It's Culture / Travel There

A Houstonian’s Guide: 24 Hours in Grindewald, Switzerland

Whisk yourself away to the winter wonderland that is the Jungfrau region nestled quietly into the Swiss Alps. I had the most magical weekend exploring the quaint corners of Grindelwald and left craving more snow, more skiing, and more mountain adventures.

After spending a few days in the medieval city of Bern, we trained to Interlaken and connected to a small regional train to Grindelwald. The train was packed with people in ski gear, wielding poles, goggles and sledges (more on that later). We checked into the Hotel Spinne and set out to explore the town. Already itching to return to this picturesque village, I give you my recommendations for a wonderful 24 hours in Grindelwald, Switzerland.

About the Region

After much debate between the stunning Instagram-ready Lake Lucerne, the allure of the city of Zurich and the picturesque mountain region—my boyfriend and I decided on adventuring to the Jungfrau region for a weekend away. It was a splendid choice! Nestled amidst the Alps, the Jungfrau region is a wonderland that attracts winter sport enthusiasts from across the world. Interlaken, the hub for the region, is the larger of the towns, further from the mountains and a launching point for more remote towns of Grindelwald, Mürren, Launterburren, and Wengen, and Haslital.

hotel spinne grindewald switzerland

hotel spinne grindewald switzerland

Morning

Wake up and watch the sunrise! Mountain sunrises have such a romantic charm. As Grindelwald is nestled at the foot of the Eiger and Spinne mountains, the sun rise comes later than usual because the sun has to reach over the peaks before hitting the village. We ate a hearty European breakfast at the Hotel Spinne— bread, jam, Swiss cheese, muesli, tea—before heading out to the ski shop. The day before we had reserved 2 “sledges” at Buri Sport to go sledding down the mountain. Compared to the expensive af coffee and snacks we kept buying at Swiss corner shops, the sledge price was very reasonable at 15 CHF each. What is a sledge you ask? It’s a specific type of wooden sled with two runners and a frame–dates back to ancient times of transporting items through the snow, but now is just used recreationally. It’s a sled for all intents and purposes.

hotel spinne grindewald switzerland

Since this trip was fairly spontaneous, we hadn’t planned to go skiing or brought any true snow gear (boots, ski pants, etc.), so sledging was an excellent way to see the mountain! The first day we tried to reserve sledges the entire town was sold out, so it was exciting to have the opportunity again on our second day. The guys at the shop were helpful and provided recommendations on routes. We selected Jungfrau First because the trail started across the street, but had the option of doing Männlichen (ruled out because it involves a bus and was notably steeper) and Faulhorn, which is the longest in the world, but involves a 2 hour hike to get there. Here’s a map of all the sledging routes in the area.

sledging first grindewald switzerland

After grabbing our sledges, we raced to the Grindelwald First line to hop on a gondola to the mountain top. The line was quite long at 8:30am (right when it opened!) and only got longer throughout the day. I’d definitely recommend getting lift tickets at the hotel or a shop rather than standing in line all day.

Having not been in real snow in 2 years, and actual mountains in 3 years, I was legit losing my mind going up the mountain. The views were EXTRAORDINARY, and unlike anything I’ve seen before. While it’s fairly common for Texans to venture off to Colorado or Utah for skiing, I confirmed with my boyfriend the the Alps views are completely different from the Rockies!

The ride to the top took 35 minutes and passed through several towns. At the top, the sun had just risen and the pristine snow and mountain views took both our breaths away! Before sledging, we did the “Cliff Walk” and walked around the metal mesh walkway mountain top to see some fantastic views of Eiger and Spinne.

sledging first grindewald switzerland sledging first grindewald switzerland

Then our sledging adventure began! Note: I was wholly unprepared for this adventure wearing a wool peacoat, scarf, and Tory Burch boots. Since we generated such heat hiking up and down the mountain (yes we had to hike UP before we could go DOWN and granted it was a mild day at 30 degrees, full sun, and no wind), I was sweating before we even started. Also slipped SO MUCH because my boots had no tread.

