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Updated February 2024
Holiday: September 2022
In September, we embarked on another three week road trip – this time covering Paris, the South of France and Switzerland. Switzerland had been on my bucket list FOREVER, and it didn’t disappoint! So, I’ll hopefully be answering all your questions to help you to plan your trip to this beautiful country – including how to visit Switzerland and enjoy an amazing family holiday on a small budget – it is possible, I promise!
I’ll also give you a road map of all the incredible places that we visited during our trip, and how best to plan your time from a base in Interlaken – we stayed at Eurocamp’s Manor Farm Campsite as it was the most affordable option and in the perfect location.
From Jungfraujoch Mountain (the highest point in Europe), to the city of Bern, to Giessbach Waterfall, Lake Thun, Interlaken and the caves at St Beatus – here’s everything that you need to know and my reviews of everywhere you’ll want to visit during your Swiss family holiday. (Plus all of our photos – so that you can see exactly what to expect.)
Why visit Switzerland – is it worth it?
Switzerland is such a stunning and unique country – every view looked like it should be printed on a postcard. It’s definitely somewhere that everyone should visit once if they can, and totally worth it for the beauty, the nature and a holiday like no other.
Not only is it an incredible experience for the kids, but as adults we were blown away too. I’d say waiting until your kids are a little older would be beneficial to get the most from the excursions, but it’s definitely a place that can be enjoyed by people of all ages if you’re desperate to visit with little ones.
Is visiting Switzerland expensive?
I’ll be honest, Switzerland is notorious for being an expensive place to visit – and you’ll see this clearly with the cost of food etc when you’re there – even a Mcdonalds is expensive! The wages in Switzerland are much higher, so I guess it’s all relative to them, but for those of us from the UK the prices can be shocking.
However, we actually only spent around £1,000 on our week in Switzerland for our family of four, everything included. And, if you keep reading, I’ll share with you how we had the most amazing trip without spending a fortune, despite how expensive this country can be. As usual, we were on a tight budget, which is always a necessity when we take a longer holiday. So, here’s what we got up to, and how we kept our costs down.
Is it easy to drive to Switzerland from the UK?
Driving to Switzerland from the UK is straight forward, European motorways are great – there never seems to be the traffic jams nor the road works that come with a staycation in the UK. We actually did the trip back to the UK from Switzerland in one day, but you could stop over in France, or go through Belgium and Germany to avoid the costs of the French tolls if you’re taking a few days to get there anyway.
When it comes to travel, it’s much cheaper to travel by car in Switzerland than France! Instead of frequent tolls, you can purchase a vignette (which is valid for a year) on your way into the country when you cross the border. At £35.50, it’s great to know that you can then go wherever you like without incurring any extra charges.
Please note that the speed limits are very strict in Switzerland, and there are speed cameras dotted frequently along the roads – so make sure that you read up on this before you go. The fines are heavy if you get caught speeding.
When should I visit Switzerland?
A lot of people will wonder why people visit Switzerland in the summer, as it’s obviously a popular snowy destination for the winter time too. But, I actually think it’s a country that really lends itself to all times of the year.
In summer, it’s much easier to get around without being inhibited by the weather and, if you want to get out in nature and explore, sunshine always helps. Having said that, because it’s not a sunbathing type of holiday, spring and autumn offer benefits too – the weather may still be mild but the crowds will be less, and the cost of the trip will likely be less too.
We visited Interlaken mid-end of September and found that no-where was too crowded, we had gorgeous sunshine and the temperature was still around 17-20 degrees each day – it seemed to be the perfect time for having an adventure of this kind.
Obviously in the winter you’ll have the option of skiing, which may be what you’re after in a family holiday to Switzerland, but it would make it harder to get about to see the sights. For us, the nice weather was such a positive of the trip. And, with snow on top of Jungfraujoch all year round, we were still able to experience that but come back to the warmth afterwards.
Where should I stay on a small budget – is there affordable accommodation in Interlaken?
Interlaken is the most fantastic base for a holiday in Switzerland, not only is the area itself amazing but it’s the perfect spot from which you’ll be able to see most of the places that you’ll want to visit during your trip without too much driving.
