Bern is one of the most beautiful cities of Switzerland. Here you can find the 12 best places to visit in the Swiss Capital.
Text and pictures by Marc Gottwald
Bern is the capital of Switzerland. The federal city ranks top amongst the best cities to live in the world for safety and quality of life. The pace of life here is slower because the locals are regarded as easy going and relaxed despite the fact that Bern serves administrative status.
It is the fourth largest city of Switzerland with more than 144,000 residents. You will immediately fall in love with the city’s beauty, which is set out by medieval buildings, beautiful fountains, the famous Arcade of Bern, the glacial green Aare River and the gaze of the Alps in the horizons.
Thanks to its good location famous tourist places like Interlaken or Grindelwald can be easily reach by train.
I have compiled a list of some of the best 12 places to visit in Bern, Switzerland, just to make the work easier for you.
1. Old Town of Bern, Switzerland
The well preserved and beautiful old town of Bern is easy to explore, and it boasts since 1983 as an UNESCO World Heritage site. “Bern Switzerland” was founded in 1191, ravaged by fire in 1405, rebuilt, and has remained intact ever since.
This makes Bern to one of the most well-preserved medieval cities in the world. You cannot have enough of the city within a day because there are so many beautiful places to visit. The old town with its shops and medieval buildings is a highlight. Particularly worth seeing are the cellars underground, where hidden shops and restaurants can be found.
2. Bundeshaus – the goverment building of Switzerland is in Bern
The “Bundeshaus” is the Swiss Federal Parliament built from 1894 to 1902. It features a large dome in the middle and two other domes on the western and eastern sides. The two wings are the house of the government’s department and library. By the way, did you know that Switzerland has one of the first democracies in the world?
There are many things to see outside the building. One of the most beautiful places in Bern Switzerland is the Bundeshausplatz. Here you can comfortably watch the fountains together with the Bundeshaus. Sometimes there are even concerts, ice skating or in the winter time a spectacular light show, which should not be missed. https://www.rendezvousbundesplatz.ch/en/ Indeed, each year is a different topic. The show is extremely popular among the people of Bern.
Visitors who want to get to the parliament building can use a tram, train, or bus. Note that it is not easy to see the government inside.
“Zytglogge” or clock tower is a medieval tower built in the 13th century. It served as a clock tower, prison, guard tower, civic memorial, and a place of urban life. Zytglogge has a lot of history hidden on the clock’s wall. Moreover, the inside environment brings a feeling of medieval time.
Visitors get the chance to see the features of the old clock which was built in 1530. Besides that, you will not miss learning the interesting roles of the clock tower. There is an astronomical calendar clock that features crafted bodies, moving discs, and clock hands moving at a slow rate. The tour ends by climbing the monument to see the beautiful landscape.
If you just want to see the “Zytglogge” from outside, that is totally fine and as well a great experience. Every hour you will see a little concert outside the tower. For every Swiss and tourist a photo of the “Zytglogge” is a must.
4. Kleine Schanze
The Kleine Schanze is located right next to Bern railway station and the Bundeshaus. A while ago, the site served as a bulwark for the city’s fortifications. In the 19th century, the Kleine Schanze was changed into a park.
For me it is one of the most beautiful places in Bern. Not only you do have an unobstructed view over the Bundeshaus and the Bernese Alps or the Gurten. There’s a charming buvette in the park where you can enjoy a delicious meal or drink.
The proximity to the railway station of Bern makes the place easy to visit. For your city tour, you can perfectly combine this place with the Marzili and the Bundeshaus. A tip: In spring, beautiful flowers are planted in the park, making it even greater to linger.
5. Farmers Markets in Bern – a highlight in the capital of Switzerland
The farmers markets (or “Märit”) in Bern have a long tradition and are still very important to the city. Markets are held every Tuesday and Saturday at various locations in Bern. For example, on Bundesplatz, Bärenplatz and Waisenhausplatz. Or on Bundesgasse, Gurtengasse or Münstergasse.
However, between April and October, there is also a market on Waisenhausplatz every Thursday.
Regional and seasonal is the motto. This also makes sense, as the city of Bern is surrounded by rural regions. Furthermore, markets that only take place once a year can also be found here. For example, the wild plant market, the geranium market, the prospecierara market, the bread market, and so on.
The list is really long and an absolute highlight for locals and tourists as well. For detailed information, please click here.
Not far from the Münsterplatz is a beautiful insider tip: the Fricktreppe. The stairs leads from Bern’s Old Town to the Aare. What makes this staircase special is that it is made of wood and has a roof. You come out at Badgasse, which is also a highlight thanks to the old terraced houses.
But you can decide whether you want to walk towards Bärengraben and Rosengarten or towards Marzili.
7. Cafe Einstein
Einstein cafe is among the most popular cafes in Bern. It is located in the heart of the old town. The cafe is a house where Einstein used to live. This ancient house has an attractive environment that is ideal for meeting with friends and family.
