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An enjoyable and relaxing way to experience the spectacular scenery of Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland region is by taking a boat cruise on Lake Brienz (Brienzersee).
With vibrant turquoise water, a mountain framed shoreline, and several cute villages to visit on route, the Lake Brienz cruise is a tour to remember.
About the Lake Brienz Cruise
The Lake Brienz boat tour starts in Interlaken Ost (Interlaken East) and ends in the village of Brienz at the east end of the lake. You can also do the tour in reverse, starting in Brienz and ending in Interlaken Ost. The one-way trip takes about 1 hour 15 minutes. You can book a roundtrip cruise or return to Interlaken or Brienz by train (what I did).
As the cruise travels along the 14 km long Lake Brienz, it makes regular stops at villages along the south shore and occasional stops on the north shore. The stops are just long enough to let people embark and disembark.
There are a variety of Lake Brienz boat trips you can book including breakfast cruises, evening culinary cruises, and regular sightseeing cruises. The main difference between them is the vessel and whether there is a full or limited restaurant menu. The Lötschberg, a renovated Belle Epoque steamship, brings a touch of nostalgia as it travels across Lake Brienz twice a day and on Saturday evenings in the summer.
My Lake Brienz Cruise- Interlaken to Brienz
I decided to do a Lake Brienz boat cruise as a day trip from Thun, a nearby town opposite Interlaken on the west end of Lake Thun.
In the morning I took the train to Interlaken Ost then boarded the first cruise of the day to Brienz. I hopped off at one stop along the way, disembarking at Giessbach to see the waterfall and have lunch at the historic hotel.
Here’s a look at the highlights of my Lake Brienz tour and some of the things you can see and do at stops along the way.
The first stop on a Lake Brienz boat tour is the village of Bönigen, on the southwest shore.
Bönigen is nestled between two mountain chains and is home to some wooden houses that date back to the 16th century.
As the boat pulls up to the pier, you can enjoy views of the surrounding mountains and see a handful of lakefront hotels and a pretty waterfront promenade.
Ringgenberg, on the northern shore, is one of the occasional stops on Lake Brienz so not every boat will visit here.
The village is part of the Inventory of Swiss Heritage Sites that was created to protect the country’s cultural heritage. Neolithic graves have been discovered here and a castle was built in the Middle Ages.
From the water it’s easy to see Ringgenberg’s most notable landmark, Ringgenberg Church. The church was built in 1670 on the ruins of Ringgenberg Castle, located on a hill between the lake and the village.
Today Ringgenberg Church and the castle ruins are listed as a Swiss heritage site of national significance.
Even though I didn’t get off the boat at Ringgenberg, it still was my favourite village on Lake Brienz solely for how photogenic it was. Its hilly backdrop partially concealed by a veil of low hanging clouds created a mystical mood that contrasted with, yet enhanced, the lake’s bright and sparkling turquoise water.
After Ringgenberg, the boat made its way across the lake to Iseltwald, a village on the south shore of Lake Brienz.
Like Bönigen, there are wooden chalets and small hotels on the waterfront, and like Ringgenberg, the village is named on the Inventory of Swiss Heritage Sites.
What sets Iseltwald apart from other villages on Lake Brienz is that there’s a beautiful little castle on a forested peninsula. The castle was built for the Lords of Matten in the Middle Ages and today it houses the Rehabilitation Centre of Seeburg.
Since the former castle is not open to the public, it’s best viewed from the water during a Lake Brienz cruise. It’s a gorgeous sight to see the castle’s gleaming white walls reflected in the jewel toned water of Lake Brienz.
The next destination on my Lake Brienz boat trip was Giessbach, on the south shore.
It’s worthwhile to disembark here because there are several historic and natural attractions, including a massive waterfall and a grand hotel from the late 1800s.
From the landing stage on Lake Brienz, you can choose to hike up a set of switchbacks or take a funicular to the hotel. While I was on the Giessbach funicular, I saw a sign saying it was built in 1879 and is Europe’s oldest mountain cable railway.
