Jungfrau – Top of Europe
The Swiss Tourism office has this to say about the Jungfraujoch. I’m a little skeptical when tourism offices say it “is the highlight of every visit” but in this case I’m inclined to agree.
The journey to the Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe, at 3454 metres Europe’s highest altitude railway station, is the highlight of every visit to Switzerland. It offers visitors a high-Alpine wonderworld of ice, snow and rock, which can be marvelled at from vantage terraces, the Aletsch Glacier or in the Ice Palace. On clear days, views extend as far as the Vosges mountains in France and Germany’s Black Forest.
The train journey to the Jungfraujoch through the rock of the Eiger and Mönch is also an incredible experience. Visitors can enjoy stunning views from two intermediate stations, the Eigerwand (Eiger Wall) and Eismeer (Sea of Ice).
Visiting the Jungfraujoch was recommended to us by our climbing guide in Italy. He said it was a little expensive but was worth it. A “little” expensive is an understatement. At close to $200 per person for a ticket it’s not a cheap day trip. However, check out the pictures and you’ll see why its worth it. The views are amazing. This is what you come to Switzerland for and the “Top of Europe” is the best place to take it all in.
First, you have to get up to the “Top of Europe”. The attraction here is as much about the journey as it is the destination. We started the trip from Grindelwald which was right next to our youth hostel. From there you take a normal train to another station further up the mountain, Kleine Scheidegg. From Kleine Scheidegg you hop on a cog railway train (if you are into trains you read more about cog railways here) that takes you for a 50 minute ride up to Jungfraujoch station at 3454 meters (11332 feet).
The train goes straight through the famous Eiger mountain which is an incredible feet of engineering. There are two stations in the middle of the mountain. They dug a hole out of the side of the mountain to dump all the material they dug up in the mountain. These holes have now been used for emergency personal to launch rescue missions for people stuck climbing the Eiger.
Hole in the Eiger
Here is a picture of the climbing routes up the Eiger. You can see the white box half way up on the left. Thats the window in the picture above. You can learn more about climbing the Eiger in this BBC documentary https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PEYiSeDr1UE
Once your reached the top there is a surprisingly large complex. You have the obligatory gift shop, a couple of restaurants and a number of attractions. The first thing we did is board an elevator all the way to the top to what they call the Sphinx. You can see France, Germany, and Italy from here. If the weather is good the views are spectacular. If not, I’m not sure if the cost is worth the trip. Check before you go.
Top of Europe
Top of Europe
From the Sphinx you can also look down on a little year long winter playground. They have tubing, skiing, snow shoeing, zip lining, and other winter sports.
Top of Europe’s winter wonderland
After we spent some time soaking in the surroundings on top of the Sphinx we went on a 45 minute hike to Mönchsjochhütte. It’s a small hut that people uses as a base camp for expeditions to the surrounding mountains. It’s a nice little hike over a packed snow trail but be careful of the weather. It can close in fast and you could get stuck out there so dress appropriately and ask if its ok to go. Once we got there we enjoyed some cheese fondu and beer… yum.
The last thing to make sure to do is visit the Ice Palace. They carved a little maze right out of the glacier. They also have some nice ice carvings. Kinda touristy but its all included in the price so why not stop by and pose from some pics.
Jungfrau Ice Palace
… and make sure to watch your step. The drops are killer.
Jungfrau – that last step is killer
At almost $200 per person this isn’t a cheap day trip but compared to the other incredibly over priced things we did in Switzerland it was probably the best money we spent.