Ultimate Bern Travel Guide: The Best Things to Do in Bern, Switzerland

Brown and white concrete buildings under a clear blue sky during daytime.

Posted by on 19 Mar 2024

Bern is an essential stop in Switzerland for those enamoured with history, art, wildlife and nature. Boasting a picturesque Old Town and surrounded by mountains and parks offering breathtaking vistas of the city and the Swiss Alps, it encapsulates the essence of Swiss beauty.

With beautiful mediaeval squares and buildings with the turquoise waters of the Aare River as a backdrop, the Swiss German-speaking capital city is easily one of the best places to visit in Switzerland for vibrant sceneries with a small-town vibe. A side trip to the quieter city is a must if you’re exploring the more touristy places in Switzerland, like Zürich or Lucerne.

Not sure what to do in Bern? Here are the top seven Bern, Switzerland tourist attractions you can’t miss.

7 Things to Do in Bern, Switzerland

Explore the City’s Old Town

Perhaps the most popular of the many things to do in Bern, Switzerland is to explore the UNESCO-protected maze of mediaeval buildings and cobblestone streets that is the city’s prized Old Town. Nestled by the turquoise waters of the Aare River, this well-preserved town has that quintessential old-world city charm. Anywhere you turn, you’ll find quaint mediaeval buildings, sculptural fountains, rustic boutique shops and even a Gothic cathedral smack in the heart of the city.

While you’re in the area, don’t miss the Zytglogge clock tower, which has become an emblem of Bern. Not only does it tell the time, but it also shows the current moon phase and zodiac. Another must-see in the Old Town is Bern’s 300-metre-long Parliament Building, known for its signature green dome.

Meet the Bears of Bern at Bärenpark

No Bern guide is complete without mentioning the city’s bears. You’ll see a bear in the city’s coat of arms. But if you want to see a real bear up close, you can head to Bärenpark, which lies at the heart of the city, right at the river banks. At this park, you can watch bears freely play, sleep and frolic in 6,500 square metres of lush greenery in the forest.

The bears were originally housed in a Bear Pit a few decades back, which confined the bears to a tiny enclosure. Thankfully, in 2009, the city built a tunnel connecting the pit to Bärenpark, allowing these furry creatures to safely live in their natural habitat.

Admire the Flora and Fauna at the Rose Garden

Enjoy a breathtaking view of Bern’s Old Town from up above at the Rose Garden, a park that sits on top of a hill near the city. Not only does it give you some of the most marvellous views of Bern, but it’s also home to hundreds of flora and fauna. Here, you’ll see cherry trees, azaleas, rhododendrons, an iris garden and over 200 different types of roses!

Take a leisurely stroll or have a picnic at this blossoming public park, or have a sumptuous meal at the Rosengarten restaurant while admiring Bern from above. The laidback, refreshing atmosphere in this garden is terrific if you want to take a break from too many touristy excursions.

Learn About History’s Greatest Physicist at Einstein House

History lovers and physics aficionados alike must step into Einstein House. What was once the modest apartment Albert Einstein lived in during the early 1900s is now a museum that gives people a chance to see what his life was like during his annus mirabilis, or his most significant year of scientific discovery.

The flat itself was restored to what it would have looked like when the renowned Nobel laureate and legendary physicist lived within its walls. It even has the original spiral staircase Einstein and his family used back in the day. Meanwhile, the floor directly above it has been transformed into an exhibition where visitors can learn more about Einstein’s works and contributions to science.

Shop at a Christmas Market

If you’re heading to Bern in December, you must check out the popular Christmas markets in the area. During this time of the year, Waisenhausplatz—the plaza in the middle of the Old Town—transforms into a whimsical market complete with seasonal goodies, trinkets, candles, Christmas decors and even carolers singing for the crowds. It’s undoubtedly one of the best Christmas markets in Switzerland.

Food lovers will love the festive treats at these markets, too. Many of the stalls offer Christmas classics like mulled wine and gingerbread cookies. It’s also a terrific place to shop for Swiss delicacies, like their signature, high-quality cheese and chocolate.

Admire Expressionist Art at Zentrum Paul Klee

Art lovers need to check out Zentrum Paul Klee, a museum that is home to over 4,000 works by the Swiss expressionist. Get lost in Klee’s colourful and surrealist paintings, many of which were donated directly by the artist’s daughter-in-law.

While Klee’s thought-provoking art is the star of the show at this Bern attraction, visitors also marvel at the museum’s striking exterior. Designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, the building mimics the curves of Switzerland’s rolling hills, boasting undulating, rounded shapes and light-reflective glass surfaces.

Enjoy the Views at Gurten Mountain

We can’t end this Bern guide without mentioning Gurten Mountain. Though not technically in Bern, this nearby mountain is a must-visit for those who want to see a panoramic view not just of the capital city, but of the Swiss Alps, too. If the weather permits, you might even catch a glimpse of Germany’s stunning Black Forest.

The best way to get to Gurten Mountain is to ride the vintage funicular. When you reach the summit, you can enjoy the views of Bern and the Alps from the lush parks, dine at restaurants and even hike some trails around the mountain to admire the natural scenery.

Bookmark This Bern Guide for Your Next Swiss Holiday

There is plenty to explore in Bern, Switzerland’s capital that seamlessly intertwines the country’s contributions to history and well-preserved natural sceneries. It’s the perfect Swiss getaway for those seeking a quieter, more laidback city. Whether you want to meet bears as they frolic in the expanse of their park or marvel at the picturesque mediaeval buildings of the Old Town, there’s something in Bern for you.

Want to explore more of breathtaking, historically rich Switzerland? Check out all of Entire Travel’s to make the most out of your European adventure!

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