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Bern

What's Popular In Bern

  • Currency: Euro(EUR)
  • Language: Deutsch-Switzerland

The first time many visitors see Bern, they are stunned by the beauty of its setting. The capital of Switzerland is built on a sandstone ridge, encircled on three sides by the Aare flowing through a valley. High-level bridges link the city with the high ground on the right bank and with the newer parts of the city. Houses and shops, with their street level arcades and projecting roofs, reflect the prosperity of the citizens of Bern in the 17th and 18th centuries. And this charming character of the well-preserved old town is integrated into the everyday life of the city, causing it to be recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Best Time to Travel

April through September is the best time to go to Bern. Late spring is recommended for long days and good weather. Summer is also a good time to visit Bern--the August temperatures are quite pleasant. July through mid-August is vacation season, so some restaurants may close down for times during the period.

Transportation

The City of Bern has an extensive public transport network with different tram and bus lines.

Tickets for Bern public transport can be bought at machines and in the LIBERO shop at Bern main station. No tickets are sold on buses and trams. In addition to the normal tickets, and the multiple journey tickets, Bernmobil also sells short journey tickets at a more affordable price. The ticket machines at the tram and bus stops show which routes the short journey ticket is valid for.

Overnight visitors don’t need to worry about tickets in Bern. From your first overnight stay in tourist accommodation in the city, you will receive a Bern Ticket for your whole stay. The Bern Ticket also includes the Gurten funicular, the Marzilibahn funicular and the lift to Bern’s cathedral platform, as well as your journey to and from Bern Airport.

On the day you arrive in Bern, your reservation confirmation counts as a transfer ticket from the train station or Bern Airport to where you are staying. You will receive the Bern Ticket when you check in. It is only valid if fully filled in. 

Attractions

The Old Town

The old town of Bern is more than worthy of its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Situated on a cliff surrounded on three sides by the stunning aquamarine waters of the Aare River, the old town has preserved much of its medieval character. The streets are cobbled and bordered by covered, arcade sidewalks that snake on for miles. On the lower levels of the buildings are shops, cafés, bookstores, and restaurants, while the upper floors are apartments.

This old area is where many of the best tourist attractions and things to do are located, including all of the bridges across the Aare, public fountains, old statues, towers, and the famous Clock Tower. Several days can be passed quite happily just strolling around the old town.

Kunstmuseum 

To the west of Waisenhausplatz, on the Hodlerstrasse, is the famed Kunstmuseum (Museum of Art). This massive and impressive art museum is home to more than 51,000 paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, and films. It is the oldest art museum in Switzerland, built in 1879, and holds an international reputation.

The Einstein Museum and the Historical Museum of Bern 

Housed in a 130-year-old Andre-Lambert-designed building based on 15th-century castles, the Historical Museum of Bern combines with the Einstein Museum to form the second largest museum in Switzerland. Displays encompass more than half a million objects dating from the Stone Age through the Celts, Romans, Middle Ages, Napoleonic era, and into the 19th and 20th centuries. Objects from Alpine Stone Age burials are as impressive as 15th-century Flemish tapestries and the famous Königsfelden diptych painted for the King of Hungary.

Clock Tower

The 800-year-old Clock Tower (Zytglogge) is one of the most famous of Bern's landmarks - and is well worth the visit (the clock dates to 1530). Just above the western gate tower in the old section of town, this 23-meter tower is decorated with an immense astronomical clock.

Beginning at just three minutes before every hour, a circus of mechanical creatures (The Fool, The Knight, The Rooster, The Piper, and more) come out to put on a little show. Inside, you can see the popularity of this ancient structure from the 130 worn stone steps. Visitors are welcome to climb to the observation platform, which sports some impressive views. Guided tours are excellent and informative.

Paul Klee Center

German-Swiss painter Paul Klee's work is perhaps some of the most recognizable and famous of all paintings from the first part of the 20th century. Transcending the zeitgeist of his age (surrealism, cubism, abstraction) Klee regularly combined various media into his works. His Writings on Form and Design Theory is considered one of the most important theoretical works on art ever written.

The center contains about 4,000 works by Klee including the famous Dame mit Sonnenschirm (Woman with Parasol), In den Häusern von St. Germain (Houses of St. Germain) and Tod und Feuer (Death and Fire). The building itself is outstanding. Designed by architect Renzo Piano, it takes the form of a rolling, hilly landscape. It is wide and open, light and airy, and a work of art in and of itself.

The Communication Museum

Founded in 1907, this unusual museum offers permanent exhibitions that showcase the history of human communication through the centuries. It comprises everything from sign language and speaking to postal services, the telegraph, telephone, and Internet. This isn't so much a museum about technological advances in communication, but a museum about the relationship between men and how different cultures handle forms of communication.

Interactive displays, games, and workshops make the museum accessible and interesting for both children and adults.

The Bear Park

Since the bear is the symbol of Bern, it's perhaps no surprise that the city has kept bears in a large compound for years. The area around the bears' compound is graced by an array of walking paths, many of which lead down to the river, and an inclined elevator now connects the lower area by the river to the top of the enclosure.

The bears' habitat was modernized in 2009 with the addition of a second, larger green enclosure that connects to the original one through a tunnel. The second enclosure also includes a section of the river, where the bears can safely take a dip when temperatures go up.

What to Do

Climb Higher

One of the best-elevated viewpoints over the old city is from the Rose Garden (the entrance pathway is metres away from the bear pit). A green oasis up high, filled with over 200 types of roses, this area is an idyllic frame over the orange hues of historical brickwork and the dominating river in Bern that feeds it. You can also climb the 222 steps of Bern Münster for a 360 panoramic viewing ledge.

See the Bern Bears 

When you visit Bern, you’ll immediately notice why it is known as the ‘City of Bears’. Bear symbols can be found all around the city on murals, flags, fountain decorations and even on the Zytglogge. It comes from the legend that a bear was the first animal to be killed by the founder of the city from which came the tradition of always having actual bears in the city. There’s a big Bear Park on the riverbank that borders the historic old town, the first of which was documented in 1441. 

Visit Albert Einstein’s City

German-born, Einstein came to Switzerland when he was just 16 years old and continued to study in Bern. He lived here between 1902 and 1909, publishing 32 scientific papers, one of them being the Theory of Relativity and the other being the one for which he was awarded a Noble Peace Prize.
 
Understand Why Bern is the City of Water

Switzerland’s capital is seen as the city of water, with fountains on every avenue and street corner (there are dozens of them!). The river used to run through the city, and if you look hard enough you will still see a small flow that runs through a small channel under the main streets, Kramgasse and Gerechtigkeitgasse.

Swim in the Aare River

The most central water point is the Aare River, a U-shaped playground for locals who float down its fast currents that hug the historical centre. The river in Bern is so special that this treasured activity of ‘urban swimming’ is officially on the UNESCO list of Swiss traditions.