ABOVE: Chalets in downtown Gimmelwald.
Can an obscure village in the
Swiss Alps remain off the
beaten path after being featured in a television travel series and popular budget
In the case of Gimmelwald, the answer is moot--if only because this car-free village in
the Bernese Oberland was a tourist attraction (albeit a minor one) long before its discovery by Rick Steves,
PBS travel guide and author of Europe Through the Back Door, who devotes Day 18
to "Alps hike day, Gimmelwald" in "22 Days in Europe: Rick's Favorite
Consider this description from The Tourist's Handbook to Switzerland,
published in 1884:
Leaving Mürren, we take the leftward path, and cross the stream of the
Mürrenbach, descending, in half an hour, to the village of Gimmelwald. (Altitude,
4,500 feet. Hotel and Pension--Zum Schilthorn.) This place has been recently well spoken
of by a correspondent of the Christian World as a pleasant and healthful summer
resort for "tourists of moderate means" who may desire an economical and
picturesque location of sojourn in the Bernese Oberland. The pension above mentioned is
referred to with hearty recommendation as "the boarding-house of Madame von
Almen," where travellers "will find all they need for five francs a day,
everything included, save wine." Such a rate is, of course, quoted for a lengthened
stay, the advertised tariff of the house being six francs per day, and very
reasonable at that.
The summit of the Schilthorn is also readily obtainable from Gimmelwald,
and is recommended by this same writer as affording a view "ten times grander than
that from the Rigi. Ride on horseback to the foot of the last cone, and then quietly walk
up the last thousand feet. The Schilthorn is nearly twice as high, and commands the giants
of the Oberland, being close upon them, with their majestic glaciers."
The prices have gone up since Robert Allbut wrote this passage more than a century ago,
but Gimmelwald hasn't changed all that much. It's still economical by Swiss standards, and
the setting remains as picturesque as it was when Frau von Almen catered to an earlier
generation of English-speaking tourists.
So what's to do in this village of 130 people? Not much, unless you're a hiker or
skier. The former can explore miles (or kilometers, if they prefer) of marked paths, and
the latter can take advantage of the Schilthorn aerial cablecar, which stops at Gimmelwald
on its journey from Stechelberg (in the Lauterbrunnen Valley) to the 65 km (40 miles) of
ski runs and 10 lifts above the popular ski resort
of Mürren. If the weather turns sour, Bern--the
Swiss capital--is an easy day trip from Gimmelwald.
Getting to Gimmelwald
Adrian von Greyertz gives
directions to Gimmelwald by train and cablecar at
his Web site, "My tip in Switzerland: Gimmelwald" (see links below).
If you're driving, you can park your car at the 1,500-vehicle lot in Stechelberg and
use the cablecar for the 5-minute ascent to Gimmelwald. Cablecars depart every 30 minutes
from 6:25 a.m. to 11:25 p.m year-round.
Related Web links
Olov Eggimann describes village life in Gimmelwald and lists several
accommodations, including chalet apartments.
Photos are a strength of this site, which includes a gallery and an
illustrated "getting there" section written in the style of a
Photo © iStockphoto/Wekwek.
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