A semester abroad in Europe isn’t complete without spending a winter weekend in Switzerland. Centrally located within Europe, Switzerland is known for its world-renowned watches, chocolate, and the Swiss Alps of course! Switzerland makes for the perfect weekend getaway while studying abroad because it provides a nice change of scenery from hectic European cities and allows you to take a break from sightseeing. Time in Switzerland is ideally spent in the Alps, getting an adereline rush from the adventourous activities offered and enjoying nature.
Many of the student travel companies in Europe offer weekend trips to a city in Switzerland called Interlaken. I traveled here with SmartTrip, but I know that EuroAdventures and Bus2Alps offer trips with similar itineraries. Interlaken is a centrally located city in Switzerland that is nestled in a valley surrounded by the Alps and is in between two lakes, Lake Thun and Lake Brienz- hence the name “Interlaken”. It is known for being one of the adventure capitals of the world, which is proven by the skydivers, paragliders, and hang gliders that you can count on seeing in the sky each day. This city has numerous hiking and skiing trails, cute shops, laid-back restaurants, and cosy cottages- giving you the perfect slice of Swiss culture.
Aside from exploring the shops and restaurants downtown, I recommend pushing yourself to do an adventurous activity in Interlaken. I had planned on skydiving, but found it to be too expensive, so I chose to go paragliding instead… and absolutely loved it! I signed up with the company Twin Paragliding (link here) and was in great hands. I took a van to the top of a nearby ski mountain and got geared up in the snow. When we were ready, my guide told me to run as fast and hard as I could until we had enough momentum to lift off. Once we were in the air and my guide was steering us over the Alps below, I actually began to cry because it was one of the most amazing feelings that I’ve ever felt. I truly felt like I was flying. The scenic flight lasted about 12 minutes before I safely touched the ground. If you are interested in paragliding, I recommend this company. You can get pictures and videos of your flight too. If you choose not to paraglide, hang gliding and skydiving are other common options and there are many companies in Interlaken to choose from. Additionally, I didn’t get the chance to ski when I was in Switzerland (opening day isn’t usually until mid-november), but if you can time your trip around it, I would definitely do so!
I also recommend either hiking or opting for the vernacular to take you to the top of HarderKulm mountain. Located in downtown Interlaken, there is a cool restaurant on top and an amazing view of the lakes and city below.
Another activity that I did during my time in Switzerland that I highly recommend doing is a chocolate making class! The one that my friends and I did was by the Funky Chocolate Club right downtown (link here). Not only do they have the BEST hot chocolate, the class was very entertaining. I learned so much about the chocolate making process and got to make three of my own chocolate bars to take home!
Most of the student tour companies provide you with the opportunity to take a day trip to the nearby capital, Bern. I did this because I felt like I didn’t need a full three days in Interlaken. The ride to Bern was only an hour long and was one of the most charming cities that I visited. The city is surrounded by a river and has several beautiful bridges and medieval style architecture. Since it is the capital, the government buildings are also quite spectacular. I learned that Bern means “bear” so we checked out the bear pit and the flea market that was going on at the time.
While in Interlaken, I stayed at the Funny Farm Hostel. For dinner, I recommend eating at the Happy Inn and ordering one of their burgers and eating a traditional fondue dinner at the Balmers Inn.
I hope that your time in the Swiss Alps leaves you feeling full of bliss!