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View of the Bern city center and Untertorbrucke bridge over the River Aare

Things to do in  Bern

More than politics at play

Laid-back and little, Bern is Switzerland’s federal city, functioning as the capital of a country that doesn’t officially have one. While Swiss politicians had their own reasons for basing the country’s parliament here, the surrounding landscapes probably helped the decision. Set within a crook of the startling-blue Aare River and flanked by mountains, Bern is a stunner, made more so by the medieval, UNESCO-listed Old City where visitors will find no shortage of things to do. Sights aside, the city also rewards visitors with a multicultural vibe where German, French, and English are widely spoken.

Top 6 attractions in Bern

Kleine Scheidegg

This mountain pass in the Bernese Oberland may be best known as the starting point for the scenic Jungfrau Railway, but it's also a hiking hub: several trails from here offer stunning mountain views. From an elevation of more than 2,000 meters (6,560 feet), you can marvel at the peaks of Jungfrau and Mönch, and the stark Eiger North Face.More

Einstein House (Einsteinhaus)

German-born Albert Einstein was undoubtedly one of Switzerland’s most famous immigrants. In this Bern apartment, the Nobel Prize winner developed many of his groundbreaking ideas, including the Theory of Relativity. Today, the restored residence functions as a museum, providing insight into the life and work of the world’s most famous physicist.More

Bern Cathedral (Bern Minster)

Bern’s towering Gothic cathedral is a must-see for any visitor to the de-facto capital. Begun in 1421 and completed almost 500 years later, the structure’s ornate façade and detailed interior provide a glimpse of Switzerland’s cultural heritage. Its 330-foot (100-meter spire, the highest in Switzerland, affords panoramic views across the Aare peninsula.More

Thun Castle (Schloss Thun)

With its original knights’ hall and Romanesque towers, 12th-century Thun Castle is among Switzerland’s best-preserved medieval landmarks. Now a national heritage site and museum, the hilltop fort offers immersive insight into the region’s far-reaching history, as well as panoramic views of Lake Thun and the Bernese Oberland beyond.More


This low mountain just south of Bern draws locals and tourists in search of a break from the city buzz. The 2,808-foot (856-meter summit is home to family-friendly attractions including a playground, a toboggan run, and the 75-foot (23-meter viewing tower, while hikers and bikers can depart on various routes that wind down through the Alpine foothills.More
Kambly Experience

Kambly Experience

Founded in 1910, Kambly has long been one of Switzerland’s most popular biscuit brands. At the Kambly Experience in Trubschachen, sweet-toothed visitors can explore a recreation of the first Kambly bakery, sample the brand’s 100-strong biscuit collection, or get hands-on experience baking and decorating, with kid-friendly classes running twice a week.More
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All about Bern

When to visit

Unless you’re pairing a trip to Bern with a ski trip in the Swiss Alps, it’s worth visiting in the summer as there’s more to do. From late spring to early fall, you can tour the Zytglogge (Clock Tower) and have a better chance of seeing Bern’s bears at the famous Bear Park. You can also experience the city’s swimming culture. Strong swimmers can float down the Aare, propelled by the river’s natural currents, while sun-seekers can bask at one of the outdoor swimming pools—most of which are free.

Getting around

Most of Bern’s biggest tourist attractions are in the compact Old City. For this, you don’t need a car; it’s actually more annoying to have one, with limited parking and a somewhat confusing street layout. If you want to save your legs, the bus and tram system is easy to navigate—just buy your ticket at the automatic machines at each stop. Taxis are readily available, but they’re expensive even for short trips.

Traveler tips

If you speak to a Bern local, you’ll likely hear about their favorite viewpoints: The city has many. Set against the peaks of the Bernese Oberland, Bern itself is a mishmash of sandstone buildings, red-tiled roofs, and historic fountains, all set against a blue-green river. It’s a sight to behold from high up. You can pay to go up the Bern Minster (Berner Münster) and the Zytglogge, or you can visit terraces or parks like the Bundeshausterrasse or the rose garden (Rosengarten) for free.

People Also Ask

Is Bern worth visiting?

Yes, Bern is worth visiting. It attracts fewer tourist crowds than Zürich, which is surprising because this small yet significant Swiss city has lots to offer. Medieval architecture abounds in the Old City streets, quirky shops are spread under covered arcades, and the surrounding mountains and Emmental country villages beckon for day trips nearby.

What is Bern famous for?

While Switzerland has no formal capital city, many see Bern as its de facto capital as it’s home to the Swiss government and parliament. Political credentials aside, the city is also known for some of its famous inhabitants. Albert Einstein, Toblerone chocolate factories, and even brown bears are among Bern’s past-and-present residents.

How do I spend a day in Bern, Switzerland?

Time a visit to the Zytglogge to arrive five minutes before the hour, and you’ll see the clock’s medieval figurines do their hourly dance. Cross the Nydegg bridge (Nydeggbrücke) to see Bern’s bears roaming in the bear pit (Bärengraben), then admire the best views in town from the Rosengarten—ideally with a picnic.

Is one day enough for Bern?

Yes, although Bern’s an important city, it’s also kind of small. A day is enough to see the sights and browse the Old City streets. If you have more time to linger on a summer visit, you could dedicate an extra day to swimming in the Aare River or one of the outdoor pools.

Is Bern walkable?

Yes, Bern is small and easy to explore on foot. If you want more guidance, it’s worth downloading the Swiss Travel Guide app for the city, which suggests a walking route. Or, you can grab a paper city map from the station’s tourist office, located near the Old City and BärenPark.

Which city is better to visit, Bern or Zürich?

It depends. Bern is smaller, and Zürich seems busier and maybe even buzzier in terms of nightlife. On the other hand, both cities have beautiful old towns, a similar mix of sights and culture, and easy transport links. Like all Swiss cities, both are clean, safe, and welcoming to outsiders.


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