Brig: the Swiss Alps’ Best-Kept Secret
In search of a Swiss Alps location without many tourists? Christie Sinclair explains why Brig is your answer.
A-listers, celebs and tourists en masse have staked their claim on the glamorous European resort villages of the Swiss Alps. Not Brig, a lovely little town nestled between the sunny summits of the Valais region. It’s close to all the main mountains, and as the starting point for the famous Simplon Pass into Italy, holidaymakers and adventure enthusiasts have long been passing through Brig. And they’ve been missing out. Base yourself here to enjoy the quintessential Swiss Alps experience on our 8 Day Scenic Switzerland trip without the hordes and hiked-up prices. Here are our hot tips to make the most of your stay.
Forgo a taxi and enjoy the fresh air on the five-minute walk from Brig’s main rail station to Hotel Stockalperhof. Clean, modern and located right in the centre of the old town, it’s the perfect choice. Now for brekky, and the hotel does a pretty mean Valais-style. Get your fill of bircher muesli, yoghurt, cheese, nuts, fruit, pastries and eggs to your liking as well as a decent cup of coffee. Strike out on foot up a gentle hill to Stockalper Palace. Built in the 17th century, the Baroque building is very much an emblem of the region. Head to the inner courtyard for views over Brig. And don’t miss the free exhibition detailing the history of the Simplon Pass.
Enjoy an afternoon stroll across the Rhone River for a spot of window shopping along the busy Bahnhofstrasse. With all that walking you’ll be after a hearty meal. Grab a seat at Walliser-Weinstube for tasty Swiss fare such as fondue, schnitzel, raclette or Kaseschnitte, which is best described as Swiss cheese on toast with a fried egg. Plus, there’s an excellent selection of wines from the Valais region.
Brig is the ideal jumping off point for a trip to Aletsch Glacier, Europe’s longest and a World Heritage-listed site. Take a local train to the village of Fiesch, then transfer to cable cars for the journey to one of the best viewing points, Eggishorn, 2,869 metres above sea level. The long way home is definitely worth the extra effort. Step off the cable car mid-way down the mountain at Fiescheralp, then enjoy the jangle of cow bells on an easy two-hour walk past grassy slopes and a small lake. Rejoin the cable car at Riederalp.
More walking, but it’s all worth it. At the World Nature Forum, a short wander from the hotel, you can sink your teeth into the heritage and scenery of the Jungfrau-Aletsch alpine region. Highlights include a 100-square-metre curved cinema, a virtual ride on a rail carriage from 1912 and an interactive sand box.
Now for some down time. Treat yourself to a pre-dinner drink on the terrace overlooking the Alps and the huddle of pastel-hued buildings, with their shuttered windows and flower boxes overflowing with cheerful blooms. Dinner at the award-winning Gault&Millau Des Cheminots restaurant within the Ambassador Hotel is a lovely way to finish the day, offering classic French cuisine with local wines. If the weather’s fine, reserve a table on the leafy terrace.
Plan your stay for a Saturday so you can pick up some provisions at the Wochenmarkt, open from 8am-12pm in the old town. Get your hands on hot bread and buttery croissants from local bakers, cured Valaisan meats and cheeses from the surrounding pastures.
Allow at least a few hours for a soak in the Brigerbad thermal spas, the largest open-air thermal spas in the country. Test out Europe's longest alpine thermal waterslide and afterwards, head to the restaurant for a reasonably priced lunch overlooking the pools and grassy campgrounds.
Did you know that Brig is in the heart of Switzerland’s largest wine-producing region? Book a seat on the Matterhorn Gotthard Railway’s exclusive Valais Wine Trip to enjoy a selection of the area’s top wines along with a five-course gourmet dinner. The rail journey begins and ends in Brig, with a 90-minute stop in the historic village of Disentis.