Strategically placed Interlaken is the gateway city to the Bernese Oberland and the center of tourism for the region. It is also home to one of Switzerland's finest hotels.

Perhaps no city in Switzerland is more centrally placed and accessible to so many major attractions as Interlaken. From the town's unusual location, on a flat strip of land known as the Bödeli, between the lakes of Thun and Brienz, one can embark on excursions to half a dozen peaks, including the Jungfraujoch and the Schilthorn; pretty mountain villages such as Wengen, Mürren, Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald; or board a lake steamer at either end of town. The quiet Kander Valley is less than an hour away as is the woodcarving town of Brienz and the nearby Giessbach Falls. The Michelin Green Guide for Switzerland recommends an outing that consists of a full day's automobile tour of three of the country's great passes, the Grimsel, the Furka and the Susten. Roundtrips to the Jungfraujoch (127 SFr./$83 for adults) and Schilthorn (79 SFr./$52) are not inexpensive though Swiss Pass holders bound for the Jungfraujoch travel free as far as Kleine Scheidegg and receive a 25% discount the rest of the way. Pass holders headed for the Schilthorn ride free to Mürren and receive the same 25% discount from there to the summit.

Interlaken itself hums with considerable tourist activity, though a few blocks off the Höheweg the older part of town retains its village character.

For additional information about Interlaken we recommend the Michelin Green Guide for Switzerland and contacting the Swiss Tourist Office, 222 No. Sepulveda, #1570, El Segundo CA 90245, telephone 310/35-5980, fax 310-335-5982.

Interlaken Hotels

Grand Hotel Victoria-Jungfrau

(Editor's Choice)

There is no hotel experience quite like that found at the greatest, grandest Swiss hotels. To this point in the six-year plus history of Gemütlichkeit, greatest and grandest has meant the Beau Rivage Palace in Lausanne, Geneva's Le Richemond, and Les Sources des Alpes in Leukerbad, in no particular order.

Let's make it a foursome. Victoria Jungfrau in Interlaken. The most lavish spa we've ever seen; sumptuously furnished guest rooms; ornate, exquisitely Victorian public rooms; a magnificent restaurant; four indoor and three outdoor tennis courts; faultless service and, right there framed in your window, floating in and out of the clouds, the imposing mountain for which it is named.

The town's main street, the Höheweg, is dominated by the V.J.'s long, Belle Epoque façade, striped awnings over every window, and commanded by a square Victorian tower.

Once inside the hotel you'll walk down high, wide corridors past 10-foot high beveled glass doors with dark wood frames that open onto elegant salons, past marble fountains and under dazzling crystal chandeliers. The term "swimming pool" doesn't begin to adequately describe the V. J.'s extravagant natatorium of Roman opulence and Art Deco ritz. Under an arching roof that opens to the sky, azure columns rise from the water. Each narrows to a black cylinder that supports a white, basketball sized, light globe. Nearby are the hotel's four indoor tennis courts. Outside are three more.

Our junior suite, Number 414, on two levels, was beautifully decorated and equipped. Both in the upstairs sleeping area and downstairs in the living area we found bathrooms, TVs and a kind of security phone-a-vision that allows the room's occupants to both talk to and see, on a small TV screen, someone knocking at the door. The spacious upper bath had a shower separate from the large Jacuzzi-style tub.

The 228-room hotel, which marked its 125th birthday in 1990, has two restaurants, the Jungfrau-Stube, which serves an upscale but traditional Swiss cuisine, and the more formal Le Terrasse. The hotel's orchestra plays in the Victoria Bar, a tinkling piano sets the cocktail hour atmosphere in the Intermezzo Bar and, at the Racket Club/Tennisbar, snacks, beverages, coffee and cakes are served throughout the day.

Dinners in Le Terrasse were the best European meals of the last 12 months.

