Nestled among the snow-capped Swiss Alps, the fairy-tale village of Wengen is a family-friendly resort for skiers and snowboarders of all ages and abilities.
Languages: Swiss, German and English
Currency: Swiss Francs (CHF)
Airport: Basel (BSL)
Travel Time from Airport: 3.5 hours by train
Elevation: 1,274 m (4,180 ft)
Season: November to April
Village life centres around one charming main street, which is lined with colourful restaurants, bars, shops and postcard-worthy timber chalets.
The centrally located train station makes it easily accessible and puts the best of the surrounding Bernese Oberland region within easy reach.
Wengen is almost entirely car-free, apart from a few small vehicles belonging to the local hotels, which adds even further to its old world charm.
Whether traversing the world-class slopes, soaking up the dramatic vistas over the Lauterbrunnen Valley or making new friends at the lively après ski bars, this cosy hamlet is sure to make you fall in love with the ski bum lifestyle.
Here are a few pointers to help you plan your perfect Swiss snow holiday!
SkiSet Wengen is a local rental shop operated by Colin and Tracy Willmott from Worcestershire, England.
The service they provide is reassuringly warm and familiar and their brand new ski equipment is all top of the line.
Whatever you need, whether it be just a pair of boots and skis or the whole shebang, they’ll get you measured up and ready ski in no time.
The shop is located on Wengen’s main drag, within stumbling distance of the slopes and cable car station.
Wengen hosts the Lauberhorn World Cup ski race (every January), which is the longest of its kind in the world. Dating back to 1930, it’s also one of the world’s oldest continuously-held ski races!
Generally speaking however, Wengen is best-known for its beginner to intermediate slopes and most skiers here are more interested in polishing their snowplough than hitting the half-pipe.
The village itself has a number of gentle slopes that are ideal for learning and warming up on before riding the cable car up to the blue and red runs of Männlichen.
Reachable via the Wengen-Männlichen Aerial Cableway, the Männlichen-Kleine Scheidegg region boasts 110 km of intermediate-friendly slopes and 30 km of toboggan runs, as well as spectacular vistas of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau moutains.
Whether you’ve never skied before or simply need a refresher course to remaster your parallel turns, as was the case for me, the instructors at the Swiss Ski and Snowboard School will have you schussing in no time.
My instructor Sabine Näpflin was a total pro and had the patience of a saint. I was a nervous wreck to begin with, but Sabine had me ready for red runs within an hour.
Overlooking the slopes of Wengen and Männlichen you’ll find a number of timber-clad bars, restaurants and food stands where you can relax and refuel.
We enjoyed meeting the locals over piping-hot bratwursts and glühwein (warmed wine) at the top of Männlichen.
I can also highly recommend a post-ski-lesson beer ‘n’ burger at the charming Schneebar Figeler before taking on some of the bigger runs.
As well as providing good vibes and après ski essentials like glühwein and jagertee (a heady mix of rum with black tea, red wine, plum brandy, orange juice and spices), this is also the stage of Wengen’s annual pool race – a pool is built at the bottom of one of the slopes and skiers challenge each other to see who can skim farthest across the surface.
Fun, frolics and fearsome feats abound!
Perched at an altitude of 3,466 meters (11,371 feet), Jungfraujoch is Europe’s highest train station and listed by UNESCO as a “World Heritage Site of the Swiss Alps”.
With its dramatic mountainscapes, the train ride itself is a special and memorable experience, but the real magic happens once you arrive at the top.
At 3,571 m (11,716 ft), the summit is home to the Sphinx Observatory, one of the highest astronomical observatories in the world. From here you can take in the breathtaking (quite literally) views of the Swiss Alps and the gargantuan Aletsch Glacier.
Also don’t miss the Ice Palace, which is built in a series of ice tunnels beneath the glacier, and the Alpine Sensation Tour, which tells the story of the Jungfrau Railway and pays homage to the sacrifices made by the many miners who lost their lives during its construction.
As 84-year-old Glyn, who visits every year, said to me: “It’s even more impressive when you consider that it’s 100 years old! Makes you wonder how they ever managed it.”
As the sun begins to dip behind the icy peaks, and shifts of powder pink and purple fall upon the silken snow, it’s time to indulge in a traditional Swiss feast.
Boasting endless hectares of alpine meadows and pasturelands, it’s no surprise that Switzerland is a utopia for cheese and meat lovers – and chocolate of course! And there are many local specialities to explore.
You’ll find countless options in and around Wengen, but for a truly local taste, be sure to snag a table at Bergrestaurant. Conveniently situated at the foot of Kleine Scheidegg’s popular slopes – just a quick train ride from Wengen – you can literally ski right to your table.
The space is large but also warm and cosy, with lots of wood, faux-fur cushions and vintage Swiss tourism posters that make it feel extremely… well, alpine.
Portion sizes are generous and made with ultra local produce: the cheeses and meats are sourced from providers within a couple of miles and much of the fruit, veg and herbs are grown in the property’s very own garden.
I recommend the traditional Swiss goulash, a sort of rich and warming stew, as well as the “Alpinpasti”, which is a giant platter of mixed cheeses and meats that beautifully showcase what the local land and cattle can produce.
For something a little more contemporary, try the creative carbonara made with a creamy Swiss cheese and hunks of bacon – a gratifying way to warm up after a day on the slopes.
The best part of the day – après ski! There’s simply no better way to toast your adventures than with a well-deserved drink with new and old friends.
Wengen is one of those places where you tend to keep bumping into the same people and it doesn’t take long here to make new snow buddies.
Head to the chic but casual Tanne Bar for beers, cocktails and shots. Owner Ronald comes from Holland and enjoys treating his customers to artisanal gin and tonics served in giant goblets.
He also has a rather impressive collection of Jack Daniel’s Whiskey, which he displays proudly in a cabinet out back. I also recommend the sweet but lethal strawberry daiquiris, a restorative blend of rum, lime juice, sugar and frozen strawberries.
And I think I can also recommend the flaming B52 and AC/DC shots, though I have zero memory of how they taste or what they are made with. But I certainly had fun, and that’s what après skis are all about!
From Tanne Bar it’s just a quick moonlit stroll to the subterranean Hasenstall party bar. Open well into the early hours, this is the place to let loose make new friends and enjoy the DJ’s bass-thumping jams.
Go easy on the Jägermeister if you plan to see any snow the following day!
Conveniently located within footsteps of Wengen train station and the village’s main thoroughfare, the 4* Silberhorn Hotel is an obvious choice for couples, groups and families looking for both comfort and convenience.
The staff are exceptionally inviting and go out of their way to provide personalised service. The warm and cosy rooms are the perfect place to relax after a long day on the slopes.
You can also enjoy local dishes in the restaurant, accompanied by great wines and the soothing sounds of Edward playing live piano.
And what better way to soothe away your aches and pains than with a revitalising visit to the hotel’s spa and wellness centre.
Wengen is your gateway to the Swiss Alps and the perfect introduction to the winter sports lifestyle!
- Ben Holbrook