Top 10 things to do in Bern , Switzerland

When we planned our four days trip to Switzerland, we immediately had Bern on our charter. Bern is one of the most beautiful capital towns in Europe. Thus, a visit to Switzerland will be almost incomplete without being here. So, while we were based in Lucerne. And we decided to do several day trips from there. Including those to Engelberg & Mount Titlis, Interlaken, Grindelwald, Kambly cookie store and a cheese tasting tour. The one to Bern was one of the most beautiful ones.

things to do in Bern
A view across the banks of river Aare

As an exception to out general rule of exploring places on our own, we chose to do a guided tour to Bern. And we are really happy of our decision. Because Bern has some really important historical spots that are best visited with a guide at hand – be it a person or an app. From our own experience, we bring to you the top 10 things to do in Bern that you will thoroughly enjoy.

Walk on the Nydeggbrücke bridge

As you enter the beautiful town of Bern, Nydeggbrucke bridge is the first thing you step foot at. A plaza at one end of the bridge has some government offices and tourism offices. There is a neat and clean, free public washroom also available here. From here, as you step on to the bridge, there is a nice pedestrian walkway along the sides. Walk along it and stop right in the middle of the bridge. The scene on both the sides of the bridge that you see from here are stunning.

things to do in Bern

On one side, you will see the spread of the modern town of Bern. While on the other side, you can see the beautiful river Aare. On one bank of the river lies the much sought after Barengraben (more on it later in the article). While the other side is marked with beautiful European houses. On a nice sunny day, you will see people having a sunbath on their roof, enjoying the scenic beauty around the river. The river takes a turn here and disappears into the forests. The scene is so beautiful, I can say with confidence that you won’t be tired of looking at it for a long long time. Overall, the stunning beauty across the bridge makes a visit here one of the most important things to do in Bern.

Explore the main market of Bern

Let’s come to the next beautiful thing in our list of things to do in Bern. As you walk further down the Nydeggbrucke bridge, in another 5 minutes, you will enter the main market of Bern. These are the parts of the old town. The main street is marked with bus lanes and tram lines. Be careful of a tram or a bus coming from behind. As the pedestrian walkways here are crowded. And often encroached by street side shops. So, you might be forced to step onto the main road once in a while. Don’t worry, the whole area is still very pedestrian friendly.

things to do in Bern
main market of Bern

Coming to the shops, all the possible varieties are present. From expensive and branded dresses, bags, purses, watches, swiss knives etc. to leather and craft products. You will find everything of daily use as well as anything that can attract a tourist’s attention. Intermittently, there are food outlets, fast food restaurants and grocery stores as well on this street. The buildings on both the sides have the characteristic European charm. And in between, you can also see beautiful fountains of water, yet another characteristic of beautiful European cities.

Pay a visit to Einstein House

As you walk along the main road, you will soon come to the building where Einstein resided once upon a time. The second floor flat which Einstein had rented is fondly named as the Einstein House. And is open to tourists for visit. All you need to do is purchase the entry ticket. The exact address is the flat on the second floor of Kramgasse No. 49. Einstein lived here from 1903 to 1905. But the place still has the imprint of the great scientist. It has been restored in the same decor elements that were used in that era. And it also contains some reminiscence, furnitures and other pieces that he used in day to day life while he resided here. Thus, it comes as the next in our list of things to do in Bern.

Things to do in Bern
Einstein House, Bern

Visit Bern Minster

Bern Minster is a Swiss reformed cathedral which is built in the Gothic style. Why does it come in our list of must see places in Bern? Well, it is one of a kind. For instance, it’s tower is 330feet plus high.. one of the highest in Europe. And do you know, it took more than four centuries for the Bern Minster to complete? Located on the southern side of the peninsula along the banks of river Aare, it also has a very beautiful architecture. You can read in details about the magical and massive architecture of Bern Minster here.  And I am sure, after having read about it, you will be surely including it in your own list of must see places in Bern.

things to do in Bern
Bern Minster and it’s beautiful sculptures

A very interesting fact to note is the three entrance doors of Bern Minster in the front. While the central door and the area above it has a very intricate and decorated artwork. The other two are totally plane. As per our guide’s narration once upon a time, all the three doors were beautifully done. But then during the world war, the church was attacked. To protect it from the rage of the attackers, a false wall was put up in front of the central door. So, when they saw it, they didn’t even realize there is a door behind. While they destroyed both the side ones, this central one remained intact. And I am so glad it did. It is just so beautiful!! I wish the other two could as well be restored.