The best dish of the four or five we tried was slices of veal served in a light Roquefort sauce with sautéed fennel and buckwheat crêpes. Almost as good was thick, pink duck breast in a spicy curry/chutney sauce accompanied by a variety of winter vegetables. The cheese cart had approximately 20 offerings and the three or four we chose were served with walnuts or grapes and a dark bread from the Valais. But no sooner had the cheese-mobile pulled away, than the dessert cart glided to a halt in front of our table. Profiteroles filled with chocolate mousse, fresh strawberries and whipped cream, and a mousse of both white and dark chocolate were just two of some 15 cart choices. Without beverages the per person price averaged about $55 and was worth every penny.

For some reason, a fleeting, revealing glance as we passed Le Salon - of the hotel's "meeting rooms" - sticks in the mind. It took less than a second for our eyes to invade and record the scene: a prosperous looking family of six or seven gathered around a long, well-set table for a Saturday luncheon. They appeared at ease in such elegant surroundings, though the big room and table seemed almost to miniaturize them. Men and boys wore coats and neckties. A beautifully coiffed and dressed little girl of five or six ran around the table. At one end lounged the patriarch, a black haired, slightly portly man of about 40. Perhaps a banker from Zürich. Maybe a gentleman farmer who had brought his family to Interlaken for the weekend. Or possibly a local family who decided to rent the best room in town to celebrate a birthday. Whatever the event, it was a scene from a hundred years ago. The Victoria Jungfrau is that kind of hotel. Gourmet magazine recently said, "with the single most breathtaking view of the Jungfrau, it is the jewel in the crown of Interlaken." Agreed.

Grand Hotel Victoria-Jungfrau, CH-3800, Interlaken, telephone 036/271111, fax 036/273737. Singles 200 SFr. to 295 SFr. ($131-$193), doubles 310 SFr. to 480 SFr. ($203-$314). Rates do not include breakfast and are discounted for longer stays.
* Victoria-Jungfrau: V G
* Restaurant La Terressa: PP

Gasthof Hirschen

This richly weathered Bernese country-style house is located a good 10-minute walk from the center of town on a busy corner where Jungfraustrasse and Parkstrasse come together. Furniture, walls and ceilings inside are knotty pine. Guest rooms are large enough, though a bit worn, but the bathrooms are small and some have claustrophobic stall showers. A tepid recommendation.

Gasthof Hirschen CH-3800 Matten-Interlaken, telephone 036/221545, fax 036/233745. Singles 70 SFr. to 95 SFr. ($46-$62), doubles 130 SFr. to 180 SFr. ($85-$118). Major cards.
* Gasthof Hirschen: I - II

Hotel Post Hardermannli

As close to a bargain as we found in Interlaken. Located in the older part of town on Hauptstrasse. You'll be charmed by the ornate, flower bedecked façade and pleasant entrance. Number 31 is a cozy single with skylight and slanting ceiling. Ask for it. The recommended double is #11 with a small sitting area. All 22 rooms have been refurbished within the past two years. No TV, no phone. Very informal, caters to families. One rarely-found guest feature is a self-service laundry with washer, dryer, iron and ironing board.

Hotel Post Hardermannli, CH-3800 Interlaken, telephone 036/228919, fax 036/220028. Singles 60 SFr. to 85 SFr. ($39-$56), doubles 110 SFr. to 150 SFr. ($72-$98). Major cards.
* Hotel Post Hardermannli: II $

Hotel Interlaken

On the same street as the Victoria-Jungfrau, the Höheweg, but not in the same league. Close to the eastern railway station. Regular doubles are somewhat drab and cost 210 SFr. ($137). It is worth the extra 40 SFr. ($26) to reserve one of the hotel's "antique" chambers, such as the Mendelsohn room.

Hotel Interlaken, CH-3800 Interlaken, phone 036/212211, fax 036/233121. Singles 110 SFr. to 138 SFr. ($72-$90), doubles 172 SFr. to 226 SFr. ($112-$148). Major cards.
* Hotel Interlaken: II

Interlaken

Population 4,852

Altitude 570 meters/1,860 feet

Distance From

* Zürich 130 km - 81 miles
* Lucerne 72 km - 45 miles
* St. Moritz 264 km - 164 miles
* Geneva 204 km - 127 miles

Interlaken Tourist Office

* Höheweg 37
* CH-3800 Interlaken
* Phone: 036/222121
* Fax: 036/2252221

February 1993