Bern, the capital city of Switzerland, is nestled in the heart of the country, on the banks of the Aare River. With its rich history, stunning architecture, and vibrant cultural scene, Bern attracts visitors from around the world. Bern covers an area of approximately 52 square kilometers (20 square miles) and has a population of around 140,000 residents. Despite being the capital, Bern maintains a charming and relaxed atmosphere, offering a perfect blend of urban amenities and natural beauty.
The city’s most prominent feature is its well-preserved medieval Old Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Beyond the Old Town, Bern offers a wealth of cultural experiences, including museums, theaters, and galleries.
Bern’s commitment to sustainability is evident through its green spaces, such as the Rose Garden (Rosengarten) and the Gurten, a local mountain offering panoramic views and outdoor activities. The city’s efficient public transportation system, which includes trams and buses, makes it easy to navigate and encourages sustainable travel.
With its central location, Bern serves as an ideal base for exploring other Swiss destinations, including the nearby Bernese Oberland region and its picturesque mountain landscapes. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the top things to do and see in Bern while keeping sustainability and responsible travel practices in mind.
Things to Do and See in Bern, Switzerland
1. Discover the Old Town:
Begin your exploration in Bern’s Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site and a true architectural gem. The medieval cobblestone streets, well-preserved sandstone buildings, and lively squares will transport you back in time. Take a leisurely stroll through the narrow alleys, and there are several spots to stop by where you can observe this history.
• The Zytglogge (Clock Tower)
The Zytglogge, also known as the Clock Tower, is an iconic landmark. This medieval clock tower dates back to the 13th century and serves as a symbol of the city’s rich history. With its ornate astronomical clock, decorative figurines, and hourly performances, the Zytglogge is a fascinating attraction to visit. It not only tells the time but also offers a glimpse into the craftsmanship and engineering of the past.
• Bern’s Minster (The Cathedral of Bern)
Bern’s Minster, also known as the Cathedral of Bern, is a magnificent architectural masterpiece. This towering cathedral, with its stunning Gothic design, is a significant religious and cultural symbol in Bern. The Minster boasts impressive features such as intricate stained glass windows, a tall bell tower, and a breathtaking view from its platform. With the highest church spire in all of Switzerland, the Bernese Minster offers a unique opportunity to admire panoramic vistas of the city and its surrounding landscapes. Visitors can explore the interior, appreciate the intricate craftsmanship, and soak in the serene atmosphere of this historic place of worship.
• Fountains and Statues
As the city of fountains, Bern’s old town alone boasts over 100 public fountains, making it a unique feature of the city’s landscape. These fountains are not only functional sources of drinking water but also serve as artistic and historical treasures. Each fountain is intricately designed, showcasing various sculptures and motifs that depict different stories and characters from Bern’s rich history and folklore. From the iconic Kindlifresserbrunnen (Child Eater Fountain) to the whimsical Zähringerbrunnen (Zähringen Fountain), these fountains provide a delightful backdrop for leisurely strolls through the old town. Discovering and admiring the remarkable craftsmanship and cultural significance of Bern’s fountains is an essential part of experiencing the city’s charm and heritage.
• Einsteinhaus Bern (Einstein House)
Einsteinhaus Bern was once the residence of renowned physicist Albert Einstein during his time in the city from 1903 to 1905. The museum provides visitors with a unique opportunity to explore the living quarters where Einstein resided and worked during his groundbreaking years. Inside the house, you can immerse yourself in the atmosphere of Einstein’s life, discover his personal belongings, and learn about his scientific achievements. The exhibits and displays offer insights into his revolutionary ideas that shaped modern physics. For enthusiasts of science and history, a visit to Einsteinhaus Bern offers a captivating glimpse into the life and mind of one of the greatest scientific geniuses of all time.
• The Käfigturm
The Käfigturm, or the Prison Tower, was originally constructed as part of the city’s fortifications in the 13th century. The tower served various purposes over the centuries, including as a prison and a guard tower. Today, the Käfigturm stands as a cultural center and museum, offering visitors a chance to delve into Bern’s past. The museum showcases exhibits that highlight the tower’s history, including its role as a prison and its connections to the city’s political and social developments. Climbing to the top of the tower rewards visitors with panoramic views of Bern’s skyline and surrounding landscapes.