At the top of the funicular, about 100 meters above the lake, is the Grandhotel Giessbach. Built between 1873 and 1874, the hotel retains the elegance and sophistication of a bygone era. It was a lovely place to have lunch and I even got a table with a direct view of Giessbach Falls.
While you can see the waterfall from the hotel, the best way to experience it is by going on a short hike. There’s a forested path that crosses over the falls in two places, making a loop around one section of the waterfall.
One of the bridges on the trail even goes behind Giessbach Falls. This was my favourite part of the walk because I could really feel the power of all that rushing water as it tumbled down the mountain towards Lake Brienz.
At 400 meters tall with 14 steps weaving through the forest, it’s not possible to view the entire waterfall at once, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive. The power and grace of Giessbach Falls made it the highlight of my Lake Brienz tour.
The final stop on the Lake Brienz cruise is the village of Brienz, at the eastern end of the lake.
Brienz is a great little village to wander around and admire traditional Swiss architecture. I recommend strolling down the Brunngasse because it has several wooden chalets from the 18th century. The balconies and window sills are decorated with flowers too, adding to the beauty of this cobblestone street.
During a visit to Brienz you can also learn about the village’s long standing wood carving tradition by visiting the Swiss Wood Carving Museum (in the Jobin factory). The museum has some incredible works on display and is Switzerland’s only museum 100% dedicated to the art of wood carving.
Even if you don’t check out the museum, you’ll still be able to see wood carvings on the streets and buildings in Brienz.
Before leaving Brienz, I took a walk along the shoreline and enjoyed an afternoon snack on the patio of a lakeside restaurant.
To return to Interlaken, you can either take another cruise on Lake Brienz or hop on a train if you’re short on time.
Final Thoughts About My Lake Brienz Boat Tour
I did several boat tours during my two weeks in Switzerland, but my favourite one was the Lake Brienz cruise.
The mirror-like water reflecting mountains and forests was so calming and the colour was just spectacular. I had seen many beautiful pictures of Lake Brienz before travelling to Switzerland for the first time and it was just as wonderful as I was expecting.
I loved passing by the charming, romantic looking villages around Lake Brienz and the Giessbach Falls were definitely worth getting off the boat to see. I’d love to come back one day and spend the night at the Grandhotel Giessbach and explore more of the area’s hiking trails.
There were a lot of things I could have chosen to do on my day trip from Thun but I’m really glad I decided to go on the Lake Brienz boat tour!
Tips for Going on a Lake Brienz Cruise
Location: Lake Brienz is located in the canton of Bern in the Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland.
- Cruises depart from Interlaken Ost and Brienz, but you can also get on board at any of the villages with scheduled stops. The main departure docks are located just outside of the Interlaken Ost rail station and the Brienz rail station.
Cruise Schedule: The cruises on Lake Brienz operate from April to mid-October, 7 days a week with several departures a day.
- Here is the timetable for Lake Brienz cruises and a map of the boat tour. I recommend downloading the timetable to help plan your lake cruise.
Tickets: Boat tickets are available at the BLS ticket desks at the docks and on the BLS website. Here is a chart of the fares.
- If you have a Swiss Travel Pass, you can ride the boat for free and get on and off as you wish. Here is a trusted, leading retailer where you can buy a Swiss Travel Pass.
- You can choose from first or second class tickets. The first class section is usually on the upper deck.
Day Pass: The BLS Navigation Day Pass allows unlimited trips on Lake Brienz and Lake Thun for one day (culinary cruises not included). You can hop on and off as you wish. I did cruises on both lakes and enjoyed each of them.
- Here are two places where you can buy the day pass and have it immediately delivered to your smartphone (no need to print): Get Your Guide or Tiqets.
Information was correct at the time of publishing but can change without notice. Please confirm directly with service providers.
Accommodations Near Lake Brienz
For your convenience, here is a list of hotels in Interlaken, Brienz, and Thun. Please consider booking your Switzerland accommodations through the included link. It costs nothing extra and helps support this website. Thank you!
I was hosted by Switzerland Tourism in order to bring you this story. As always, I speak only the truth and hosts have no editorial influence on articles.