Giessbach Falls near Interlaken

Ride a ferry and vintage funicular to these gorgeous waterfalls near Interlaken with optional short hike & lunch at Grand Hotel Giessbach.
Giessbach waterfalls

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
Condition: dirt, narrow
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

Location

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.

view from Giessbach falls to GrandHotel Giessbach with mountains behind it

Trail map

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.

map of trail up the Giessbach waterfalls

Getting there

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.

Ferry timetable

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.

Ferry prices

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.

See current funicular prices and timetable.

Impressions

Riding the ferry from Brienz

The best way to reach the Giessbach waterfalls is to start with a boat ride on Brienzersee.

ferry boat on the Brienzersee with Swiss flag

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).

view from ferry boat on Brienzersee and vintage bell

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.

ferry dock at bottom of Giessbach waterfalls

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.

family riding red Giessbach funicular car

The waiting area for the funicular up to the Giessbach hotel.

family waiting at entrance to Giessbach funicular

Fun historical details about the vintage funicular.

vintage sign and poster for Giessbach funicular built in 1879

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.

Giessbach hotel and view of Giessbach waterfalls

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:

trail with stairs leading to upper falls

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.

walkway under Giessbach waterfalls

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.

view from upper falls down to Grand Hotel Giessbach and Brienzersee lake

On a clear day you can see the Rothorn and other mountains on the north side of Brienzersee.

Brienzersee lake and mountain range

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.

outdoor seating for Grand Hotel Giessbach restaurant

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.

risotto with mushrooms and cream soup with popcorn

The kiosk below the hotel patio has some cheap snacks like hot dogs, sandwiches and popsicles.

kiosk selling food and gifts

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.

playground at Grand Hotel Giessbach

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!

See 10 Best Waterfalls in Switzerland 

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20 Responses

  1. Thanks for the excellent suggestion! We did this super fun trip yesterday with a 4 year old, and a 2 year old. We didn’t quite get to the top bridge before we turned around, it was a little too tricky for the little ones. My only suggestion would be to book a table, even in the outdoor seating of the grand hotel. We had a wait of only 15 minutes for a table, but many others were turned away due to lack of seating, or ended up getting a seat only after 2:30pm.

    1. Great tip, thank you! I think it’s extra troublesome at restaurants this summer because of Covid, both because restaurants reduce the number of people they can serve and because more swiss are spending their summer in their homeland.

  2. Great useful information! I wanted to ask you how long is the path with the stairs? Is it only this on the photo and later on is flat? Or it is more steps than flat path?

    1. The path from the restaurant up to the higher falls (about 1 km each way) has several sections with stairs and is a narrow dirt path the whole way. The path from the restaurant down to the lake is a wider path that is partially paved and partially gravel, no stairs that I remember.

  3. thank you for sharing! as time schedule for the next activities in the mountains, is there any way to take train or bus back to interlaken from the waterfalls in order to save time (i.e. taking cruise to the waterfalls and taking train or bus going back to interlaken or directly to Lauterbrunnen) ? i plan to visit the waterfall in the morning and heading to Lauterbrunnen valley for hiking activities in the afternoon.

    1. The Giessbach waterfalls are only accessible by ferry (or car), not by bus or train. So if the ferry schedule doesn’t work for you, you might consider visiting the Trummelbach falls in Lauterbrunnen valley instead. That way you can more quickly get to your hikes.

  4. Swiss scenery are really beautiful. Unfortunately, everything in Switzerland is really pricey. But beautiful scenery has its costs. 🙂

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  8. It seems like a great hike. We love to take the children hiking and we’re thinking to come to Switzerland for a week with our caravan. Don’t know the itinerary but were thinking about Zürich, Interlaken, Bern en Geneve…

  9. We did this walk with our 2,7 and 10 year old boys yesterday. It was absolutely beautiful and the walk was very serene and peaceful. The waterfall itself is gorgeous.

    The walks are a bit of a climb but the path was well stoned and we didn’t find it too slippery. The older boys were perfectly fine with it and the 2 year old was mostly on a carrier with us.
    The walk to behind the waterfall is pretty short and the rest you can go up as much as you please. So it suited us a lot.

    Thank you for your detailed info and tips. This site has been so useful for Us for our interlaken trip this summer with the boys. It made planning where to go with the kids so much easier. 3 cheers for this page !!!

  10. We did this trip this afternoon as we were staying in the area over the weekend. We had a great day and really enjoyed ourselves. We climbed almost to the top of the waterfall which is a pretty steep walk and had our toddlers (aged 3 and 1) on our shoulders/in baby carrier most of the way. Make sure you have decent shoes on as was quite slippy in places coming down. We had a lovely meal with beautiful view on the terrace at the hotel afterwards with the sun going down. We were lucky with the weather which cleared up this afternoon so we had great views of the lake and mountains both from the waterfall and when eating at the hotel. Our kids enjoyed the little playground too. Thanks for the post, want to go back and explore this lake more now we've discovered it as it's so pretty.

  11. hey I 'ld love to share, years after these comments were written, I am so glad I bumped into your blog via Google! it even became a time sink reading all the work you've done. but as you said, you've done the leg work for all us, new moms in switzerland. thx a million for that!

  12. Thanks for the post. I love to follow your adventures and recommendations especially it trails are stroller friendly or not. This is a great blog! Thanks a million!

  13. Thanks for the post. I love to follow your adventures and recommendations especially about the trails… i.e. stroller friendly or not. Thanks!

  14. A friend recommended this blog and am so happy she did!!! It's fantastic!! Do keep it up, it's so helpful. Today we went to Golzernsee and had a lovely day. Would have never found the place if I hadn't seen it here. Forwarded the link to all my friends and they were all delighted. Thanks for your great work.
    Isabel

  15. Glad to help! It's so nice to get your comment and know that someone is reading. Happy hiking this spring 🙂

  16. Thanks for the post!! As always we follow your steps, and will again, this looks like an excellent outing with our 3 small ones! Thanks again for taking the trouble to share this on the net, know that many of us appreciate your blog very much!

    Best regards,

    Juan Miguel Venturello

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Hi! I’m Tanya and our family has been living & hiking in Switzerland since 2005, collecting dozens of fun hikes and activities for all ages and abilities. More about us…

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