Interlaken itself has many hotels and B&Bs, but the trick to making a Swiss family holiday affordable is definitely to look for cheaper accommodation – with self-catering facilities so that you can avoid the high costs that would come from eating out.
We booked with Eurocamp and stayed at Manor Farm Campsite in Bernese Oberland, Interlaken, which is located on Lake Thun, and honestly it couldn’t have been a more magical spot. Watching the sunset in the evenings was absolutely stunning – and what a view to wake up to before you’ve even begun your day. This campsite really was all about the location – not only are the immediate surroundings gorgeous, but all of the places that we wanted to visit were in easy driving distance so it was the perfect base to explore from.
This campsite really gave us the opportunity to fulfil our dream of visiting Switzerland, whilst sticking to what was actually a very small budget for a holiday to this particular destination. We paid around £400 for the week for our stay at Manor Farm Campsite – which insanely works out at just £57 a night – quite incredible given that we were staying in one of the most expensive countries in Europe.
As we home educate the kids, we are fortunate to be able travel term-time which is a great money saver, but if you’re restricted to school holiday dates then look for May half-term getaways – they’re always so much cheaper than the summer holidays!
It was certainly one of our favourite holidays, and driving to and around Interlaken and the surrounding area was simple. We thought that 7 days was the perfect amount of time to really experience everything that it had to offer. For more info on this budget accommodation option – check out my full review of Manor Farm Campsite:
What’s Interlaken like – and how can I get around?
Interlaken is a fantastic location to explore from and, wherever you stay, I’d highly recommend it as a base. As part of a local tourist perk, when we stayed at Manor Farm Campsite, we were given passes to enable us to travel into Interlaken centre, and around the local area, on the ferry or bus for free – which we did a couple of times, as both picked up directly across from where we were staying.
Having said that, the walk into the city centre was so beautiful (and we were so lucky with the weather) that we tended to explore locally on foot and then catch the bus or ferry back across Lake Thun when our legs were tired.
Can you see what I mean when I say Switzerland needs no filter? Yet another postcard perfect snap taken on my phone when we were out for a walk! Just gorgeous – and look at the colour of the water!
Having our car was really helpful for exploring Switzerland – we had some incredible days out, all within easy driving distance of Interlaken. Having said that, with the perk of free local travel and the train station within Interlaken centre, getting around without a car would be pretty doable too, without spending a fortune.
The Interlaken area seemed very safe, and everyone was helpful and welcoming. For a city centre it was pretty chilled, though we did visit out of peak season. We even had a nice chilled afternoon watching the paragliders and parachutes land on the field in the middle of Interlaken – whilst munching on Swiss chocolate of course!
And, in warmer weather, Lake Thun (across from Manor Farm Campsite) would have been an incredible place to swim and enjoy water sports too – which I believe are on offer in the height of summer. Another reason why visiting Switzerland that time of year could be a good option.
Places to visit – what to see in Switzerland from Interlaken:
Aside from just making the most of the Interlaken area, we had so much fun exploring and checking items off of our bucket list too! Visit a snowy glacier – check! Go on a train up a Swiss mountain – check! Walk under a waterfall – check! This holiday was unforgettable and one of my favourites to date.
So, let me talk you through our itinerary so you can see all of the amazing places that we visited, and I’ll fill you in on costs as we go to help you to know how much spending money you’ll need too. The real trick is to balance out the expensive days with others which are free or cost next-to-nothing – I think we had the perfect blend.
Jungfraujoch Review – is it worth the money?
One of the places that I was absolutely desperate to visit was Jungfraujoch. We braved temperatures of -7°C for this once in a lifetime experience, which was about 30 minutes drive from where we stayed at Manor Farm Campsite – it really was a great place to stay, within easy distance of some of the best views that Switzerland has to offer!
What is Jungfraujoch?
