I noticed that a previous review of the little car free town of Murren in the Swiss Alps, concentrated on the skiing and winter aspect of the town. We however, visited in the summer season and enjoyed the little town at another beautiful part of the year.
When we were planning our holiday to Switzerland this year, we had planned to stay in the car free town of Wengen, on the other side of the valley from Murren, which would in deed be closer to the very famous and much visited attraction of the Jungfraujoch, the highest railway station in Europe, bringing you to the 'Top of Europe' as it is widely advertised as. What made us stay in Murren however was a reviews of a fabulous chalet (Chalet Fontana) in Murren, which was very reasonable value in a very expensive country like Switzerland.
We were travelling by train, so getting to Murren wasn't particulalry troublesome for us, in terms of finding the right place to leave your car. There are two main ways of getting to the little town starting from Lauterbrunnen at the bottom of the valley. We opted for the BLM, the mountain railway system, which in fact is composed of two parts - a large cable car which takes you part of the way up, which then coordinates (time wise) with the train which takes you the rest of the way up. hte other way to get to Murren, is to take the train from Lauterbrunner across the valley floor to Stechelberg, and then get the cable car up to Murren. Both are very easy to use and regular. These cable cars are large in size, and if you are carrying luggage, you can simply wheel it on board. The two arrival points in Murren are at either ends of the town.
There are two main streets in Murren, an upper one and a lower one. Our hotel was on the lower street, which is the busier of the two. If you arrive by train, it will approx a 5 to 10 minute walk before you are really in the heart of the town, as it is quite spread out for such a little place. There are ample amounts of cafes offering rosti's (a large hash brown style dish) cheese fondues, as well as other cuisine (including a chinese) along the lower street, and most of the larger hotels have their own restaurants as well. Prices range from reasonable to expensive in terms of both lodgings and eateries.
There are also plenty of little shops in the town, most of them selling winter skiing gear, but also some small souvenir shops (a little tacky), as well as a COOP supermarket and bank.
It may be a car free town, but you still need to be careful as you walk around. There are plenty of little electric vehicles buzzing around, although you really do feel as if the air is so pure and clean in the town, especially being so high up in the mountains.
One of the best thigns about the town, are unsurprisingly, the views. Not matter where you are in the town you can't get away from the amazing views of three great peaks of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. Nowhere else in the world would you be able to either stay in reasonable priced lodings or have a reasonably priced dinner with those amazing views. You would usually be charged an arm and a leg for views like that on your doorstep. There are obviously therefore, numerous places in the town from which you can photograph these great views.
Murren is also a haven for walkers, nearly every other person in the summer season has a walking pole (or poles) in their hand. This is a big place for hikers, and understandably so. There are numerous trails to follow, all well signposted, depending on both yoru fitness, you available time, and what you would like to see. It is also worth asking the locals, as our accommodation host was able to tell us additional paths to take us past some other wonderful sights.
I suppose the difficulty with Murren comes when the weather isn't so good. We were incredibly lucky, and blessed with two hot, sunny days with pure blue skies, and so we could choose whatever we wanted. However, if you arrive in cloudy, wet weather, you won't get the views, so it is hardly worth paying to go the Jungfraujoch or schilthorn, and you might not want to walk as much, without the stunning scenery. There is a town swimming pool which you can use, and apart from a little bit of shopping, it may be a struggle to fill your days. There is little to be done however, and we read someone that the locals are very knowledgeable about the weather conditions because their livelihood depends on it, so it is worth asking them.
If you want to get away from everything, and be somewhere with complete peace and quiet, fresh clean air, spectacular views, walking trails and just relaxation, then you should head for Murren. It is really the image that many have of Switzerland and the Swiss Alps, and it comprises everything anyone who visits the Swiss Alps wants.
I have been skiing in this resort since I could walk, as my father and grandfather were. It is situated in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, on the Blumenthal mountain, in the Jungfrau region.
