Grindelwald ski holidays…
Grindelwald is one of the world's classic ski resorts, located in a truly spectacular setting in the Jungfrau Alps with breath-taking views of the Eiger.
The historic village, which can trace its history back nearly 900 years, is one of the more picturesque Swiss resorts and is busy year-round and has a great mix of shops, cafes and restaurants. The famous Jungfraujoch, Europe’s highest railway station and a UNESCO world heritage site, lies above, with trains to it passing through the village in summer and winter. In common with other famous Swiss resorts like Davos and St Moritz which can trace their skiing history back to the 19th century. The Jungfrau ski region which Grindelwald shares with its direct neighbour Wengen and the slightly more distant Murren is one of Europe’s larger ski areas with more than 200km of slopes.
SKIING IN GRINDELWALD
What to expect…
Grindelwald's ski slopes are divided into two main sectors on either side of the village, the area named First, which is accessible only from Grindelwald itself, and the Kleine Scheidegg and Mannlichen area which is shared with neighbouring Wengen. Each is reached via a gondola from either side of the village, although the Kleine Scheidegg and Mannlichen side can also be accessed by the old mountain railway for the classic Swiss ski experience. Both sectors have a good mix of easy blue, intermediate red and testing black terrain.
"Approaching nine centuries old, the village is dominated by the breath-taking north face of the infamous Eiger Mountain which towers above, casting the resort in shadow during mid-winter."
LOCAL SKI AREA - GRINDELWALD
First area is where the main terrain park in the Jungfrau is located for snowboarders and freestyle skiers.
Grindelwald’s own ski area on First is accessed by a gondola, the base of which is walkable to from most points in the resort centre. This has the region’s highest slopes touching 2,500m in altitude and much of it lies above the treeline.
There are nursery slopes here at Bodmi at the base of the area (and there’s a second nursery slopes area up on Mannlichen) but the area is not really recommended for beginners as it’s not the easiest to reach and not separate from the main slopes.
Intermediates will enjoy the areas the most with plenty of fairly long cruising blues and reds. There’s not a huge amount of terrain for experts but the Bort black run on First is highly regarded.
WIDER SKI AREA - JUNGFRAU
Grindelwald lies at one end of the Jungfrau ski region which spans two valleys, three mountain ranges and contains around 206 kilometres of groomed pistes.
Unlike many areas of similar size however this is a rather fragmented area and getting from Grimndelwald across to Murren is not possible entirely on skis but involves quite a long trip by mountain railway and a cable car, normally taking several hours. So it's a case of setting off early and ensuring you make the connections back – although as the railway service runs into the evening this is perhaps not the problem it is at other resorts where the last lift of the day may be at 4 pm. The other thing to note is that Grindelwald lies at the heart of the three largest sectors in the Jungfrau. Making up some 75-80% of it, and whilst the skiing on the Schilthorn above Murren is arguably the most highly regarded among good and expert level skiers in the region for the challenge it offers, there are plenty of black runs as well as off-piste skiing a guide can lead you to, closer to home.
The Kleine Scheidegg-Männlichen area is the largest single part of the Jungfrau region located between Grindelwald and Wengen and it is full of exciting long blue and red graded runs, offering plenty of variety above and below the treeline, so altogether something of an intermediate’s paradise. Some of the more challenging terrain is accessed by the Lauberhorn lift which opens up the world-famous World Cup downhill course which is also a fun descent for good skiers. Switzerland's best-known ski race piste, it is also the longest and fastest on the World Cup circuit seeing racers pass the 100kph mark for the first time in recent years. It’s staged in mid-January every year, attracting huge crowds. Snow cover tends to be best up by the Eigergletscher, served by the fast new lift, with snowmaking covering around 60 per cent of the slopes.
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Approximate transfer times:
- BERN: 1½ Hrs
- ZURICH: 2½ Hrs
- Geneva: 4 Hrs
Grindelwald is the largest resort in the famous Jungfrau ski region and has the widest selection of shops and restaurants in the area.
The village has a great deal of charm that often comes from a place that has grown up over centuries and welcomed tourists for more than 150 years, with lots of wonderful old buildings and a relaxed international mountain town atmosphere.