Hear the Zytglogge strike

Another topper on the list of things to do in Bern, Zytglogge is a medieval tower of Bern which is a working clock tower till date. It has a 15th centuary astronomical clock. While it has undergone restorations several times over the past 800 years. However, it is still intact. In fact, it has become like the next symbol of Bern for the tourists. As you walk through the main street of Bern, you will eventually arrive at this marvellous tower. It is a UNESCO world cultural heritage site. As you stand in front of the tower, wait patiently for it to strike the hour. And then you can see the little creatures built on it’s sides come out and dance.

Did you know that the Zytglogge tower was almost completely destroyed in a fire in 1405 AD? It suffered so much of damage that several rounds of restoration were required. And finally, it was up and working completely restored in 1983 AD!! I really applaud the zeal of the Swiss people and government to restore and maintain their cultural heritage.

things to do in Bern
The clock tower of Bern

See the Federal Palace

Yet another of the things to do when in Bern will be a quick visit to the Federal Palace of Switzerland. This building houses the Swiss legislature. But what interests us tourists is yet another example of marvellous architecture that it displays. The central assembly building of the Federal Palace is used to hold the assemblies. While the eastern and western wings house a library and some government departments. The main characteristic of the building is it’s massive dome which has an external height of 64 meters. It’s definitely nothing sort of a palace. And the internals are marked by beautiful carvings and intricate designs.

Meet a bear at Barengraben

Barebgraben is a bear pit or enclosure situated at the eastern edge of Bern. It is located besides the bank of the river Aare. And the enclosure houses several bears. Add a visit to this place, in your list of top things to do in Bern. Particularly, if you are traveling with kids and toddlers. i am sure they will be super excited to meet the bears. In fact, there are several bear enclosures around Bern. And some natives even have bear as their pets! This is because bear is the symbol of the city of Bern. And there is an interesting story behind it.

Bear – the symbol of Bern

While the city of Bern was being built, it’s founder was pondering over what name to give it. And he came up with a very strange idea. He decided to go hunting. And the idea was that the name of the city would be based on the first animal that he would be able to kill. And no prizes to guess which animal became the victim of his endeavor. Yes, a bear!! And thus, bear became a symbol of Bern. To be honest, it seemed to me like a rather gruesome way to name a city. Why hunt, why not bring that animal home and pet it?

things to do in Bern
A bear in the garden

Anyways, at least the bears at Barengarben are free to roam into a habitat that looks closer to their natural home. One can go down all the way till the bank of the river Aare and then take a walk on the pathway besides the garden. There is a glass barrier that prevents the bears from coming onto the road. And the visitors can enjoy the site of the bears, without, of course, disturbing them. Not needed to mention, the little one hardly wanted to leave the spot and go anywhere else, once she saw her ‘teddy bear’!

Picnic at the banks of Aare

One of my favorite things to do in Bern will definitely be a picnic at the banks of Aare river. In the spot near the Bear Garden. There are stairs that lead to the bank of the river. As well as a lift to take those who can’t or won’t take the stairs. Then there is a neat pathway all the way along the bear garden. There are stairs on the other side, that lead right to the river banks. The place is beautiful, romantic, scenic and a perfect spot to just relax around. Actually when we were here, we saw some families having picnic and enjoying themselves thoroughly on the banks of the river.

things to do in Bern
Beautiful banks of the beautiful river Aare

Other things to do in Bern

Some other popular things to do in Bern that we didn’t get time for. But, you might enjoy:

Visit the museums of Bern

If you are a lover of history, then one of the must do amongst the things to do in Bern for you should definitely be visiting the museums. Bern is not just a natural beauty but a historical hub. It has museums of all sort, that will interest people with all kind of interest. There is a museum of natural history, an Einstein Museum that has a vast collection of archaeology and ethnography subjects, amounting to a whooping 50,000 plus pieces ranging from stone age to current era. Bern also has a museum of fine arts. In fact there is a Museum of Communication that focuses solely on communication!! And there are many more. So, when in Bern, and if you have got enough time, one of the top things to do can be the exploration of these museums.

