting point for the cable car ride up to Schilthorn; holders of the Swiss Travel Pass enjoy a sizeable discount on the cable-car tickets, another bonus of the pass.
Schilthorn Cable Car Ride
Bond’s favourite mountain is waiting for you. The 32-minute cable-car ascent supplies a bird’s-eye view that handsomely illustrates the magnificence of the Alps, with stops en-route at the charming highland towns of Gimmelwald and Mürren, the 2,677-metre Birg, and views across the Lauterbrunnen valley. The terminus of the trip is Schilthorn, one of the highest peaks in the Bernese Alps, topping out at 2,970 metres.
Many travellers make a full day out of the journey, stopping in Gimmelwald to experience one of the country’s few traffic-free villages, and Mürren, a village whose architectural vernacular is typical for this part of the Alps and whose views of towering peaks — the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau — leave many an onlooker speechless.
Enjoy the view from Skyline Walk & Thrill Walk
At Birg, intrepid travellers of all ages get truly up close to the Alps. Here, adventurers can snap shots at the Skyline Walk, an angular observation deck built from steel and reinforced glass and suspended over a chasm between mountains. Those wanting to extend the excitement can take the Thrill Walk, a steel walkway that clings to the rock face before winding under the observation deck and cableway. The walk’s crawl-through tunnel, glass-bottomed floor and mesh-rope bridge add extra buzz to the heart-pumping excursion.
The world of Bond and views to thrill at Piz Gloria, Schilthorn
Right at the top, at Schilthorn, the views are unforgettably spectacular, a reason for celebration in itself. But this peak is also famous for more than the view — it was chosen as a key shooting location for a James Bond movie. From October 1968 to May 1969, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service used the peak’s revolving restaurant with a conical silver exterior, a peaked roof, and 360-degree views as the setting for an allergy research clinic run by Bond’s arch foe, Ernst Blofeld.
In the film, the clinic was called Piz Gloria, a name that the restaurant decided to retain. Today, this elevated rotating restaurant thrills visitors with a 45-minute complete rotation that takes in panoramic views of 200 alpine peaks including Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, as well as a series of mounts in the Bernese and Valais Alps.
Also visible are the shimmering blue waters of Lake Thun, whose shores are dotted with small towns and ornate churches, the broad Swiss central plateau and the mountains of the Jura chain unfurling toward the horizon. On a clear day, the Black Forest in Germany and the Mont Blanc massif are also visible.
It’s easy to understand the allure of Schilthorn, providing visitors the chance to stand at the top of a Swiss peak and take in a complete panorama of mountain tops from the viewing platform James Bond-style. Here, as the wind whips through the clean, crisp air, it’s impossible not to feel as though you are on top of the world. In a way, you are.
Fine food accompanies the sublime views, with themed choices like 007 Burgers and the James Bond Brunch (an all-you-can-eat meal that is served daily until 2pm) in addition to international options and regional favourites like Zürich-style sliced veal, and meat and cheese platters.
Almost half a century after the filming wrapped up, an area below the dining room was transformed into Bond World, an interactive exhibition dedicated to the movie that acts as a window onto the life of the beloved British secret agent and his adventures on and around Schilthorn.
With free admission, it features seven key scenes and an encyclopaedia of film-related trivia, and allows visitors to get a glimpse of the original screenplay, try out their own James Bond skills with a frantic bobsleigh ride, or take a helicopter simulator flight in the original chassis of a decommissioned Air Glaciers Alouette III. Other attractions include background anecdotes from cast and crew members and locals, and historical press reports.
Next door, the Bond Cinema offers a relaxing interlude after the bustle and energy of Bond World. The cinema’s eye-popping, 12-metre-wide, curved screen alternates ultra-sharp images of scenes and stunts from the James Bond classic that was filmed here with sensational aerial footage of the magnificent mountain world right at Schilthorn’s doorstep.
And on a ridge just outside Piz Gloria, the Walk of Fame comprises 15 information panels that pay tribute to the cast and behind-the-scenes contributors of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Each panel features a photo, signature, handprint in steel and a personal message, and includes one from George Lazenby, the actor that played 007 in the film.
