Alpine vistas and adventure at Jungfrau Top of Europe in Switzerland

by Feb 7, 2023Switzerland

Top of Europe Jungfraujoch Switzerland

A day at Jungfraujoch and the Top of Europe is an unrivaled adventure. Take in sweeping Alpine vistas after traveling there on the new, super fast Eiger Express gondola and the quaint 110-year-old cogwheel train through the mountain.

The journey to the Top of Europe at Jungfraujoch starts with a whooooosh! We leapt into the new Eiger Express high-speed gondola as it circled the terminal, and the doors snapped shut. In 15 minutes, we were whisked up the third-highest mountain in Europe, leaving me gasping at the views of the Jungfrau region of Switzerland while my ears popped from the fast elevation change – from 3,100 to 7,612 feet.  This was a view I’d dreamed of since my student days in Heidelberg, Germany.

The Eiger Express tri-cable gondola that opened in December 2020 is an engineering marvel, slicing half the time off the journey from Grindelwald to the Top of Europe. That trip used to take nearly 90 minutes on trains. Now, at the Eiger Glacier station, we hopped from the gleaming, new Eiger Express gondola to the slower, albeit modern Jungfrau Railway. In 26 minutes, during which time the train cuts through mountain tunnels built by hand more than a century ago, we’d be higher than most humans ever get under their own power in Europe.

Eiger Panorama Jungfrau

The Eiger and Top of Europe is shrouded in clouds at the far right of this panorama.

They don’t call it Top of Europe for nothing. In fact, at Jungfraujoch — in the heart of the Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn UNESCO World Heritage Site – you ascend (nearly) to a place revered by alpinists the world over. Except an alpinist takes 1-2 days to get to the 13,015-foot summit using ropes, crampons, and ice axes. You get to do it in 45 minutes.

HITT Tip: Get ready for a lot of Swiss superlatives – highest railway station, fastest elevator, newest gondola, longest cog railway…. This is Swiss technology sales at its best.

Jungfraujoch at Top of Europe will entertain and educate

Top of Europe Snow Globe exhibit

A tunnel in the mountain leads you through the Alpine Adventure to the giant Snow Globe and other lights and exhibits.

Once you step off the train on the second leg of the journey, you begin your adventure to the Top of Europe at Jungfraujoch. You venture through modern, interactive exhibitions that portray the mountain’s history with state-of-the-art flair. Forget stuffy exhibits you march past, trying to feign interest. Here, at the Jungfraujoch tour, you get lights, camera, action, color, and how about a giant snow globe for fun, too? Yes, it’s tricked out so much that streams of selfie-snapping, Instagram-posting visitors from all over the globe can clog the way. But they come for the same reason you should: To ascend nearly without effort from Grindelwald to the Top of Europe on new and old engineering marvels – Eiger Express and Jungfrau Railway – to the highest railway station in Europe, the Jungfraujoch at 11,362 feet. Indeed, the Top of Europe.

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For many, the experience of walking through a mountain’s rock and ice tunnels, hearing snow squeak underfoot, looking out over a glacier, and even throwing a playful snowball is that once-in-a-lifetime experience. Even if snow is not new to you, the panoramas are mind-blowing, so indulge!

Jungfraujoch top of europe passport

Don’t forget to grab a Top of Europe passport and get it stamped, as Michael is doing.

Upon arrival, don’t forget your Jungfraujoch passport – or to get it stamped. It’s not only proof you were at the Top of Europe, but the little red booklet has a great overview of what you see and experience, as well as stats about the mountain and the railway construction.

HITT Tip: On your Jungfrau Railway journey, be sure to step off at the SECOND-highest railway station in Europe called “Eismeer” or, in English, Ice Sea, at 10,364 feet. The cogwheel train stops for 5 minutes at this intermediate station on its chugging climb through the mountain to Jungfraujoch. From a small room bored in the rock, you can look out over the glacier called “Ischmeer” or the Lower Grindelwald Glacier. Unfortunately, on our stop – and we assume most – the windows were pretty dirty so the view is not what it could be, but still impressive. Now be sure to race back to the train or it WILL leave without you!

Off to a tour at the Sphinx, Aletsch Glacier, and other Top of Europe attractions

Therese, Bernadette And Widderstein Pose At Top Of Europe

Herr Widderstein, on the far left, hails from Austria but was still impressed, while Bernadette, the cow, had never really seen snow. Therese is just there to carry them on the Jungfraujoch tour.

In perfect Swiss fashion, the tour is carefully orchestrated to keep people all moving in the right direction, through and past all the attractions. You disembark from the Jungfrau Railway, have an option of storing things in a locker (since we hiked back down, we did not do this), and head through the so-called Jungfrau Panorama that surrounds you with 360-degree views.

Sphinx Top of Europe viewing platform

You zip up a fast elevator for your visit to the true TOP of Europe at the so-called “Sphinx.” See a photo, below, for perspective of its height and position! Blessed with a gorgeous day, Michael is loving the sun and Alpine views.

Then comes one of the highlights of your tour: Taking Switzerland’s fastest elevator to whiz you up in 27 seconds to the Sphinx viewing platform at 11,715 feet. The platform is at the research station that was established in 1931 (not open to the public). From there, the views out over the Aletsch Glacier and the peaks are breathtaking, although our guide, Sandra, pointed out how much the glacier has receded due to climate change. Researchers have estimated the glacier is shrinking about 164 feet a year in length and receding at the edges, too.

HITT Tip: Take all the photos you want, but please don’t fly a drone. It is prohibited and dangerous, and our guide had to tell two people with drones just during our visit to stop.

