The resort village of Engelberg in Central Switzerland’s Uri Alps was formed around a medieval monastery. Despite a tempestuous past, Engelberg Abbey still has monks, and remains at the heart of the community, hosting recitals on summer nights.
For high-speed downhill skiing and once-in-a-lifetime adventure look to Mount Titlis, a forbidding 3,200-metre peak to the south of Engelberg. At the summit you can actually walk through a glacier and cross the highest suspension bridge in Europe.
In the other direction is Brunni, whose south-facing slopes are bathed in sunlight and promise fun for families in both winter and summer. Whether you’re climbing, hiking, skiing off-piste or mountain biking, Engelberg has terrain that will inspire you to go a little further.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Engelberg:
1. Engelberg Abbey
The village’s Benedictine Monastery still has a community of monks and goes back to 1120. A lot has changed in that time, notably in the 18th century when the monastery burnt down and was later sacked by Napoleon’s army.
So the architecture of the church and monastic complex is all late-Baroque.
You can go in to view the stuccowork and frescoes on the abbey’s barrel vault for yourself, or sign up for a German language tour for extra depth about the monastery.
The abbey’s organ is one of the largest in Switzerland, and you can hear it an action at free recitals in the evenings in summer.
Winter or summer, you may find yourself coming back to Mount Titlis, which soars to more than 3,200 to the south of Engelberg.
The mountain has a few visitor attractions, which we’ll come to next.
But the journeys by gondola and cable car are part of the thrill, and present you with astonishing views.
None more so than the new Titlis Rotair gondola, which is the first fully rotating gondola in the world, showing off the Uri Alps in all their power.
There are panoramic restaurants and other eateries at the top, as well as the Ice Flyer, a chairlift that carries you over the surface of the glacier, where you can peer down into its crevasses.
3. Titlis Cliffwalk
You might need to face some fears to cross this 100-metre-long bridge on Mount Titlis, which opened in 2012. This is the highest suspension bridge in Europe, at around 3,000 metres up and was designed to withstand almost everything nature could throw at it.
To make things even more daunting, the bridge traverses a 500-metre chasm and moves with the wind.
The best to time to shuffle along the Cliffwalk is a clear day in summer, when the views down to the Titlis Glacier are mesmerising if you can bear to look.
4. Titlis Glacier Cave
Maybe the must-see attraction at the top of Titlis is the mountain’s free glacier cave where the ice goes back to before prehistoric man even discovered fire.
The entrance is close to the Cliffwalk, and there are 150 metres of walkways beckoning you 20 metres into the core of the glacier.
The walls radiate a strange and beautiful turquoise-blue light, caused by refracted sunlight, and if you inspect the walls, which you’re free to touch, you’ll see millions of tiny crystals.
The temperature in the cave is a steady -1.5˚C all year round.
5. Ski and Snowboard
Engelberg has more than 80 kilometres of downhill skiing and snowboarding.
The pistes are set at between 1,050 and 3,020 metres: Thanks to the high elevation there’s good snow cover and a long season that doesn’t wrap up until April.
The resort has access to four distinct ski areas: Titlis-Jochpass, Brunni, Bannalp and Gerschinalp, all linked to the village with gondolas and lifts, although connections can be patchy at times.
If you’re a veteran skier the most challenging runs can be found at the Stand station in Titlis.
There are also loads of places to dine on the slopes, particularly at Titlis and Brunni, and four ski and snowboard schools can teach you the basics or help you brush up on your skills.
The lofty Brunni mountain area with sunny, south-facing slopes rises to the north of Engelberg.
You can grab a cable-car to Ristis and then another chairlift for the last few hundred metres of the climb, where the scenery is ever more majestic.
Summer or winter there’s loads to do up here.
When there weather’s warm, kids can burn of some energy in the large adventure playground and ride the summer toboggan run.
There are also lots of walking trails, including one tactile path that you’re supposed to walk in barefoot.
And in winter the smooth slopes are just right for beginners and intermediates, while the 2.5-kilometres sledging run carries you back down to Ristis.
Before you go all the way to the top of Titlis you could get off at this unfrequented intermediate station.
On a ledge overlooking Engelberg is an exquisite little lake at an elevation of 1,788 metres and fringed by pasture.
The lake is fed by the Trübseebach, which flows off the Titlis Glacier, and when it’s sunny the water reflects the jagged mountainside in the background.
In summer Trüebsee is one of the lakes on the “Four Lakes Hike”, crossing the Jochpass at its highest point, which is just a few hundred metres from this lake.
Trüebsee is also on a few walking paths that you can pick up from the village if you’d prefer to visit on foot.
