Birg is a cable car transfer station on the side of Switzerland’s 9,745-foot Schilthorn mountain. It is the highest of the three transfer stations on the cable-car route from the base of the Lauterbrunnen Valley to the mountaintop.
A Bit About Birg
At 8,784 feet above sea level, Birg is a little outpost with some big views. Neither Birg nor the Schilthorn summit is the highest point in the Berner Oberland, but both offer awesome viewpoints of the area’s fabled Eiger (13,026 ft), Mönch (13,449 ft.) and Jungfrau (13,642 ft.) peaks.
To reach Birg (and the Schilthorn summit), take the 4-part cable car tram from Stechelberg. The ticket for the full round trip is about $100USD. The first stop is Gimmelwald, the second is Mürren, the third is Birg, and the fourth is the summit.Your ticket allows you to exit at any of these stops and reboard at your convenience. Cable cars run at approximate 30-minute intervals. I recommend taking the earliest possible departure from Stechelberg (about 7:30 a.m.), going all the way to the summit, then getting out at each of the waypoints on the way down and spending a little time.
What to Do, What to Expect
The main reason you stop at Birg is to enjoy the views. No one will have to tell you that! You can do this free of charge from the Skyline Walk, a cantilevered viewing platform with a steel grating floor and glass railing walls. The combination of the semi-open flooring and the see-through sides make this platform a truly open, breathtaking experience. Some find it a little “too” open—not for the faint of heart, the acrophobe, or the vertiginous!
Alternately, or in addition, enjoy the vistas from the Bistro Birg, where you can enjoy a slice of pie or other pastry, a soup or salad, or a full entrée. Espresso drinks, beer, and wine are also available.
If winds are calm, the terraces at Birg are a lovely place to hang out for awhile, and are typically less crowded than the viewing areas at the Shilthorn summit. Paths and viewing areas are in a seemingly constant state of remodel and improvement, so look around for the route that suits your level of adventurousness.
It is also possible to hike from Birg down to Mürren. The route is a bit over 6 km (or a bit under 4 miles), and should take less than 2 hours. Some areas are steep and rocky. Gentler trails, and many other hiking options, are available at the Mürren and Gimmelwald stops en route back down the mountain.
The Ogre, The Monk, And The Maiden
It goes without saying that a trip to Birg and the other viewpoints along the Schilthorn cable car route should be undertaken on a clear day. If you’ve managed to do that, you will find yourself treated to one of the best views of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau mountains available anywhere. And if there is any doubt as to which one is which, helpful outlines and descriptions are provided on the glass panel surrounding the Skyline Walk viewing platform.
The fabled peaks are named for an ogre (Eiger), a monk (Mönch), and a young maiden (Jungfrau). Legend has it that the noble monk would spend all eternity guarding the virtue of the young maiden from the evil advances of the ogre. Other etymologies contend that the name Eiger came from a dialectic German “Hejger,” or “high peak,” and that the Mönch was named for the German word for gelding horse (Münche), as the area at the foot of this mountain was traditionally horse pasture. No one disputes the origins of the Jungfrau’s name, as this seductive mountain has long been the object of desire for mountain climbers. Its first recorded conquest was in 1811, and it continues its siren song for modern climbers, although high-elevation railway connections and warming huts make the summit a bit more attainable in the 21st Century.
(Top Photo: Author’s husband with Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau from the Skyline Walk viewing platform.)