The Jungfraujoch is the lowest point between the Mönch and Jungfrau and sinks by several decimetres every year as the glacier melts. The railway station at the Jungfraujoch is the highest in Europe and earned the Jungfraujoch the nickname “Top of Europe”.
- The climate at the Jungfraujoch is extreme and unpredictable, with icing, avalanches or strong winds occurring even in summer.
- At twenty-two kilometres long, the Aletsch Glacier is the largest glacier in Europe.
- The Jungfraujoch has been accessible since 1912 by the Jungfrau Railway, which takes 35 minutes from the Kleine Scheidegg valley station.
Excursion destinations at the Jungfraujoch
The Jungfraujoch is part of the Unesco World Heritage Site “Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch”. The Jungfraujoch represents the transition between the summits of the Jungfrau and Mönch mountains. It lies on the border of the two regions Bernese Oberland and Valais.
A ride on the Jungfrau Railway up to the “Top of Europe” is already part of the experience around the Joch. Viewing platforms on the Sphinx Rock next to the observatory and above the Top of Europe railway station offer an overview of the region and, in fine weather, beyond. Popular excursion destinations are the Great Aletsch Glacier, the Ice Palace below it or the ice caves on the edge of the glacier. Excursion destinations include:
- Sphinx Observatory with viewing platform
- The Jungfraujoch plateau: the glacier platform
- The Ice Palace under the Aletsch Glacier
- Alpine sensation on the Jungfraujoch
- The Great Aletsch Glacier at the Jungfraujoch
Sphinx Observatory with viewing platform On the Jungfraujoch, on a rocky outcrop called the Sphinx , stands the observatory of the same name. It belongs to a foundation of Jungfraubahn Holding AG. In addition to an astronomical dome and a weather observation station, it consists of several laboratories, a workshop and two terraces that are used for scientific projects.
The 76 cm telescope in the dome is no longer in use. The observatory is working on various projects, including long-term projects. On the Jungfrau East Ridge, at an altitude of 3,700 metres, mainly climate and environmental measurements are carried out. A heated inlet system is installed on the roof. From the Jungfraujoch railway station, there is a 560-metre tunnel through the ice and a funicular railway that covers a height difference of 240 metres. The weather station is the highest still permanently manned station in the world. The readings of about 25 weather elements are forwarded to the head office in Zurich every ten minutes. Between 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., two staff members additionally report their observations on weather character and cloud formation every three hours. These facilities cannot be visited inside.
The Sphinx viewing platform
The viewing platform of the Jungfraujoch runs around the observatory. The Sphinx viewing platform is located at 3,571 metres above sea level. It offers a distant view over the Alps, reaching as far as the Vosges and the Black Forest in good visibility conditions. On the other side, a view over the Aletsch Glacier is possible.
Since 1996 the observation hall has been glazed and terraces run around the observatory building. A 111-metre-long lift leads to the observatory, covering this distance in 25 seconds. Tensioned steel cables run above the observation deck. They form a Faraday cage and thus protect against lightning strikes, which can occur at this height even when the sky is blue. The viewing platform is open daily during the operating hours of the railway.
The Jungfraujoch plateau: the glacier platform
Above the Ice Palace, visitors to the Jungfraujoch can reach the plateau via direct paths. It lies at 3,451 metres.
There is snow and ice on the glacier platform all year round. The viewing platform is used for views, photography and as a meeting place for guided trekking tours across the Aletsch Glacier, ski tours and hikes. Events are also held here and in the run-up to Christmas a Christmas tree is erected, which is visited by Samichlous on 06 December and by the Christ Child on Christmas Eve. From the station, the path leads upwards through the tunnel system. Below the entrance to the Ice Palace, the path runs outwards and slightly upwards to the plateau.
The Ice Palace under the Aletsch Glacier
The ICE gateway leads visitors from the Jungfraujoch down to the Ice Palace. In the 1930s, mountain guides created the passages and halls with saws and picks. They are located about twenty metres below the Aletsch Glacier.
The labyrinth of winding ice paths with cave-like halls and rooms covers a total of 1,000 square metres. Today, works of art made of ice are exhibited here in niches next to the partly mirror-smooth passages. Eagles, bears, dogs, ibexes or penguins are among the works of art that an artist creates anew every year. Even “Charlie Chaplin and the kid”, a scene from Chaplin’s World Museum, has already been created in ice and exhibited here. The temperature of the ice palace has to be kept at a constant -3°C. The vault and ceilings have to be regularly reworked because of the evaporation of the visitors. There are railings in slippery places. The Ice Palace is open daily from 7:30 am to 4:15 pm. Just before the entrance to the Ice Palace, it is possible to look inside the mountain. From a bridge, at an altitude of 3,483 metres, a karst cave can be viewed, which became visible when the tunnel was built.