Grindelwald is not a particularly compact resort, spread out along the main street, and it may be worth thinking about this when you look at your accommodation options. Access to the largest skiing sector on Männlichen and Kleine Scheidegg shared with Wengen is via cog railway or the new V Bahn ultra-modern gondola lifts, all of which depart from Grund, a resort ‘suburb’ a little way below most of the village on its western side. The gondola to the First side of the ski area also departs from a separate location, this time to the east of the main village, and also a moderate walk or short bus ride from the resort centre.
Grindelwald does get busy from around Christmastime, when it has the great attraction of a timeless Swiss Christmas card resort, through the busy period of the Lauberhorn Ski World cup and the international snow sculpture festival in January to the school holidays period in February.
RESTAURANTS & BARS
For a gastronomic experience during your stay, the family run Restaurant Belvedere is the place to go, they serve traditional alpine dishes made from local produce.
Grindelwald has a good choice of restaurants with some 70 plus establishments to choose from. There’s also a wide selection of dining styles and flavours, from the expected local Swiss delicacies to the cuisine of neighbouring nations like Germany and Italy and then some from even further afield such as Chinese and Indian. The options range from gourmet down to fast-food take-out and there are plenty of choices for vegetarians and vegans too.
The most popular establishments in town include Barry's in the resort centre. Named after the village's most famous St. Bernard rescue dog it has been designed to resemble an alpine hut and has a unique, rustic atmosphere. It's a place for good, filling food at relatively affordable prices so look out for everything from rostis and cheese and chocolate fondues through to burgers or even Thai food dishes. It also sometimes hosts ‘folklore and raclette nights’ with traditional local music.
Café 3692 has a rather more stylish modern décor and has a strong company ethos saying that "art, nature, and love are at the heart of everything we do." That should and does mean the coffee and freshly baked cakes are very special. There's also a changing menu every day with fresh salads and pasta a speciality.
There are more than two dozen mountain restaurants across the Jungfrau region, the vast majority of them easily reached from Wengen.
Mountain restaurants vary from large, mostly self-catering cafeteria in the lift stations of the bigger lifts, to small, locally run mountain huts. In the former category, the Berggasthaus First is well regarded with a wide-ranging menu including Swiss classics and international dishes. It also boasts fantastic view from its terrace and a viewing platform for that added wow factor.
Of the slightly smaller places to eat on the mountain, Berghaus Bort is located at Bort Station on the First Bahn is popular for its food, service and again the jaw-dropping views.
The Hotel Kreuz & Post is also home to the Apéro lounge bar with comfy sofas and a 1956 Wurlitzer jukebox.
Grindelwald usually has an upbeat atmosphere, particularly from Christmas to February. There are more than half-a-dozen ski bars at the base of the slopes to slide in to at the end of the day, and a dozen or so more lively choices in the resort centre for later in the evening. If you're looking for a quieter night there are more sophisticated lounge bars in the resort's hotels too. You can also watch ice hockey, go bowling, try a night-time toboggan run or hit the spa, among other things, as part of your Grindelwald apres-ski mix if you wish.
The Avocado Bar on Grindelwald’s main street is arguably its best known après-ski spot. Particularly popular with the younger crowd and with a strong local fan base weekly events include a darts battle, as well as pool and table tennis contests. Known for its good music, good food and great beer its open from 3 pm-12:30 am daily. The Challi-Bar, also in the town centre, in the Hotel Kreuz & Post located next to the train station, is another popular spot. It has a rustic atmosphere with old timber and stonework but serves up creative cocktails accompanied by DJ sets and sometimes rock music.
Finally, the Espressobar (or ‘The Preso’ for short) in the Hotel Spinne has live music, big screen sports TV, theme parties and is open from 4 pm-1 am. The Hotel Spinne is also the location of the resort’s Mescalero Discotheque.
There’s a wide selection of non-ski or snowboard activities available in Grindelwald.
The options for mountain based activities include extensive winter hiking trails, snow tubing and Switzerland’s longest toboggan run (15km), sleigh rides and ice skating. For those who cross country but don’t downhill ski, there are around 20km of tracks divided between classic and skating terrain mostly down along the valley floor.
