Best things to do in Bern Switzerland

by Kelly

Visiting Bern and looking for the best things to do? Find them here! We loved our time in Bern Switzerland and highly recommend spending a day or two in this lovely historic city. Did you know that Bern is the capital of Switzerland? Many people are surprised to know it is Bern and not Zurich, in 1848 it was decided that Bern would be the capital as Zurich already had much power as the economic capital of Switzerland.

Bern is incredibly picturesque. It has many carefully preserved buildings, you can easily spend a few days here to see everything without rushing! Here is everything we did!

This blog was in collaboration with Switzerland Tourism and Swiss Travel System. All opinions are our own, we are excited to show you this incredible country!

Where is Bern and what is the best way to get there?

Bern is located near the Swiss/French border. It is about 1 hour from Zurich and Interlaken by train. We arrived from the French town of Strassbourg by train. We travelled using the Swiss Travel Pass, it is the best way to get around Switzerland! One pass allows you travel on trains, buses, boats, some gondolas and entry to some attractions. It is such a great value and time saving ticket! You just hop on to your train or bus, make sure you are in the right class and that’s it! Just show the ticket if you are asked for the conductor to scan it. It really couldn’t be easier!

Where to stay in Bern?

We found the best hotel in Bern, it is Hotel Bären am Bundesplatz. Located in central Bern it is the friendliest and warmest hotel we have ever stayed in. So clean and comfortable we can’t recommend it highly enough!

What are the best things to do in Bern Switzerland?

Here is our list of the best things to do in Bern, we loved this town so much. It is just so sweet, there are so many different little details around the town to discover. You can take a Bern Old Town tour , this is a great way to learn about the history and make sure you don’t miss anything.

Parliament Building (Federal Building)

Built between 1894 and 1902 the stately Parliament Building is very impressive. We were lucky enough to visit on a day the building was open to the public. After giving over our passports we were allowed to wander through the building without a reservation that is usually required. It is such a commanding building and inside is no different. Free tours are offered, it is well worth it. You can book on the Bern Parliament Building website.

The city of fountains

Bern has over 100 public fountains and they are incredibly charming. I have never come across so many beautiful and function fountains in one place. They are all drinkable and many are placed in busy streets. They are the prettiest road blocks ever!

The fountains were an important part of early Bern. They were the place to meet and chat. Women and maids would collect water there as would water carriers who charged a fee for their service. The lower levels were used for animals that would be led through the town. Around 1550, the city replaced the then wooden fountains with elaborate stone ones. Each of the 11 fountains in the town centre have elaborate sculpture decorations based on important figures.


The Zytglogge is one of the most recognisable landmarks in Bern. It is a medieval tower built in the early 13th century. It has had many uses over the years as a guard tower, prison and clock tower. Currently it is very much a tourist attraction. We wandered past when it was almost on the hour and there was a little crowd gathered around to watch the hour strike.

The Aare River

The Aare River runs through Bern and there are lots of lovely old houses that flank the sides. A big arched bridge crosses it making it a perfect place for photos! It is the longest wholly Swiss river which flows through to the Rhine at Koblenz.

Bern Old Town

Bern Old Town is right in the centre of Bern. It is full of charm and character. It is beautiful to stroll around and take it all in.

Spitalgasse, Kramgasse, Gerechtigkeitsgasse and Marktgasse are the four main streets of old town and they seem to run into each other. They are easy to walk, take time to notice all the scultures and carvings on the buildings as you pass. There is a great Old Town walking tour if you prefer to learn about the city or you can walk it on your own.

You will find churches, the Rathaus town hall, the Zytglogge and many other beautifully decorated buildings.

The Bärengraben and BärenPark

The Bärengraben and BärenPark really took us by surprise. Somehow it had escaped our attention that they existed! We were walking by the river and looking at the views only to be surprised to see a bear walking around! An actual big brown bear just casually wandering around near the river.

They are so gorgeous and relaxed, it looked around for a while before lying down to sleep! Apparently the association with bears started years ago. Duke Berchtold V. von Zähringen first killed a bear here and had proclaimed that would give the name and be the symbol to the town. In 1515 the first bear pit was opened. The bear captured in 1513 at the Battle of Novara by the Swiss mercenaries fighting there. Bartholomäus May, a famous Bernese soldier at the time, led the captured bear into the city. Over the years the BärenPark has transformed in to the large enclosure that is seen today. It is open everyday all year around and the bears are free to roam the area. There is a free lift to make the area accessible for all.

Einstein Haus

Einstein moved to Bern in 1092 and worked in the patent office while tutoring students on the side. It was during his time in Bern that he rose to become an influential scientist. His home is now a museum, Einstein Haus. To visit costs 7CHF or 5CHF with the Swiss Travel Pass.

The Gurtenbahn

The Gurten is a mountain on the outskirts of Bern. It is not a very tall mountain at 858m high but you do get lovely views overlooking the city. There is a funicular to go up to the top, the return price is 11CHF or free with the Swiss Travel Pass. The Gurtenbahn was opened in 1899 so it is quite an old We went there for sunset and it was really pretty. The ride up was quick and easy and at the top is a huge garden area with a restaurant. There are playgrounds for kids, hiking, a toboggan and a large garden area. It is a great place to head up for a picnic or to meet friends and family.

Where to next:

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Why Swiss Travel Pass is the best way to travel Switzerland

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Why you should visit Lucerne

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3 day itinerary for Interlaken

What to do in Interlaken when it rains

Best things to do in Bern, Switzerland

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