The prettiness of Brienz draws visitors to this town of wooden chalets for centuries. The picturesque setting on its namesake lake and a wreath of Alpine mountains as a backdrop contribute to the beauty of this area.
Brienz was a must-visit town on every "Grand tour of Europe" since the British invented tourism in Switzerland. While tourism is still a large part of its economy, nowadays the nearby Jungfrau Region has taken front seat on most itineraries.
The laid back lakeside town of Brienz is steeped in its wood carving tradition. Before tourism provided an additional source of income to the farming community, inhabitants were poor and working conditions far from pretty. But as it so happens quite often, famine fires up the imagination. In the case of Brienz, it was Christian Fletscher, a self-taught wood carver who began selling his goods produced during long winter months to tourists almost two centuries ago. He laid the foundation to what became Switzerland's premier wood carving area.
Wood carving has a long tradition throughout Switzerland's Alpine Region, but woodcarvers of Brienz and the Bernese Oberland were the first to make it a source of income.
This walk is about 3 km / 1.9 miles long and takes as much time as you are willing to give it. There's so much to see, it would be a pity to rush.
Depending on the time of day you start, or if you are just plain hungry, stop in one of the lakeside restaurants for lunch or a snack.
Don't be surprised to meet the guy in the picture below. You are in Switzerland's premier wood carving town and sculptures and carved road signs are found everywhere.
The combination of lake and Alps make this area so attractive. Summers are warm and winters are mild. Even palm trees survive here.
One says that this lake promenade is one of the finest. Linger, unwind and take off your shoes to immerse your weary feet in the crystal clear water. Or come back after your walking tour and enjoy the sunset here.
When you are ready to continue cross "Hauptstrasse" (Main Street) and walk up "Schlee- and Chilchgasse" to the church. Switzerland's only Wood Carving School is located on Schleegasse 1 and has a small exhibition room with a collection of wood carvings. It's open during school hours.
Walk all the way up the small hill to the Church and you'll be rewarded with a wonderful panoramic view.
Continue from the Church via "Kirchbühl" (road) to "Oberdorfstrasse". The Swiss Violin Making School can be found at Oberdorfstrasse 94. They have a large library and you are welcome to visit their reading room during normal business hours.
Oberdorfstrasse was "Main Street" in earlier times and you find some of the largest wooden chalets here.
Lovingly decorated entrances, windowsills and balconies give evidence of the artistically gifted people all over Brienz.
Do you know what these signs below are all about?
This is a collection of carved house signs, different for each family. Families not only had or still have their own coat of arms, they distinguished themselves from each other by carving simple signs into objects and even sealed documents with it. Farmers shave their own sign onto cows before they head up to spend summers on Alpine pastures. This way dairymen know which cow belongs to whom.
Follow "Oberdorfstrasse" all the way to "Brunngasse", the most romantic lane in Brienz. Walk down this narrow cobble stoned path and you emerge at the "Hauptstrasse" (Main street).
Most houses here have been around since the 18th century. The suntanned chalets are treasured and carefully restored where necessary.
Don't expect to see "Brunngasse" this empty during the high tourist season in July and August. It was once awarded "the most beautiful street in Europe" and it wasn't kept a secret. Outside the high tourist season though, Brienz is still as idyllic as it always was. This photo was taken in October.
From "Brunngasse" follow "Hauptstrasse" back to the Train Station or Boat launch. Along the way you find some interesting souvenir shops full of locally hand made wood carvings. The Wood Carving Museum is certainly worth your while. It's housed in the Jobin building on Hauptstrasse 111. You can even carve your own souvenir there.
Lake Brienz is one of the cleanest lakes, and you can swim for free anywhere you find a spot. Stone steps provide direct access to the lake. Locals love to chill out at the traffic-free Quay after work to relax and enjoy the ever-changing views. The sunset is one of the finest.
The official lido is located a 10 minute walk to the east of the train station on "Strandweg". Large meadow directly at the lake; paddling pool and playground for children; water trampoline.
A large collection of antique and new wood-carvings, sculptures and musical boxes on display. The museum provides insight into the history of Swiss wood carving. You can see wood carvers at work and even carve your own souvenir. Guided tours available.
Schweizer Holzbildhauerei Museum
Founded in 1884, this is the only school in Switzerland that teaches wood carving and sculpting in a 4-year training course. The small exhibition room is open during school hours.
Schule für Holzbildhauerei
If you are interested in all things "strings" you might want to check out their extensive library. The reading room is open during school hours. The school organizes exhibitions and a few music events during the summer. Do check with their website.
From competitive wood cutting to the music festival, the events are varied. But one that brings people back home to Brienz each year is the Christmas Market end of November/beginning of December.
Events in and around Brienz
If you do like wood carvings, music boxes and cuckoo clocks, Brienz is the place to get them.
There are approximately 500 km (311 miles) groomed hiking and walking trails an 420 km (261 miles) signalized mountain bike routes. The hiking options below are just a small selection of all the possibilities.
Following quick links to a few hotels in Brienz. Of course, there are more, but these are my preferred stays. For more options, please refer to the page about Accommodations.
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