There's lots to do off the ski slopes around Grindelwald, the village is busy year-round with visitors, most of whom don't ski.
Indoor options include a swimming pool and ice rink within the Sportzentrum Grindelwald as well as Europe's largest indoor rope park which has a set of five different courses designed for all ages, so long as you have a head for heights. There's also the chance to try bowling and a small village museum that traces history in the area from the Stone Age to the ski age.
Outdoors there's a well-established network of marked winter hiking routes from which you can take in more wonderful views of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains. Several guided hiking tours are offered. There are several toboggan runs including the longest in Europe at 15km, sledgable day and evening under floodlights. There’s also ice skating, tubing, curling and snowshoeing.
If you would like to get airborne, scenic helicopter flights are possible around this spectacular region or you can do it suspended from a wire or on the First Glider or on the First Flyer zip wire. There’s a full programme of après-ski events each week and there are lots of events through the season too, the biggest of which is the World Snow Festival of snow sculpture which takes place each January around the time of the Lauberhorn world cup races. Grindelwald’s excellent rail connections bring attractions up and down the mountain from the village too.
WHO IS GRINDELWALD SUITABLE FOR?
Here are the highlights...
There’s lots for non-skiers to do in Grindelwald, with the rail connection from the resort a real plus.
From Grindelwald it’s easy to visit the other Jungfrau resorts including picturesque Wengen, and even Murren where James bond film On Her Majesty's secret service was filmed 50 years ago, and they are still inventing new exhibitions and attractions focussed on that. The train can also be used to head down to Interlaken, which has many attractions of its own, or up to Europe's highest railway centre which boasts extensive visitor amenities too, along with stunning views, the Jungfraujoch (3,454m). Along with shops and restaurants, this incorporates an ice palace with ice sculptures exhibited within carved passages in the glacier (some of which date back to the 1930s) and an exhibition on the creation of the railway line itself in the late 19th century.
Grindelwald itself is a wonderful place just to spent time in, beneath the awe-inspiring Eiger, with plenty of enticing shops and cafes to visit during your stay, perhaps just sitting and reading a book. But if you want to get more active there’s a whole lot of things to try – winter hiking, tubing, sledging and a variety of zip wires. The indoor sports centre has a good swimming pool and Europe’s largest indoor ropes course and there are various spa facilities in resort hotels.
There are many family-friendly attractions including the Männlichen Children's Paradise which has special children’s nursery slopes served by a magic carpet and two special child lifts and lots of other fun facilities for kids.
Grindelwald scores highly for families in many respects. To begin with, although they may not be the fastest and most efficient way of getting around in the 21st century, the old mountain railways are a great attraction to children, and just spending your holidays together in such a magnificent location is normally a big plus to build a memorable family holiday on.
A trip together up to the Jungfraujoch, where one of the big attractions is a Lindt chocolate shop and exhibition, is a must-do during your time in Grindelwald, and many families with slightly older children will want to tackler the First Glider, a kind of zip wire carrying a large model eagle under which four of you can lie in harnesses, up to four abreast, to sail down above the slopes, supposedly eagle-like. Children aged 10 and older can take part, travelling down the 800-metre long slope at up to 52 mph.
Intermediates will enjoy the delights of the Jungfrau Ski Region pass the most with the vast majority of the 210km of piste here graded blue or red.
The trails encompass a huge variety of terrain above and below the treeline, from technical, classic descents down through the forest to wide cruisers on the open slopes above. Some of the most exciting runs include the 8km (five miles) long descent from Oberjoch down to Grindelwald and so long as you can cope with the steeper sections, the famous Lauberhorn World Cup downhill piste is also an option, just don’t feel you have to complete it in under 155 seconds like the world’s best. The Kleine Scheidegg and Mannlichen areas have the lion's share of the Jungfrau's slopes with about half of the entire area here, and with the highest slope and north-facing orientation to boot, the snow conditions are usually best here too. The first sector is much sunnier so a good bet if you just want to enjoy cruising along in the sunshine, so long as snow conditions are good.
Keep an eye on the weather conditions...
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MAP OF GRINDELWALD
Find your way…
Here's our map of Grindelwald showing you the key hotels and apartments as well as some of the main points of interest.