The idyllic mountain village of Ernen lies on the left side of the valley of Goms, above Fiesch. The village is part of Binntal Nature Park and is also well-known as a musical village, acting as the venue for an annual musical festival with international artists.
For centuries, Ernen lay on the Gomm valley road and therefore on the access route to the passes over Furka and Grimsel. With the opening of Furkastrasse on the opposite side of the valley in 1861, the old waypoint suddenly found itself apart from the traffic on the pass. The local economy collapsed and the settlement virtually stopped developing until the middle of the 20th century. The local authorities quickly realised the value of the village's overall appearance and implemented strict building regulations as early as 1943. Thanks to these measures, Ernen's historic settlement structure has been preserved as a key location of the valley community.
Ernen's appearance is characterised by its exposed location on a mountain terrace above the Fiesch valley basin. Unspoilt gardens and fruit crops surround the settlement in a semi-circle that reaches down as far as the valley. In the village centre, residential buildings built in the style traditional for the region stand close together, usually facing southwest. The dense construction is interspersed with small plazas and gardens. The unique village square in the centre of the village is one of the most beautiful in Switzerland. It is framed by prominent buildings, including the Tellenhaus (Tell House), which is home to one of the country's oldest depictions of Swiss national hero William Tell.
The late Gothic church of St Georg, which was built between 1510 and 1518, can be seen clearly from a distance, thanks to its slightly elevated position. In addition to its Baroque features, it contains a series of late Gothic sculptures, including the “Nothelferaltar”, a Schnitzaltar or winged altarpiece.
Ernen has gained national and international fame as a musical village. Every summer, the Verein Musikdorf Ernen, or Ernen Musical Village Association, organises a small yet prominent classical music festival, consciously focusing on niche pieces.
ISOS is the Federal Inventory of Swiss Heritage Sites of national importance. The inventory is maintained by the Federal Office of Culture (FOC) and lists the most significant settlements in Switzerland. Today, some 1,200 places are included in the inventory, from hamlets right through to cities. The inventory provides information on the development and identity of the settlements listed in it, thereby contributing to the preservation of architectural diversity in Switzerland and promoting both sustainable planning and a high-quality Baukultur.