The Wilden Mann enjoys a superb location on Bahnhofstrasse near the famous 14th-century Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke) with its diagonal span across the River Reuss. Don’t miss the 17th-century paintings on the roof of the bridge, as well as the nearby impressive Baroque Jesuit church of St Francis Xavier. Picasso fans will head for the fabulous Rosengart Collection at nearby Pilatusstrasse.
Lucerne has much to offer visitors, and it’s worthwhile staying here a day or two to explore. Take a boat out onto Lake Lucerne, savour the city’s eclectic international restaurant scene, play the tables at the Casino, and take a walk around the old town. If you have time during your stay, hike up Lucerne’s highest local peak – Mt Pilatus. There’s a hotel and restaurant here and superb views across Lucerne and the Swiss Alps.
Lucerne-Interlaken Express to Grindelwald
Our first destination is Grindelwald, high in the Bernese Oberland at the foot of the north face of the Eiger. Our route from Lucerne stops at Interlaken-Ost where we change trains to the Bernese Oberland Railway up to Grindelwald. Interlaken itself is a superb base from which to explore the Lauterbrunnen Valley: Enjoy boat trips on Lakes Thun and Brienz; climb the Harder Kulm or take the train up to the Jungfraujoch Aletsch glacier.
Grindelwald at the foot of the Eiger
Gateway to the beautiful Jungfrau region, Grindelwald lies at the head of the Lutschen Valley at an elevation of 1,034m. The Wetterhorn, Eiger and Mettenberg mountains dominate the landscape, and Grindelwald is one of Switzerland’s most popular ski and snowboard resorts. The area is also a superb summer destination offering mountain biking, climbing, paragliding, canyoning hiking trails (Eiger, Schynigge Platte are superb), trottibikes (scooters), wild swimming and more.
Grindelwald looks like the traditional Swiss resort of your dreams. Accompanied by our brilliant guide Sandra Kaiser, we walk along the main street, admiring the traditional wooden chalets with sloping roofs, adorned with pretty flower boxes. There’s a plethora of adventure and clothing shops among the souvenir and watch stores. As well as locally sourced produce (cheeses and meats) specialty shops. Take the Wengernalp Railway to the Kleine Scheidegg, and continue up to the stunning Jungfraujoch on the Jungfrau Railway.
We head in the opposite direction – taking the cable car up to the Grindelwald First Station at 2168m. The cable car is a 10-minute walk from the railway station. You can use your Swiss Travel Pass for a discount or it’s free with the Jungrau Travel Pass.
The weather is sunny and we can see for miles. As we ascend, the mighty north face of the Eiger looms behind us on the other side of the valley. Suddenly the sun is replaced by a snow-blinding white-out – I’m talking zero visibility – as we ascend to First Station. Scary but fun and I expect someone to announce: “We’ve been expecting you, Mr Bond,” as we alight and take shelter in the Berg restaurant, fortifying ourselves with a pasta meal. In summer the views will be out of this world. Today, it’s a wild and wuthering view, and strangely elating. We take the vertiginous Cliff Walk around the mountain face. I hold an umbrella in case I need to float down the sheer drop below. Thank God I can’t see the view.
This was just the start of the adrenaline rush. Next feat? Take the First Glider zip wire. Four people are strapped in safety suits and attached – face down – to a glider, then pulled back up the mountain and released to soar like an eagle back down again at speeds of up to 80km/along the 800m route from First to Schreckfeld. Due to the inclement weather we only reached 60mph suspended about 50m about the snowfields. Amazing fun!
The snow stops by the time we descend into Grindelwald and warmed by my earlier adrenaline rush, I relax in the outdoor saltwater jacuzzi and indoor steam rooms, sauna and pool at the Belvedere Swiss Quality hotel before dinner. The hotel has stunning panoramic views of the Eiger’s North Face and the surrounding Bernese Alps and is only a 5-minute walk from the station. We dine at the hotel’s gourmet restaurant that evening featuring Swiss and international options. I love the huge lounge area replete with piano and an extraordinary 200kg smoky quartz crystal discovered by local mountaineer Werner Schmidt.