• Bärengraben (Bear pit)
The Bärengraben, also known as the Bear Pit, is a unique and historical attraction located at the end of the Old Town, it has been home to bears since the 16th century. Originally designed as a defensive feature, the Bärengraben has transformed into a popular tourist site. The enclosure provides a natural habitat for the bears, allowing visitors to observe these magnificent animals up close. The Bärengraben offers a glimpse into Bern’s cultural heritage and the longstanding tradition of keeping bears as the city’s symbol. It serves as a reminder of the deep connection between Bern and its beloved bears.
• Nydeggbrücke and Untertorbrücke
Visitors to Bern are highly recommended to take a leisurely stroll along the river and admire two iconic bridges, Nydeggbrücke and Untertorbrücke, located at the end of the UNESCO-listed Old Town. Nydeggbrücke, with its elegant arches and stone construction, offers breathtaking views of the Aare River and the surrounding cityscape. Walking across Nydeggbrücke allows visitors to appreciate the harmonious blend of nature and architecture that Bern has to offer. Untertorbrücke, on the other hand, is the oldest surviving bridge in Bern, dating back to the 15th century. With its charming wooden structure and picturesque setting, it provides a sense of stepping back in time.
2. Immerse in Bern’s Museums:
Bern is home to several exceptional museums that offer insights into Swiss history, art, and culture, and many of these museums actively promote sustainability and ecological practices, further enriching your responsible travel experience.
• The Bern Historical Museum: Einstein Museum
The Bern Historical Museum, which includes the Einstein Museum, is a remarkable institution that offers a comprehensive overview of the city’s past. This museum is a treasure trove of historical artifacts, artworks, and exhibits that span various periods and themes. The Einstein Museum, a dedicated section within the museum, focuses on the life and achievements of the renowned physicist Albert Einstein, who resided in Bern during a pivotal time in his career. Visitors to the Bern Historical Museum can delve into the city’s rich history, from its prehistoric origins to its medieval heritage and beyond.
• The Zentrum Paul Klee
The Zentrum Paul Klee is a remarkable museum in Bern, dedicated to showcasing the works of the renowned Swiss artist Paul Klee. The museum houses an extensive collection of Klee’s paintings, drawings, and sculptures, providing a comprehensive overview of his artistic journey and creative genius. With its modern and spacious exhibition spaces, the Zentrum Paul Klee offers visitors a chance to immerse themselves in Klee’s innovative and diverse body of work. From his abstract compositions to whimsical figurative pieces, the museum provides a captivating exploration of Klee’s artistic evolution and his unique visual language.
• The Museum of Communication and
For individuals with a passion for science and a thirst for knowledge, the Museum of Communication offers a captivating exploration of the evolution and impact of communication technologies throughout history. Visitors can engage with interactive exhibits, learn about the development of postal services, telephones, and the internet, and gain insights into how communication has shaped society.o Bern.
• The Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum presents a diverse array of exhibits, including fossils, minerals, and animal specimens, catering to the curiosity of nature lovers and those intrigued by the Earth’s geological and biological wonders.
3. Experience Bern’s Green Spaces:
As a responsible traveler, exploring Bern’s abundant green spaces is a delightful way to connect with nature while contributing to its preservation.
• The Rose Garden (Rosengarten)
The Rose Garden, also known as Rosengarten, is situated on a hilltop near the Old Town, it offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city’s historic skyline, the Aare River, and the distant Swiss Alps. The main highlight of the Rose Garden is its stunning collection of over 200 varieties of roses, which bloom vibrantly during the summer months, filling the air with their delightful fragrance. Visitors can take leisurely walks along the garden’s winding paths, relax on the benches, and admire the meticulously manicured flower beds.
• The Gurten
The Gurten is a popular recreational area and hill located just outside of Bern. Rising to an elevation of 858 meters, it offers stunning panoramic views of the city and the surrounding countryside. The Gurten is a haven for nature enthusiasts and outdoor lovers, providing numerous hiking trails, picnic spots, and open meadows to relax and soak in the serene atmosphere. Adventure seekers can enjoy activities such as zip-lining and miniature railway rides. The hill is also home to a charming park with playgrounds, a summer toboggan run, and even a panoramic restaurant where visitors can indulge in delicious Swiss cuisine while savoring the breathtaking vistas.
