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The Wood Carving Town of Brienz
Just Plain Pretty

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.

The picturesque village of Brienz in Switzerland
Brienz Switzerland, and yes, the colour of the water is even more beautiful than in this photo :)

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 woodcarver of Brienz and the Bernese Oberland were the first to make it a source of income.

Click on the tabbed boxes below to explore more of Brienz!


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A carved road sign
Let's start at the "Schiffstation" (boat launch) right across the train station and wander along the shoreline toward the Church.

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.


Boat launch in Brienz

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.

A lifesize sculture of a hiker

The combination of lake and Alps makes this area so attractive. Summers are warm and winters are mild. Even palm trees survive here.

Quay Brienz

One says that this lake promenade is one of the finest. Linger, unwind and take off your shoes to bathe your weary feet in the crystal clear water. Or come back after your walking tour and enjoy the sunset here.

Carved house signs

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.

Best view to Brienz from the Church

Walk all the way up the small hill to the Church and you'll be rewarded with a wonderful panoramic view.

Large wooden chalets on Oberdorfstrasse

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.

Nicely decorated entrance

Lovingly decorated entrances, windowsills and balconies give evidence of artistically gifted people all over Brienz.

Artistic decorations

Do you know what these signs below are all about?

Carved house signs

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.

Brunngasse, the most romantic street in Brienz

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).

Romantic Brunngasse

Most houses here have been around since the 18th century. The suntanned chalets are treasured and carefully restored where necessary.

Brunngasse

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.

Picturesque Brunngasse

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.

  • Brienz Lake Promenade

    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.




  • Wood Carving Museum

    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
    Hauptstrasse 111




  • Wood Carving School

    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
    Schleegasse 1




  • Violin Making School

    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.

    Geigenbauschule Brienz
    Oberdorfstrasse 94




  • Events

    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




  • Souvenirs

    If you do like wood carvings, music boxes and cuckoo clocks, Brienz is the place to get them.

View to Lake Brienz

Cruising Lake Brienz

Always a highlight is a cruise on Lake Brienz. Regular boats stop at the villages around the lake and make it easy to explore the region. Or have lunch or dinner on one of the extra cruises during the summer months.

handicraft at ballenberg

Giessbach Falls and Grand Hotel Giessbach

Take the boat from Brienz to the Giessbach boat launch where the funicular takes you up to the Grand Hotel Giessbach. Enjoy fabulous views while having coffee or a meal on the terrace. Short circle walk to watch the water of the Giessbach Falls tumble down into the lake.

View from Rothorn Bahn to Lake Brienz

Going up to the Rothorn

Climbing mountains does not always involve breaking into a sweat (unless you insist). The nostalgic Brienz Rothorn Railway with its steam engines will huff and puff up the mountain for you.

handicraft at ballenberg

Open Air Museum Ballenberg

Experience Switzerland's living traditions just down the road from Brienz. A short ten minute ride by bus will transport you back in time.

The Postbus leaveing for an Alpine Pass route

Four Alpine Passes in one Day

Conquer four alpine passes the easy way in one day. Round-trip from Meiringen. Ever changing landscapes - mighty glaciers, high alpine passes, steep and curvy roads (now there's a way to break a sweat without even trying), romantic villages and southern flair. Mid June to beginning of October.

Sitting next to Sherlock Holmes

On the Heels of Sherlock Holmes

Meiringen (12 minutes by train) at the entrance to the Haslital is famous for its 656-foot high Reichenbach Falls where Conan Doyle tried to kill off his famous fictional character Sherlock Holmes. He has even his own Museum here. Ease the suspense with meringues, the sweet and crunchy desert invented in Meiringen.

Jungfraubahn in front of the Eiger

Jungfrau Region

This region is probably on every visitor's wish-list, especially the Jungfraujoch, and it's easily visited from Brienz via Interlaken Ost.

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.

