Lord Byron, Consuelo Vanderbilt (the Duchess of Marlborough), and other posh folks put Wengen on the map, spreading the word about its incomparable eagle's-nest perch on a plateau over the Lauterbrunnen Valley. Few places offered such magnificent panoramas and such elegant hotels. And because of its setting, its Alpenglühen ("Alpine glow," in which mountains turn pink in the sunset) was said to be the prettiest in all of Switzerland. Alas, success breeds its own problems. Today you can barely drink in the famous view 4,180 feet over the valley, because hundreds of chalets are in the way. Innerwengen, the town center, is crowded with large buildings and shops with plate-glass windows. But once up on your hotel balcony—the higher the better, of course—you may experience the wonder of yore.

What draws most visitors today is some of the Oberland's most challenging skiing (it connects with the trail network at Grindelwald), choicest hotels, and pinkest sunsets. You can aim for centrally located upscale hotels, near shopping and nightlife options, or head downhill to pleasant, more isolated lodging, all artfully skewed toward the view. Half-board is just short of obligatory, since only a few restaurants are not attached to a hotel. It's a car-free town; most hotels have porters that meet the trains.

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