Alpine Sensation at the Jungfraujoch
Below the Jungfraujoch , a 250-metre tunnel shows the beginnings of the Jungfrau Railway. The tunnel runs between the Ice Palace and the Sphinx Hall. Visitors experience the pioneering era of the railway and the mountain in the multimedia display of Alpine Sensation, partly on moving walkways.
There is a film projection room in the Sphinx Hall. A 360-degree cinema shows the high alpine world around the Jungfraujoch. The adventure tour is 250 metres long and contains adventure niches at intervals. A ninety-metre-long mural in the style of 19th-century romantic painting next to the moving walkway describes the longing for the alpine tourist world.
The scenes show the discovery of the Alpine world
For example, the brothers Rudolf and Hieronymus Meyer from Aarau stand as the first climbers of the Jungfrau in the ice and snow landscape of the paintings. Two mountain guides from the Valais can also be seen: Alois Volken and Joseph Bortis. Original black-and-white photographs are accompanied by the sounds of railway construction. Thirty commemorative plaques tell of the victims of the Italian miners during the railway development of the Jungfraujoch. The young men were no older than twenty. At the end of the adventure tour, there is a huge snow globe in the “Edelweisskaverne”, which depicts life in the Jungfrau region and in Switzerland as a whole. The Alpine Sensation covers 1,200 square metres and is open all year round.
The Great Aletsch Glacier at the Jungfraujoch
The Aletsch Glacier begins at the Jungfraujoch towards the south. At twenty-two kilometres long, it is the longest glacier in Europe. The ice masses cover an area of about 80 km².
Glaciers consist of ice, firn on top and snow at the very top. Firn is older snow that has become more dense through thawing and freezing. About one metre of firn is created from eight metres of fresh snow. From the Jungfraujoch, the glacier leads to the Konkordiaplatz, which covers an area of 6 km². At this point, four glaciers meet and flow as a Great Aletsch Glacier together further south. The firn depressions come largely from regions around 3,800 metres above sea level from mountains such as the Jungfrau, Aletschhorn, Mönch, grosses Fischerhorn, Grünhorn, Kranzberg and Trugberg.
The four glaciers:
- The Grosse Aletschfirn flows in from the west and is 1.5 km wide and 9 km long as far as the Konkordiaplatz.
- The 7 km long Jungfraufirn flows in from the northwest.
- The Ewigschneefäld comes from the north and flows 8 km long and 1.2 km wide.
- The Grüneggfirn joins it from the east.
The Great Aletsch Glacier is 900 metres thick and weighs about 27 billion tonnes. It moves about 200 metres per year at the Konkordiaplatz. Different flow speeds within the glacier cause stresses that lead to deep cracks.
Location and access with the Jungfrau Railway, restaurants and bars at the Top of Europe
The Jungfraujoch connects the four-thousand-metre peaks Jungfrau and Mönch. It lies directly on the border between the cantons of Bern and Valais. The Jungfraujoch can be reached onfoot from the southern Valais via the Aletsch Glacier as an easy trekking tour, but it is dangerous because of the danger of crevasses in the Jungfraufirn. An ascent from the Bernese Oberland is an arduous high-altitude tour that is only possible in favourable weather.
Approach with the Jungfrau Railway
The Kleine Scheidegg is a pass at 2,061 metres between the Eiger and the Lauberhorn at the foot of the Eiger North Face. Kleine Scheidegg can be reached from Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen Valley via cogwheel railways of the Wengernalpbahn.
From Kleine Scheidegg to Jungfraujoch, the railway route passes through the Eiger and Mönch. Seven kilometres of the total 9.34 kilometres that the railway covers are in a tunnel. In the process, it climbs about 1,400 metres in altitude. Before reaching its terminus, the Jungfrau Railway stops at the Eiger Glacier (2,320 m) and Eismeer (3,158 m) stations. The terminus of the railway to the Jungfraujoch is located inside the Sphinx at 3,454 metres. Sphinx is the name given to a rocky outcrop on the Jungfraujoch where the Sphinx Observatory is located.
The journey takes 35 minutes. Descending trains stop for five minutes at a time at two viewing windows that were used to remove excavated material when the railway was built. The railway still runs on 1125 V three-phase current and therefore has two parallel contact lines. During the descent, the braking energy is fed back into the overhead line as electrical energy.