Woodcarving trail Axalp

Axalp Wood Carving Trail

From dreamy Axalp (40 minutes by bus) on the South slope of the Lake and right across Brienz one enjoys fabulous views to the area. The "Schnitzlerweg" (Wood Carving Trail) is a relative easy hike of about an hour. 80 wood carving sculptures along the way that leads to the "Hinterburgsee", a small romantic lake on the foot of Oltschiburg Mountain.

Schweibenalp Permaculture centre

Schweibenalp Alpine Permaculture and Centre of Unity

Switzerland's largest Permaculture project on Axalp is a place of power, magic and impressive views. If you are interested in aromatic herbs, medicinal and native plants, stop at this sacred place while hiking high above Lake Brienz - or participate in one of the many events. Open for visits 10am to noon and 2pm to 5pm.

Hiking in the Rothorn area

Hiking the Rothorn Trails

The terrain is steep and surefootedness is required on the many trails that lead both sides back down into the valleys - Sörenberg and Brienz. Take the Brienzer Rothorn steam train up to the summit and hike back down. On Planalp, the river Mühlebach plunges 100 m - 328 ft from the cliff, not unlike the more famous Staubbachfälle in Lauterbrunnen.

Iseltwald on Lake Brienz

"Fairypath" from Giessbach to Iseltwald

After you've gorged on goodies on the Terrace of the Grand Hotel Giessbach and explored the waterfall, follow the "Fairypath" along the south bank of Lake Brienz to Iseltwald. The easy walk leads through a magical forest.

Camino along Lake Brienz

Camino de Santiago

Part of the pilgrimage route parallels the lake on both sides between Brienz and Interlaken. If you walk along the north shore stop at castle Ringgenberg for contemplation.

Aareschlucht near Meiringen

Aareschlucht between Meiringen and Innertkirchen

The hike through the Aare Gorge (1.4 km / 0.62 mi and up to 200 m / 656 ft deept) is impressive and very special, one could even say it is a mystical experience. You might even meet the "Tatzelwurm", the Aare gorge dragon who terrorized the inhabitants for decades. The river Aare carved its way through limestone thousands of years ago. Open end of March until October.

Rosenlaui Gorge

Rosenlaui Glacier Gorge near Meiringen

A narrow hiking trail leads through this picturesque gorge and back over forest trail. Easy hike on a small path along grottos and cliffs. The postal bus takes you from Meiringen to the Rosenlaui Gorge from where you start the circle route. Open between May and October.

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.

Grandhotel Giessbach above Lake Brienz

Grandhotel Giessbach****

The historic Grandhotel Giessbach is not directly located in Brienz, but right across the lake. Scenic location on top of a hill overlooking Lake Brienz. Has its own little funicular that brings you up to the hotel from the boat launch. Right next to the Giessbach Falls. Great regular events, from music to dance and ballet evenings.

Hotel Lindenhof

Hotel Lindenhof***

This chalet-style Hotel Lindenhof (not a hostel as mentioned on the booking page) is conveniently close to train station/boat launch. Beautiful garden, fabulous views and peaceful site.

Hotel Wildbach in Brienz

Hotel Wildbach**

Just a bit outside Brienz (about one km - 0.6mi), Hotel Wildbach overlooks lake Brienz. Great terrace, nice rooms.

Restuarant and Hotel Steinbock

Hotel and Restaurant Steinbock*

The Hotel Steinbock is directly located at "Hauptstrasse" (Main street) and close to train station and boat launch. The historic chalet style building was completely renovated in 2006 and offers all amenities for a great stay in Brienz.

Cozy B&B Spycher

B&B Spycher Brienz

The historic wooden chalet Spycher Brienz is situated above the train and Rothornbahn station. Two traditional style rooms, nice garden, breakfast included.

Funky pots at Camping Aaregg

Aaregg Camping

Fantastic location directly at the lake. You not only can pitch your tent or bring your own camper, Aaregg Camping also offers lodging in 3-bed-Pod-Houses, starting at only CHF40.

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