Want to travel from Western Switzerland via the Bernese Midlands to Ticino? Or watch the cheese-maker at work in the Alpine dairy from Kandersteg in the Bernese Oberland? And marvel at the imposing waterwheel for the saw mill from Rafz in the canton of Zurich? At the Swiss Open-Air Museum, you can do all of these things and more. A total of 109 historic buildings from every region of Switzerland are waiting to be discovered. The doors and gates of the storehouses, barns, cheese storehouses, humble day labourers’ houses and stately farmhouses are open. The parlours, kitchens, bedrooms and workshops are fully furnished and invite you to take a peek inside a typical day for the Swiss in times past.
How to plan your trip to Ballenberg
Before we tell you more about Ballenberg - you'll absolutely love it, you can take our word for it - this is what you need to know: it's a massive place, there are 109 traditional houses from all corners of Switzerland and 66 hectares of cultivated farmland. A day will not be enough, so our advice is to plan for two days if you can.
In addition to being amazing all by itself, Ballenberg is also located next to one of the most gorgeous lakes in Switzerland, Lake Brienz - the scenery is impressive and there is no shortage of hikes and other activities in the area.
Good to know
The Swiss Open-Air Museum Ballenberg is open every day from mid April to the end of October from 10am to 5pm. There are two access ways you can use: either the Hofstetten entrance (West) or Brienzwiler (East).
The museum’s restaurants are quite good, but you could also bring your food for a bbq. Barbecue areas are available across the grounds for picnics, along with benches and tables. Freshly baked Ballenberg bread, cheese and delicious dry-cured sausage are available at the Homemade shop.
What makes Ballenberg so special
We love Ballenberg because It's so much more than a museum and because it's such a complete picture of what traditional Switzerland is. It's a place where you can relax and have fun, where you can learn something new, but most of all - a place where you can truly understand Swiss history and culture.
The traditional houses are impressive
The 109 traditional houses are from every corner of Switzerland: from modest peasant homes to impressive farms, you'll see kitchens, dining rooms or bedrooms and imagine the daily life of their former dwellers. From Jura to Central Switzerland, from Ticino to high up in the Alps – you'll see and feel what their life was like in the olden days.
All traditional houses on display could not be kept in their original locations and were therefore carefully taken down and rebuilt on the generous museum grounds. In addition to the actual houses, you'll also see stables, barns, storehouses, wash-houses or drying ovens.
It's a paradise for families
There are plenty of activities for children and opportunities to play, and in many locations, there are notices saying ‘It’s OK to touch!’. In the big playground at the centre of the museum, kids can play on the climbing tower, slide and wooden playground equipment to their heart’s content. And if you prefer something a little quieter, why not give the historic carousel next to the playground a whirl?
Learn how to spin wool © Ballenberg, Swiss Open-Air Museum
There are live demonstrations for over 30 traditional crafts
How bread is made a l'ancienne © Ballenberg, Swiss Open-Air Museum
At Ballenberg, the clatter of the looms and the rumble of the mills can still be heard every day. Jugs, hats, baskets and lace are made in the workshops. Cooking and baking takes place in the farmhouses. At the open-air museum, there are demonstrations of over 30 different traditional handicrafts, skills and professions, and each day, there are at least six traditional crafts to discover. Many of the products can be purchased directly from the craftsman’s houses and open-air museum shops. In some locations, you can even put your own skills to the test by trying things out and by lending a hand and getting involved.
Our tip: Want to try your hand at working a piece of glowing iron with a hammer? In the Ballenberg blacksmith’s workshop, things will get hot! At the historical Bümpliz smithy, you can try your hand at this fascinating craft and make a small gift to take home, under guidance. Advance booking required and this activity is only for adults.
There are more than 200 farm animals to observe and pet
The numerous farm animals bring life to the Open-Air Museum. You can admire oxen and horses grazing, goats, piglets and all number of fowl birds. There's always something going on in the pastures and stables at Ballenberg.
The animals at Ballenberg love the attention so don't be afraid to get close © Ballenberg, Swiss Open-Air Museum
Admire the farmers' gardens
Land is traditionally cultivated here with old tools & equipment © Ballenberg, Swiss Open-Air Museum
The houses at Ballenberg Swiss Open-Air Museum are all situated in well-tended cultivated land. Here, the land is traditionally cultivated with old tools and equipment. Seeds are still sown in the fields using horses, a team of oxen ploughs furrows in the field.
Farmers’ gardens are laid out according to historical patterns and almost forgotten varieties of vegetables and fruit are often grown. In Switzerland, gardening and care of the countryside were essential for survival: over centuries people have studied the climate, the soil, the flora and fauna – this ancient knowledge is actively fostered, maintained and passed on at Ballenberg.
Discover the varieties that grow and flourish in the Ballenberg gardens and see all the care and maintenance work that's needed to cultivate the lands in the same manner as in the old days. Watch how the seeds are sowed and harvested, learn how vegetables and fruit were preserved in the past and take home fresh produce from Ballenberg's very own gardens and fields.
Events at Ballenberg
There are so many things happening at Ballenberg, you're bound to find something interesting. Have a look at the calendar of events here.
Only at Ballenberg: Festival of Swiss Traditions
The real Switzerland unfolds every autumn at Ballenberg Open Air Museum, as soon as 'Fest der Festes' - or the Festival of Swiss Traditions - kicks off. At the end of September, Ballenberg becomes the perfect setup for an exciting showcase: 15 festivals and local customs gather to display the culinary and cultural heritage of Switzerland in autumn.
This year, the autumn journey takes place during these weekends:
・24–25 September 2022
・1–2 October 2022
Head over to the official website to check this year's agenda, ticket fares, interactive map and overall enchanting content.