Switzerland is one of the most popular and treasured travel destinations globally. When the visitors see Bern for the first time, they are stunned by its beauty and fascinating places. Bern is the capital of Switzerland, and you cannot afford to miss visiting this city when you are in Switzerland.
Bern ranks among the top cities in the world that offer the best quality of life. It is no surprise because Bern is clean and one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The city also offers a fast and efficient public transportation system.
Switzerland is an expensive country, but you can choose to make your trip affordable by visiting free and low-cost spots. The Bern Switzerland itinerary that we will be sharing with you will allow you to travel on a budget. You can plan your visit to Bern by looking at this guide. We have listed down the 15 best things to do in Bern, Switzerland.
1. Stroll through the Old Town
The old town of Bern is situated on a cliff surrounded by three sides. The beautiful town is surrounded by the stunning aquamarine waters that come from the Aare River. The best thing about this town is that it has preserved its medieval character.
The streets are bordered by arcade sidewalks that allow you to walk safely around the old town. Many beautiful buildings are packed with shops, cafés, bookstores, and restaurants. The upper floors consist of apartments where the locals reside.
You will find many public fountains, old statues, and the famous Clock Tower. If you are looking for a peaceful town, the old town is the perfect place to visit. You can spend many days just strolling around the town. You can also find many retail outlets in the town.
Switzerland is known for watches and jewelry stores, and this town has it all. If you are looking for a good shopping experience, you will find sports stores, galleries, boutiques, and more here.
2. Admire the Clock Tower, Zytglogge
In the center of the old town in Bern stands a beautiful structure called Zytglogge, or The Clock Tower. This spectacular building once stood as Bern’s western gate and its tower was once used to imprison prostitutes. Nowadays it has become an icon of the city. One of its most interesting and unique features is the astronomical clock, which was added in 1527.
From the beginning, it has been putting on a show of little figurines every four minutes before the hour and still does to this very day. The figures found in the clock are a crowing cock, a parade of bears, Chronos with his hourglass, as a dancing jester.
This show is what draws most of the visitors and is rather charming. The clock itself is quite intricate and shows a multitude of things: 24 hour clock, the twelve hours of daylight, as well as the position of the sun in the zodiac. It also shows the day of the week, the date, the month, the phases of the moon, and the elevation of the sun above the horizon throughout the year. This is a truly unique Clock Tower and any tour of Bern should include this particular sight.
3. Take in the views at Bern Münster
The Muenster, as the locals call it, is a great attraction for Bern. This grand cathedral can boast the fact that it is Switzerland’s largest church building, making it an impressive sight to see. The building itself is quite beautiful and is an excellent example of late gothic architecture. It is quite old, with building of it beginning in the year 1421but the landmark took several years to get completed. The Church didn’t finish building for another 400 years. It came into existence in 1893.
Although the beauty of the building itself is enough to attract visitors, the true treasure is contained within. The height of the tower is 100m (328ft) high in the sky, which makes it one of the highest Cathedrals in Switzerland. If you climb to the top of the tower and look out, you will be granted very spectacular views that will take your breath away. This is one place that should definitely be on anyone’s “to do/see” list while visiting the lovely city of Bern, Switzerland.
4. Learn about Switzerland at Bundeshaus
The Federal Palace, also known as Bundeshaus, is another great sight to check out on your trip to Bern. The prominent Parliament building that is located above the Aare River stands about the ground and boasts of excellence. The central block features two different chambers that include the Swiss Parliament. Both east and wings that include federal agencies and libraries are also a part of it.
The construction for the building took many years. It was started in 1857 and was finished in 1902. It was constructed in the Renaissance style and it is most famous for its beautiful dome. Since it is the home of the Swiss national government, it is an important building in the city of Bern it has become a top tourist spot that should not be missed. However, the access will be restricted when the Parliament session is going on. You can catch up with the amazing views of the River Aare from Bundesterrasse.
5. Check Out the Town’s Ancient Fountains
The old town is full of ancient public fountains that are a treat to watch. These fountains have been installed there since the 16th century. You will be surprised to know that there is a story behind these fountains.
They are topped with statues and feature biblical scenes where Samson is killing a lion. Many other sports statues praise the power of Bern beautifully. Most visitors fall in love with Zähringerbrunnen that is a bear in full armor).