Restaurants and bars at the Top of Europe
There are several restaurants and bars on the Jungfraujoch. They offer food and drinks as well as views of the snow, mountains and panorama. The self-service restaurant Aletsch offers traditional Swiss dishes, Rugenbräu beer, a Top of Europe wine and various non-alcoholic refreshments. It is open daily during the day until around 4.30 pm. The self-service restaurant Bollywood has Indian and Asian cuisine on the menu. It stands at 3,454 metres above sea level and offers a direct view of the glacial panorama of Europe’s longest glacier.
The self-service restaurant Speedy is located in the reception hall of the Top of Europe station on the ground floor. It offers homemade cakes and sandwiches. Its motto is “simple, fast and uncomplicated”. It opens weekdays during the day until around 3 pm. The à la carte restaurant Crystal serves international and classic Swiss cuisine in a high alpine ambience. It also serves homemade desserts and homemade Eigerspitzli for coffee. Open daily at lunchtime until around 3pm.
The Coffee Bar welcomes travellers in the entrance hall of Jungfraujoch station. In addition to drinks, it offers baked goods, snacks and handmade chocolate specialities. The Coffee Bar is open daily during the day until around 4 pm.
The Sphinx Bar is located on the Sphinx Rock, which is reached via a lift. Next to the observatory, drinks such as beer, aperitifs or hot chocolate are served on the terrace. The bar is 117 metres above the Jungfraujoch.
Summer activities on the Jungfraujoch
Numerous hikes and glacier trekking tours are undertaken in the region with mountain guides. In the Aletsch Arena south of the glacier, easy to moderately difficult mountain hikes with the whole family are ideal in summer, as the entire area is car-free. It is reached exclusively by aerial cableways. Activities in summer primarily include:
- Trekking and ski tours over the Aletsch Glacier
- Glacier hikes to the Konkordia Hut
- Hike to the ice caves below the Jungfraujoch
- Hike from the Jungfraujoch to the Mönchsjoch Hut
- Via ferrata on the Jungfraujoch
Trekking and ski tours over the Aletsch Glacier
The Aletsch Glacier is used in summer by mountaineering schools and private mountain guides for glacier trekking from the Jungfraujoch. These tours are also suitable for beginners who have a normal level of fitness. They are trekking tours that involve five to six hours of marching in thinner air.
Glacier hiking on your own requires a good knowledge of the technical and navigational challenges, as conditions on the glacier can change radically in a very short time. Tours to the Konkordia Hut are carried out as one-day or multi-day hikes. They continue the following day, for example, to Riederalp or Märjelesee.
Ski tours on the Aletsch Glacier, for example, have the Lötschenlücke as their destination. High-mountain tours to the Eiger, Jungfrau, Mönch or other peaks also start here. The Glacier adventure trail route follows a marked footpath. This involves crossing a huge crevasse over a suspension bridge.
Glacier hikes to the Konkordia Hut
Hikes from the Jungfraujoch across the glacier to the Konkordiahütte start at the Sphinxstollen of the Jungfraujoch. The Konkordia Hut consists of several buildings and belongs to the Swiss Alpine Club SAC.
The Konkordiahütte stands at 2,850 metres above sea level, more than 150 metres above the Konkordiaplatz. The SAC gives these approaches to the hut:
from Jungfraujoch to Konkordiahütte (4 hrs, 160 hm ascent, 760 hm descent): From the Jungfraujoch (3,454m) the trail goes via the Sphinxstollen to the Jungfraufirn. A descent then leads over two glacier depressions, one behind the other, down into flatter terrain where the Jungfraufirn meets the Ewigschneefäld.
The moraine and the glacier stream are then crossed. A gentle climb leads to the S foot of Grünegg and over a second moraine. Clearly visible metal stairs lead up to the hut. In summer, the path quickly becomes slippery due to snow melt. Temporary bridges make the paths passable in summer.
from the Jungfraujoch to the Konkordiahütte (1-1.5 hrs, 150 hm ascent, 740 hm descent): Via the Sphinxstollen the trail leads to the Konkordiaplatz via the Jungfraufirn south-eastwards down, across the wide area to the eastern edge to the ski depot of the hut at the foot of the metal ladders.
from the Jungfraujoch via Ewigschneefäld to the Konkordiahütte (1.5-2 hrs, 310 hm ascent, 900 hm descent): Via the Sphinxstollen, head north-east along the winter hiking trail to the Oberen Mönchsjoch (3623 m). Via the Ewigschneefäld the descent leads down to the rock spur (point 3135). East of the glacier break (left), the trail descends through a hollow to the Konkordiaplatz to the hut ski depot at the foot of the metal steps. The Konkordiahütte has 155 sleeping places and a shelter with 35 places. Overnight stays must be reserved in advance. The hut is closed from mid-September to mid-March. The winter room is below the main hut in the Hasler hut and offers shelter and protection during the un-wintered period. A wood cooker, beds, blankets, pillows, light and emergency provisions are available in the hut.