sledging first grindewald switzerland

Starting off we found the trailhead marked in purple to note where the sledging began. We may or may not have started on the wrong trail, but it was STEEP. And terrifying. And you FLY on those wooden sledges. And the only way that I could figure out to stop was by smashing into a snow bank or rolling off—I’ve got some nice bruises and a crick in my neck to prove it. But after we got past the first steep af stretch, the trail leveled out and involved mild switchbacks. I also got the hang of steering, breaking, and digging my Tory Burch heels into the ground to get friction and slow down. Note to self: plan better for spontaneous sledging trips and bring shoes with actual tread.

sledging first grindewald switzerland

Obviously, growing up in Houston I got tan lines from water polo suits and lifeguard shifts—not ski goggles and mountain sun. Visiting Grindelwald was eyeopening to see the variety and intensity of all the different winter sports out there. Towards the bottom of the mountain, our trail converged with the ski path and we saw downhill skiers, snowboarders, snow shoers, cross county skiers (going uphill!!!), and people trekking up the mountain—the calves on these people DAMN!

On the same trail, we were lapped (naturally) by plenty of Europeans, small children (lol), and even one guy on a velogemel aka a SNOW BIKE, which was pretty cool to see because Grindelwald had hosted the velogemel competition the weekend before.

Once we started the sledge trip, it took about 2.5 hours to get down the mountain. Due to my shoe predicament, I progressed pretty slowly. I’m sure Europeans were laughing as they passed me, sometimes literally sliding down the mountain on my butt (only way I had control) or “skiing” by crouching on my heels and holding the back of my sled to steer. Guy at the store said the trail should take about an hour, which I’m sure I could do if I had better shoes and more confidence. Who knew sledding could be so intense??!!

Hotel Spinne Grindewald sleging guide sledging first grindewald switzerland sledging first grindewald switzerland

If we weren’t catching an afternoon train, we would have surely stopped at one of the lovely little ski cafes located along the ski train. Sprinkled across the mountain side in the little towns we passed, they’d be a lovely place to grab a coffee, or snack before heading out again. My good friend Caroline, of Wanderlux Traveler living in Luxembourg, once explained to me how different skiing in the Alps were compared to US haunts like Colorado or Utah. She painted this whimsical picture of skiers taking different trails each day down the mountain and ending up in different mountain villages each time. That image stuck in my head but didn’t really resonate as reality until I saw it for myself! Consisting of a few small towns connected by train lines, local buses and gondolas (yes, gondalas!!), skiers can literally ski from town to town in Jungfrau region. With our stay at Hotel Spinne, we had passes to local bus transportation should we have wanted to visit another town as well as some discounts on tickets and passes in town.

At the bottom of the mountain, we ended just a few blocks from where we started and were able to drop our sledges off at the ski shop. Despite my struggles, I LOVED the experience. It’s not every day you can sled (or sledge) down 3500 feet through the Alps. Since I don’t know how to ski (also, skiing is expensive!)  I thought it was an amazing and perfect experience to complete our winter Grindelwald trip. I’d love to come back and do the same trail again, or even hike to Faulhorn and try out the worlds longest sledge trail!

hotel spinne grindewald switzerland

Afternoon

Post adventuring, I was introduced to the amazing concept of “apres-ski”. Aka happy hour after skiing. Hell yeah. I’m a mountain-winter noob but I can def get on board with drinking beer on a patio. C&M was just the place to do it. The sun shined and was warm, the beer was cold, and the season ravioli was delicious but overpriced per usual Swiss manner ($30 for a lunch portion? Okay…) but SO TOTALLY WORTH IT. glühwein (spiced mulled wine) is a delightful choice as well.

apres ski grindewald switzerland

Next a stroll around the town was in store. Grindelwald is fairly small and the main street is lined with ski shops, souvenirs stores, Swiss chocolatiers, bakeries and restaurants. Street vendors sold pastries, chocolate and cheese. I sampled everything and indulged on a 2 CHF Berliner Pfannkuchen pastry sold on the street corner. The grocery store Coop was clutch to pick up sunscreen and train snacks (a bit tired of overpriced restaurant food). I loved snapping pictures of the Swiss chalets nestled into the mountain side and watching the skiers.

