Tourist’s guide to Bern, the capital of Switzerland

Bern (Switzerland) is a typical medieval city, the bear is a symbol of it. This strong beast is a universal favorite, a park and a street are named in his honor, and the city clock is decorated with a picture of a forest resident. Even the gingerbread cookies in Bern are baked with the image of a brown predator. In the city zoo bears live, all tourists come to visit. To feel sympathy for this small city in Switzerland, it is enough to walk along its old streets, which, as if frozen in the 13th century, breathe in the scent of roses and feel the grandeur of castles. If you are planning a trip, be sure to read our article and find out what to see in Bern.

Bern city

Photo: Bern (Switzerland)

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general information

The city of Bern in Switzerland, the administrative center of the canton of the same name and the main city of the Bern-Mittelland district, is located in the center of the country. The origin and character of Bern is German, but its culture has been shaped for many centuries under the influence of many European cultures. Today, Bern is an old city museum and at the same time a modern city that has become a symbol of active political life.

Bern, Aare River

Bern is a settlement of federal significance, occupies an area of ​​51.6 km2, where a little more than 131.5 thousand people live. The capital of the canton is located on the banks of the river Aare. Officially, there is no capital in the country, but there is a parliament, a government and a national bank in the city, therefore it is generally accepted that the capital of Switzerland is Bern.

Good to know! In Bern are the main office of the Universal Postal Union, the headquarters of the national railway.

The official foundation date is considered to be 1191, its walls were erected at the direction of the Duke of Tseringensky Bertold V. For two centuries, Berne was considered an imperial city, only in the 14th century joined the Swiss Union.

Oriented in the city

The old city of Bern is erected in the bend of Aare and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The largest number of interesting architectural and historical places is concentrated here.

View of the old town of Bern

Good to know! At the beginning of the 15th century, the city was almost destroyed by fire, most of the wooden buildings burned down completely. The new settlement was rebuilt from stone.

Visually, the historical center resembles a horseshoe in shape

In the ancient part of the capital, numerous sights are preserved – ancient fountains and arcades, a temple of late Gothic architecture, a clock tower. Visually, the historical center resembles in shape a horseshoe formed by the Aare River. The capital is located on two levels. You can go to the lower level by elevator or stairs. Here, locals love to walk along the river. Most attractions are located on the Upper level.

Interesting fact! In the UNESCO catalog, the Swiss city of Bern is included in the list of the world’s largest assets.

Bern walk

Bernes in Switzerland add romance to fountains, palaces to luxury, temples to grandeur, gardens and parks to harmony. In addition, the city has many museums and galleries, and the arcades that cover the ancient streets form the longest shopping area in the world. Bern’s unique atmosphere is complemented by numerous restaurants, cafes and cellars.

Old city
View from Munster to the old city of Bern

Alterburn or the Old Town – the buildings and streets of this part of Bern are untouched by time. Walking here, it will not be difficult to imagine yourself in the old town, at a knightly tournament or court ball.

The most interesting sights of the capital are located in the ancient center – the Cathedral, fountains, Clock Tower. Here you can enjoy a leisurely vacation, strolling through the medieval streets, on the way to enjoy sweets that are prepared in pastry shops.

Bertold V Statue
Berthold V

An excursion into history! Bern is the first settlement in Switzerland, it was he who was built first and the country began to develop from here. At the end of the 12th century, Duke Bertold V decided to name the settlement in honor of the predator, who was the first to meet on the hunt. By happy coincidence, the duke met a bear, it was this predator that became the symbol of Bern. By the way, from a geographical point of view, the capital of the canton is in an invulnerable place – on top of a hill, which is surrounded by a river. After 200 years, a castle towered on the hill, surrounded by a fortress wall, and a bridge was erected.

What to see in Bern in its old part:

  • a cathedral decorated in Gothic style, the statues of which reliably depict the scenes of the Last Judgment;
  • Clock Tower in Bern
    Clock tower
  • Clock Tower – traditional and astronomical clocks are installed on it, looking at the tower, you can find out the exact time, day of the week, moon phase and even the zodiac sign;
  • Niedegg Temple, dating from the 14th century, and built on the site of the first construction of the capital – Nidegg Castle;
  • the bridge near the Lower Gate is the oldest in Switzerland, built in the 13th century and until the 19th century connected the old part of the city with the coastal one, the modern version of the bridge consists of three arches 15 meters long each.

Good to know! The romantic “highlight” of the old part of Bern – numerous fountains – in honor of the symbol of the city, “Samson and Moses”, “Standard Bearer”, “Justice”.

Mount Gurten
View from Mount Gurten

Locals jokingly call the landmark “personal” Mount Berne. It rises south from Bern. From a height of almost 865 meters, you can enjoy views of the entire city, you can admire the Jura mountains and even alpine ridges. On the slopes of the mountain everything is provided for an exciting family vacation – a hotel, restaurants and cafes, an observation deck, and even a kindergarten. For local residents, Gurten is a green oasis where families come to relax and spend a day off. The park has more than 20 attractions, there is a climbing area and many fountains.

Important! In the middle of summer, a noisy festival is held here, and in winter the slopes turn into a comfortable ski resort.

Gurten Funicular
  • Climb to the top of the mountain by funicular, built in 1899.
  • Round trip fare 10.5 CHF.
  • Tram number 9 or S3 train follows to the first station.
Rose garden
Restaurant "Rosengarten"
Rosengarten

The many historical and architectural sights of Bern in Switzerland can be a little tiring. In this case, give yourself aesthetic pleasure – visit the rose garden, where you can breathe clean air and eat in the most famous Bernese restaurant “Rosengarten”.

