First Switzerland: What is it?

First Switzerland

When I first traveled to Switzerland, I started seeing references to something called “First.”  Now, for those of you who have traveled to Switzerland before, you may know that seemingly every town or landmark claims to be “the best this,” or “the biggest that”. So, when I saw the word “First,” I naturally assumed it was another claim to fame about being “the first” for something.  I was wrong.

First, pronounced “feerst”, is actually the name of a minor summit, above Grindelwald, Switzerland.  This summit sits opposite the mighty Eiger in the famous Jungfrau region.   You might wonder, “why all the fuss about a minor summit?”.  Although this is not the highest summit around, it is a very popular cable car station that people often begin or end an excursion.  My first visit to  First was when I hiked from the Eigeralp, about 6 miles to the West of First. I  came to First from the backside on my Best of the Swiss Alps tour. 

When I approached First from Bachalpsee, I first saw the summit far off in the distance and wasn’t sure what to expect.  As I got closer, I could see a long metal catwalk. It was winding around the slated rock summit, suspending people hundreds of feet in the air.  For those who have a fear of heights, you are given the option to walk up and around the summit on a dirt trail.  But for those willing to take a little risk (no real risk at all) you can enter the catwalk. 

How to Get There

To get to First, you have a few options.  You can either hike to it or you can take a cable car directly from Grindelwald.  The cable car ride is a beautiful and scenic ride that takes about 30-minutes from start to finish.  There are three sections of the cable car ride, but you don’t have to get off at the two-cable car stations. You can stop at Bort and Schreckfeld on the way up or down.  Or, you can stay seated for the entire journey.  It’s a fully enclosed cable car, so you don’t have to worry about wind or bad weather.  No matter what direction you are sitting, you are sure to have a perfect view.

When you get to First, you have several options for keeping yourself entertained.  For some, it is a stopping off point, to begin a hike.  There are bathrooms and watering stations to make sure you are prepared to continue your journey.  You will find a nice restaurant and bar, to get a quick bite to eat or a relaxing drink.  The restaurant has tables inside, but you can also choose to eat outside. On the terrace, you can watch other tourists brave the catwalk or admire the breathtaking mountain views of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau.  Next to the restaurant, you will find a small snack shop. 

First overlooking Grindelwald

There’s More than One Way Down the Mountain

Once you have done all you want to do at First, you can plan to work your way back to Grindelwald.  During the summer, there are endless possibilities on how to do that.  Some of the options are offered at the First station, but you can also find options at the Bort and Schreckfeld stations.  Here are some of the options for your return:

  • Hike down, 4.5 miles, about 2-hours
  • Cable car, you can ride the cable car down the whole way, or you can get off and on at any section, to combine it with one of the other options
  • Zipline down, “First Flieger,” reaching speeds up to 50+ mph (First to Schreckfeld)
  • First Glider, fly like a bird with your feet behind you and your belly towards the ground (Schreckfeld to Bort)
  • Mountain cart, a cross between a go-kart and a sled (Schreckfeld to Bort)
  • Scooter bike (Bort to Grindelwald)

If you decide you want to experience any of these special activities, you can usually get a special deal on your cable car ride, if you make your purchase from the Grindelwald station before you begin your journey to First.  The packages that you purchase usually allows you to have unlimited use of the cable car throughout the day!

A trip to First is an absolute must if you find yourself in the Jungfrau region.  You won’t be disappointed in the activities that are offered or the views that await you!

Robyn Damon
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