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Where art meets wood and rock meets folklore

Culture and customs in the Holiday Region Interlaken

Castles from a bygone age, the sound of the alphorn and modern art – experience Swiss customs. Listen to a wide range of musical styles and discover the culture of the Bernese Oberland Alps in the Holiday Region Interlaken.

  • Preserved, living Swiss traditions

  • Traditional sounds meet contemporary and international music

  • Longest New Year’s Eve including the Harder Potschete (a traditional procession of masked figures) in Interlaken

  • Alphorn, yodelling and Swiss accordion

  • The Unspunnen Festival, including Unspunnen Schwinget (Swiss wrestling), Unspunnenstein (stone tossing) and Unspunnen traditional costumes

  • 5 castles around Lake Thun

  • Two art museums set in the middle of the alpine landscape

  • Thun-Panorama is the oldest circular painting in the world

  • Wood carving

More than just cheese, watches and chocolate

The mountains have fascinated visitors to the Bernese Oberland for many years. Mountaineers, painters, writers and musicians from all over the world came to the Holiday Region Interlaken to paint, write about, sing about or climb the mountain peaks. Communication tools and musical instruments, such as the alphorn, have also emerged in and from this mountainous world.

Experience typical Switzerland in all its diversity

Unspunnen Schwinget am Unspunnenfest in Interlaken

The sounds of the alphorn and yodelling are often still heard – for example at the Unspunnen Festival in Interlaken. This festival was held for the first time in 1805 on Interlaken’s Unspunnenwiese to bring the urban and rural populations together. It is the largest traditional festival in Switzerland and is held every 12 years. It will next take place in 2029, when the Swiss wrestlers, alpine farmers and folk costume wearers will come together in Interlaken to celebrate this unique folklore event. You don’t have to wait that long, however: in the summer months the Kulturbühne Interlaken, with its traditional music and folk songs.

From traditional to modern music

In addition to the Kulturbühne Interlaken, Interlaken also hosts the popular jazz cultural platform each Thursday evening. The Holiday Region Interlaken is characterised by music. Several well-known Swiss musicians such as Hanery Ammann, Polo Hofer, Trauffer, Philipp Fankhauser, Veronica Fusaro and many others come from the Bernese Oberland. The panorama and the mountains act as an inspiration for local artists and international musicians alike. World-famous music stars perform at the Greenfield Festival in Interlaken and the Seaside Festival in Spiez each year. In addition to the big festivals, there are also smaller musical gems such as the “Am Schluss” festival in the Mokka cultural hub in Thun and the Lake Brienz Rock Festival.

Switzerland’s longest New Year’s Eve in Interlaken

The turn of the year is spectacular in Interlaken. Switzerland’s longest New Year’s Eve gets under way on 31 December with a New Year’s Eve celebration on the ICE MAGIC site. Celebrations continue on the following day, 1 January, with the first open-air event of the year, Touch The Mountains, offering free admission to first-class live music, followed by a spectacular evening fireworks display. Switzerland’s longest New Year’s Eve ends on January 2 with the traditional Harder-Potschete, a traditional procession of masked figures. Like the Fulehung (Lazy Dog) festival in Thun, which takes place in September, Interlaken’s Harder-Potschete is a long-standing, living tradition.

Swiss traditions and customs in the Ballenberg Open-Air Museum

You can discover and try out Swiss traditions for yourself in the Holiday Region Interlaken. Discover the Ballenberg Open-Air Museum with its traditional houses from all over Switzerland. The oldest house in the Ballenberg Open-Air Museum is the house from the Canton of Schwyz, which was built in 1336. This dwelling is one of the oldest wooden houses still in existence in Switzerland. Watch craftsmen at work in the houses and on the beautiful grounds of the Ballenberg Open-Air Museum. The Ballenberg Open-Air Museum features a number of workshops, where more than 30 traditional crafts are practised, such as carving, spinning, weaving, braiding, lace-making, shingle-making and forging. There is also a permanent exhibition on the traditional costumes of Switzerland and, in summer, an open-air theatre.

William Tell Open-Air Theatre in Matten near Interlaken

The William Tell Open-Air Theatre in Interlaken is open from mid-June to the end of August. This magnificent natural stage setting at Rugenwald zu Matten has hosted performances of Friedrich Schiller’s dramatisation of the life of folk hero William Tell since 1912. The vast Tell Troupe is made up of more than 170 actors. Horses, cows and goats add to the impressive experience in the open-air theatre. The covered grandstand with around 2300 seats means that the production can be performed whatever the weather.

