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Schilthorn: a one-of-a-kind luxury travel destination. While Switzerland may be landlocked, it’s a country filled to the brim with striking topography. Much of the nation’s highlights are 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 (including the highest waterfall in the country), forests, cliffs, mountains, snow, stunning views, and the chance to see native birds, deer and owls.
Travel on unlimited expeditions around Switzerland 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 connecting three train lines and 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 over 60% a sizeable discount on the cable-car tickets to the Schilthorn, another bonus of the pass.
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 2,684-metre peak of 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.
Schilthorn’s Piz Gloria, a rotating restaurant with 360-degree views of 200 alpine peaks
Right at the top, 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 film. 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 and which today promises visitors an impressive range of delectable food. Today, this elevated eatery, an example of the fine gastronomical establishments that the mountain offers all visitors, thrills guests with a 45-minute complete rotation that takes in 200 alpine peaks including Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, and a series of mountains 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 in France are also visible.
Piz Gloria: Brunch at 2970 metres with spectacular views from the revolving restaurant. Kick off your day in style.
A highlight of Piz Gloria is the James Bond Brunch, the best value all-you-can-eat brunch in the Alps that runs until 2 pm daily. For Swiss Francs 35 (about S$50) for adults, or Swiss Francs 20 (about S$29) for children aged 6-15, diners can enjoy unlimited coffee, tea, milk (including lactose-free and soy options), hot chocolate, and Prosecco with and without alcohol.
The feast starts from 8 am, with the breakfast buffet of cloudy apple juice, yoghurts, Birchermüesli (a food developed more than a century ago by the Swiss physician Maximilian Bircher-Brenner), fresh fruits, cereals, eggs, the potato dish rösti, sausages, waffles, pancakes, breads, and much more.
Throughout the morning and early afternoon, until 2 pm, there are numerous buffets set up, from cold buffets with smoked salmon and horseradish sauce, salami, and charcuterie cuts, to a soup buffet with a variety of soups, to a warm buffet with roast meats, pastas, and various side dishes, to a salad buffet with ten different salads and a trio of dressings. With much to savour, and with such incredible views outside, this unique brunch is as much a treat for the stomach as for the eyes.
For those that plan to eat a little later — perhaps a leisurely lunch after exploring the mountain’s rich vein of outdoor activity — the restaurant also features a grand à la carte selection. Since Piz Gloria completes a full rotation in less than an hour, diners can see three countries in one lunchtime on a clear day (perhaps even two times over, as a usual lunch reservation lasts for two revolutions).
Piz Gloria serves local specialities and international favourites, with themed choices like 007 Burgers (both as meat and vegetarian burgers) in addition to regional favourites like Zürich-style sliced veal, pork steak with mushroom sauce, buttered noodles and seasonal vegetables, and a sausage wheel with onion gravy and rösti. The Piz Gloria Zvieri is a generous platter of regionally sourced meat and cheese, with the meats prepared on an original Berkel slicer, served with wine or a non-alcoholic beverage.
Vegetarians and vegans are also catered to, with numerous options that include rösti with vegetables and sour cream, Indian yellow lentils and potato and pea curry with basmati rice, and spaghetti Piz Gloria with basil, olives, bell pepper, mushrooms, tomato and courgette. The restaurant also boasts an expansive drinks menu, with Champagne, wine, Prosecco, spirits, beer, soft drinks and more than ten coffee options (for adults that like an extra kick with their caffeine, some come with liqueur).
Allmendhubel Panorama Restaurant, serving traditional & international dishes with fresh mountain air and breathtaking views
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 leisure-seekers who want to stay active or just unwind.
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 newly renovated sun terrace that overlooks the Flower Park adventure playground, and meals celebrate the riches of the region’s great produce.
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).
Another draw of this restaurant is the Allmihubel-Brättli, a selection of dry-cured meats and regional cheese specialities, dry-cured sausage, mini salami, herb and garlic bacon, Schiltalp mountain cheese and slivers of planed cheese, served with bread and rosemary and pear sauce. Once again, vegans and vegetarians are spoilt for choice, with salads, melted cheese sandwiches or cheese fondue, pastas and wraps among the options always available.
Enjoy Swiss cuisine & hospitality at Hotel Alpenruh
Right by the cable car station at the car-free village of Mürren, Hotel Alpenruh is the perfect base for numerous activities in and around the mountain, with 26 rooms that have all been recently renovated, most of them offering views of the valleys and mountains.
In addition, the hotel has an à-la-carte restaurant that seats 100 diners, with some of the seating on balconies that look over the stunning alpine scenery. The hotel can provide a rich variety of wines, snacks, desserts and more to guests, while meals are a loving distillation of Swiss alpine favourites.
Grisons barley soup is served with whole wheat bread, while the starter Mürren Platter is an array of dry-cured meats, ham, dry-cured sausage and Mürren planed cheese served with whole wheat bread, butter and fig mustard. Traditional rösti includes Mountain Hiker‘s Rösti served with colourful vegetables and toasted nuts, and Alpenruh Spare Ribs are marinaded with homemade barbecue sauce, prepared sous-vide with roasted onions and French fries.
A dish that nods to a local natural landmark, the Schwarzmönch Sausage (half veal, half pork), is served with onion sauce and homemade rösti. Here, as time slows down and life brims with joy and good cheer, visitors to this slice of Swiss paradise 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 — while enjoying gastronomy as memorable as the breathtaking nature that reaches forth in all directions. ◼
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© This article was first published online in Sept 2022 – World Travel Magazine.