Explore the gardens and parks of Bern

Although scenic and naturally beautiful that Bern is, still, the people and government have left no stone unturned to enhance it’s beauty. And that is done through numerous beautiful landscaped gardens that you can find across Bern. Many of these are free to enter and enjoy. So, in your list of things to do in Bern, you can include some of these beautiful gardens. Particularly if you are with a kid, (s)he would definitely enjoy in these gardens. To start with , there is a Rose garden. Which, as the name suggests, houses different breeds of roses. Then there is a botanical garden that has plant species from across the world. Then there is the Bear Pit that we talked about, and several others.

Map of things to do in Bern

Last but not the least, here’s a map of the things to do in Bern, that will help you go in an ordered way, starting from the Nydeggbrucke bridge.

Tips on visiting Bern

No doubt Bern is one of the most beautiful capital towns in the world!! Here’s some tips to make your visit to Bern smooth and all the way more beautiful:

  1. You can conveniently reach here from Lucerne or Interlaken or any other parts of Switzerland via a train.
  2. You can as well take a guided tour, particularly if you are interested in understanding the history behind the beautiful architectures in Bern.
  3. When we visited in April, Bern had moderate climate. It was cold, but not chilly. It has higher temperature than Lucerne and other nearby resort towns. So, you can dress accordingly. A light sweater did for us.
  4. Carry a water bottle along as you walk across Bern. Just like most of the other towns of Europe, there are ample fountains to fill your bottle.
  5. Wear comfortable walking shoes.
  6. We visited here for a day. But as you can see from our list of things to do in Bern, there is so much to explore. And we couldn’t cover some of these. So, you can as well plan a stay over for a night. And two days will be definitely enough to cover everything at your own slow pace.
  7. The main street has several eateries. You can have your meals at one of these. Takeaways are better, as it saves both time and money.
  8. Again, as we have said in our other articles on Europe, if you have a small kid, you can carry a stroller with you. It will be way too easy to manage.

A tour to Bern, Switzerland. Find out the top things to do in Bern

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92 Responses

  1. Alexander Popkov

    A bear in the garden? 🙂 Is he far from you? Never seen that bears have a habitat so close to the city.

    • Here the bear resides right in the city. And as I mentioned, bear being the symbol of Bern, many have bears as pet here as well. This one was also pretty close, with a transparent barrier wall separating it from us

  2. Paige Marley

    Switzerland is the absolute top of my list for my next trip outside the states. Thank you so much for sharing!

  3. […] day two of our four days in Switzerland, after having a nice breakfast at our hotel, we headed on a day tour of the capital city of Switzerland, Bern. We walked till near the Lucerne railway station where we met our group tour guide at a pre […]

  4. […] endeavor with Kambly factory store happened en-route on a day trip to Bern , the enchanting Swiss capital. We stopped at the Kambly factory store of cookies before heading […]

  5. […] of four beautiful days in Switzerland exploring Lucerne via a walking tour of the Lucerne city, then touring Bern and Engleberg along with mount Titlis, finally we reached the last day of our stay in Switzerland. […]

  6. Great tips! Switzerland is one of my dream destinations. Thanks for the inspiration, dear!

  7. It’s funny that I live in Basel but have to explored Bern yet, although crossed it so many times! soon I guess:)

    • That happens. The closer you live, the more likely you are not to have explored that place. I have some places near my own hometown that I am yet to visit. While they are world famous, somehow, I never got to visit them

  8. I’ve always wanted to visit Switzerland but never heard of Bern. The Bern Minster would be at the top of my list to check out as I like seeing different architecture. Would also love to check out the Einstein house to see a bit behind the crazy and genius of the man. Lots of really cool activities to do here

  9. Though I hate the way the symbol of Bern was chosen I am happy to know the modern city of Bern has developed a wonderful way to let the wild roam in their habitat yet the city dwellers can enjoy that view! Einstein house is another place where I would absolutely LOVE to visit!

    • Agree with you Tania. Although I would be happier if the bears were set free now. That habitat is more like an extended zoo to them

  10. I’ve wanted to visit Bern for so long, and Bern Minster has been top of my list – it is just so beautiful, and another reason why European towns have so much to offer for a short break!

    • Definitely. I hope you will visit here one day. It is a small and beautiful city

  11. Switzerland is really a nice vacation destination. I have been only to Zurich so far but this post about Bern confirms that it’s a cool country. I like the architecture, it always looks kinda cute 🙂

  12. What a wonderful post. This place has always been on my list! Looks like an amazing place to go!

  13. Wow!!!!! Your trip is so detailed. How are is your european trip in total? Been reading a lot of EU itineraries in your blog lately. So excited to plan another EU trip with all the places youve visited in mind.