Jungfraujoch Sphinx Research Station

The Sphinx at Jungfraujoch from below. Yup, you were just standing on the steel platform hanging over the rocks waaaaaay up there!

After viewing the glacier from above, you can then return down to it. If you have time, you can take a hike across the snow to the Mönchsjoch Hut – just a little fitness needed, no alpinist skills. Since we had a hike planned down the mountain, we only had time for a short hike (and could look back at the view of the Sphinx, above), but what fun it would be to go the entire way! Take the time even for a short stroll on the snow, or have a beverage or snack, and hang out in a chair on a nice day.

Alpine Sensation Jungfraujoch walkway

Alpine Sensation walkways with murals, lights and sound.

Next up on the Jungfraujoch tour and walk are the attractions in an area called “Alpine Sensation.” This is where it gets a little Hollywood as you walk through a multi-media presentation in the mountain tunnels. Think lights, colors, film, sculptures, and all kinds of Instagram moments. The giant snow globe attracts a mob, then a moving walkway whisks you past a 262-foot mural depicting the mountain’s history – this part went by way too fast.

HITT Tip: Avoid the moving walkway and just walk beside it so you can stop and soak in the murals along this tunnel.

Walking on ice and snow at Top of Europe

Therese And Michael In The Ice Bar Jungfraujoch

Bernadette came out again for her Instagram moment with Therese and Michael at the “ice bar” in the mountain at Jungfrau Top of Europe.

The Ice Palace, next on the tour, is quite a treat. How often do you get to walk through tunnels of ice created so many years ago? Be prepared, however, for slippery ice underfoot, and do take small, slow steps for safety. And bundle up since the ice tunnels are kept at about 26 degrees Fahrenheit. What makes this more than a walk through ice tunnels, however, are the ice sculptures scattered about, from a bear and a piano to people and huge ice crystals. Don’t forget the Instagram moment at the “bar!”

Top of Europe Ice Tunnels Switzerland

Once you exit the Ice Palace, you’re ready for another treat – and because it’s so beautiful, you’ll likely be enjoying it with hundreds of your best friends. At the so-called Glacier Plateau, you get to indulge in more sweeping views. On a clear day, you can even see into Germany and France. The Plateau is truly spectacular with the Swiss flag flying on a pole adding just the right spot of color (and there is a second Swiss Flag at shoulder height so it’s sure to get into any social media post). We choose not to wait in the long line to take THE photo but did have fun watching others step up for their turn at their Instagram moment at Jungfraujoch’s Glacier Plateau.

Glacier Plateau Top of Europe Eiger

There is the Sphinx again, way above the Glacier Plateau.

HITT Tip: Take it slow!! You paid for a once-in-a-lifetime visit to the Top of Europe in the glorious Switzerland Jungfrau region, so take your time, take all the photos you want, read about the history, and really enjoy the day.

Now, it’s time of course for either lunch, a snack or coffee at the main buildings. Of course, you can also shop til you drop for all those traditional Swiss souvenirs and products, from Tissot watches and Lindt chocolate, to Victorinox knives and so much more. Not being shoppers, we headed to the Crystal Restaurant for a lunch with a view to fuel us for our hike back down the mountain. Topped off of course by Eiger Mountain-shaped chocolates!

Eiger chocolate at Top of Europe

Being a mountain marmot, Herr Widderstein particularly liked the Eiger mountain-shaped chocolates.

What a day at Top of Europe at Jungfraujoch in Switzerland. By the time we finished lunch, four hours had passed since we had boarded the Eiger Express in Grindelwald. The time had zoomed by so fast, I wanted to yell, “Stop!” and do it all again.

At this point, you have a couple of choices to end your day: You can either take the Jungfrau Railway and the new Eiger Express tri-cable gondola back down the mountain to Grindelwald or even another gondola up the other side to Grindelwald’s First mountain adventures. Or, if it’s summer, you can do as we did — take the train back to the Eiger Glacier station where you can exit to get onto the Eiger Trail for a somewhat challenging hike back down to Alpiglen (2-4 hours depending on your fitness and breaks). From there, after that mandatory stop at the hut for beer, cake or coffee, you can take the Wengernalp cog railway to Grindelwald. The Swiss cog railways are a historic treat, with this one dating back to 1893 – and boasting another superlative: the longest cog railway in the world.

Eiger Express overhead at Eiger Glacier

At the start of your hike below the Eiger Express top terminal, you can stand below the gondolas as they head to and from the valley.

HITT Tip: Even if you don’t do the full hike, you can walk around the station before boarding the Eiger Express to get a closer look at the mountain from the trail. Stand right under the gondolas as they zoom out of the station and speed down the mountain to feel their power. Then take a moment to look at the wall of honor with photos and bios of some noteworthy alpinists who have summited Eiger – and we’re not talking about on a gondola but with rope and ice axes.

The day at Top of Europe started with a whoooosh on the Eiger Express and seemed to speed by me in a whoooosh as I moved from one breathtaking vista to another. Now it was time to slow down and enjoy the peaks and valleys on a hike down from the Top of Europe and one of the most revered mountains in the Alps, the Eiger.

Therese And Sandra Start Hiking On The Eiger Trail

Taking the slow way down the mountain offered time to contemplate the Eiger, the feat of building a railway through it more than a century ago, the modern feat of the speedy Eiger Express, as well as what it takes to summit a mountain like this under your own power. A Top of Europe experience should be so much more than an Instagram moment. Breathe in the Alpine air, remember the people who made this possible, and honor the mountain.

 

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