If this isn’t enough, you can also catch up with the Läuferbrunnen (the Runner Fountain). As the city started to gain some wealth, these wooden fountains are now replaced with something new.
There are around 100 fountains that every visitor will love to explore. The water here is potable, and the quality of these fountains is top-notch even after so many years.
6. Spend an Afternoon at the Rosengarten
Looking to spend some peaceful moments with your loved ones? You cannot miss out on Rosengarten. It is a beautiful and serene place in Bern with the most impressive views of the entire city.
The Rose garden park features a large and open area to sit on the hill. This hill slop is just around the river. You will be curious to know something interesting behind this garden’s story. It was originally a cemetery from 1765-to 1877. In 1913 this area became a public park.
There are 200 different types of roses and other 200 species in this garden. You and your family will be impressed to take a look at irises, azaleas, and rhododendrons. For more fun and entertainment, you have access to a spending pond, restaurants, and plenty of picnic areas. It’s at its peak from April to October and well worth a visit.
7. Visit the Bear Park and Dälhölzli Animal Park
Brown bear is the emblem of Bern city, and there are no surprises that it has been so since the 12th century. The city is said to have been named for this creature and a bear is represented on the city’s coat of arms. The importance of bears is reflected in many areas of the city. In the old town, you can visit three resident brown bears as they live in Bern Bear Park.
Bears have been kept in pits since the early sixteenth century, but recently, people have come to realize that this is very bad for the bears. The old Bear Pits were replaced in 2009 with a Bear Park which is adjacent to the old pits. The bears now get to enjoy a very luxurious home next to the river Aar. The bears are viewed from the bottom of the hill and there is a lift to take tourists there. If you plan to visit these bears with your children, they will be delighted to see the bears play around.
Dälhölzli Animal Park is another entertaining zoo for a visit. It is very spacious and has 300 different species. Whether it is the wolves, wild boars, and Harbor seals, there is something for everyone.
If you are a bird lover, you will fall in love with the birds here. Puffins, snowy owls, and Bali mynas live here and entertain visitors.
8. Visit the Einstein House
If you have already spent a day visiting the Einstein Museum, you cannot miss out on his former residence. You will get to know the interesting life of the most genius scientist. Many visitors like to visit this building as he lived on the second floor of this apartment.
Between 1903 and 1905, he and his wife Mileva Maric and their son Hans lived here. He has spent his time creating impressive work that also includes writing the Annus Mirabilis papers.
The best thing is that this apartment is in good condition. A lot of efforts are made to restore and maintain its beauty. The period furniture and walk inside the apartment reflect a lot about his life.
You can also find a note where he revealed he would change the course of science in some time. Visitors can take a lot of his work in the exhibition that is held there.
9. Explore the Trails on the Gurten
The Gurten is a must see if you are visiting Bern. It is a lovely hill which towers over the city from the south and is located just outside the city and is called the house “mountain”. The Gurten offers a wide range of entertainment with a focus on culture, leisure and games. On top you’ll find a kids’ play-area, an observation tower, and a park which offers great views of the city on one side and a nice panorama of the Bernese Alps on the opposite. Hiking paths lead in all directions. Families with children should not miss the cool playground as it is basically a kids’ paradise. In winter, the hill and snow covered slopes are often crowded with sledding families. In summer, hikers and picnickers abound. Summer also offers festivals. Every year in mid-July, The Gurten plays host to a very popular rock music festival. This is an amazing little spot that is well worth the short trip outside of the city.
10. Enjoy a Wealth of Activities at the Aare River
Aare River is an integral part of Bern as it features all the natural beauty. This river, also commonly spelled as Aar, is actually a tributary of the Rhine and is the longest within Switzerland. The water is crystal clear, while the turquoise color gives it an alluring appeal. The Aare River flows right through Bern and winds around the Old Town as if it is hugging the city. Walking alongside the river is a great treat and is extremely peaceful. The bear park is also located just right next to it. It is a mesmerizing treat for all water lovers. The view is stunning all year round. You can stroll around with your partner or loved ones here. In winters, the fresh coating of snow makes it even more fun. The river is so popular that even winter does not stop everyone from taking a dip: you can find individuals who swim here 365 days a year.