Hike to the ice caves below the Jungfraujoch
The ice caves are located below the Jungfraujoch on the edge of the glacier. The entrances to the ice caves are accessible. This means that the deep blue ice caves can also be hiked inside.
As a result of the receding glacier, individual hiking trails have had to be closed time and again in the past. Slopes began to slide because the pressure on the surrounding rock was reduced. For this reason, the all-day hike should only be undertaken with an authorised mountain guide and is also possible for schoolchildren. Guided glacier hikes to the ice caves start in Moosfluh or from Bettmeralp. During the hike the glacier is always in view. For the start from Moosfluh, the approach begins in eastern Riederalp via the Riederalp – Moosfluh cable car. From Bettmeralp, guided “Gletschertouren Katzenlöcher” to the ice caves are offered with the following itinerary:
- 1.5 hrs. ascent to Blausee – Biel
- 1.0 hrs. descent from the ridge down to the glacier
- 2.0 hrs. hike on the glacier
- 1.5 hrs. ascent from the cat holes up to the ridge
- 0.5 hrs. down via Biel to Bettmeralp
The best time for these hikes is from June to October.
Hike from the Jungfraujoch to the Mönchsjoch Hut
From the railway station on the Jungfraujoch, a path leads out of the tunnel system below the Sphinx directly to the Mönchsjochhütte. It leads from the exit of the Sphinx tunnel directly across the glacier and is accessible from mid-March to mid-October. The trail is well marked and a snow groomer prepares it daily.
This hike is also suitable for children. However, good shoes and weather-appropriate clothing are important for the snow-covered trail. During the hike, the 4000-metre peaks can be viewed in the immediate vicinity. A hike without a stopover takes about two hours, including the way back. There is a difference in altitude of 200 metres. The Mönchsjochhütte is located at 3,657 metres and offers a restaurant and overnight accommodation for up to 120 people.
Booking overnight stays
Overnight stays must be booked in advance and you should bring your own hut sleeping bag. Switzerland’s highest guarded hut stands to the south-east of the Mönch. Poles support the hut, which is built directly against the rock. The hut is closed from mid-October to mid-March. During this time, up to 16 sleeping places can be booked in two rooms, which have a wood-burning stove and crockery. Access to the hut is possible for experienced mountaineers during this period.
Via ferratas at the Jungfraujoch
There are challenging via ferratas near the Jungfraujoch. Some sections may only be climbed in the company of a mountain guide. The via ferratas are secured by wire ropes, iron steps or wire ropes.
In addition to a good physical condition, the right equipment for via ferratas is very important. This includes a climbing helmet, via ferrata set, climbing harness, webbing sling, via ferrata shoes, via ferrata gloves and HMS carabiners. The German Alpine Association (DAV) gives ten recommendations for via ferrata walking.
The two best-known via ferratas in the region are (moderately difficult
): The via Ferrata Aletsch (3.4 km, 4 hrs, 131 hm ascent, 142 hm descent) includes climbing passages in the upper Massaschlucht gorge. It leads around the Gibidum reservoir. The 80m long and 40m high Nepal Bridge is a special challenge. Climbing experience is important on the steep rock faces of the Stockflüe, as there are several difficult traverses. The via ferrata Eggishorn (1.4 km, 3 hours, 145 hm ascent and descent) requires a particularly good head for heights and surefootedness. A 40-metre-long three-rope bridge and a 30-metre-long suspension bridge are the special features of this route. Another 30-metre-long tyrolienne (rope slide) may only be used in the company of a mountain guide. However, it can be bypassed.
Activities that can be carried out all year round on the Jungfraujoch
Some activities can basically be carried out all year round on the Jungfernjoch glacier. These include some of the summer hikes in good weather conditions. The shelters of the refuges are also open to alpinists in winter. Fuel is available and there are cooking facilities and showers. However, hikes and treks across the glacier should only be undertaken by alpinists or with a mountain guide. Even though these activities can be done all year round, it is essential to pay attention to the weather conditions at the Jungfraujoch. The excursion destinations at the Top of Europe are also open to visitors all year round .