Jungfraujoch, the highest point in Europe, is one of the most famous destinations in Switzerland. The mountain peak is so high that it’s covered in snow 365 days of the year – so you’ll never be disappointed whatever time of year you’re visiting. We actually found this really strange, as we had days of 17 degrees+ exploring Switzerland, often stripping down to t-shirts, and then we were transported into a winter wonderland!
Because the peak is 3454m above sea level – you may even get some mild altitude sickness but most people will be fine. Though it’s worth mentioning that we all felt a little light-headed during our visit – so that’s something to think about if you particularly suffer.
This excursion was really expensive – it was definitely the most expensive day out that we’ve ever had but it was something that we were desperate to check off of the bucket list! So, though we try to keep our budget down whenever we travel, this was something that we just had to save up for.
Where is Jungfraujoch?
Jungfraujoch is situated in the Swiss Alps between the Jungfrau and Mönch mountains, in the canton of Bern in Switzerland. We drove from Interlaken to begin our journey to the top of Jungfraujoch from Grindelwald Station. If you’re travelling to Switzerland without a car, you can train from Interlaken to Grindelwald easily.
What’s there to see and do at Jungfraujoch?
We took the Eiger Express gondola on the way up – they run continuously so we were able to get straight on after purchasing our tickets. It felt very Jurassic Park like as we ventured up the mountain – the views were brilliant and as we climbed nearer to where we’d need to catch the train, over hills and forest, everything began to turn white.
The journey to get to the peak is definitely part of the magic, we absolutely loved the gondola ride, after which you take the train inside a tunnel to the very top. On the way back, we chose go by train all the way down (as I’ve always wanted to travel a Swiss mountain by train!) so that we had experienced it both ways – the train journey does take longer but the views along the railway journey are lovely.
Aside from the areas where you can explore outside on foot, to enjoy the views and feel the crunch of the snow, there are also viewing decks. Even out of peak holiday times there were still lots of visitors around and a buzz about the place, though nowhere was too busy and we didn’t have to queue for the gondola etc.
There’s what they refer to as an ‘ice palace’ – where you explore through tunnels to see some incredible carvings in the ice. The kids enjoyed this, but were slightly disappointed with it being within tunnels – they’d imagined it differently I think with the name ‘palace’.
There’s also a Lindt shop, and the usual facilities like restaurants and loos. Within the building, there are also areas to explore to see the history and construction of the Jungfraujoch buildings and railways, which was actually really interesting – building the railway and the huge building on top of such a high peak was obviously quite the challenge!
There’s also a snow park with a zip-line and snow tubing – which the kids had planned to make the most of – but this was temporarily closed when we visited. They had been wanting to snow tube, but after seeing how cold it was outside I’m not sure they’d have actually done it anyway. 😂 We couldn’t feel our faces by the time we came back inside after just a short walk in the snow!
Some things will be weather permitting so that’s something to be aware of – obviously the wind and bad weather could be a huge issue and a danger so high up. One of the platforms was closed when we visited, and I would imagine that this could be more of an issue in the winter months when extreme weather is more likely.
How long does Jungfraujoch take?
The journey up and down the mountain takes quite some time, so you’ll use two hours+ getting there and back – with the train taking slightly longer than the Eiger Express Cable Car. You’ll then want a few hours to see and do everything when you reach the top.
We didn’t, but you can also hike to explore the glacier – which takes around 2 hours for the round trip. For this, you’d need a very good level of fitness and proper walking shoes – it wouldn’t be something recommended to do if you’re visiting with kids but for healthy adults on holiday, it would certainly be an incredible experience.
Even without the hike, you’ll want to allow a whole day for the Jungfraujoch trip as it’ll still easily fill 5 hours or more of your day. It’s probably best to arrive mid-morning at the lastest, and assume you’ll be heading back to your accommodation around tea-time.
What should I wear for a visit to Jungfraujoch?
It’s extremely cold so you’ll want to wear lots of layers and pack bits like scarves, hats and gloves. As I mentioned before, we visited during a warm September (it was around 17-20 degrees most days), yet it was still -7°C at the top of Jungfraujoch. Even in the summer months you’ll need to wrap up warm!
