Harder Kulm is the perfect excursion tip from Interlaken. You will not only enjoy a magnificent view over Lake Thun, Lake Brienz and the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. There is also a delicious restaurant waiting for you.
Text and pictures Marc Gottwald
Harder Kulm – Interlaken’s local mountain
What a gigantic view!
“Do you know these two lakes?” a father asks his daughter next door. “Lake Thun and Lake Brienz,” the child answered proudly. She was right.
The Harder Kulm is Interlaken’s local mountain and one of the best places at an altitude of 1,322 metres. It offers a spectacular panorama and sigts over the Jungfrau, Eiger, Mönch, Lake Thun and Lake Brienz.
You can reach the mountain in just 10 minutes with the Harder Kulm cable car. From there you only have to walk about 300 metres to the viewpoint and restaurant.
The development dates back to 1890, when Dr. Fritz Michael was granted as the right person to build an electric cable car from Interlaken to the Harder. Nevertheless, it was difficult to obtain financing for the project. Construction began in November 1905 and was to take 3 years. The funicular finally opened on 15 May 1908.
But things were not always so rosy for the mountain. About 9 years ago there was even the discussion of closing it. Thanks to Dieter Ägerter (manager of the Harder Kulm Restaurant) and the Jungfrau Railways, the story took a turn for the better. Today you can immerse yourself in a fairytale world that is also visited by stars.
If you are looking for peace and quiet, you should avoid the summer holidays in July and August and weekends. Or take the first train early in the morning. Because the mountain above Interlaken is usually very well visited.
Let’s take a look at various activities & sights you can do and visit on the mountain.
1. Harder Kulm Hiking
Several hiking trails lead up to the mountain. Many locals take the trails as an exercise, for competitions or to get fit for the hiking season. The Harder Run also takes place once a year. The record is held by Samuel Hürzeler with around 24 minutes!
Some great hikes to do
But there are also various hikes from Harder Kulm. The map for the hiking trails is available at the tourist office. Let’s take a look at some of the best hikes here:
- – Interlaken – Harder Kulm: You can follow the marked hiking trail from Interlaken Ost station in the direction of Harder Kulm. The trail is 4 km long and takes about two and a half hours to reach the destination. Again and again you will cross the railway.
As the hiking trail is very steep, it is only suitable for experienced hikers. No problem, the cable car takes guests up to the mountain in just 10 minutes. There you can also do more leisurely hikes.
- -Elfenweg: The Elfenweg is a circular trail that takes about an hour. It starts at the mountain station and leads through the forest. The theme trail is perfect for families with children. But of course all generations are welcome, because the trail is really beautiful.
- – Harder Kulm to Augstmatthorn: The ultimate ridge walk on the Brienzer Grat, which is not for the faint-hearted. It takes about 4 hours and afterwards you still have to hike to Lombachalp. If you want to do the whole Brienz Ridge Hike, you should definitely hike from the Brienzer Rothorn to the Harder Kulm. Good shoes and enough to drink (3-4 litres minimum) are also a must. There is no water or food on the ridge and you are constantly exposed to the sun.
- – Harder Kulm to Ringgenberg: The route can be covered in 1 hour and 45 minutes. Once you are out of the forest, you have an ideal view over Lake Brienz.
2. Two-lakes Bridge
Who doesn’t love these great vantage points that offer the most beautiful panoramas? The Two Lakes Bridge at Harder Kulm is one of the best sights to visit. It was built in 2011 near the restaurant and offers a wonderful vantage point from which to photograph and enjoy the surrounding landscape. Lake Thun is on the right, Lake Brienz on the left. In between is Interlaken. The mountain peaks of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau are in the direction of the Lütschin valley between the two lakes. The view is phenomenal. Furthermore, the sunset is absolutely impressive, when the last rays make the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau appear red.
3. Alpine wild animal park
The Alpine Animal Park is another sight and located directly at the valley station in Interlaken. It is home to ibexes and marmots. Therefore, this is the perfect combination for a visit to the Harder Kulm.
Ibex became almost extinct in Switzerland in the 19th century. That was the reason why the wildlife park was founded. Namely to support the reintroduction of ibex in the Bernese Oberland. Today, there are tens of thousands of ibex in the Swiss Alps again. It is probably the most successful reintroduction project in Switzerland.
You can also walk a few metres from the park to the Hohbuhl Pavilion and enjoy the view over the Swiss mountains and Interlaken. The zoo is open daily and admission is free.
4. Children’s playground
There is a playground near the Harder Kulm restaurant. Interlaken’s local mountain is very family-friendly.
5. Restaurant Harder Kulm
The restaurant is located on the local mountain and is known throughout Switzerland for its good cuisine. That’s why there are large queues on vacation and at weekends at the cable car station. The restaurant can serve around 500 people, so everyone will find their seat. Important: No reservations are accepted.
Furthermore, cuisines available are Swiss, European, Central European and Arabic. But you can also get special diets, including gluten-free vegan and vegetarian. In short: everyone will find something to eat.
Meals at the Harder Kulm restaurant are served for breakfast, lunch, dinner and brunch. There is also an outdoor seating area to enjoy the view. According to Dieter Ägerter, manager of the restaurant, a dinner at sunset is highly recommended.
Many banquets and special events are also held. For example, on the day I spoke to Dieter Ägerter on the phone, there was a whisky night.
6. Swiss Folklore Show
During the season from May to October, the Harder Kulm is transformed into a stage. Here, Swiss folklore is performed with music and dance. This means you can listen to free alphorn and yodeller concerts.
The best time to visit the place is when the temperatures are warm. Guests who are in Interlaken should have seen the stunning view. You can reach the top station in just 10 minutes. Accordingly, this excursion can be completed in only 2 to 3 hours.
The cable car is open from mid-April to the end of November. Please check the Harder Kulm Bahn website for details. The train departs every half hour on xx.10 and xx.40 (as of 2021). Depending on the month, the last train even departs from the mountain back to Interlaken after 8pm. Please check the timetable first.
Concluding thoughts about the Harder Kulm
The natural beauty of Switzerland is phenomenal. Harder Kulm is a stunning place to visit when you are in Interlaken. You will not only see impressive mountains and lakes. If you are hungry, you can take a seat in the restaurant and enjoy the moment with a hearty meal. It’s important to note that the railway from Interlaken to the mountain is closed in winter between November and April. Furthermore the hikes are very dangerous during that time and are even for experienced hikers not recommended to do.