Merchants in Interlaken have always known how to inject their town with enough razzle-dazzle to keep visitors coming back. As such, Interlaken boasts one of the highest per-capita rates of nightclubs of any town its size in Switzerland. The town's business is so transient -- composed mostly of short-term visitors on their way to somewhere else -- the clientele of any particular bar or club is likely to change virtually every week. Keeping that in mind, here's a roster of those that, at this writing, were the most animated and/or fun.
You'll usually find a drinking buddy in the folksy, amiably kitschy Victoria Bar in the town's stateliest hotel, the Victoria-Jungfrau, Höheweg 41 (tel. 033/828-28-28). Buddy's Pub, in the Hotel Splendid, Höheweg 33 (tel. 033/822-76-12; www.splendid.ch), provides a cozy, richly paneled setting that evokes an upscale version of a smoke-stained pub in Ireland.
If you want to combine drinking with dancing, head to Johnny Carlton's Club, in the Hotel Carlton, Höheweg 94 (tel. 033/826-01-60; www.johnnys-interlaken.ch). Although the dance floor is comically small, the music is danceable. Because there are never enough banquettes and chairs for the crowd, everyone seems to mingle extra freely. Metro Bar, in the Hotel Metropole, Höheweg 37 (tel. 033/828-66-66), draws a crowd in their 30s and 40s who mingle happily together.
Access to virtually every disco in Interlaken costs 7F on Friday and Saturday nights, and is free other nights. Things begin happening a bit earlier than you might expect -- many are rocking by 11pm.
A major nighttime venue is the Casino Kursaal, Höheweg at Strandbadstrasse (tel. 033/827-61-00; www.casino-kursaal.ch). The on-site restaurant serves a fixed-price menu for 50F. Admission to the casino is another 5F. Hours are Sunday to Thursday noon to 2am, Friday and Saturday noon to 3am.
Interlaken's most intense doses of folk schmaltz take the form of the tellfreilichtspiele, a secular version of a Teutonic morality play that's presented in an open-air amphitheater in Interlaken's suburb of Matten, a village en route to Grindelwald, reached after a brisk 15-minute walk from Interlaken's center. A sweeping cast of as many as 250 presents Schiller's pageant play William Tell, complete with galloping horses, flaming torches, flower-draped cows, apple-shooting scenes, and an all-German text delivered in the lilting diphthongs of the Schwyzerdeutsch accent. Tickets for the 2 1/2-hour show cost 35F to 58F, and are available from Tellbüro, Bahnhofstrasse 5 (tel. 033/822-37-22). The play is presented at 8pm every Thursday and Saturday between mid-June and early September. Bring a jacket or sweater, or rent one of the blankets from an on-site kiosk, as the alpine chill seems to enhance this epic tale of the struggle for Swiss independence from the tyranny of neighboring Austria.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.