Helicopter flight to the Jungfraujoch
Helicopterflightsto the Jungfraujoch start, for example, at the Gsteigwiler heliport near Interlaken or at the Croix de Coeur altiport in Lauterbrunnen. During the flight, there is a direct view of the 4,158-metre-high Jungfrau mountain peak, as well as the Mönch and Eiger.
You can get off the helicopter either directly on the glacier or at the starting point. Without disembarkation, the helicopter flight takes about twenty minutes, with disembarkation thirty minutes. Some helicopter flights combine the tour with the Matterhorn. They take about sixty minutes as a round flight, and correspondingly longer including the glacier landing. 45-minute sightseeing flights around the Jungfraujoch depart from Bern-Belp airport. They take you along the Aare, over Lake Thun, past the north face of the Eiger to the Jungfraujoch. The return flight is along the Schilthorn over the Lauterbrunnen area back to the take-off site. Helicopter flights to or around the Jungfraujoch usually take place with five passengers.
There are a few things to bear in mind here:
- Maximum weight of all passengers
- Equipment and clothing adapted to the weather
- Camera and sunglasses
- Pregnant women after the 20th week, persons with pacemakers, physical and mental restrictions only after consultation with the attending doctor
The pilot decides on spontaneous deviations from the flight route.
Snowkiting at the Jungfraujoch
Snowkiting at the Jungfraujoch is carried out directly on the glacier. The prerequisites for this are appropriate snow and wind conditions. Trained snowkiters or beginners under professional guidance can snowkite on the Schneefäld, for example.
Jungfraujoch: Weather, tips, prices, discounts, Top of Europe shops
The weather at the Jungfraujoch in extreme climatic conditions
At the Jungfraujoch there is snow even in summer. At the same time, the sun shines with particular strength because it is reflected by the ice and snow. The weather can change very quickly on the Jungfraujoch, on the glacier and surrounding regions. Weather-appropriate clothing therefore means warm clothing (onion style), sun protection, sunglasses, gloves and warm headgear even in summer. On any excursion, non-slip and waterproof mountain boots are also particularly necessary.
Unpredictable weather on the glacier
The weather in the Jungfrau region is often unpredictable. The average annual temperature is around -8 degrees Celsius and even in summer only slightly above freezing. Extreme temperatures rarely reached are -37 and +18 degrees Celsius. Heavy icing and snowfall lead to increased avalanche danger. The average wind speed measured per year is about 25 km per hour, gusts reach up to 60 km/h towards evening and at night, mostly the wind blows from the south-southeast. There is fog on the Jungfraujoch about half the days of the year. A webcam shows a live view of the Jungfraujoch.
Prices and discounts
There are discounts for the Jungfraujoch from the Jungfrau Railway and for using various activities and experiences. Rail tickets and prices are available here or via the Jungfrau app. In 2020, the journey from Kleine Scheidegg to the Jungfraujoch costs CHF 109 per person for an adult (without discount) (return journey not included). The railway operator recommends reserving a seat (cost CHF 10 per journey in 2020) to avoid long waiting times. The timetables are updated annually. A discounted connecting ticket for the cogwheel railway is sold for holders of a General Abonnement (GA) or a Half Tax Swiss Travel Pass. In winter, the region offers a Jungfrau Region Hiking and Sledging Pass. It is valid from December to April and can be purchased at all Jungfrau Railway stations. The pass is offered with a validity of one to seven days. With the purchase of a 3-day pass, you can get a reduced ride to the Jungfraujoch. The Jungfrau Travel Pass is available for the summer. It includes three to eight days of free travel to all excursion destinations. It also includes a special price for the trip to the Jungfraujoch. The Jungfrau Travel Pass is valid from June to October.
Top of Europe Flagship Store with Top of Europe Shops
The Top of Europe Shops are souvenir shops offering chocolate, watches or clothing directly at the Jungfraujoch. They form the centre of the Top of Europe Flagship Store. Special decorations are designed to make shopping a pleasure.
These include the historic Eiger Ambassador Express right at the entrance, entire ceilings made of Swiss army knives or silver leaves, and giant replica clockworks. Visitor guidance is provided by a replica railway track that runs through the entire shop. In addition to useful items such as forgotten hats, warm clothing or sunscreen, visitors will also find valuable souvenirs such as Swiss Army knives, watches or perfumes. Customers have the opportunity to create their own Swatch with motifs from the Jungfrau region in the Swatch Store. It will be printed directly on site. Lime chocolate, luggage or carved wooden figures are offered as well as snow globes, magnets, key rings and other small souvenirs. The Top of Europe Flagship Store extends over two floors and also contains a Jungfrau Railways competence centre, the “Rail Info & Ticket”.