A trip to the Top of Europe sounds impressive, right? At an impressive 3,454 metres high, Jungfraujoch is Europe’s highest train station. As you might expect, this is a tourist attraction and not the cheapest train journey even by Swiss standards – but is it worth the cost?
The trip starts at Interlaken Ost, a resort town that is a core part of the Swiss rail network with direct trains to Bern, Lucerne and even international destinations to/from Germany.
It isn’t a case of jumping on one train to get to the Top of Europe – there are multiple changes required. There are also different route options – whether you want to go via Lauterbrunnen or Grindelwald, whether you would like to go solely by railway or the faster cable car and train combination. You can also mix and match making tailoring the trip exactly how you’d like it – we opted for ascending exclusively by train via Lauterbrunnen and descending by cable car and train via Grindelwald.
In this blog I will explain these routes, however please consult jungfrau.ch for the latest information about each of the options and fares available.
Interlaken Ost to Lauterbrunnan (796 metres)
|Interlaken Ost to Lauterbrunnan||20 mins||Berner Oberland-Bahn||Right Hand Side|
First up, our chariot is the train of the Berner Oberland-Bahn taking us 229 metres up to Lauterbrunnan in 20 minutes.
Lauterbrunnan to Kleine Scheidegg (2,061 metres)
|Lauterbrunnan to Kleine Scheidegg||38 mins||Wengernalpbahn||Right Hand Side|
This next leg is where the spectacular scenery begins. It’s a steep ascent on the rack railway from Lauterbrunnan to Kleine Scheidegg. As soon as the train departs there is a beautiful view over Lauterbrunnan. Then a views down into the valley on the approach to Wengen station sitting at 1,247 metres followed by Allmen station at 1,509 metres. This is the point I realised how unique this journey is – you get a real sense of the height you’ve climbed. Look out for Swiss cows donning big bells around their necks and the first view of a glacier. I did notice how thin the air was getting off at Kleine Scheidegg. There is a water machine and taking slow steps is advised from here upwards.
Kleine Scheidegg to Eigergletscher (2,320 metres)
|Kleine Scheidegg to Eigergletscher||5 mins||Jungfraubahn||Right Hand Side|
Next up the rather comfortable, red, Jungfrau Railways train climbing up to Eigergletscher. This is a quick 5 minute trip. Unfortunately for us, this is where the mist came in obscuring our view across the valley.
Eigergletscher to Jungfraujoch (3,454 metres) – the Top of Europe
|Eigergletscher to Jungfraujoch||26 mins||Jungfraubahn||N/A|
The final leg is on another red train by the Jungfrau railways. This journey is entirely in a tunnel, built in order to protect the railway line from snow and extreme weather. The train makes a stop at Eismeer, the second highest train station in Europe at 3,159 metres, stopping for 5 minutes to admire the panoramic view of Ischmeer glacier covered in thick snow. Impressive.
Finally everyone gets back on to travel for the final 300 metres to the Top of Europe, at Jungfraujoch.
The Top of Europe
We made it to the Top of Europe! There is a viewing platform here at Jungfraujoch however the mist never cleared in our experience. Despite this and much to our surprise, it turned out to be very easy to spend a few hours at the Top of Europe with an ice plateau outside, vast ice caves with ice scultptures, a museum, shops (including souvenir and the highest Lindt shop), Europe’s highest post office and a café.
Jungfraujoch to Eigergletscher (2,320 m)
|Jungfraujoch to Eigergletscher||24 mins||Jungfraubahn||N/A|
To begin our descent we retrace our steps and travel back through the tunnel on the same route, however it’s worth noting that that the train doesn’t stop at Eismeer in this direction – it’s direct to Eigergletscher. A family sat their child in the spare seat next to me, who fell asleep for the duration with his head on my shoulder…
Eigergletscher to Grindelwald (1,034 m)
|Eigergletscher to Grindelwald||15 mins||Eiger Express Cable Car||Front|
Spicing things up for the return leg, we opt for the route via Grindelwald this time instead of Lauterbrunnen and tried out the new Eiger Express Cable Car that opened in December 2020. With its 44 cabins, it glides down the 1,300 metres elegantly with stunning views from the front. Although you’re sat with the window to your back, you can turn around for an unobscured view. There is also a Wengernalpbahn train along the same route taking longer.
Grindelwald to Interlaken Ost (568 m)
|Grindelwald to Interlaken Ost||35 mins||Berner Oberland-Bahn||Left Hand Side|
This would be the final leg of our trip back to Interlaken. Grindelwald itself does have a vast array of shops, perfect for a travel break on the way back. Once ready to head back, the final leg to Interlaken Ost is by rack railway with river views on the left.
Overall despite the weather conditions, I thoroughly enjoyed my journey to the Top of Europe. No matter what the weather is at the top, you can still appreciate the scale of the railway and the effort required for those involved in building it. It’s a true engineering marvel. Getting on and off trains en route gives you the chance to experience stunning views while breathing fresh mountain air aplenty.
Route wise, both routes via Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald are spectacular and I recommend going up one and down the other.
In terms of buying tickets, I suggest waiting until the day of travel to purchase these so you can check for the weather conditions on the day – the pricing is the same no matter when you buy it and no reservations necessary. We found the staff at Interlaken Ost booking office to be very helpful, happily working out the cheapest price for us. There are webcams online and in hotel room TVs in Interlaken, so you can check the conditions before setting off.
Ticketing isn’t the easiest to get your head around, though you can purchase a through ticket from Interlaken Ost to Jungfraujoch despite using three train operators services and the cable car, and all from the booking office at Interlaken Ost. There’s a cheaper Good Morning ticket available for the early bird departures and discounts for those with InterRail, FIP and Swiss Half Fare cards among others. More details can be found here.
|Journey Leg||Full Price Return*||InterRail Discounted Return|
(valid, but no need to date)*
|Interlaken Ost to Jungfraujoch (Return)||Valid all day – 210.80 CHF||Valid all day – 177.20 CHF|
|Interlaken Ost to Jungfraujoch (Return)||‘Good Morning’ ticket – 175.00 CHF|
If you work for the rail industry in a European country, as I do, you can take advantage of FIP free and discounted travel across Europe which includes a trip to the Top of Europe.
|Journey Leg||Using FIP Discount Card*|
|Interlaken Ost to Jungfraujoch (Return)||Valid all day – 117.90 CHF|
Good Morning Ticket – 95.00 CHF
|Journey Leg||Using FIP Free Coupons*|
|Interlaken Ost to Lauterbrunnen||FIP Free Coupon (SP)|
|Lauterbrunnen to Kleine Scheidegg||FIP Free Coupon (SP)|
|Kleine Scheidegg to Jungfraujoch via Eigergletscher||FIP Fare 39.00 CHF|
|Jungfraujoch to Eigergletscher||FIP Fare 37.50 CHF|
|Eigergletscher to Kleine Scheidegg (Cable Car)||FIP Free Coupon (SP)|
|Kleine Scheidegg to Interlaken Ost||FIP Free Coupon (SP)|
This article was first published in December 2021.
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