    • Hi Kenneth. We had a 20 days long trip wherein we spent 6 days in Italy, 5 in Switzerland, 2 days in Paris and 2 in Amsterdam apart from couple of days in transit. We have written about our Italy experience and some in Switzerland and Paris. While a lot more, Particularly on Switzerland and Amsterdam part of our trip are still in queue 🙂 Although I will be more than happy to provide you with any details that you require

  14. I’m off to Switzerland this month but unfortunately won’t spend much time in Bern. This makes me regret that!

    • Oh..no problem. There’s always a second time. And when it comes to Switzerland, there is eternal beauty all around. So, you will enjoy it as much no matter which part you plan to be in. But do go to the countryside

  15. Have never been to Switzerland but reading your post it should be a must plan

    • It is a must see. For me it was the most scenic of all the places I have seen so far

  16. Always heard of Bern but your photographs literally take me there. Thank you.

  17. I have always wanted to visit Switzerland, and now Bern is up there on my cities-to-visit list! It looks like there is a lot to enjoy there, especially all the cute bears!

    • Yes, definitely. there is history, parks, natural beauty , museums, old charming city, rustic bridges and what hot.

  18. Wow that cathedral is beautiful! Thank you for the tips 🙂

  19. With Switzerland being the top of my International Bucket List, I truly enjoyed this post! Wonderful!

  20. Love the architecture! It’s like a trip back into a simpler and more wonderful time. Definitely adding this to my bucket list!

  21. My husband is such a science geek and I’m sure he would be dying to see the Einstein House! You’re photos are incredible, btw 🙂

    • 🙂 Great to know that Marvi. I guess he will have a wonderful time when he gets to Einstein House

  22. Nicole Anderson

    Wow…you certainly did a lot to make the most of your day trip to Bern. I found this such an interesting post to learn a few things about the place including where the name came from, the Einstein Museum and various attractions. The photos also tell a lovely story of the architecture and how clean and nice it all looks. Would love to visit myself one day.

    • Thanks Nicole! Bern indeed has something to offer for everyone. We found it a very beautiful and neatly tucked capital city.

  23. I would love to visit The Einstein House! so interesting to see where he lived, and some of his belongings.

  24. This is a thorough guide and you’ve certainly covered a lot of ground. The architecture and history sounds amazing. Glad to hear it is easy to carry stroller in Bern. I remembered Zurich was so-so on the stroller-friendly situation but good to know Bern is different!

    • Thats why we would always prefer smaller towns compared to bigger cities in Europe. They are easier to navigate, don’t have much crowd and are so beautiful

  25. Wow, I was quite amazed on how beautiful Bern is. It is also on how clean are their rivers there. The scenery is fantastic and it looks like a town in a movie set. Because of your beautiful photographs, I do agree that we must pay a visit in this town whenever we’ll have a vacation in Switzerland.

    • Thanks Blaine. The cleanliness of the rivers in Europe – indeed hats off to the people and government – this is not possible without their combined effort. Given the towns on the bank of these rivers are so old

  26. Very informative and intriguing. I am more excited to visit Switzerland now especially Bern

  27. I like this post a lot! So many nice and helpful information. I hope I will use them one day!

  28. I am so glad that the door did not get damaged during world war. It looks really beautiful. I haven’t been to Bern but after seeing your pictures, I would definitely love to go one day.

  29. This seems like a beautiful city to just walk around and soak in the sights. There seems to be enough to do for at least 2 – 3 days. Strange though I never considered it!

    • I guess it’s a bit underrated. I found the city beautiful, full of history as well as natural beauty. But seems not many have explored it

  30. chikonahoka

    Oh gosh, I remember that clock tower! I only visited Switzerland over a very short less-than-a-week trip as a mostly penniless student haha
    It didn’t occur to us to get a guide. Probably we couldn’t afford one then anyway!

    • Oh..although I am glad to know you had an opportunity to explore one of the most beautiful parts of the world so early on.

  31. So many things to do at Bern. I’m sure if one is chanced, there will be many uncovered fun places to visit. Your lists is a great start for my visit.