It offers affordable prices for cakes, salads, cooked soup, pies, wine, beer, pancakes, croissants, different pantries, and a wide choice of coffee, lunch, and evening drinks.
Nonetheless, also has an Einstein museum to learn about past events. You can visit the place at any time of the week during the opening hours (10-17 o’ clock) except on Sunday.
After the visit of “Einstein Café” or the museum you definitively feel a bit smarter 😀
8. Rosengarten – the best view of to Bern
Do you love roses? Do you love great views? Then you have to see the “Rosengarten Bern”. Rosengarten is a garden with hundreds of different roses located a few hundred meters from the well-known Bear Park in Bern. It lies on a hill giving a beautiful view over the old town.
Rosengarten features various types of roses that bloom at certain seasons. There are shades for family picnics and a playground for kids and a lot of benches to relax and enjoying the view. Rosengarten walking paths are friendly for patients with disabilities and families with prams. During the summer you will have a lot of people in the park enjoying the view, laughing together and drinking some wine.
The place itself has a restaurant located in the middle of the garden. It offers a wide selection of cuisines at reasonable prices. Rosengarten is a great location to celebrate a special occasion with the loved ones.
9. Freibad Marzili
Freibad Marzili is a perfect place to be during summertime. It is located along River Aare and 300 meters from the “Bundeshaus Bern”. Marzili is suitable for people of all ages. The interesting thing is that you can enjoy low-cost activities like swimming in River Aare. However, it is more for good swimmers because of the strong currents. An alternative place to swim is in the different swimming pool (kids pool and swimmer pool)
There are even volleyball courts nearby. Furthermore, the area has a restaurant for snacks, meals, and drinks. People with limited mobility can access the area with a wheelchair. Do not miss to enjoy local customs because there are no entry charges.
Besides, you will find the famous gelateria di Berna across the street and enjoy delicious ice creams. It is called the best ice cream of Bern Switzerland. And that is no joke, in summer you have to wait sometimes 30 minutes to get your ice cream.
But it’s really good and the gelateria has besides some normal varieties also some very special limited creations. All is hand-made and as far as possible with local ingredients.
10. Gurten – one of the most beautiful Switzerland mountain views in Bern
Gurten is a local mountain located on the south of Bern and lies 858 meters above sea level. It is an ideal place for nature enthusiasts in Switzerland. The breathtaking views over River Aare, the old city of Bern, and the snowy landscape makes it feel like a paradise. A person can reach the top of the mountain by foot, bike, or funicular.
Sports lovers can enjoy several activities in the area. For instance, biking, hiking, running on trails, sledding, and the kids can even ski in winter for only 5 CHF per day. There are various activities for kids such as playing on water fountains, climbing dragons, tobogganing run, playing on giant ball bath, climb tunnels, riding small car and trains. In addition, Gurten festivals take place during summer.
The Gurten has a restaurant which belongs to the supermarket chain “Migros”. You can eat there great lunch for fair prices. On Sunday they have between 10am and 2pm a nice brunch.
What I love so much is to rent a bike in the city (you can do that for free at the railway station for 4 hours) and then driving on the Gurten mountain chain and back to Bern. It’s a feeling of freedom and shows the spirit of this region – to enjoy and living the life.
11. Münsterplattform – the most beautiful park in Bern
Münsterplattform is beautiful park in the heart of the old town and next to the large cathedral called “Münster”. It is a popular meeting area with spectacular views on mountain peaks and the Aare. With a little luck, there are very spectacular sunsets here.
Many events take place around the cathedral. Creative sellers display their crafted products every first Saturday of the month. You will also find street music celebration with artists from Switzerland and all over the world. Locals and visitors can find a picnic spot to relax under the trees.
If you want to visit the Münster next to the “Münsterplattform”, then you can go up the stairs and access the highest points of the tower to see Bern from above. Internal and exterior architecture gives an experience of history.
Bärengraben, also known as a bear pit, is an attraction site situated on the east side of Bern Switzerland very close to the famous Rosengarten. It is a national heritage of the country and part of the court of arms. Bern has been a home of bears since 1513. In 2009, a new spacious housing was built to facilitate the growing number of bears.
Visitors are taken to the new and old bear pits. They are able to see bear baths in the Aare and their caves. Guest can book tours and learn history about the bear pit. The facility is friendly for wheelchair patients and families with prams.
At Bärengraben there is also a restaurant, so if you are hungry, you can enjoy a great menu.
Final thoughts about Bern Switzerland
Bern is by far my favorite bigger city of Switzerland. The intact townscape with the medieval houses and the attention to detail makes Bern Switzerland a city you just have to love. With the Bundeshaus, the Marzili, the “Rose Garden”, the Bear Pit and much more, Bern has so much to offer.
An interesting fact about the attraction sites is that they are few meters away from each other. To add to that, the old city has a great public transportation system to see the attractions without hiking kilometers. You will also find luxury hotels, mid-range and budget hotels to stay.