And don’t forget your sunglasses too – it’s really bright with the sun bouncing off of the white snow so to really enjoy the view without the glare causing you bother you’ll want some shades. I was so glad to have read that elsewhere before we visited – so hopefully you’ll appreciate the tip too if you decide that a trip to Jungfraujoch is for you!
How much does a trip to Jungfraujoch cost – and is it worth the expense?
This excursion was around £370 for the four of us – it was definitely insanely expensive for a single day out but it was something that I was desperate to check off of the bucket list, and I couldn’t have visited Switzerland without doing it. Knowing that the cost was so high, we made sure to plan our trip around it and balance our itinerary with cheap or free excursions for the other days.
Thinking about whether it was good value for money, I feel a bit conflicted. At the top, there wasn’t a huge amount for us to access, and they don’t even provide decent areas to eat if you’re not buying their food in the restaurants – which considering the ticket price isn’t great customer service.
The restaurant and cafe areas are ridiculously expensive, so make sure that you pack a picnic and drinks in order to avoid purchasing anything during the trip. We literally ate our picnic lunch on the floor by a cafe area – which is pretty nuts when you consider the cost of the excursion – though we were by an enormous viewing window so I can’t complain about the breath-taking view that we had with our lunch!
Essentially, Jungfraujoch is a very expensive view, unless you’re able to experience the snow park (at an additional cost) or trek to the glacier to get the full outdoor experience. And, even then, it’s a lot of money to spend for a few hours entertainment.
On the way down, they’ll gift you with some Lindt chocolate on the train, so that was a nice treat and one the kids especially appreciated. And, tickets from Jungfraujoch can be used to gain free entry at Harder Kulm – so if you want to do both, make sure that you visit Jungfraujoch first to save some money there.
But even though I can’t quite say it was good value for money, I absolutely don’t regret what we spent. It was a unique, once in a lifetime experience, and there was something so magical about it. Do I wish it was cheaper? Of course! But, would I do it again? For sure.
There might be a few options to save some money if you’ve got a lot on your Swiss to do list – so investigate the travel passes to see if that works well for your plans. For some cheaper alternative Swiss mountain experiences, you might also want to look at a trip to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, Mt Titlis, Mont Blanc or Schilthorn.
Visiting the city of Bern
After our expensive Jungfraujoch excursion, we had to make sure the rest of our days out were cheap or free. So, we decided to explore the city of Bern, the capital of Switzerland.
How far is Bern from Interlaken?
The drive to Bern from Manor Farm Campsite in Bernese Oberland, Interlaken, was about 45 minutes – and the train journey from Interlaken to Bern would be a similar length too if you’re without a car.
What’s there to see and do in the city of Bern?
Bern is a quirky place – famous for its bear sanctuary / pit that runs alongside the river, where you can see the resident bears for free. The city itself has lots of traditional buildings – we enjoyed exploring with the kids, it had a nice vibe. Bern is definitely somewhere that you can easily see in a day, and with the bears to keep the kids happy it’s a family friendly day out.
As always, we packed up drinks, snacks and a picnic lunch before heading out to avoid needing to spend money. Though we did treat the kids to an ice-lolly for a few pounds from a stall near the bear sanctuary, this was a very cheap day out.
Bern vs Geneva
We actually stopped off for a few hours in Geneva on our journey home back to the UK, and 100% out of the two Bern wins hands down! Though there are some stunning views to be had at Lake Geneva – where I wish we’d had time to explore – the city centre of Geneva is nothing like that, and it was our least favourite place in Switzerland.
Unlike Bern which had a traditional and chilled vibe (and felt very ‘Swiss’), Geneva’s city centre felt very much more like a normal city and was busier, dirtier and quite a contrast to the other places that we visited in Switzerland. There was also less to see and do. So if you’re looking to explore a city during your trip, then Bern wins every time.
Review: Giessbach Falls Waterfall, Brienz, Switzerland
A real highlight of our Switzerland holiday was a visit to Giessbach Falls – a magical waterfall with the most incredible views over the lake.
Where is Giessbach Falls?
