Switzerland with families: Visit Ballenberg
On one of those beautiful sunny autumn days, while camping lakeside in Brienz, I figured it was about time to take the kids on a visit to Ballenberg. I had last visited the open-museum in the Bernese Oberland when The Teen was a tiny baby, but somehow it kept missing our "to-do" radar since then.
The historial open-air museum of Ballenberg
The open-air Museum of Ballenberg takes its visitors on a trip back in time, with historical houses from the 18th and 19th century dotted over the 66-hectare property. The property is longer than it is wide and stretches between two entrances, west and east. We parked at the western side (see tips below) and made our way to the first home, an industrialist's villa from the canton of Bern dating back to 1872. There we spent a good half hour exploring the various displays of Swiss instruments, costumes and traditions. But we still had over 100 more buildings to discover.
It was soon apparent that due to the sheer scale, this place would probably be best explored over multiple visits. So we did the best we could and spent the day wandering from house to house, following the gravel paths up, down and around that connected each.
The museum is divided into regions, with buildings from similar areas around Switzerland kept together, and each set up uniquely. We visited old and pharmacy with its herb garden and peeked into bedrooms, kitchens and dining rooms.
Sometimes the kids led the way, and one time we simply followed our noses which led us into a smoke-filled barn. We almost left without discovering the reason for the smell, but a glance up revealed rows and rows of sausages hanging from the ceiling, in the midsts of being smoked. Those smoked sausages would be later sold at the onsite shop along with other in-season produce made traditionally on site.
A Photographers Paradise
By the way, Ballenberg is also a photographer's paradise! I felt giddy walking around with a camera in hand, capturing the various displays, windows and doors. As we visited on a sunny day, the light streaming through the windows cast interesting shadows in the rooms creating beautiful scenes to capture.
Unfortunately, we ran out of time to participate in the various activities on offer. From butter making and woodwork to old games and instruments, there is plenty to do. If you are looking for more of a challenge, why not try out the Fox Trail, a sort of treasure hunt with clues to solve - a new way to see the museum (at an additional cost).
For the rumbling tummies
Whether you visit in the spring, summer or autumn (Ballenberg closes from early November until mid-April each year), bring your good walking shoes, a picnic lunch and enjoy the grounds. There are plenty of spots to stop and enjoy a packed lunch or even to pop some sausages on a bbq. If you prefer to leave the cooking to someone else, there are a couple of onsite restaurants. We decided to stick to the simple self-serve restaurant serving run-of-the-mill menus like schnitzel and fries, but you could also try one of the table-service restaurants serving more seasonal menus.
All in all, we left Ballenberg exhausted but happy with everyone asking when we can visit again.
Tips for a great visit to Ballenberg:
There are two carparks on either side of the museum, one in the east (Ost) and one in the west (West) so if you are meeting friends/family making sure you agree ahead of time at which entrance to meet. Don't forget the coins for the parking meter.
They allowed us to bring in a small balance bike for little Z, which made all the walking a little easier for her.
There are plenty of places to enjoy a picnic which is a great option if you prefer not to eat at a restaurant.
Raiffeisen Bank customers receive free entry, just show your card.
Ballenberg is a part of the Swiss museum pass which gives you free admission if you have it or if travelling on the Swiss Pass.
Look out just as you exit Ballenberg for a small stand selling freshly picked vegetables (season dependent)