A towering presence in southwestern Switzerland’s Bernese Alps, Schilthorn is the highest mountain in the range north of the Seifnenfurgge Pass. This is a peak of imposing grandeur, one that dishes out up panoramic views of supreme summits like the Eiger, Jungfrau, Mönch, and Titlis, vistas across the Bernese Alps and Jura mountains up to the Vosges range, and on a clear day onto Germany’s Black Forest and Mont Blanc, the iconic mountain that straddles France and Italy.
Accessed most easily by cable car, Schilthorn can also be reached by intrepid explorers on foot, via well-marked hiking paths that climb from the town of Gimmelwald, a trip that takes about five hours. Schilthorn is also the site, since 1928, of the Inferno, the world’s longest downhill ski race that is a gruelling mix of slick downhill runs and testing uphill terrain, an ultimate challenge for the amateur skiers from across the globe that descend here each year to compete.
What is clear is that this part of Switzerland is primed for outdoor sporting activity, blessed with majestic terrain — lakes, rivers, waterfalls, forest, cliffs, and mountains — that is served by outstanding infrastructure, making getting around effortless.
The easiest route to the mountain is via train, bus and cable car, starting at Interlaken Ost station, transferring to a bus that ascends to Stechelberg, a village at the base of Schwarzmönch (meaning black monk) mountain, and finally the cable car ride up to Schilthorn; holders of the Swiss Travel Pass enjoy a sizeable discount on the cable-car tickets, a bonus of the pass. The 32-minute cable-car ascent supplies a bird’s-eye view that handsomely illustrates the magnificence of the Alps, with stops en-route at the charming highland towns of Gimmelwald and Mürren, the 2,684-metre peak of Birg, and views across the Lauterbrunnen valley.
Hiking & Trail Running between Schilthorn and Mürren
A simple option for travellers in search of some exertion — and one that requires no equipment save for a comfortable pair of shoes, and is suitable for visitors of all fitness levels — is the hiking and running around Schilthorn, a peak that tops out at 2,970 metres above sea level.
There are scores of routes between Schilthorn and Mürren, with inspiring views of waterfalls, lakes, mountains, coupled with fresh alpine air and small, welcoming restaurants where travellers can take a break and enjoy a drink or snack or meal.
A quick introduction, perfect for walkers of all ages, is the Flower Trail, which circles Allmendhubel (a small hill above Mürren) in around 20 minutes. Popular with parents who have young children because of its wide path suitable for strollers, it’s an excursion that allows visitors to observe up to 150 different mountain flowers as well as herbs and views of meadows. The circular trail starts at the panorama restaurant on Allmendhubel and is an extension of the Flower Park adventure playground, making it an easy diversion from play time with the youngsters.
Starting at Mürren station, the Blumental Panorama Trail takes a little over an hour, and presents adventurers with quintessential Swiss pastoral landscapes. Winding its way from Blumental to Allmendhubel (or in the reverse direction, which is a marginally easier walk), the route takes in the serenity of cattle grazing in alpine meadows. A relatively easy tramp, the journey from Birg to Grauseeli and back to Birg stops at Grauseeli, an alpine lake whose placid surface mirrors the mountains around it, supplying beautiful photo opportunities of natural landscapes at their unspoilt best — still water, verdant shores, and jagged peaks reflected on the glass-like lake surface.
For a little more arduous tramping, the mountain has a number of trails that are good for intermediate walkers, trips that take between two to three hours. The Northface Trail, a well-posted route, is notable for its breathtaking views of the north faces of the Bernese Alps, often snow-capped because of their directional exposure.
Along the trail, 12 information panels document the history of the mountains. The Mountain View Trail weaves through alpine meadows and through dense forests as it journeys from Allmendhubel to Grütschalp. Expect regular views of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau peaks during this spectacular trip.
For those up for the challenge, a couple of routes will get the heart pumping and legs working even harder. The summit ascent from Birg involves 350 metres of vertical ascent during a trail that takes less than two hours; the exertion is worth the sublime Alpine panoramas.
The most demanding hike is the eight-hour marathon from Gimmelwald to Stechelberg via Tanzboden and Oberhornsee. Squarely aimed at experienced hikers, this long trek promises unforgettable views, including those at Oberhornsee, a turquoise Alpine lake cradled by mountain peaks that embodies the archetype of Swiss mountain landscapes.
Adrenalin rush at Via Ferrata
For more outdoor thrills, an adventure on a via ferrata is not to be missed, an adrenalin rush like no other. Via ferrata is an Italian term, meaning ‘iron way’ or ‘way of iron’, and typically lead upwards, climbing from lower to higher elevations. Here, at Schilthorn, the trip is all downhill. The iteration here begins high in the Lauterbrunnen Valley, at Mürren, 1,640 metres above sea level, and the trip usually lasts around three hours, a walk that is best described as a hybrid between mountain walking and free, normal walking.