4. Swiss Parliament Building Bern
The Swiss Parliament Building, is a magnificent architectural landmark and the seat of the Swiss Federal Assembly. This imposing structure stands as a symbol of Switzerland’s democratic governance and political system. The building’s design showcases a harmonious blend of neoclassical and Renaissance Revival styles, featuring grand facades, ornate columns, and intricate detailing. Inside, the Parliament Building houses the National Council and the Council of States, where the country’s federal laws are debated and enacted. Visitors can take guided tours to explore the interior, including the assembly halls, committee rooms, and the famous Federal Council Chamber.
5. Support Sustainable Cuisine:
Bern boasts a thriving culinary scene, with numerous restaurants and eateries offering a variety of local and international cuisines. As a responsible traveler, prioritize establishments that focus on sustainability and local sourcing. Indulge in traditional Swiss dishes prepared with organic, locally grown ingredients. Look for restaurants that prioritize sustainable seafood options and reduce food waste. Engage in the farm-to-table concept by visiting farmers’ markets and discovering the regional flavors firsthand.
• Restaurant Kornhauskeller:
Located in a historic building, this restaurant focuses on seasonal and locally sourced ingredients. They prioritize sustainable practices and offer a menu that highlights traditional Swiss dishes with a modern twist. Restaurant Website
• Restaurant Rosengarten:
Situated in the beautiful Rose Garden, this restaurant offers panoramic views of Bern along with a commitment to sustainability. They serve a mix of Swiss and international dishes, incorporating organic and regional ingredients whenever possible. Restaurant Website
• Provisorium 46:
Restaurant Provisorium 46 is a charming and cozy dining establishment. The restaurant prides itself on offering a menu that showcases the best of Swiss cuisine, prepared with a modern twist. They prioritize sustainability by sourcing ingredients from local suppliers and farmers, ensuring the freshest and highest quality produce. Restaurant Website
• Restaurant Altes Tramdepot:
This brewery and restaurant is committed to sustainability and offers a variety of dishes made with locally sourced ingredients. They are known for their craft beers and traditional Swiss cuisine, providing a unique dining experience in a historical setting. Restaurant Website
• Restaurant Lötschberg:
The restaurant sources its ingredients from local farms and suppliers, ensuring freshness and supporting the local economy. Their menu features a blend of traditional Swiss dishes and international flavors, all prepared with a focus on sustainability and quality. Restaurant Website
Remember to support local businesses by shopping at independent boutiques and tasting delicious Swiss treats from small, family-owned cafes.
What is the best season to visit Bern?
Bern is a city that offers distinct experiences throughout the year, each season showcasing its own charm. The best time to visit depends on your preferences and the activities you wish to engage in.
• Spring (March to May):
Spring brings mild temperatures and blossoming landscapes to Bern. The city is adorned with colorful flowers, and the parks and gardens come to life. It’s a great time to explore the Old Town, visit museums, and enjoy outdoor activities without the crowds. However, be prepared for occasional rain showers during this season.
• Summer (June to August):
Summer in Bern is warm and pleasant, with average temperatures ranging from 20°C to 25°C (68°F to 77°F). The city is vibrant and bustling, with outdoor cafes, street performances, and lively festivals. It’s an ideal time for exploring the green spaces, taking boat rides on the Aare River, and enjoying open-air events. Do note that summer is the peak tourist season, so popular attractions can be crowded.
• Autumn (September to November):
Autumn in Bern brings cooler temperatures and stunning foliage as the trees transform into shades of red, orange, and gold. The city has a tranquil atmosphere, making it a great time to explore the Old Town and visit museums. Autumn is also harvest season, and you can experience farmers’ markets and taste seasonal delights. It’s a quieter time to visit, with fewer tourists.
• Winter (December to February):
Winter in Bern is a magical time, especially during the holiday season. The city is adorned with festive decorations, and Christmas markets create a cozy ambiance. If you enjoy winter sports, nearby ski resorts offer opportunities for skiing, snowboarding, and sledding. Winter also allows you to experience Bern’s indoor attractions, such as museums and theaters. Be prepared for colder temperatures, and note that some outdoor attractions may have limited accessibility.
The best season to visit Bern depends on your preferences. Summer offers lively events and outdoor activities, while spring and autumn provide milder weather and fewer crowds. Winter showcases a festive atmosphere and the opportunity for winter sports. Consider your interests and desired experiences to choose the season that aligns with your travel preferences.
How Many Days in Bern, Switzerland?