During summers, all the travelers can start with their fun activities there. When the temperature rises, most swimmers love to dive in the water. There are lots of good and safe locations throughout the river that are perfect for swimming on hot summer days. There are public pools (which are free of charge) for those who want to play it safe, as well as sections where you can float all the way down the river, although such should only be undertaken by experienced and strong swimmers. When you are in Bern city, you cannot afford to miss the famous Marzili pool complex. It offers a wide range of pools, and you can catch up with the view of a Parliament Building.
The river is a landmark in Bern and should be appreciated while you are staying there, no matter what time of year you chose to visit.
11. Visit Historical Museum of Bern
This is a landmark that should be included in a tour of Bern. The Bern Historical Museum, also known as Bernisches historisches Museum, is the second largest historical museum in Switzerland. It was built in 1894 by the architect André Lambert. The building is quite special due to the styles that the architect chose to incorporate. He took his inspiration from buildings from the 15th and 16th centuries as well as many historic castles. The main purpose of the museum is to display collections directly related to the history of Bern, from its distant past to its present day. There are also other exhibits from parts of Asia and Egypt. This is a beautiful and interesting museum and should be considered for any sightseeing trip while staying in Bern.
12. Admire art at the Kunstmuseum Bern
The famous Museum of Art is known as the Kunstmuseum. It lies to the West of Waisenhausplatz and is located on the Hodlerstrasse. There are around 1500 paintings and mesmerizing sculptures for art lovers.
You will be immersed in the drawings, prints, and photographs this art museum offers. This museum was built in 1870 and is the oldest one in Switzerland. It isn’t surprising why it has an international reputation too. The wide collection is suitable for all art lovers. You can explore art from the Italian Trecento (Duccio, Fra Angelico). Swiss art has been prominent since the 15th century. There are some international paintings from both the 19th and 20th centuries.
Impressionism, Cubism, Expressionism, Blaue Reiter and Surrealism are one of them. There is much focus on Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, and Pablo Picasso.
13. Play with Technology at the Communication Museum
Probably one of the most interesting museums also for younger visitors and children, it shows since its foundation in 1907, the history and development of communication throughout the century. The exhibition includes various themes related to the postal service, telegraphy, telephone and the Internet and shows the relationship of man to technology. Thanks to interactive displays, games and workshops, visitors can immerse themselves in the world of communications.
14. Uncover the work of Paul Klee
The Paul Klee museum is dedicated to the works of a famous artist from Bern. The museum has a vast collection of works by him, over 1000 by all accounts, but they are not always on constant display. The museum tends to rotate the works featuring approximately 200 at a time. The works of this very famous artist is not the only reason to visit this museum.
The building itself, created by Renzo Piano, was said to be inspired by Klee’s works as well as the beautiful scenery offered in Bern. He created a unique set of three buildings that seem to form three undulating waves. It is actually very beautiful and special. This is a very nice place to see, if a little out of the way, and one should definitely take the time to visit it when touring Bern.
15. Visit some of the other museums
Museum of Natural History | Naturhistorisches Museum
Bern’s stream-lined Museum of Natural History is arguably one of Europe’s best natural history museums with insightful species presentations and probes into animal behavior. Made infamous through the stereotype of the booze-toting shaggy superdog, housed in the museum is a stuffed version of the St. Bernard that saved nearly 50 people from an avalanche in the 19th century.
Swiss Alpine Museum | Schweizerisches Alpines Museum
Famous for art-mimics-life relief maps and topographical studies of Switzerland, taxodermically-immortal Alpine species and the history surrounding winter mountain sports, Bern’s Alpine Museum is an interesting foray into life in the Swiss Alps. Located in a specially-commissioned building, the SAM was newly opened in 1993 to enlighten visitors to the kingdomly virtues of Switzerland’s Alpines.
We hope that this guide has encouraged all the travelers to visit Bern, Switzerland. As you all can see there are a lot of interesting places to visit in this city. Whether you plan to visit this city for a day or more, there is something for everyone. Charming views of the city will make you fall in love with it. Most travelers will also like to know more about the cultural heritage and history. The Aare River has it all to impress as you can dive in whenever you want. Catch up with the museums or take your children for hiking and other entertaining Parks!