• Written:
  • Updated:
  • Read time: 6 min

Brienzersee (Lake Brienz), Switzerland (2023)

D and I took the ferry to visit some popular spots on Brienzersee (Lake Brienz), the second half of the lake sandwich from which Interlaken ("between lakes") derives its name. Among the famous spots are Iseltwald, a cute fishing village popularized by the hit drama series, Crash Landing On You, and Gießbachfälle (Giessbach falls), a 1600-ft waterfall that drops over a dozen stages from the top of the mountain to the lake below.

Brienzersee (Lake Brienz) cruise

After we came down from Grindelwald First gondola, we took the bus to Interlaken Ost and walked through the station to the ferry terminal. You can read more about our hike up to Bachalpsee and the famous First Cliff Walk in the Grindelwald post.

We had a bit of time to kill before the ferry arrived, so we walked around the Coop supermarket at the Interlaken Ost station, looking for some snacks. We found onigiri! They even had a tofu seitan version for vegetarians, so we grabbed some. Not great, but not bad -- nice to have the option though.

Right next to the ferry boarding area is this really cute cafe called Bistro Pistache.

Succulents growing in teacups
Lots of cute knick-knacks like these succulents planted in teacups.
Bookshelf and blankets
There were books and blankets you could borrow!
D posing in the cafe
D modeling for me in the cafe.
Flowers growing in a mug
Pretty, white flowers growing in a mug.
View of the bistro from the outside
The entrance to the bistro.
The Brienzersee ferry at the docks
Edelweiss and Gentian flowers decorate the ferry.

The ferry has pretty limited trip departures, especially in the spring, so we had to be pretty on top of the schedule. You can find all the timetables on the BLS Schiff website for both Lake Thun and Lake Brienz ferries.

Mountains overlooking Brienzersee
The colors of the lakes here are stunning.
View of the lake's end
Would have loved to spend a day biking around the lake, but we lost a whole day to the rain storms.
Pano of Brienzersee
Panorama of Brienzersee.

The ferry sails past Iseltwald Castle, otherwise known as The Seeburg (literally meaning "lake castle"). It's a beautiful piece of architecture that sits on the peninsula of the fishing village of Iseltwald and was built in 1907. Contrary to its name, it was never actually a castle, but was been previously used as a trade and housekeeping school for young women and later, a center for people with disabilities. I think it currently sits empty now and has been up for sale in the past couple of decades -- this could be your new dream home!

Schloß Seeburg from the ferry
This place looks like something out of a Wes Anderson film.
Schloß Seeburg with mountains in the back
I wouldn't have minded taking classes here.

Besides the obviously gorgeous surroundings, Iseltwald has also become famous in the past several years for being one of the filming locations for one of the most popular Korean drama series, Crash Landing On You. There is a specific scene in the series where the female protagonist, struggling with depression and SI, passes the male protagonist while walking through Iseltwald and is overcome by this piano piece he is playing on the pier. I'm really underselling this scene, but it was really beautiful and you should just go watch the show now.

Anyway, that scene and the drama is so popular and famous that there is an official Google Maps pin location for it, and it also has its own page on Iseltwald's official website! When we sailed past Iseltwald, both D and I got a good kick out of the insane line of people -- many dressed up real fancy with their partners -- waiting for their turn to take a photo at the pier. There was even a laminated flyer on the ferry for "NFT Collection - Proof of visit" for Iseltwald, with the Crash Landing On You characters featured.

Iseltwald NFT flyer
The NFT flyer in question

Our main stop on the Brienzersee ferry was Gießbachfälle, or Giessbach Falls. The Gießbachfälle are some of the most famous waterfalls in Switzerland and plunge a total of 500m or 1600-ft (!!), from the top of the mountain ridge and into Briezersee over 14 stages. Right next to the falls is a historic hotel called Grand Hotel Gießbach, which has incredible views of both the falls and the lake.

Grand Hotel Gießbach overlooking the lake
What a gorgeous location for a hotel

When you first step off the ferry, you can actually take a little funicular -- also Europe's oldest funicular and built in 1879 -- up to the hotel. The funicular runs about every 20 minutes and costs 12 CHF (~13 USD) roundtrip. Free for hotel guests though!

The funicular was a bit too expensive for us and its schedule didn't line up with the next ferry departure, so we hiked up from the docks.

Hotel Gießbach and the funicular railway
Hotel Gießbach and the funicular
A waterfall plunges into a valley, a village on the lakeshore
A picturesque village across the lake

The famous part of the Gießbachfälle is a series of bridges that goes over the falls and then later goes under the falls. The hike is 2.4-mi and 1,017-ft roundtrip, so it can be quite steep at times. Even though we only had about 45 minutes before the ferry back to Interlaken arrived, we finished the whole loop with time to spare, so it is definitely doable even on a time crunch!

The lower falls
The lower stages of the waterfalls.
Bridge crossing over the waterfall
First bridge in sight!
Waterfall drops multiple stages over the hillside
Still a ways to go, I think this was only 1/3 of the way up.
Walking behind the waterfall
Made it to the cool part! It was fun feeling the spray of the water.
View from waterfall with hotel and mountains in backdrop
You get a pretty neat vantage of the hotel and the mountains across the lake from here.
Pano of the lake from the dock
Panorama of the lake from the Gießbach docks.
A spotlight with a planter inside
There was some historical significance to this but I don't remember what it is.
Daffodils and mountains
Pretty-in-pink flowers

We hopped off at the Iseltwald stop on the way back, just so we could say we'd been. We checked out the Crash Landing On You pier (no photos because the line was too long) and ran around the playground, because why not.

D and I riding the seesaw
You're never too old to seesaw
Sheep resting in the yard
Also said hi to some cute sheep hanging out in one of the yards

Because we got off the last ferry running for the day to see Iseltwald, we had to take the 103 bus to get back to Interlaken and that took about 40 minutes. We made another delicious batch of instant ramen with spinach and a cracked egg, and D went back to working for the rest of the evening.

If you'd like to follow the rest of our adventures in our 20-day trip through the Rhine River region of Europe, you can find the whole collection of posts in 20 days on the Rhine River (2023).