  32. Lovely photos!! What’s your top favorite things to do in Bern?

    -Hannah Behind The Lens

  33. pennyglobetrove

    Most people want to visit Switzerland in the winter. The country is certainly famous for its snow and winter sports. Me… I would love to see it in summer too. The green fields and pastures. The farms… Bern definitely looks like a quaint town I would try!

    • Then you should give it a try at the same time as us – the border season. While there is enough snow on the mountain peaks, the green grasslands are also at their best. Guess thats why we were so stumped by it’s beauty

  34. Perfect! I’m thinking of heading to Switzerland in the coming years. It’s gonna be so beautiful! 😀

  35. swatisinha09

    Switzerland is so very pretty. Bern has quite a few historical places so doing a guided tour was probably good to get to know the history. Great captures and again a fun trip

    • Exactly Swati. Like that church. We could never know it’s history if it were not for our guide.

  36. Thank you for this great post about Bern. I’m so glad you shared it with us, as I have only passed through Bern on the train and did not get off. Seeing a city only from the train tracks gives you a very different (and wrong!) impression, as I thought it had looked quite drab. Clearly, I shall have to go back and give the city another chance!

    • You definitely should. It has something to offer to all kind of travelers be it historical monuments and well preserved buildings and bridges, or scenic backdrops of mountains and beautiful river or gardens or museums

  37. Thank you for all the wonderful suggestions on things to do in Bern!

  38. I love the details and info you included in the post. A nice guide to save for when I am researching Switzerland.

  39. We had gone for a day trip from Lucerne to Bern and we did almost everything that you have listed here. In fact, we followed a self-guided walking route, so we knew exactly which direction to take and what all to see, including the bears. Its a lovely city.

  40. It seriously looks like a post card! What a beautiful place and such a great travel recap. I liked how you included the google maps for us..

  41. I’m kind of nerdy so I would love to have paid a visit to Einstein’s house. The decor of the early 1900s is fascinating to me. I also really love Gothic style churches and Bern Minster looks insanely beautiful!

  42. Sandy N Vyjay

    Old Bern is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the medieval buildings are really charming and beautiful. When we were in Switzerland we passed through Bern a number of times in the train but unfortunately could not visit the beautiful city, hope to get there next time.

  43. bruceschinkel19

    Loved visiting Bern! I totally agree that it’s an incredibly scenic city that should be on everyone’s list

  44. WhenTwoWander

    A picnic on the Aare would be so much fun, its so picturesque. I love these old European towns and cities. You can always tell they’re old because of the architecture!

    • You are right. And their charm never ceases to exist even if they are so old. They have been so well managed

  45. Switzerland has been on my list for forever. Love the photos, hoping I can make it out there myself sometime soon and reference your helpful guide!

  46. That’s indeed a good idea to stay in Bern and do day trips across Swiz!
    I didn’t make it to Bern. I did a weekend trip to Basel.
    Indeed Bern has such rich heritage, good that you chose a guided trip.

    • Agree, Bern has a very rich heritage. Though we didn’t stay here, we would love to the next time we go visit Switzerland

  47. It looks like you covered a ton of ground during your time in Bern! The river looks lovely but I’m not sure I love the idea of the bears in an enclosed space – any idea if they ever get returned to the wild?

    The market sounds like a fantastic place to visit, I love checking out local markets when I travel. The atmosphere is almost always electric!

    • I don’t think the bears ever return back to the wild from here. Indeed it’s like an open zoo with just a couple of bears.The atmosphere and the market – totally agree with what you said

  48. Thank you for an amazing post. Your post sorts out my itinerary in Bern! Out of all the places you mentioned, Einstein house is most intriguing! It’s amazing the way Einstein house has been commercially tapped for visitors. I think in India, we are yet to tap the heritage of our Indian heroes in various domains. May be we should learn a thing or two from Bern!

    • You are so right Ambuj, I had the same thoughts running in my mind. Actually there are so many potential heritage spots like these in India that can be used as a showcase of our rich ancient history and even the advances our ancestors had in the field of science. We should learn how to do it and try that

  49. This is a lovely description of Bern. We’ve never been to Switzerland. Actually we touched Austria and Germany but couldn’t explore Switzerland. Hope our next trip to Europe can figure some Swiss towns including Bern!

  50. well bern, is now on the to do list! looks like a stunning place to go and visit 🙂 also that bear shot is great, nice close up right there 🙂

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