apres ski grindewald switzerland hotel spinne grindewald switzerland hotel spinne grindewald switzerland hotel spinne grindewald switzerland hotel spinne grindewald switzerland hotel spinne grindewald switzerland hotel spinne grindewald switzerland

After walking the length of the town, we headed back to Hotel Spinne for some much needed R&R. Hotel Spinne offered an expansive Swiss spa, sauna, and pool. First, we hopped into the outdoor heated infinity pool to watch the sun set over the mountains. Then we ventured into the sauna. We started in the mild sauna (50C) to warm up the body and then switched to the dry Finish sauna (90C) for the real relaxation session. Having learned from my experience in Frankfurt, I knew that 2-3 rounds alternating between the hot sauna and the relaxation room is ideal to sweat out all the toxins and let your muscles relax. With the room booking, the spa also included a interior hot tub, steam room and ice bath. (On the day we left, we were also allowed to store our luggage and then access to the Hotel Spinne spa to change out of our wet sledging clothes before taking the train home—seriously nice perks!)

hotel spinne grindewald switzerland hotel spinne grindewald switzerland

Evening

Refreshed from the spa, we ventured back out into Grindelwald for dinner. Most of the restaurants in town offer similar priced menus full of pasta, burgers, and Swiss classics like fondue, raclette, and rosti. Also for whatever reason in every Swiss town there always seems to be a prominent Thai place. Across the board, all Swiss restaurants are very accommodating towards allergies, vegans and dietary needs and (assuming you can read German) mark their menus accordingly.

We found much of the dinner places to be full—definitely get a reservation during peak ski season—and finally settled on Bebbis due to hotel proximity, wait time, and my increasing level of hanger. Having been in the town since 2001, the restaurant was a bit hokey with traditional Swiss decor contrasting with the Asian wait staff wearing flamboyant cow print skirts.  We started off with a massive salad to counteract the amount of Swiss cheese and bread we’d consumed over the week. Since it was our last night in Switzerland, we shared traditional Swiss dishes of raclette and älplermagrone. Similar to fondue, raclette is melted Swiss cheese. Ours was a vegetarian version with potatoes, carrots, broccoli, and pickles. The älplermagrone was penne noodles slathered in Swiss cheese (shocker!) with potatoes, carrots, and broccoli, served with a side of apple sauce. This dish left something to be desired (subtext: I HAVE TO RETURN and try it somewhere else) as it traditionally uses macaroni.

sledging first grindewald switzerland raclette

After a full day on the mountain and a heavy Swiss cheese filled dinner, I don’t know how people go out, but the Avocado Bar down the street was popping. They were hosting a Deck Sessions competition with a snow pike set up in the back and we’re conducting the finales. Depending on the night, other places to go out would be Sunstar Hotel. I will say, while the food and coffee in Switzerland were quite expensive (e.g., dinner cost about $60), alcohol is always reasonable. I got a bottle of champagne at a restaurant for $50 (!!!!) and beers usually ranged between $5-$6. Switzerland has their priorities in check!

While 24 hours in Grindelwald is possible (I did it!), it’s not recommended because it’s just too wonderful and you’re going to fall in love!! I rode the ski lift with a couple from Holland who rented a Swiss chalet with friends and were spending 7 days in the area skiing the different slopes. That’s really the way to do it! I’d love to come back and sledge more, maybe even take a ski lesson (although I need to get over my fear of speed first), do some snow trekking, more hot tubbing, more extensive raclette tasting, and visit Jungfrau, the tallest peak in Europe!

Comment with questions that you have, or let me know if you want to return to Switzerland with me. There’s a Swiss chalet calling our names!

2 thoughts on “A Houstonian’s Guide: 24 Hours in Grindewald, Switzerland

  1. Pingback: Why I Moved to Paris & What You Can Expect This Summer | It's Not Hou It's Me | Houston Lifestyle, Food and Culture Blog

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