Schilthorn Summit: Standing at the Top of the Swiss Alps

Schilthorn Summit: Standing at the Top of the Swiss Alps

What is it like to stand at the top of the Swiss Alps?

In a word?

Amazing. Simply amazing.

It’s hard to describe in words exactly how I felt standing on the top of the Schilthorn summit. It was exhilarating standing without any kind of barrier separating me from the edge of a cliff and realizing that I wasn’t afraid.

Can you imagine a girl, who always thought she was afraid of heights, standing on the top of a mountain and realizing she loved every minute of it? It was invigorating, to say the least.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

We visited Schilthorn on a whim. While we were hiking Trümmelbach Falls, we randomly joined up with some fellow Americans that we had met the day before. They told us about a place nearby with a James Bond exhibit at the top of a mountain. This is a place where the toilets sound like gunshots when you flush and there are silhouettes of secret agents on the doors.

The bathroom door at Schilthorn

Full disclosure, I’m not a James Bond fan. I may have watched a movie or two starring 007 but I can’t tell you anyone besides Daniel Craig who played James Bond. But it sounded cool and we had some time to kill that afternoon so we decided to check it out.

One bus, three gondolas, and a mountain train ride later, we were standing on top of the Schilthorn summit looking out at some of Switzerland’s most famous peaks.

About Schilthorn

Schilthorn is a mountain peak in the Bernese region of the Swiss Alps. At 2970 meters (9744 feet) above sea level, it is not the tallest peak in the entire Swiss Alps but you won’t get any higher in the region where it stands. When you reach the summit, you can look out and see three mountain peaks across the range: Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. Signs on the terrace at Birg- the stop before Schilthorn- show where to look to see the famous peaks.

Though already well-known in the mountain climbing industry, Schilthorn became accessible to everyone when the first cable car was completed in 1967. In 2013, it became a popular destination for die-hard movie enthusiasts when a tribute to the 1969 James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service- which was shot at the restaurant, Piz Gloria on site- was created.

How to Get to the Schilthorn Summit

Getting to Schilthorn takes some work. Since we were coming from Trümmelbach Falls, we took Bus 141 to the Lauterbrunnen Bahnhof (train station). From there, we took a cable car from the train station to the town of Grütschalp. The gondola ride didn’t take long- maybe 5-10 minutes. But that’s just the first leg of the journey.

Schilthorn Summit: Standing at the Top of the Swiss Alps

On the cable car up to Grütschalp

From Grütschalp, we then boarded a mountain train and rode approximately 15 minutes up the side of the mountain. It was pretty exhilarating watching the landscape change as the train slowly made its ascent further up the Alps.

We finally arrived at the tiny mountain town of Mürren at 1638 meters (5374 feet). This is a town that I would love to go back to. Once we left the train station, we walked through the village to get to the cable car that would take us up to the summit. When I say tiny, I mean you can’t get much smaller than Mürren. It’s a carless village that covers only a few square miles. It caters to travelers who flock to the outdoors. All through the village, we saw backpackers and hikers with walking sticks heading out to the trails or coming back for a rest or bite to eat. The town is adorable and I’d love to go back to spend a weekend. I mean, who wouldn’t want to wake up to this view?

The view from Mürren

But I digress.

The last two legs from Mürren took us about 20-25 minutes (not including wait times in between). The first cable car stops in Birg. We had some time before the final gondola so we stepped out onto the terrace to take some pictures and admire our vantage point. Then we boarded the final cable car that took us to the Schilthorn summit.

Including wait times, it probably took us a good hour and a half to two hours from the time we made the decision to go to when we departed the cable car at the summit. But the view was worth all the time it took to get there. What made the experience worth it was that we didn’t pay a thing to get there. Every bus, train, and cable car we took was included with the Swiss Pass that we purchased at the beginning of our trip.

Note: As of January 1, 2020, getting to Schilthorn is no longer free with the Swiss Pass. It is now at a reduced rate of 50% off.

If you don’t plan to purchase the Swiss Pass, you will have to evaluate whether the experience is worth the cost to get there. Because it wasn’t on our original itinerary, maybe we would have passed on the experience. It’s hard to say.

However, I’m glad we didn’t have to make that decision. Standing on the top of the summit, with a 360-degree view of the Alps made all the time and effort to get there absolutely worth it. But honestly, I loved every minute of the journey, too.

We didn’t have much time to spend at the top since we arrived near closing. Since we aren’t big Bond fans, the Bond World exhibit wasn’t our motivation for visiting. As I mentioned before, I have seen one or two of the movies starring Daniel Craig and I enjoyed them. But I don’t need to see a whole tribute to the franchise. Since we didn’t see all that Bond World has to offer, I can’t give you an honest review of the experience. Though, I can definitely recommend making a pit stop in the bathroom. The toilets really do sound like gunshots when you flush. Don’t believe me? Try them for yourself.

One Last Experience At the Summit

Before making our way to the cable car to begin our descent down the mountain, my sister Heather and I decided to make one last stop. We started on the 007 Walk of Fame. Not because we cared for the information. But at the end of the fenced-in area, there is a gate. It was open so we decided to pass the signs that told us to enter at our own risk. We walked out to the very edge and looked out at the incredible view of the Swiss Alps all around us.

It was very windy so we only stayed for a moment. But the feeling of standing on the edge is one I hope I remember for the rest of my life. It was an aha moment, for sure, and I may have had an epiphany or two about the meaning of life.

Okay, maybe not. But it was still very cool.

Schilthorn Summit: Standing at the Top of the Swiss Alps

Returning from the Summit

The return in the cable car was a lot more crowded than on the way up. Maybe it was because it was the end of the day and everyone was trying to make it to the train before closing. In a way, the packed cable car made the way down that much more thrilling. Every dip of the cable car, as it made its way through each connection, elicited a nervous oooooh from the passengers. There was a sense of camaraderie in the cable car knowing that only one cable kept all of us from barreling towards the earth at alarming speed. Good, they’re strong. There were more than a few sighs of relief when the cable car arrived at the station and we were able to exit.

From there, we continued our way back down the same way we went up. Our final stop was the Lauterbrunnen Bahnhof to board the train back to our home base in Thun.

Tips for Visiting the Schilthorn Summit

Make sure you keep an eye on the time if you visit Schilthorn in the afternoon. The cable car gets very crowded and the lines get long towards the end of the day.

You’ll want to bring a jacket even when you visit during the summer. We visited in mid-September. Though I was fine in a t-shirt and yoga pants down in the valley and even in Mürren, the summit was quite a bit colder. Even with my lightweight raincoat, I was still a little chilly outside.

When you pay for your ticket, you’ll need to scan it to get through the turnstiles. Make sure you keep track of it at all times because you won’t get another and you’ll have to hike down from the top. Or so the attendant told us. I definitely took every precaution to make sure I didn’t have to find out if he was serious.

If I had to give only one piece of advice for anyone contemplating a trip to Switzerland it would be to buy the Swiss Pass. It makes traveling around Switzerland so easy and painless. You can purchase the pass at the Zurich airport or at any major train station in the country. Make sure to have your passport with you when you purchase it as you will need it. Though it doesn’t get you to Schilthorn for free anymore, it is still worth the cost for the discount and ease of transportation.

Experiencing the Schilthorn Summit is one of those experiences I can’t recommend enough. Even if you aren’t a James Bond fan, being able to stand at the top of the Swiss Alps is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I would absolutely do again if given the chance.