Giessbach Falls, in nearby Brienz, was about 30 minutes by car from Manor Farm Campsite in Interlaken. Switzerland can be an expensive place to visit, so this gorgeous waterfall is an inexpensive gem!
How much is it to visit Giessbach Falls?
The best bit is that there’s no entrance fee for Giessbach Falls Waterfall, so you can visit for just the cost of parking, which was around £9/10 per car for the day. You probably could find somewhere to park nearby for free if you really wanted to, but we did use the carpark, and were happy with the cost given that it was all we spent that day.
What is Giessbach Falls like – is it worth a visit?
The views across Lake Brienz from Giessbach were incredible and it was definitely one of the most beautiful places that we’ve ever been. And, the short walk through the woodland from the parking area, only added to its beauty. Nature at its best!
The kids thought that it was brilliant to be able to walk under the waterfall – it was a really magical experience and one you should definitely make time for if you’re visiting Switzerland. It’s great to be able to balance out the more expensive experiences and days out with places you can explore for free too. And, is there anything more therapeutic than being surrounded by woodland, nature and the sound of a rushing waterfall?!
Once you’ve completed the trail around the waterfall, you’ll come out by a hotel and restaurant overlooking the lake – perfect for some refreshments if you’ve haven’t brought any with you. This view was incredible – it looked so much like a postcard that it just didn’t seem real! (No filter needed – again!!) It was such a relaxing place to be, and yet another incredible place to add our list of amazing picnic spots!
From here, if you fancy it, you can hop on Giessbach’s Funicular Railway. The funicular climbs down 93 metres along the 345m track from the hotel, towards to the lake. The four-minute journey takes you through the forest, over bridges and alongside waterfalls. If you’re looking for peace and quiet, in an area of outstanding natural beauty, then this is the best picnic spot you’ll find near Interlaken.
Review: St Beatus Caves and Waterfalls
We actually hadn’t planned to visit St Beatus Caves, but found it after a quick google of the area, and I’m glad we did! We’d queued to visit Harder Kulm that morning, as you can visit for free with a Jungfraujoch ticket, but it was so slow moving as the transport up the mountain doesn’t hold many people. So, we gave up and ended up at the caves.
How do I get to St Beatus Caves from Interlaken?
St Beatus Caves was an easy ten minute drive from Manor Farm Campsite in Bernese Oberland, Interlaken. The public transport was simple to use, and included with the pass we were given for local transport, so I imagine it would be a simple bus journey too if need be.
Is it worth visiting St Beatus Caves and Waterfalls?
Well, for a start, if you don’t visit St Beatus then you’ll be missing out on this incredible (and unexpected!) view over Lake Thun – which we discovered from the entrance of the caves. It’s a steep climb up to get into the caves, but the views were absolutely stunning – yet another place that looked more like a postcard than a reality!
We were so lucky with the weather too – such glorious sunshine for our whole trip!
There was something really magical about seeing the waterfall areas whilst inside the caves, as well as on the climb up to them. And, there’s a playground on the way up too for the kids to let off some steam.
Afterwards, we enjoyed a drink (and ice-cream for the kids) in the restaurant, and it was really magical overlooking such natural beauty. If you don’t fancy the caves, trek the paths up to them anyway – it’s worth the walk, and it was such an unexpected bonus of our visit!
What is St Beatus Caves like inside?
Inside we learned about stalactites and stalagmites, and the rate at which they’re formed. And the caves were beautifully lit to make the pools and other interesting areas look amazing. You can explore about 1km of the caves, which are open daily from April through to October. The caves are a constant 8-10 degrees inside, so dress appropriately.
There’s also a museum area which talks you through the history, and past adventures of the cavers who had previously discovered and explored the caves. You can grab an audio guide, to have everything explained in the language you require. It’s a really interesting way to spend a few hours if you’re in the Interlaken area.
How much does it cost to visit St Beatus Caves and Waterfalls?
It was around £43 for a family pass, and this afternoon out was a favourite of the kids. The caves were amazing to explore, and go quite a depth. They were totally fascinated by it, and it was educational too.