The number of days you should spend in Bern, Switzerland, depends on various factors, including your travel preferences, the activities you plan to do, and the time you have available. However, a recommended duration for exploring Bern and experiencing its highlights is around 2 to 3 days. This timeframe allows you to immerse yourself in the city’s charming Old Town, visit key attractions, sample local cuisine, and soak in the Bernese ambiance.
With two days, you can explore the historic Old Town, visit landmarks such as the Bern Cathedral and the Zytglogge Clock Tower, and wander through the picturesque streets. You’ll have time to delve into museums, such as the Bern Historical Museum or Zentrum Paul Klee, to learn more about the city’s history and culture. Additionally, you can enjoy Bern’s green spaces, like the Rose Garden, and take a leisurely walk along the Aare River.
If you have an extra day, you can further delve into Bern’s offerings or consider day trips to nearby attractions. You might explore more museums, discover hidden gems in the city, or venture into the Bernese Oberland region to witness breathtaking mountain scenery in places like Interlaken or Grindelwald.
How to travel in Bern sustainably?
Traveling sustainably in Bern is both easy and rewarding. Here are some tips to help you explore the city while minimizing your environmental impact:
• Public Transportation:
Bern has an efficient public transportation system, including trams and buses, that covers the entire city. Utilize these modes of transport to get around instead of relying on private cars or taxis. The Swiss Travel Pass offers unlimited travel on public transport and can be a cost-effective option for tourists.
Bern is a bicycle-friendly city with well-maintained cycling paths. Rent a bike from one of the many rental shops available and pedal your way through the city. Not only is cycling a sustainable mode of transportation, but it also allows you to explore the city at your own pace and discover hidden gems.
Bern’s compact size and pedestrian-friendly layout make it ideal for exploring on foot. Most of the city’s attractions, including the Old Town, are within walking distance. Take leisurely strolls through the charming streets, enjoy the picturesque views, and immerse yourself in the city’s ambiance.
• Electric Mobility:
Bern has embraced electric mobility as a sustainable transportation option. Consider renting an electric scooter or e-bike to navigate the city. These vehicles are eco-friendly and provide a fun and efficient way to get around.
If you need a car for specific purposes, consider using a car-sharing service. Car-sharing companies in Bern offer electric and hybrid vehicles that minimize emissions. Use these services when necessary, but opt for public transportation or alternative modes of transport for shorter distances.
• Pack Light:
When traveling to Bern, pack light to reduce the weight of your luggage. This not only makes your journey more comfortable but also helps lower fuel consumption, particularly if you’re traveling by air or using public transport.
• Choose Sustainable Accommodation:
Look for accommodations in Bern that prioritize sustainability. Many hotels and guesthouses have implemented eco-friendly practices such as energy conservation, waste reduction, and the use of organic and locally sourced products. Consider staying in environmentally certified accommodations or those with sustainability initiatives in place.
Related article: How to Find a Green Hotel?
• Support Local and Sustainable Dining:
Choose restaurants and cafes that prioritize local and sustainable ingredients. Look for establishments that focus on organic, farm-to-table, or vegetarian/vegan options. By supporting these businesses, you contribute to the local economy and encourage sustainable food practices.
• Reduce Waste:
Carry a reusable water bottle, shopping bag, and utensils with you to minimize waste. Bern has drinking fountains throughout the city where you can refill your bottle with clean and fresh water. Avoid single-use plastic items and dispose of waste responsibly in designated recycling bins.
• Respect Nature and Wildlife:
Bern is surrounded by stunning natural landscapes. When exploring parks, gardens, or nature reserves, follow designated trails, avoid disturbing wildlife, and adhere to any guidelines or rules in place to protect the environment. Leave no trace and maintain the pristine beauty of Bern’s natural surroundings.
By adopting these sustainable travel practices, you can explore Bern responsibly, minimize your carbon footprint, and contribute to the preservation of this beautiful city and its surroundings.
Green Hotel in Bern, Switzerland
Bellevue Palace offers a luxurious and eco-friendly escape for discerning travelers. As a prestigious five-star hotel, Bellevue Palace sets the standard for sustainability in the hospitality industry. The hotel’s commitment to environmental responsibility is evident in its various eco-certifications, which recognize its efforts to minimize its carbon footprint. From the implementation of energy-efficient systems to the meticulous management of waste, Bellevue Palace seamlessly blends sustainability with the epitome of luxury and comfort. Guests can indulge in the finest accommodations adorned with elegant decor, experience impeccable service tailored to their every need, and be captivated by the breathtaking views of Bern’s iconic landmarks.
