It's a pleasure to walk among the old houses, and very interesting to visit them. You can find a school of the last century, or the black wedding dress weared more than one hundred ago and kitchens, bedrooms and living-rooms of reconstructed original houses and farm buildings. And for the children it will be very funny look at the farm animals, above all if they live in a big city!
Take a bus from Brienz to the Open-Air Museum Ballenberg (about 5 - 10 min. to the west entrance).
Walk along the paths and learn how people used to live and work in earlier time.
The whole area is quite big and takes about 4 - 5 hours.
First of all I wish to point out that I have seen this waterfall only from the lake, passing by on a boat. However, since I hope to spend more holidays in this region in the future, I have added a proper visit to my to-do list.
The experience I had this time was just that of arriving by boat at the pier, seeing a castle-like building nestled among thick woods and a funicular that goes up from the pier to reach it. And when the boat left the pier, I was finally able to admire the waterfall and take a picture of it.
The more complete experience I would like to have would include a hike on the path that would enable me to admire the waterfall at various levels, from different vantage points, and possibly a nice lunch at the Hotel Giessbach (the castle-like building I mentioned before).
This Giessbach waterfall is just 6 km from Brienz, and my idea would be to get there by boat from Brienz, because this would enable me to see the waterfall before getting to the pier, and then get back to Brienz by bus, because the boats are not very frequent.
This is something to do when the sky is clear of clouds, not only at lake level but also on the mountain tops. In fact the purpose of the trip is to go to the top of the Brienzer Rothorn mountain, at an altitude of 2350 metres, to admire the wonderful mountains and valleys all around.
However, the destination of the trip is not the only attraction, because most of the fun is provided by the trip itself, that is done by means of a little steam-train, that climbs the mountain thanks to a cog-wheel rail covering a difference of altitude of almost 1700 metres.
This railway exists since 1892, but the engines used nowadays are far more modern, although they still are steam engines. These trains now operate only in summer, just for tourists.
In the oldest part of the town, but not just there, there are many houses made of wood in the mots traditional Swiss style. However the best place to admire them is one particular street, where all the houses are old, traditional wood chalets, and moreover they are very beautifully decorated with flowers in the fair seasons.
It is just a small street, but extremely picturesque. It is called Brunngasse, and it is one of the side-streets that depart from the main street and go uphill.
The Ballenberg outdoor museum is a great place to learn more about Switzerland's culture and tradition. On an area of 660 000 square meters you find traditional buildings from allover Switzerland. They were all deconstructed in the place where they come from and exactly rebuilt in the Ballenberg area.
Inside the houses you see interior design and furniture from old times. There are also various sites where traditional craftwork is produced the way it was produced ages ago - you'll see a forger, weaver or baker at work. There's also an ancient pharmacy and hairdresser, old toys, clothes, etc. Outdoors there are carefully cultivated small fields and farm animals.
It's definitely a great place to visit on a sunny day and you'll easily stay until the evening. You'll also find different restaurants when you get hungry and at the end of the day you can buy food and handicrafts produced in the museum area in the shop.
For those interested learning more about traditional handicrafts, Ballenberg offers weekend seminars or weekly courses to learn crafts such as weaving, hat- or shoemaking, wood carving etc.
Opposite of Brienz, at the southern shore of Brienzersee you may visit the Giessbach waterfalls . You may go there by car via Brienzwiler, BUT going there by ship is certainly the best , because the road to Giessbach is really quite narrow and also a bit dangerous with oncoming trafic, because only at a very few places 2 cars may pass by each other.
When you arrive by ship you may take a little walk of 15 minutes or take the funicular to the Grandhotel Giessbach, where the most interesting part of the cascades starts. There is a path along all of these waterfalls and you may even step behind one of the water-falls and look down to the hotel.