8. Cheese Factory
Inside the monastery there’s a free attraction where you can come to watch cheese being made.
The Cheese Factory is nothing more than a small dairy and restaurant, but is still worthwhile especially if you’re partial to cheese.
The production area is enclosed within glass panels and has four stainless steel vats where milk is curdled and then pressed into moulds that have the shape of the monastery bell.
The cheese is called, “Engelberger Klosterkircher”, and has a soft consistency and mild flavour.
The factory belongs to a restaurant serving fondue and raclette, and you can buy one of its handmade cheeses as a gift from the shop.
9. FIS Ski Jumping World Cup Engelberg
In mid-December the jump at Gross-Titlis-Schanze hosts a stage in the FIS Ski Jumping World Cup.
The event is big news and attracts thousands of spectators at the 20,000-capacity arena for the largest annual winter sport event in Central Europe.
The jump is the steepest on the World Cup tour and has also just been refurbished at large expense.
There’s a new floodlight system so that the competition can continue long into the evening, while the landing area has been adapted to allow for longer jumps.
As soon as the ramp reopened in 2016 the young Slovak jumper Domen Prevc broke the track record with a leap of 144 metres.
10. Via Ferrata Climbing
As you cast your eye over Engelberg’s mountains you’ll be aware of the many sheer walls above the village, and a lot of these have been adapted for climbing.
There are six Via Ferratas within minutes of Engelberg, and they vary in difficulty from K2 to K5. The ideal introduction is Brunnstöckli, which is a short climb of 200 metres, taking around 45 minutes to ascend if you’re a beginner.
But those who know how to handle themselves on a wall will be enticed by the daunting Fürenwand, which is definitely not for newbies.
This K3-K5 ascent needs three hours and has a difference in elevation of more than 760 metres.
11. Buiräbähnli Safari Hike
If you’ve ever wanted a real Alpine adventure, Engelberg’s tourist office has created a 20-hour circular hike with two overnight stops in mountain huts.
Beginning and ending at the railway station, the hike is available from June to September and one of the exciting things about it is that includes rides on Buiräbähnli, cable-cars built for farmers.
These only run on request, and at each station there’s a handset where that allows you to contact the operator.
The Safari Hike is a medium/difficult walk, but if you’re in good shape and plan ahead it’s a journey you won’t soon forget.
12. Free-Riding and Ski-Touring
Engelberg’s surplus of high, remote slopes serve up skiing for people who have done it all on groomed pistes and now want to leave tracks in fresh powder.
Before you get started you’ll need to be prepared for avalanches, and it’s recommended that you hire a mountain guide who knows the slopes.
But once you’re ready, Engelberg has ten extraordinary descents, broken into the High Five and the Big Five.
To pick one, Steintal has a vertical descent of around 700 metres and slopes that are free of tracks even days after the last snowfall.
13. Spas and Bathing
During a holiday spent climbing mountains or hurtling down pistes you’re going to recharge your batteries at some point.
Spas are just the way to pass an afternoon if the weather takes a turn for the worse.
There are four to choose from in Engelberg, and while they’re all attached to hotels you can make a reservation as a non-resident.
Take for instance the H+ Hotel & Spa, which has an ice grotto, Finnish sauna, aroma steam bath, whirlpool, steam bath and special pressurised showers.
If yu have kids in tow you can go for a fun and relaxing few hours at the Eienwäldli Rock Pool, which has two heated pools, one with a slide, as well as a steam grotto, solarium and sun-bathing deck outside.
14. More Summer Activities
May to October there’s cycling for all disciplines in Engelberg, whether you’re making a 400-metre high-speed descent from Jochpass or straining every sinew to climb to the 860-metre slope to the holiday community atop Brunni.
There are lots of trails labelled “difficult” for riders who want to push themselves to the limit.
But if you’re in Engelberg to relax, you can hire an e-bike and let an electric motor take some of the strain or roll down hill on a trotti bike, a scooter/cycle hybrid.
The resort also has an 18-hole golf course, though it can be hard to keep your eye on the ball in the face of Titlis and its humungous bare rock walls.
This is just the tip of the iceberg in Engelberg in summer, and the resort also offers pony rides, a rope park, countless picnic areas and treasure hunts for kids.
15. Engelberg Sporting Park
If you somehow still have the energy, this sports complex at the resort has facilities forall seasons.
In summer there are four scenic outdoor tennis courts, as well as two indoors which stay open all year round.
There’s also a climbing wall if you want to get some practice in before attempting a Via Ferrata.
Winter is when the Sporting Park really shines as there are two skating rinks, one in an arena and one outdoors under the stars.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to play curling you’ll get your chance here, or you could try the Bavarian version, which is easier to pick up.