Here, while traversing a combination of iron rungs attached to the rock face, suspension bridges, and ladders, participants descend 400 metres vertically between Mürren and Gimmelwald on a route that is 2.2 kilometres in length, and includes the Nepal Bridge that is 80 metres long (suspended over a chasm that is 300 metres deep!).
Safety is a key aspect of the course, with adventurers locked in via ropes and carabiners as they tackle the course and marvel at the views of the 4,000-metre high Bernese Alps. While this can be completed alone for climbers with experience, first-timers and novices should not hesitate to book a guide for this adventure.
The route, classed as K3, includes steep, rocky terrain, ladders, metal rungs, and even in the easier parts of the route, climbers are assisted by cables. Climbers are kitted out with climber belts, a helmet, and a dedicated climbing set designed specifically for via ferratas.
To get a deeper understanding, and appreciation, of the tectonics that shaped this region, visit the Trümmelbach waterfalls: Ten glacial waterways — including those of the Eiger, Jungfrau and Mönch — drain internally to create a waterfall that processes 20,000 litres of water per second. It’s an eye-opening spectacle, and a loud one, with the roar of the water deafening.
At times the falls, that appear over numerous levels, resemble an underground river. Access to the site is via tunnels, stairs or a lift and summer is the ideal time to visit, after the winter snow pack has melted, feeding the thundering cascades.
Piz Gloria, the 360° panorama restaurant and Bond World
During down time, the mountain provides diversions to keep visitors entertained. The peak itself was a key shooting location for a James Bond film in the late 1960s. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service used the peak’s revolving restaurant with a conical silver exterior and 360-degree views as the setting for an allergy research clinic run by Bond’s arch foe, Ernst Blofeld.
In the film, the clinic was called Piz Gloria, a name that the restaurant decided to retain, and today this elevated eatery thrills visitors with a 45-minute complete rotation that takes in 200 alpine peaks including Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. Fine food accompanies the sublime views, with themed choices like 007 Burgers and the James Bond Brunch (an all-you-can-eat meal that is served daily until 2pm) in addition to international options and regional favourites like Zürich-style sliced veal, and meat and cheese platters.
Almost half a century after the filming finished, a space below the dining room was reconfigured into Bond World, an interactive exhibition dedicated to the movie that acts as a window onto the life of the beloved British secret agent and his adventures on and around Schilthorn.
With free admission, it features seven key scenes and an encyclopaedia of film-related trivia, and allows visitors to get a glimpse of the original screenplay, try out their own James Bond skills with a frantic bobsleigh ride, or take a helicopter simulator flight in the original chassis of a decommissioned Air Glaciers Alouette III.
Next door, the Bond Cinema offers a relaxing interlude after the bustle and energy of Bond World. The cinema’s wow-inducing, 12-metre-wide, curved screen alternates ultra-sharp images of scenes and stunts from the James Bond classic that was filmed here with sensational aerial footage of the magnificent mountain world right at Schilthorn’s doorstep.
And on a ridge just outside Piz Gloria, the world’s first Walk of Fame comprises 15 information panels that pay tribute to the cast and behind-the-scenes contributors of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, a celebration of a time in a place steeped in natural awe and wonder.
Schilthorn is the perfect place for those who love the outdoors. Visitors can enjoy hiking and trail running between Schilthorn and Mürren, or experience an adrenalin rush at Via Ferrata. Those looking for a more relaxing activity can visit Piz Gloria, the 360° panorama restaurant with Bond World. With its commanding aura and connected seamlessly to great public transportation, Schilthorn provides visitors numerous opportunities for outdoor activity.
Everything you need to know to visit Schilthorn, Piz Gloria, Bond World and Allmendhubel
Where can I stay when visiting Schilthorn
It’s possible for anyone to choose between many different accommodation options when visiting the Schilthorn region. It is easier to get to Schilthorn from Mürren, the touristic centre would be Interlaken, or you can stay in nearby towns like Wengen or Grindelwald. Some of the hotels here include:
Mürren – Eiger Mürren Swiss Quality Hotel, Hotel Alpenruh and Hotel Blumental
Interlaken – Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa, Hotel Royal St Georges Interlaken MGallery Hotel Collection*, Lindner Grand Hotel Beau Rivage and Carlton-Europe Hotel Vintage Adults Hotel.
Grindelwald – Romantik Hotel Schweizerhof, Aspen Alpine Lifestyle Hotel, Boutique Hotel & Restaurant Glacier, and Hotel Bergwelt Grindelwald.
Wengen – Beausite Park Hotel Wengen
Merligen – BEATUS Wellness & Spa Hotel
View Schilthorn Livecam
Schilthorn’s livecam offers breathtaking views of the Swiss Alps, and it’s the perfect way to check out the destination virtually before your journey even starts.
Whether you’re looking for a winter wonderland or a summer paradise, Schilthorn has something for everyone. So why not take a break from your busy life and enjoy the simple things in life? Schilthorn is waiting for you. ◼
© This article was first published online in July 2022 – World Travel Magazine.