A day trip to the spectacular Giessbach waterfalls, aka Giessbachfälle, near Interlaken is a great choice for both locals and tourists. First a ferry ride on the gorgeous Brienzersee lake. Then a short ride on a vintage funicular up to the Grand Hotel Giessbach, where you have a great view of the falls without any extra effort.
If you feel motivated, you can wander up the falls as far as your legs will carry you, with some sections taking you underneath the roaring falls. Then back to the restaurant for a delicious meal with a view. There’s also a small playground and a grassy area where the kids can run around. This outing is particularly nice in spring, as it opens already in April.
|Location:||near Interlaken, Bernese Oberland|
|Address:||Falls & Hotel: 46°44’06.7″N 8°01’25.6″E|
|Car:||Parking at Brienz ferry dock: 46°45’17.6″N 8°02’11.6″E
20 mins from Interlaken, 50mins from Luzern, 1hr25 from Zurich + ferry
|Train:||Train station: Interlaken Ost or Brienz, then ferry to Giessbach (See)
1hr50 from Luzern, 2hr10 from Bern, 3hr10 from Zurich (incl. ferry)
|Trail:||optional 1-2 km|
|Skill:||moderate, some steep sections|
|Open:||late March thru late October|
|Cost 2021:||falls are free to visit
funicular one way CHF 5, under 12 free
ferry return CHF 19.20/adult (SBB discounts apply)
|More info:||• webcam|
The Giessbach waterfalls are near the northeast end of the Brienzersee lake, east of Interlaken.
Overview of Giessbach Falls
You can drive directly to the Grandhotel Giessbach and falls viewpoint. But the falls are best reached by ferry ride from Brienz, which drops you off at the bottom of the falls. From there, you can take a short funicular up to the hotel, where there is a fantastic view of the Giessbach falls and the Brienzersee lake. You can hike up along the falls to get a closer look (about 1 km). After your visit, you can walk down from the hotel to the lake, instead of taking the funicular, and get some nice view of the lower falls.
The map below shows the full hike from the lake to the hotel and from the hotel to the upper falls. You can customize this as you like, for example, skipping the lower section with the funicular.
The map below shows the hike from the hotel to the upper falls. #1 is the first bridge, just 200m from the hotel, easy walking. After that first bridge, the path gets narrow and uneven, best with sturdy shoes. #2 is the walkway under the falls, only 150m farther up the trail. #3 is the second bridge with a few of more falls and a chute, about 600m further. But you also gain about 170m in elevation on steep switchbacks, a little difficult for very small children. Pics of all these viewpoints are below.
I highly recommend reaching the falls by ferry, more fun and more scenic. You can catch the ferry from Brienz (11 min ride) or Interlaken (1 hr ride).
By car + ferry
If you are traveling by car, I suggest taking the ferry from Brienz. If you want a longer ferry ride, you could park in Interlaken and catch the the ferry there instead.
In Brienz, follow signs to the ferry dock (near Hauptstrasse 143, 3855 Brienz). It’s best to park in the parking lot or garage for the Brienz Rothorn mountain train, as shown on the map below (46°45’17.5″N 8°02’11.6″E).
By train + ferry
From most locations, it is most efficient to travel by train to Interlaken Ost. You can catch the ferry at the Interlaken Ost ferry dock on the river directly across from the train station. If you prefer, you can take the train to Brienz (not Brienz West!) and catch the ferry there instead. It’s a 17 min train ride from Interlaken Ost. The ferry dock is adjacent to the train station.
When purchasing your train tickets, you can purchase the whole journey together including the boat tickets. You can also purchase the boat tickets at the ticket booth near the dock or in the train station.
By car directly to the hotel
It is possible to drive directly to the hotel and falls, which is helpful if you are short on time and/or money. From highway 8, taking exit 29/Brienz. Turn south on Bächlischwendistrasse and drive up the narrow road that heads up the mountain into the woods. Just before you reach the falls and the Giessbach hotel, there is a parking lot for hikers and guests (GPS: 46°44’04.8″N 8°01’34.7″E). Continue on foot along the road for a couple minutes until you reach the waterfalls.
You can also take bus 155 from Brienz train station to the hotel, to bus stop: Brienz BE, Abzw. Giessbach. The bus runs only a few times a day and drops you 1km from the hotel. So it’s not super convenient, but an option if you prefer to skip the boat. Check current schedule on SBB.ch.
The ferry runs from April to October, but the schedule changes wildly between seasons. So I’m just going to show one sample here for reference. Check the current Brienzersee timetable.
It’s fastest to take the boat from Brienz, which is an 11 minute ride. The boat from Interlaken takes about 1hr.
From 30 Aug 2021 to 17 Oct 2021:
- from Brienz to Giessbach at 11:40, 13:40*, 14:40 and 16:40*. The ferry returns from Giessbach to Brienz at 13:09, 14:09 and 16:09.