Giessbachfaelle and also the Grandhotel Giessbach makes a perfect half-day-excursion, maybe in connection with Bramisegg - a traditional restaurant, well known for its cheese-specialities ! Bramisagg is in a walking-distance of 1 hour from Giessbach (Monday+Tuesday it is closed)
At the east-end of Brienz you will find another highlight : The open-air-museum of Ballenberg. This open-air-museum consists of 90 buildings, that had been originally built in various other parts of Switzerland, but a few years ago these mostly wooden buildings had been disassembled and finally rebuilt in Ballenberg. The museum consists now of several small villages, one of Bernese houses, a village from Ticino, a village of Graubuenden etc.
It is amazing to see the differences in architecture, style and details and all of the farmhouses still have pigs, cows, horses, geese etc. and during the day most of the buildings are open for the visitors and you may watch the staff of Ballenberg, when they work on the farms like in the old times, when they were producing their own baskets, made wood-carvings, weaving, spinning the wool, baking bread or making cheese etc. There is also a blacksmith you may watch, or you may have a meal in one of the various traditional inns.
Ballenberg is open daily May-October : 10.00a.m.-05.00p.m.
besides that time you may walk around on your own without entrance-fee !!
entrance-fee is 16 sfr / 10 Euros !
There is a really large parking at the entrance - free of charge !!
and also several lockers for small luggage !
...and psst : this quiet parking is perfect for motorhomes at night !! :-))
On my main picture you may see "Geissenpeter" with his goats - a character taken from the book "Heidi" and it symbolizes the quiet life in Brienz. Brienz is certainly not the most important town at Brienzersee, but it is certainly the most beautiful and romantic place, and in my opinion it is a lot more interesting than Interlaken at the other end of the lake. Brienz is a lot less hectic than Interlaken and it makes sense to spend at least 1-2 hours exploring the beautiful wooden houses of the village. Brunngasse is the most famous, but there are a lot more of beautifully decorated wooden houses all over town.
In general the hotels in Brienz are about 10-20% less expensive than the ones in Interlaken, BUT they are mostly also a lot smaller & maybe also a bit less luxury than some of the Grand-hotels in the well-known town of Interlaken.
Brienz is NOT a place for a sophisticated nightlife, but rather a place to relax and go to bed early in order to explore the beautiful surroundings the next day...
Brienz is well known for wood-carvings - you may see them in many of the shops, there is even a school for woodcarving !
Brunngasse is one of the most important sights, Brienz is famous for since plenty of centuries already : It's wooden houses - many of them are hundreds of years old and they saw celebrities like Lord Byron , Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Ludwig Uhland and many others, who visited Brienz and stayed there for some time. All of the houses in Brunngasse are still inhabited by ordinary people, so be carefull, when walking through it.
It sounds a bit strange, BUT please be careful :
At certain times (whenever there is FÖN - a warm wind )
it is forbidden to smoke in these streets in Brienz !!!
We reached Giessbach Falls using the Lake Brienz ship. The falls are almost directly across the lake from Brienz. After the ship dropped us off, we climbed the trail up to a hotel (just visible in the picture) cascading falls in a lush woodsy setting, are the main attraction on Lake Brienz.
Giessbach Falls lies directly across the lakes width and is accessible by car or boat. Besides the many picturesque towns, these cascading falls in a lush woodsy setting, are the main attraction on Lake Brienz. A funicular platform located by the lake, will transport visitors to the summit for a fee.
Brienz has plenty of adorable lakeside restaurants, but eating with a view tends to be even more expensive than the already expensive swiss fare. We usually packed a lunch in our backpacks and ate in village parks. Every town we visited had a beautiful park with comfortable benches. Brienz is no exception. So for the same view, and much less $, we picnic and enjoy the beauty of Lake Brienz.
If you aren't cheapos, here are a few places our guidebook recommends:
The Tea Room - on the main street by the train station-light meals
Weisses Kreuz- across the main street from the train station-full meals
Both have views of the lake.
Keeping with their woodcarving tradition, the village signs are carved out of wood. It was fun keeping an eye out for them.