Most people want swift access to their home abroad but not the residents of Wengen in central Switzerland. The only way to reach their village is by a slow train climbing 1,300 ft from Lauterbrunnen in the valley below and it’s this glorious isolation they value.
“The fifteen-minute train journey is part of Wengen’s charm,” says David Swindells, who with his wife Rita paid £335,300 for a two-bedroom apartment in 2005. “It gives you time to adjust to the slower, laid-back pace of the village.”
The Swindells from Devon are part of a sociable group of British owners in this most traditional, unflashy Swiss ski resort two hours from Zurich airport. British skiers established the Downhill Only Club in Wengen in 1925 and loyal fans return year after year. Street-smart teenagers looking for explosive nightlife might be disappointed but otherwise Wengen is a delight: a quiet Swiss village of dark wooden chalets and charming, family-run hotels.
Wengen sits on a sunny plateau in the Bernese Oberland below the Eiger and the Jungfrau, with some of the most jaw-dropping scenery in the Alps. Every January the village hosts the World Cup downhill competition on the notoriously difficult Lauberhorn course and there’s further skiing at Mürren and Grindelwald.
Yet it’s the summer beauty that most owners covet. That’s when Paul and Joyce Lipton Rose from Amersham, both in their early 50s, first saw Wengen. They were instantly smitten. “We prefer it in summer,” says Joyce. “We kayak and hike and return home fitter and slimmer.” The couple currently work in Holland and visit their three-bedroom chalet several times a year. “It rents well year-round,” says Paul. “Only October and November are quiet.”
British buyers cannot own a detached chalet or land in Wengen, and half of all apartments in new-build developments must be sold to Swiss buyers. Investors in Property are selling homes off-plan in Wengen. Prices start from £445,950 for a one-bedroom apartment in the centre, or quieter, sunny apartments at the top of the village in Chalet Zum Wald are priced from £442,600.
Chalet Arbendrosa is scheduled to be built over the next year in a prime location with picture-perfect views of the Jungfrau. One- to four-bedroom apartments in this traditional chalet start from £301,750. Resale property includes a four-bedroom, duplex apartment recently reduced to £781,260, a one-bedroom apartment five minutes’ walk from the station for £331,950 and a furnished two-bedroom second floor apartment with no lift for £281,650.
Below Wengen, Lauterbrunnen lies in a glaciated valley where 72 waterfalls cascade down the sheer rock face. The deep valley means the town gets little sun in winter but is a good base for budget skiers and a popular summer resort. Trains from the local station carry skiers and hikers to Wengen or Mürren, and Interlaken is seven miles away.
Investors in Property have two- and three-bedroom apartments available at Chalet Wasserfall, ranging in price from £274,950 to £348,700. Apartments are in traditional chalet buildings of which ten are completed and sold, mostly to Swiss buyers. Three more chalets with 18 apartments in total are being built over the next twelve months.
“Lauterbrunnen property rents well in summer and winter,” comments Simon Malster of Investors in Property. “This is one of Switzerland’s oldest tourist regions. Interlaken with its beautiful lakes and golf course is fifteen minutes away and the Jungfrau Railway, Europe’s highest-altitude train, passes through the town.”
Home away from home
Clare Regez from Essex arrived in Wengen 27 years ago as a chalet girl and has never left. “Wengen is magical,” comments Clare, who is now 50. “It’s low-key and safe. People embrace its quirkiness.”
Clare married Andy, a ski instructor, and has two adult children. She is one of Wengen’s best known faces, helping to run the local cinema, organising wine tasting and social evenings for the British community and managing several holiday apartments. She keeps a car in Lauterbrunnen but does all her food shopping in Wengen, saying prices in the Co-op there are the same as in the valley below.
“In 1925 my grandmother was an au pair to a wealthy English doctor whose wife was ill and came to Wengen to recuperate,” says Clare. “Nearly a century on it remains a very civilised place to live.”
* Allow three per cent of the purchase price for buying costs.
* British buyers must apply for a permit which takes three months to obtain.
Investors in Property: investorsinproperty.com; 020 8905 5511
Alpine Immobilien: wengenproperty.com.