Enjoy the alpine landscape and autumn traditions involving cheese

The Alps have shaped the region’s culture and traditional events. For instance, you can watch the alphorn maker Heinz Tschiemer in Habkern making these traditional instruments. In the nearby Justistal, the Santschi family, among others, spend the summers making cheese. The highlight of the alpine season is the “Chästeilet” (apportioning of the cheese) in mid-September. The cheese produced during the alpine summer from the milk of over 250 cows is apportioned at the “Chästeilet” in accordance with a defined, traditional ritual. The “Chästeilet” has a long history and has taken place at Spycherberg in the Justistal for almost 300 years.

Woodcarving – a centuries-old tradition

Brienz is renowned as a centre of excellence for woodcarving. The Swiss Woodcarving Museum in Brienz is the first museum in Switzerland dedicated solely to the art of woodcarving. Originally constructed by the Jobin company, the listed factory building is home to a permanent exhibition featuring a wide variety of traditional and culturally significant woodcarvings from the region. In addition to the museum, see woodcarvers at work at the Huggler Woodcarvings shop, which is over 100 years old.

Where woodcarving art is taught and celebrated

To this day, the craft of woodcarving can be learned in the Bernese Oberland. The School of Woodcarving in Brienz is the only institution in Switzerland that provides training in woodcarving. Founded in 1884 as the “Schnitzlerschule Brienz” (Brienz School of Woodcarving), it has been run by the Canton of Bern as an innovative technical college and training workshop for apprentices since 1928. You can see how wooden artworks are created around the world at the International Woodcarving Symposium on the quayside in Brienz, while the Schnitzlerweg (Woodcarving Trail) on the Axalp lets you admire carved artworks all year round. Its wood sculptures were created from the trees along the Schnitzlerweg and complement the enchanting alpine landscape above Lake Brienz.

Small but beautiful cultural gems in the Bernese Oberland

Culture creates connections, art provides inspiration. Art and culture brighten up the lives and also bring colour to the Holiday Region Interlaken. Both Interlaken and Thun offer a wide range of artistic and cultural events. Encounter a variety of cultures and arts in the Kunsthaus Interlaken by visiting the interesting exhibitions or some of the diverse events. The Thun Art Museum also hosts four to five major temporary exhibitions each year. The famous Thun-Panorama is a particular highlight: a circular painting of the small town of Thun, its surroundings and views extending to the Alps of the Bernese Oberland, with a circumference of 38 m. It is the oldest preserved circular painting in the world.

Castles on Lake Thun

Der Aufstieg führt über Treppen hinauf zum Schlossberg, wo das Schloss Thun in der strahlenden Sonne thront

Do you know all of the five castles on Lake Thun? Thun Castle offers you an enchanting panoramic view of the town of Thun and the surrounding mountains. The Stockhorn and the Niesen, in particular, can be clearly seen from here. Visit the Thun Castle museum or indulge in culinary delights in the Schlossberg restaurant and hotel. Thun also has a second castle – Schadau Castle, which is situated in the midst of the picturesque Schadau Park, a popular place to take a relaxing walk and admire the view of the lake.

Majestätisch thront das Schloss Oberhofen am Thunersee und direkt daneben auf dem Wasser das Dampfschiff Blümlisalp.

Hünegg Castle is also located on the shores of Lake Thun and is somewhat concealed by trees and firs. Learn more about how people lived in the past. Its lavishly decorated interior has remained unchanged since 1900. Oberhofen Castle is located directly on Lake Thun. The romantic castle complex, with its Bergfried tower, which was constructed around 1200, has had many owners in its long history. The castle gained its present appearance after it was bought by the Neuchâtel-Prussian aristocratic family de Pourtalès in 1844 and converted into a summer residence. Sit in warmth and comfort In the Restaurant Schloss Oberhofen on the shore of Lake Thun and enjoy the panoramic views, no matter how cold it is outside.

Schloss Spiez mit grüner Wiese und Ästen eines Baumes

Spiez Castle, surrounded by magnificent vineyards on Lake Thun’s Spiez Bay, is located directly opposite. The 1000-year-old castle church is built in an early Romanesque style. Combine your visit to the castle with a tour of the historic exhibition rooms or find out more about the special exhibitions, which change each year.

Events in a contemporary ambience

The Kulturgarage in Interlaken, the KKThun and the iconic Konzepthalle 6, which is also in Thun, offer large- and small-scale cultural events combined with sophisticated gastronomy. You can enjoy a wide range of art and cultural events in a contemporary setting in the Interlaken Holiday Region Interlaken.

Embark on a voyage of discovery through the Switzerland of a bygone age

“The Ballenberg Open-Air Museum smells like it used to on my grandparents’ farm – of wood, fire, fresh bread and farm animals. I feel at home here as I walk down country paths past meadows and trees. In the space of only a few minutes, I can walk from a typical house from the Canton of Bern to an old farmhouse from Lucerne or a stone house from Ticino. The open-air museum lets me see and experience things for myself, and teaches me things I didn’t know about Swiss history, traditions and culture.”