Wengen is a village in the Bernese Oberland in the canton of Bern, located in central Switzerland at an elevation of 1274 m (4180 ft.) above sea level, and is part of the Jungfrauregion. Wengen has approximately 1,300 year-round residents. This number swells to 5,000 during summer and to 10,000 in the winter tourist season.
Wengen was first mentioned in official documents in 1268. The origin of the name is unknown.
Over the centuries Wengen has been visited by Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Adolf Hitler, as well as leaders of science, business, sports and mountaineering. Primarily an alpine farming community, the first tourists started to arrive in the mountain village during the early 19th century, when Felix Mendelssohn made it a tourist destination which was followed in the 1817 publication of Mary and Percy Bysshe Shelley's History of a Six Weeks' Tour and Byron's Manfred, in which the scenery of the area is described. This became the advent of the modern tourism industry for the village.
The first ski races were held in the early 1920s with the British downhill championship held in 1921; the following year a ski race was held between Oxford and Cambridge.These events were the first to have downhill races as opposed to Nordic races, which were held in other Swiss resorts. In Wengen, skiers requested use of the train system for access to the slopes; for some years trains were the earliest ski-lifts in the area.Arnold Lunn used the natural terrain of the mountains for the courses; the downhill event followed the slopes above Wengen and was called the "straight down": skiers went straight down the mountain. Also during this period, Lunn invented, and introduced in Wengen, the first slalom race, in which skiers followed the terrain through the trees, replaced with ski gates in later years. These events are considered the birth of modern ski racing and Alpine skiing.
It is one of very few car-free resort villages in Europe, although there are a few service vehicles, local farm vehicles, electric vehicles for taxiing to and from the railway station. The only other resorts in the Alps to follow the restrictions on vehicles are Zermatt and Avoriaz, although for ecological reasons other resorts are considering following the examples of these resorts.
Wengen is serviced by the Rack railway system Wengernalpbahn (WAB), and the village is accessible directly from Lauterbrunnen, or by train from Grindelwald via Kleine Scheidegg, as well as by a series of gondola lifts from Grindelwald via Mannlichen. In Kleine Scheidegg, the mountain pass at the foot of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau, passengers must disembark and change trains to travel down to Grindelwald and Grund. The rail service from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen railway station runs daily from early in the morning until very late at night and is the most intensively operated section of the Wengernalpbahn. There are approximately 40 services between Lauterbrunnen to Wengen every day. Each service may consist of up to 4 separate trains, running closely behind each other because during busy periods, the scheduled train can be followed by additional trains as necessary, optimizing capacity
The cable car Luftseilbahn Wengen-Männlichen operates seasonally. The view from the tram and from Mannlechin above, affords clear vistas of Wengen and much of Lauterbrunnen Valley and small villages.
Wengen hosts the internationally well-known Lauberhorn ski races, and it is on the route of the Jungfrau Marathon.
Since 1930, the Lauberhorn ski races have been held in Wengen. The races traditionally consist of a downhill run, a slalom, and a combined event. In addition to being one of the technically most challenging downhill races, the Lauberhorn is the longest race in the FIS World Cup circuit and arguably the most scenic. The top racers complete the 4.455 m (2.77 mi.) run in about 2.5 minutes and the top speeds reached at Haneggschuss are the highest on the circuit.
A series of four cable cars, known as the Luftseilbahn Stechelberg-Mürren-Schilthorn (LSMS), provides transportation from Mürren downhill to Gimmelwald and Stechelberg, and uphill to the summit of the Schilthorn and the revolving restaurant Piz Gloria. This was a principal filming location for the James Bond movie On Her Majesty's Secret Service, released in 1969, in which Bond (George Lazenby) made his escape from the headquarters of Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savalas) and fled four of Blofeld's henchmen in a car driven by his girlfriend Tracy (Diana Rigg). There is an additional cable car that runs directly from Mürren to Stechelberg, but this is provided solely for the movement of freight. Mürren is also connected to Lauterbrunnen by the Bergbahn Lauterbrunnen-Mürren, which consists of a narrow gauge railway and a connecting aerial tramway. Mürren is also the lower terminus of the Allmendhubelbahn funicular.
There are a total of 52 km (32 mi.) of ski runs with 14 ski lifts (6 cable cars, 7 chair lifts, 3 railways and 2 drag lifts). There is also off-piste skiing, but guiding is often needed and should be used. Although there is good skiing, a popular activity is sledding (sledging). There are many paths that are used for sledding including a route from Mürren to Gimmelwald (once in Gimmelwald, you can follow the short path through the village and take a cable-car back to Mürren) and from Gimmeln to Mürren that are used solely for hiking and sledding. The "bobrun" (which was a bobsleigh track) is also used for sledding and hiking but is also a well used ski run, often used by the ski school.
There are quite a few hotels in Murren that include hotel Alpina, hotel Alpenruh, hotel Edelwiess, hotel Alpenblick, hotel Jungfrau, hotel Blumental, Eiger Guesthouse, Eiger Swiss Quality Hotel, Sportschalet, Hotel Jungfrau and Hotel Regina.