I can really do nothing but sing its praises. It is the tiniest, prettiest village, comprising of 3000 beds for tourists and the rest of the locals, with chalets and hotels arranged around one upper and one lower main road, with little paths in between. In the winter months you can ski on the roads, and it is perfectly safe- I think there is a total of 4 cars in the village. This is due to the fact that Mürren is situated on the top of a sheer rock face, and the only way to get to the village is by one of 2 cable cars, situated on either end of the village, so having cars tends to be expensive. They are hardly necessary, the village is very small, and any delivery vehicles tend to be little carts, designed to be agile. It is very quiet and so picturesque, and is wonderful to just sit and admire the view of the Monch, the Eiger and the Jungfrau, which are situated on the other side of the Lauterbrunnen valley, with a steaming mug of hot chocolate, whipped cream and rum. There is a Co-op on the lower road for anyone renting out chalets, but the locals tend to do their shopping in Lauterbrunnen, the village at the bottom of the valley, as it offers more choice. There are a lot of shops as well for ski rental and purchase, souvenirs, and sports shops.
The actual area on which you can ski around Mürren is quite small compared to the modern ski resorts, but there are countless passages through the mountains' forests, which branch off down a barely distinguishable path through two trees. There are three main areas to ski; the Winteregg, Berg, and the Schiltgrat. To access Winteregg and Schiltgrat, you must catch the Allmendhubelbahn. From this small area, you can catch the button lift up to the top of this run, and then down what is known as the hogback. There is then a junction; if you go left, you go to the Schiltgrat area, and right is the Winteregg area. Straight ahead you will see the end of the Kanonenrohr (see below).
The Winteregg area is comprised of the Palace run, (a narrow red run) the Maulerhubel (a blue run), which is wonderful for practising your carving technique, and the Winteregg runs, which are many runs, all named the same because they run into and cross over each other, where some areas are red, and some blue. Beware of this area with children, or if you are tired. The only way to get down from this area to the village (apart from climbing, or taking the train) is down the narrow Palace run, and this is often icy in later parts of the day, although is a good run if you like a little mogul field.
Berg is the area for the better skiers. You can get a cable car up to it, and is where the majority of the black runs are situated, as well as a lovely wide blue run, and challenging reds. It is the largest area, and so gets much less congested, which can sometimes be a frustration in the other two main areas. It is difficult for children to ski down from this area too, as it requires you to pass down the Kanonenrohr, which I find the hardest run on the mountain. However, it is very easy to return to the top on the recently installed (and much needed) chairlifts and get the cable car down to the village.
The last part of the mountain, the Schilgrat, is a very mixed area. It has easy blues for the ski schools, and some lovely reds and blacks, and also a very challenging off-piste mogul field, which is great fun, and often empty, called the Kandahar. The first time I went on it, I managed to get my ski stuck underneath a mogul from below. No idea how I did that, but it's a great run. To get back to the village, all you need to do is follow the bob run, easy as pie. This area also is home to the Suppenalp Restaurant, located between the Hindenburg and the Rad. It is a little difficult to get to but well worth the effort. Ask for their specialty, and then see if you can ski down to Mürren without falling.
There are lots of ski clubs you can join, which have weekly meetings. These clubs often organize days or half days (free) where you can ski with people of your ability, led by a Rep who knows the mountain well, and will maybe teach you a few things, and help you do things you wouldn't try by yourself, such as off-piste skiing.
Skiing is not the only thing to do in Mürren. The village is avid about curling, and there are tons of tournaments between hotels or just teams put together one night in a bar. There is a large sports centre, with a big pool and gym, and squash courts. There is also a large skating rink, and you can rent boots easily from the sports centre or one of the two rental shops straight across from the rink, (but of course, there are a lot more rental places, these are just convenient).
The area is also brilliant for walkers. One holiday, I damaged my hamstring and wasn't allowed to ski, in case I made it worse. Instead, I walked everywhere, and met my family at restaurants where they would stop for lunch. The views are unparalleled.
All this, without mentioning James Bond. One area I have not mentioned yet is the Schilthorn. On the top is the famous revolving restaurant, in which "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" was filmed. The actual run is unpisted and filled with moguls, but is well used, so unless you are lucky and an early riser, is not powder. The skiing scene in the movie was partly filmed on the back of this run, on the steepest, unpisted bit, which only the bravest skiers try out.
This area is great for skiers who have quite a lot of experience, but is also good for children starting out completely new. The skiers in the middle tend to miss out on the best parts of Mürren, as they can't appreciate the challenges, but find the easy runs too easy.
They say that if you can ski in Mürren, you can ski anywhere.