Gimmelwald, Switzerland: A visit to the tiny mountain village

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Gimmelwald, Switzerland
The Swiss mountain village of Gimmelwald overlooks the UNESCO world heritage listed Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn. Photos by Jessica Festa

“Do you mean Grindelwald?”

This is the common response I receive when telling people about my favorite Swiss destination of Gimmelwald. While not many people have heard of it, it’s more because of its remote location than its lack of offerings. Located in the Bernese Oberland, the tiny mountain village sits at an altitude of 4,500 feet and overlooks the UNESCO world heritage listed Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn.

Leaving the adrenaline-pumping Interlaken, I made my way to this car-free and quiet retreat by taking the cable-car from Stechelberg. Drifting higher and higher into the mountains, the buildings on the ground become like Monopoly pieces as you gently glide into the clouds. And when you step foot into Gimmelwald, it’s like heaven.

Gimmelwald isn’t a place you go for nonstop action, world-class restaurants or bustling attractions. Instead, it’s where you go to experience the quieter side of the Swiss Alps. Cozy timber homes and flower-rimmed guesthouses line the streets, which are actually footpaths since there are no vehicles allowed.

Gimmelwald Switzerland hiking

Gimmelwald offers easy access some of Switzerland’s most scenic and challenging hiking trails.

Things To Do

Because the village sits high in the mountains, you get the feeling you can fall off the edge if you stray too far. In reality, wandering beyond the wood buildings will lead you to some of Switzerland’s most scenic and challenging hiking trails. There are also easy hikes for beginners and families looking for something more leisurely than heart-pounding. Once you’re in the forest, you’ll see trail signs pointing in the direction of the nearby villages so you don’t have to worry too much about getting lost.

If you like waterfall hikes, head two hours downhill toward the powerful Trummelbach Falls, noted as Europe’s only subterranean waterfall, which sits at the base of the Lauterbrunnen Valley. There’s also the challenging Gimmelwald to Tanzbodeli hike, a steep 90-minute climb commencing in a bird’s-eye vista of the Swiss Alps. And for something leisurely, opt for the Gimmelwald to Chilchbalm trek. With no notably difficult sections, it’s two hours of caves, wild Alpine flowers, rivers, lush greenery and panoramic mountain and village views.

Gimmelwald cheese lady

Say hello to Erica, the "Cheese Lady.”

It’s also worthwhile to visit one of the 13 farms in the village, selling eggs, milk, sausage and cheese. During my visit, my friends and I visited Erica “The Cheese Lady.” She brought us into the small wooden building where she ages her cheese and sausage and let us sample some of the varieties. Because there aren’t many restaurants in Gimmelwald – aside for the ones in the guesthouses – it’s a great opportunity to purchase some fresh local foods for a picnic.

The main thing to take advantage of when in Gimmelwald is the ability to relax. Read a book by the fire, play a game of Jenga with new friends, sip local wine while indulging in some Swiss cheese or chocolate or stare off at the white-capped peaks while breathing in fresh mountain air.

Gimmelwald Mountain Hostel

Playing Jenga and drinking wine with new friends at the Mountain Hostel in Gimmelwald.

Where to stay in Gimmelwald

If you’re on a budget, Mountain Hostel is a backpacker favorite and costs about $30 per night. There are single-sex dorms as well as one mixed dorm ranging in size from 6 to 16 beds. While there isn’t any nightlife in the area, this is the closest you’ll come, as travelers share bottles of Swiss wine and cheese and play board games until late hours in the cozy common area. It also doubles as a popular restaurant serving everything from pizza to fondue to homemade lasagna.

Esther’s Guesthouse also offers cozy accommodation in the form of two apartments and seven rooms with one to four beds. Each morning an expansive homemade breakfast as well as the chance to socialize is offered for $16, and there’s a community kitchen if you want to buy groceries from nearby Murren for cooking. In the summer, you can barbecue in the garden. Rates start at $59 per night, although you receive an $11 discount when paying in cash for three nights or more.

For those who want something rustic and romantic with breathtaking views from their room, Hotel Mittaghorn provides just that. Hosts Walter and Tim provide a welcoming ambiance, with Tim giving great advice on hikes and Walter whipping up delicious homecooked meals each night with dessert and wine accompaniments, all for $16. There is also a free breakfast of hearty breads, jams, cheese and coffee included in the $90 per night room rate.

Your visit to Gimmelwald

Have you visited Gimmelwald? Tell us about your experience in the tiny village in our comments section below.

Also in our guide: Visiting Switzerland can be hazardous to a Cheapo’s budget. If you’re planning your Swiss trip, swing by our guides to budget hotels in Geneva and Zurich. Yes, Cheapos, it is possible to enjoy this famously pricey country on a budget.

About the author

Jessie Festa

Jessie Festa, a New York native, is a world traveler who is always looking for a new adventure. She stays active through dance, hiking, and cycling and loves nothing more than her backpack. Follow her travels around the world and the Big Apple on her blogs, jessieonajourney.com and epicureandculture.com.

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7 thoughts on “Gimmelwald, Switzerland: A visit to the tiny mountain village”

  1. Nice report on Gimmelwald. I’ve been there back in May of this year and the village is beautiful and picturesque. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to buy or try the homemade alpkäse (cheese) as the owner wasn’t at home on that day.

    I’ve also quickly visited the Mountain Hostel and want to go back to stay there at least for a night. I did a round-trip in a day: Lauterbrunnen -> Mürren -> Gimmelwald -> Stechelberg/Trummelbachfälle -> back to Lauterbrunnen.
    I want to go back and spend some more days to hike around.

    Thanks for the heads up!

    Reply
  2. Enjoyed reading about picturesque Gimmelwald. We have been there a number of times when we stayed in Wengen, across the valley. It’s true – Rick Steves is the reason many of us make the trek to experience Gimmelwald – Rick just loves that little village!! My favorite memories of Gimmelwald are the fantastic views from there, the total quietness, and the garden gnomes that are in someone’s flower garden! One of our sons took a trip to Europe after college about fifteen years ago, and he reported that his stay in the Mountain Hostel at Gimmelwald was his favorite experience of his entire trip! Thanks for your report on Gimmelwald, Jessie – love hearing personal experiences from euroCheapo staff and others who have traveled to the places we have also been.

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  3. I loved it here! Very relaxing. Trummelbach Falls were fantastic and the Mountain Hostel was interesting. I signed the wall (everyone does) that I would be back, so i guess I have to. Make sure to take the cable car all the way to the end at Murren if you visit. Having lunch while surrounded by snow covered Alps (in June!) was one of the best parts of my entire European adventure.

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  4. Ah, Gimmelwald. The little Dörfli on an Alp that has the highest density of US citizens anywhere on earth. At least that’s what the Swiss media claim. It was “discovered” by Mr. Rick Steves and then invaded. It is no nicer than 1000s of other similar villages across Switzerland, but it is easy to reach and the locals have all learnt to speak English and cater to tourists. For the real Switzerland, visit anywhere but Gimmelwald.

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  5. Nice summary of this cool place!

    We are heading there for the second time in a few weeks.

    I was a little surprised that you didn’t mention that this village has been popularized by Rick Steves’ books and PBS shows. Seems like a lot of his readers go here (including my family).

    Anyway, I found your article accurate and nicely done! Thanks!

    Reply

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