Family fun time at Allmendhubel, a fantastic alpine chill zone for summer
For a change of scene, and set 1,000 metres below the tip of Schilthorn, Allmendhubel is Mürren‘s local mountain, a four-minute ride on the funicular railway from Mürren cable-car station. With an easy-going ambience and plenty of spaces to wander and linger, this is the perfect place for families and leisure-seekers that want to stay active or just chill.
Allmendhubel is also the starting point for numerous hikes among the area’s glorious peaks and a selection of other outdoor activities. The Flower Park is a gateway to the fascinating alpine environment, an expansive play meadow loaded with interesting facts about the flora and fauna of the Alps.
Here children can explore a marmot burrow, fly with butterflies, milk cows and try their hand at cheesemaking, and solid timber structures take on the shape of giant flowers and oversized insects, feeding the imagination of all that come by. The colourful and creative design transforms this playground into a world of wonder, a true Alpine adventure.
Next to the park, the Flower Trail circles the mountain via a path suitable for strollers, and the floral-themed walk introduces alpine flowers, meadows and herbs to visitors of all ages. A newly opened Water Labyrinth built next to the playground adds another dimension of play for youngsters.
When it’s time to refuel, the Allmendhubel Panorama Restaurant has a wide variety of dishes primed to satisfy any palate. Seating is never an issue, with more than 80 seats inside and 100 on the sun terrace that overlooks the Flower Park adventure playground, allowing parents to relax over food or a drink while the children let off some steam in complete safety.
Meals promise the riches of great local produce and many dishes are concocted especially with families in mind. Alongside traditional favourites like Rösti with fried egg and Bernese Oberland beef entrecôte with homemade herb butter is the Allmihubel Pasta special (for two adults and two children) of premium Swiss Gletscherhüetli pasta with tomato, pesto and Bolognese sauce, a large salad and soft drinks (a family package offered allows families with up to four children to add return transport from Mürren or Stechelberg as an option).
Here, as time slows down and life brims with joy and good cheer, families are able to truly appreciate the wondrous surroundings that draw so many international tourists to Switzerland time and time again — jagged peaks, bright wildflowers, clear sunny skies, nature in its purest form.
Everything you need to know to visit Schilthorn, Piz Gloria, Bond world and Allmendhubel
Where can I stay when visiting Schilthorn
It’s possible for anyone to choose between many different accommodation options when visiting the Schilthorn region. It is easier to get to Schilthorn from Mürren, the touristic centre would be Interlaken, or you can stay in nearby towns like Wengen or Grindelwald. Some of the hotels here include:
- Mürren – Eiger Mürren Swiss Quality Hotel, Hotel Alpenruh and Hotel Blumental
- Interlaken – Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa, Hotel Royal St Georges Interlaken MGallery Hotel Collection*, Lindner Grand Hotel Beau Rivage and Carlton-Europe Hotel Vintage Adults Hotel.
- Grindelwald – Romantik Hotel Schweizerhof, Aspen Alpine Lifestyle Hotel, Boutique Hotel & Restaurant Glacier, and Hotel Bergwelt Grindelwald.
- Wengen – Beausite Park Hotel Wengen
- Merligen – BEATUS Wellness & Spa Hotel
What to wear when visiting Schilthorn
There’s nothing like standing on top of the world, surrounded by crisp mountain air and 360-degree views. And when you’re visiting Schilthorn, that’s precisely what you can expect. But before you head up to the observation platform, there are a few things you should know.
First and foremost, dress in multiple thinner layers so that you can adapt to the different temperatures throughout the day. It can be windy at the top, so make sure to take along gloves, sun glasses and perhaps a hat. Solid shoes are also recommended if you plan to leave the observation platform and explore the area.
With a little preparation, you’re sure to enjoy a memorable experience at Schilthorn.
View Schilthorn Livecam
Schilthorn’s livecam offers breathtaking views of the Swiss Alps, and it’s the perfect way to check out the destination virtually before your journey even starts.
Whether you’re looking for a winter wonderland or a summer paradise, Schilthorn has something for everyone. So why not take a break from your busy life and enjoy the simple things in life? Schilthorn is waiting for you. ◼
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© This article was first published online in May 2022 – World Travel Magazine.