Harder Kulm Mountain
Harder Kulm Funincular is also very closeby in the centre of Interlaken and you can visit for free with your Jungfraujoch ticket! However, the transport up the mountain is very small so the queues are long – which is something to be aware of. Even visiting during September, there was a very long queue, and it just moved so slowly because the funicular doesn’t carry many people at a time.
So, take some snacks and try to avoid visiting at peak times if this mountain is on your to do list. Though you could also hike the 4km route to the top instead in around 2 hours – this one is a moderate climb but certainly doable if you have the time. So, is a visit to Harder Kulm worth it? I’m not sure as we got bored in the queue and never made it to the top! 😂 You’ll have to let me know about that one!
How to visit Switzerland on a budget – keeping costs down:
As I mentioned before, Switzerland can be a very expensive place to visit but it is doable on a small budget if you’re well prepared. We knew this before we left, so we bought some bits from home, and also shopped in France before we crossed the border, using cool bags to keep the food fresh.
We bought food to cover all of our meals – as well as things like part-baked rolls to cook up for lunches, and even treats like sweets and chocolates for when we wanted something yummy. We likely spent around £100 in France stocking up, and I’m 100% sure that doing this saved us a small fortune compared with Switzerland’s high food prices.
We actually got away with buying next-to-nothing in Switzerland itself – which is definitely the trick to doing Switzerland on a small budget!! We just purchased a few bits and bobs as needed locally from budget supermarkets. The budget stores were so much cheaper than the other shops, so if you do need to shop avoid Interlaken city centre and hunt out Aldi instead!
We didn’t eat out at all, and cooked every night back at the mobile home. We lived on picnics during the day, and made sure to take snacks and water bottles with us too so we barely spent a penny aside from the excursions. This made our week so much more affordable and it’s definitely something to plan ahead for if you’re going to visit Switzerland. Definitely, make sure that your accommodation has facilities for self-catering – or you’ll need a small mortgage! 😂
I would definitely recommend using Eurocamp’s Manor Farm Campsite as your base – both for it’s ideal location and for keeping costs down. There aren’t many places you can find to stay in the UK for under £60 per night, let alone in a country as expensive as Switzerland, so it really made our trip doable. Remember you can check out my full review here: Eurocamp Holiday Review: Manor Farm Campsite, Interlaken, Bernese Oberland, Switzerland.
If you are booking with Eurocamp, make sure that you check out Eurocamp Guide for money-saving tips and all of the info you need – we’ve used them so many times that I’m a bit of a Eurocamp expert now – check out: A complete review / guide for Eurocamp holidays: How does Eurocamp work? How can I save money?
And, for more info on the accommodation options, and to find out what to pack / what’s included, read my post: Eurocamp holiday reviews: Which accommodation should I choose? What’s included?
We had a fantastic family holiday and (aside from the Jungfraujoch excursion) we actually managed to spend very little money. So if you plan well, and be smart with your budget, I would highly recommend visiting this beautiful country.
What we spent:
All in all we spent around £1000 during our week in Switzerland:
- Vignette for Swiss roads: £35.50
- Eurocamp Accommodation: £400
- Excursions, food and spending money: approx £600 (including our food shop in France)
Because we came to Switzerland from the South of France, I haven’t been able to include accurate costs for fuel or French tolls for this trip – but there are websites to help you to find this information if you’d like a better idea about the travelling costs too.
If, like us, you’re trying to travel on a small budget with your kids – check out my article for lots of money saving tips: Travelling abroad on a budget – 20 ways to save money on your family holiday!
I hope this has inspired you to explore this incredible country, whatever your budget may be. And, for lots of other holiday reviews (and to find out about our amazing Italian Road Trip) keep scrolling down! Happy holidays!
Exploring Europe with the kids? Check out my other reviews and travel articles:
Our Italian Eurocamp Family Road Trip: What we spent, tips & how to explore Italy with kids on a budget!
Disneyland Paris Guide / Review: Can it be done in one day? What we spent, money saving tips & is it worth it?
Travelling on a budget? Check out:
20 tips for travelling abroad on a budget with kids – here’s how to save money on your family summer holiday!