- from Interlaken Ost (See) to Giessbach at 10:07, 12:07*, 13:07 and 15.07*. The ferry returns from Giessbach to Interlaken (see) at 11:51, 13:15, 14:51, and 16:51
* The special paddle steamer boat usually runs on the schedules I’ve starred above, but no guarantees.
In 2021, a return ticket on the ferry from Brienz (See) to Giessbach (See) cost CHF 29.40/adult. From Interlaken Ost (See) to Giessbach (See), the return ticket cost CHF 43/adult. See current Brienzersee ferry prices.
In either case, you get a 50% discount for SBB Half-fare Cards and children ages 6-15. Free: Children under 6, SBB Junior Card, GA, Day Pass, Saver Pass, Swiss Travel Pass and Berner Oberland Regional Pass. Children ride free on Saturdays. You ride free on your birthday.
Tip: The Tourist Info office in Brienz offers free luggage storage for the day, helpful if you are traveling by train. See the office opening hours. The office is located across the street from the ferry dock at Hauptstrasse 143, 3855 Brienz
Funicular ticket prices & opening hours
The funicular takes you from the lake up to the hotel, gaining 95m of elevation over the 345m track. The journey only lasts a few minutes. The funicular ride is optional, since you can walk up and/or down the path from the lake to the hotel.
The funicular costs CHF 5 each way, children under 13 ride free. If you have the Berner Oberland Regional Pass, the return journey is discounted to CHF 8. Last time I went, we paid in cash on the funicular itself. There isn’t a separate ticket booth at the ferry dock. It might be different when you go.
The funicular timetable is coordinated with the ferry schedule. For example, the 11:40 ferry from Brienz arrives at 11:51 and the funicular leaves at 11:54. On the way back, the funicular leaved the hotel at 13:09 in order to catch the 14:09 ferry back to Brienz.
Riding the ferry from Brienz
The best way to reach the Giessbach waterfalls is to start with a boat ride on Brienzersee.
It’s a short but sweet ride from Brienz. If you have time (& budget), it’s nice to take the longer ride from Interlaken (1hr).
The ferry from Brienz drops you off at Giessbach where the funicular will take you up to the hotel and waterfall viewing area. Here is lakeside area where the ferry drops off and you wait for the funicular.
Riding the funicular up to Grand Hotel Giessbach
You can walk up to the hotel or take the historic funicular up to the hotel (claims to be the oldest tourist funicular in Europe). The funicular is rather pricey and the ride short, but it was all part of the experience and we enjoyed it.
The waiting area for the funicular up to the Giessbach hotel.
Fun historical details about the vintage funicular.
The funicular drops you off on a path below the hotel, as shown in the left pic below. You can see the falls from here, but you should definitely walk up for a closer look.
Hiking up the falls
It’s an easy walk up to the first bridge (#1 on above map), shown below, which has the best view of the falls. Here are pics from two visits, showing the varying amount of water.
Here is the first bridge over the falls.
After this first bridge, you can continue hiking up the trail to see more falls. No strollers. It’s a little hard for very little kids, but it’s short. The trail looks like this:
Just a few minutes up the trail, about 150m, the trail forks to the right leading to a walkway under the falls as shown here (#2 on above map). To continue hiking up, you need to go back under the falls and rejoin the trail leading up the mountain. If you continue on the path under the falls, it will lead back down to the hotel on the opposite side of the falls.
If you continue hiking up, after another 600m (about 30-40 minutes with our kids), you reach another bridge with a view of the chute shown on the right (#3 on above map). On another visit, I continued hiking up to see if there was another nice lookout, but there wasn’t. Eventually the path ended at a paved road and another hotel, but no viewpoint. So best to head back down from here.
The view is great from this second bridge. See how little the hotel is down there.
On a clear day you can see the Rothorn and other mountains on the north side of Brienzersee.
Lunch at the hotel
Once you are done admiring the falls, head back down to the Giessbach hotel for lunch. The hotel has a huge patio, either overlooking the falls or the lake as shown below.
View of the lake from the hotel restaurant outdoor seating.
This is a rare case where I recommend eating at the restaurant. While the prices were the same as most average mountain huts, the food was much better and attractively presented. You can see below my spaztle with mushrooms and my creamed corn soup with popcorn sprinkled over it. Yum! My 6yr old was very happy with his aelplermagronen (mac n’cheese) while our 2.5yr old slept in his stroller and had a hot dog later at the kiosk. I ate there another time with friends and the food was just as good as I remembered.
The kiosk below the hotel patio has some cheap snacks like hot dogs, sandwiches and popsicles.
Near the hotel, there is a large grassy field and small playground. I think this is part of the hotel grounds, but no one seemed to mind us playing there. You could picnic there too.
Walking down to the lake
From the hotel, you can walk down along the falls to the lake, which I recommend. It’s less than 1 km but it took us about thirty minutes with our little kids walking slow and looking at everything. This part of the trail is paved or smooth gravel and easy with a stroller.
Some of the lower falls.
Last bridge over the falls right before you reach the lake.
Then catch the ferry back to Brienz. Remember to check the schedule since the ferry runs very infrequently. I hope you enjoy it!