Hotel Schweizerhof Bern & THE SPA
Exuding luxury and sustainability in equal measure, Hotel Schweizerhof Bern & THE SPA offers a truly indulgent and eco-conscious retreat. As a four-star luxury hotel, it has gone the extra mile to earn its eco-certifications, solidifying its dedication to sustainable practices. The hotel’s commitment to energy conservation is evident in its implementation of energy-saving measures throughout the property. From efficient lighting systems to eco-friendly products, every detail has been carefully considered to minimize environmental impact.
Hotel Schweizerhof Bern takes pride in supporting local suppliers, ensuring that guests can savor the finest regional produce during their stay. Elegant and comfortable rooms provide a sanctuary of relaxation, while the exceptional service ensures every need is met with care and attention. As a highlight, guests can indulge in the ultimate wellness experience at THE SPA, where holistic treatments rejuvenate the body and mind. With its central location, luxurious amenities, and unwavering commitment to sustainability, Hotel Schweizerhof Bern & THE SPA promises an unforgettable and eco-conscious stay for the discerning traveler.
Hotel Sternen Muri
Tucked away in the picturesque outskirts of Bern, Hotel Sternen Muri is a delightful four-star eco-certified hotel that invites guests into a world of sustainable comfort. The hotel exudes a warm and welcoming atmosphere, blending sustainability seamlessly into its operations. Energy conservation measures are a priority, with efficient lighting and heating systems in place to minimize environmental impact. Waste management practices ensure responsible disposal and recycling, further contributing to their eco-friendly ethos.
Guests can unwind in comfortable rooms that provide a serene retreat after a day of exploring Bern’s attractions. The personalized service and attention to detail create a sense of home away from home. As guests relax in the tranquil ambiance, they can take comfort in the knowledge that Hotel Sternen Muri maintains its commitment to sustainability throughout every aspect of their stay. Offering affordability without compromising on eco-conscious values, Hotel Sternen Muri provides a haven for conscious travelers seeking a sustainable and comfortable experience.
Hotel Savoy Bern
Hotel Savoy Bern is a four-star eco-certified hotel that seamlessly blends sustainability with affordability. The hotel takes pride in its green practices, implementing energy-efficient lighting throughout the property to minimize energy consumption. Waste reduction initiatives are in place, ensuring responsible management of resources and promoting recycling. Eco-friendly cleaning products are utilized, further contributing to the hotel’s commitment to environmental responsibility. Guests can look forward to comfortable rooms that provide a restful haven after a day of exploration.
The friendly and attentive service adds a personal touch to the stay, making guests feel right at home. With its convenient location near the train station, guests can easily access the city’s attractions and embark on sustainable adventures. Hotel Savoy Bern offers a budget-friendly option for conscious travelers, providing a sustainable and comfortable haven where eco-conscious values are upheld without compromising on affordability or quality.
Situated in a serene and tranquil area of Bern, Hotel Landhaus is a 3-star eco-certified hotel that provides a peaceful and eco-friendly retreat for sustainable travelers. The hotel goes above and beyond to incorporate sustainable practices into its daily operations. Energy-saving measures are implemented throughout the property, ensuring minimal energy consumption without compromising guest comfort. Waste reduction initiatives are also in place to promote responsible waste management. What sets Hotel Landhaus apart is its dedication to supporting the local community and environment.
The hotel takes pride in using locally sourced and organic products, allowing guests to savor a delicious breakfast made with fresh regional ingredients. As guests relax in the cozy rooms, they can fully appreciate the hotel’s commitment to environmental responsibility and sustainability.
Bern offers an array of attractions and experiences for responsible travelers seeking to immerse themselves in the rich culture and history of Switzerland. By following the suggestions in this guide, you can ensure that your visit to Bern is not only memorable but also sustainable. From exploring the Old Town’s architectural wonders to embracing the city’s green spaces, engaging in responsible shopping, and supporting sustainable dining options
Hotel Photos Credit: All hotels images courtesy of Nananai World’s affiliate partner booking.com
Thank you for your support
Times are tough for all of us, and a few people have asked how they can help. Luckily, there is a way you can support us to grow as a single-parent family! I am an affiliate, meaning if you click on one of my links and purchase from that site, they will pay me a small commission without affecting your price. Next time, if you’re shopping online, please consider using links and banners in the blog to complete your purchase; we will greatly appreciate it.