A Weekend in Engelberg, Switzerland
I found it! A perfect, little slice of Switzerland.
I planned the perfect weekend. A few days in Zurich, followed by a weekend in Wengen and the Lauterbrunnen Valley.
What didn’t we know? The small mountain towns in Switzerland essentially shut down between the end of October until the start of December and again for six to eight weeks in early spring. My emails and calls to Wengen, Grindelwald, and Murren revealed a total of one open hotel for the weekend. We pictured empty streets, closed shops, and very few open restaurants. Boooooooo!
Thankfully, friends suggested a visit to Engelberg, and all was saved. Engelberg is only 90 minutes by car and 2.5 hours by train from Zurich. Perfect for a quick getaway. It’s now our go-to place with houseguests who want a little taste of Swiss mountain life and alpine scenery.
We usually visit Engelberg as a day trip, but when we do have more time, we stay at The Spannort. I can’t say enough nice things about this hotel. The front desk was incredibly welcoming, the rooms comfortable and with a modern take on the Swiss mountain hotel.
Mountain Views, Gondolas, Cheese, and Churches. And Beer.
Despite its small size, Engelberg has a lot to offer. It’s a snapshot of everything you expect Switzerland to be…high mountains, gondola rides, a beautiful valley, stunning peaks, cows, hiking, skiing. And cheese. The Mister and I couldn’t resist a gondola ride to Mt. Titlis in the morning, so we walked to the gondola station and stood in line with the skiers, snowboarders and not-dressed-for-the-mountaintop tourists in heels. The ride to the top is as spectacular as the view from the top.
The final gondola (there are three total in the trip to the top) rotates slowly to provide a 360-degree perspective. The ride up was too crowded to take any pictures, but the ride down was virtually empty and provided lots of opportunities to click away without anyone’s head/skis/fuzzy hat in the way. Just look at it.
The summit station has a “glacier walk,” where you can walk through (you guessed it) a glacier, a movie theater with a short film about the mountain, a few gift shops, and two restaurants/cafes. It also has a cliff walk, tobogganing, adventure park, and a host of other things to do in the summer or winter. You could easily fill a weekend or more, summer or winter.
The Mister and I spent most of our time outside, watching the skiers hit the slopes, and the tourists (clearly some had never seen snow) slide down the small hills in their street clothes and throw snowballs at each other. We also found a few quiet corners to absorb the majesty of it all.
We left the gondola and walked back into town to Kloster Engelberg, a Benedictine Monastery founded in 1120. The monastery offers guided tours once or twice a day, depending on the season. We walked the grounds, visited the flower shop and the dairy. I watched the cheese-making demonstration while The Mister chose a cheese or ten for a mid-day snack. I also ate some fabulous monastery gelato, which is calorie-free since monks make it. Ahem.
It was mid-afternoon, and my gelato was wearing off…time for lunch. There were quite a few places in town for a meal, but our hotel recommended taking a more traditional “Swiss” gondola to a cafe for a light lunch and a glass of wine. We walked ten minutes along a lovely hiking path to the Ristis/Brunni cable car and ended up eating lunch at the restaurant half-way up. It was a gorgeous day, and the views were ah-mazing.
Our plan to hike back down to Engelberg turned into an afternoon of sitting on the sunny deck for a few hours with a plate full of food and a beer in each hand.
We made it down to the bottom in time for a long walk in the valley. We didn’t get very far. Engelberg is a perfect place to be distracted by beautiful mountain vistas, bell-laden, picture-perfect Swiss cows, and endless picture-taking opportunities.
And no, that isn’t us in the picture. We’re old, but not that old.
Things to know:
It is worth investigating the Swiss Pass/Half-Fare Pass if you plan on doing multiple gondola rides and various forms of transportation. The big, tourist gondolas are expensive! If you decide the Swiss Pass isn’t a good option for you, most of the hotels will give you a small discount card to use for various venues in town. Check with your hotel.
Check the weather before heading up the mountain. Our Swiss friends told us that we had been fortunate to have a perfect day on the mountain. I can’t imagine how disappointing it would be to pay for an expensive gondola ride and not see a thing at the top.
The smaller gondolas offer a spectacular view OF the mountains. And beer. And decent food! Consider these a good option if you don’t have the time/money/inclination to go to the top of Titlis. We also enjoyed the Fürenalp gondola and restaurant at the top. So Swiss and the food is delicious.
Engelberg has outstanding hikes for family and lots to do in the summer! If your interested in something very Swiss and a bit offbeat, try this!
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