Families can utilize the Swiss train system to visit various parts of the Alps. // © 2017 Keryn Means
Feature image (above): Many alfresco activities in the Swiss Alps are accessible via rail travel. // © 2017 Keryn Means
Families traveling to Switzerland will certainly find plenty of sights in the country’s cities, but the small towns of the Swiss Alps should simply not be missed. Not only does a day trip into the Alps give children some time to play in nature and get some fresh air, but it’s a relaxing getaway for parents, too.
Train travel in Switzerland is one of the easiest and most entertaining ways to get around, and the Swiss capital of Bern is the perfect home base for families who want to see a lot of the country. From Bern’s central train station, parents and kids can hop on a train to Interlaken, the gateway to the Alps. From there, they can then get to numerous small hill towns and viewpoints in the Alps, including Grindelwald, Berghaus Bort, Murren and Winteregg. One of the best things about these small towns is that many have gondolas or cable cars that kids will enjoy riding up to higher points in the mountains.
Swiss people love to get outside with their children and dine al fresco, which is why countless towns and mountain stops boast an eatery serving traditional Swiss meals and a playground for the kids. After all, the locals need a spot to keep their children entertained while they commune with friends and finish a pint of beer in peace.
And these Swiss playgrounds aren’t your average play sets. Playgrounds at these mountain retreats often incorporate elements of nature in ways that compel children to use cognitive thinking to make different parts of the play spaces work. Of course, there are plenty of spots for them to climb, jump and just be kids, too.
Following are two playgrounds that will entertain children, allow parents some R&R and provide the whole family with prime views of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau — three of the most spectacular peaks in the Swiss Alps.
From Bern, clients can take a train to Interlaken, then change trains at Interlaken Ost Train Station to get to the town of Grindelwald and to Berghaus Bort, a mountain hotel and restaurant.
Grindelwald is worth exploring, especially if parents are looking for any hiking gear or traditional Swiss novelty gifts. But families who want some real alpine fun can make their way through town to the gondola up to Berghaus Bort. Here, parents and children can enjoy their own “The Sound of Music” moment; on a clear day, the hills really do seem to come alive at this beloved spot.
The playground at Berghaus Bort incorporates a rocky mountain stream, hills and even a little cottage, as well as ladders, ropes and climbing structures. Although there is a fence around the play space, parents should be aware that children — especially very little ones — can easily climb or crawl under the fence to get out.
Families who want to experience a different part of the Swiss Alps can hop on the train from Interlaken Ost to Lauterbrunnen. From there, they will take a cable car to Grutschalp, where they can pick up the train to Murren, the highest ski resort in the Bernese Oberland (the higher region of the canton of Bern). This chalet-filled town has plenty of shops and restaurants, but a stop in Winteregg on the way up is a must. Eatery Bergrestaurant Winteregg is a great place to take advantage of outdoor dining and a playground with incredible mountain views.
The restaurant’s playground brings digging, climbing and the beloved animals of Switzerland together in one space. Kids will love imagining what it was like to be part of Swiss mountain life long ago. There is a fence around this play space, but the mountain drop is quite steep, so parents should keep a close eye on younger children who like to wander. After some much needed playtime, families can opt to continue on to Murren, or if they are feeling adventurous, they can walk down the mountain to the train station. The walk down is much easier with kids than the walk up.
While the children play at either Berghaus Bort or Bergrestaurant Winteregg, parents can eat, drink and enjoy the scenery. Tell clients not to miss out on trying "rosti," a traditional Swiss dish that is essentially a potato fritter and can be served with an egg, cheese, salmon, bacon, onion, fresh herbs, and/or apple on top. Beer, wine and hot cocktails are a must for adults who have been out exploring with their kids and need to unwind on the mountain while taking in the stunning vistas.
After all, the views just can’t be beat.