Interesting fact! Previously, the city cemetery was located on the site of the garden, and the park appeared only in 1913.

Rose Garden in Bern

220 varieties of roses, more than 200 varieties of irises and almost three dozen varieties of rhododendrons are grown in the garden.

  • Attraction located at: Alter Aargauerstalden 31b.
  • You can get here from the station by bus number 10, the stop is called “Rosengarten”.
Cathedral

The main city cathedral rises above the old part of Bern and is a building of the late Gothic period. The spire of the temple is the longest in Switzerland – 100 meters. Interesting sights of the temple:

Berne Cathedral
Last Judgment in Bas-Reliefs
  • bas-reliefs depicting scenes of the Last Judgment;
  • artfully carved choirs;
  • stained-glass windows depicting the painting “Dance of Death”;
  • the bell weighing 10 tons is the largest in Switzerland.

Opening hours of the temple and bell tower

WeekdaysCathedralTower
In winterFrom 23.10 to 30.0312-00-16-0012-00-15-30
SummerFrom 02.04 to 19.1010-00-17-0010-00-16-30
SaturdayCathedralTower
In winterFrom 28.10 to 24.0310-00-17-0010-00-16-30
SummerFrom March 31 to October 2010-00-17-0010-00-16-30
SundayCathedralTower
In winterFrom 30.10 to 24.0311-30-16-0011-30-15-30
SummerFrom 01.04 to 21.1011-30-17-0011-30-16-30
  • Entrance to the temple is free .
  • Climbing the bell tower costs 4 CHF.
  • The cost of an audio guide lasting 35 minutes 5 CHF.
Federal Palace and Main Square

The Bundesplatz is the busiest place in Bern, life here is in full swing day and night. The square hosts numerous cultural events and special events.

View of the fountains in the Bundesplatz

The main attraction of the square is the Federal Palace, built in the style of the Florentine revival. The palace is located on the border of two levels of Bern – Upper and Lower. Before entering the summer include playing fountains – 26 pieces by the number of cantons in the country.

Federal Palace Bern
Federal palace
 

Other attractions of the main square:

  • Cantonal Bank – a 19th-century building decorated with statues of prominent people;
  • a market organized directly in the open air, twice a week you can buy everything from food to souvenirs;
  • onion festival – held every year in the second half of November.

You can get to the square by bus number 10 and 19, the stop is called “Bundesplatz”.

Interesting places of the Federal Palace:

Dome of the Federal Palace
  • the lobby is adorned with a massive staircase, a sculpture of the three founders of the country and, of course, a sculpture of bears held by the coat of arms;
  • the central hall is covered with a domed roof with a diameter of 33 meters, which is decorated with stained-glass windows, statues of national heroes are installed here;
  • the hall of the Federal Council is decorated with carvings, marble inserts and a huge panel;
  • the hall of the National Assembly is bright, decorated with forging and paintings;
  • The reception hall is decorated with a large picture, which symbolizes 6 virtues.

Good to know! Tourists can visit the Federal Palace as part of excursion groups accompanied by a guide. Interested parties are allowed to attend Parliament.

Tours are conducted in four languages ​​daily except Sunday. Tickets can be purchased in advance on the official website of the Federal Palace.

Clock Tower Citglogge

The visiting card of the capital is the oldest tower built in the 13th century. The construction on the tower does not just show time, it is a real spectacle – under the sonorous cry of a rooster, the jester starts to sound the bells, the bears pass, and the god Kronos solemnly turns the hourglass.

Clock Tower Citglogge

Interesting fact! The distance from the city is measured from the chapel tower – this is a kind of zero kilometer for Bern.

The attraction is located at: Bim Zytglogge 3, the attraction works around the clock, at any time of the year, regardless of the weather. It’s better to come here 5-6 minutes before the end of each hour to see a theatrical performance.

Einstein Museum

The famous scientist Einstein – the founder of physics and the author of the theory of relativity – is perhaps the most extraordinary person. Few people know that for two years he lived in Bern, on Kramgass Street, where Einstein’s house-museum is organized today.

Einstein House Museum

Interesting fact! It was in his apartment on Kramgass that a scientist at the age of 26 developed the theory of relativity.

The Einstein House Museum

On one of the busiest streets of Bern, Einstein lived with his wife, his first-born son Hans Albert was born here, who in the future also became a famous scientist. His works were published in the scientific journal Annals of Physics. It is believed that it was the son of the legendary physicist who provoked a revolution in the world of science, demonstrating an unconventional view of time, space, mass and energy.

A documentary about the life of Einstein

The attraction is located on two floors, at the entrance there is an impressive image of the Galaxy, and, climbing the stairs, the guests find themselves in a living room – the scientist’s office. The situation has not changed since the time when Einstein lived here. On the third floor are the works of a physicist and demonstrate a documentary about the life of Einstein.

You can visit the house-museum at the address: Kramgasse, 49, daily except Sunday from 10-00 to 17-00. In January, the museum does not work.

Ticket price:

  • adult – 6 CHF;
  • student, for seniors – 4,50 CHF.
Fountain “Children Eater”
Fountain "Children Eater"

Another name for Bern is the city of fountains. This is not just a tribute to romanticism, but reality. In a small town there are more than a hundred fountains and each has its own plot, unique design. The most visited is considered to be the fountain “Children Eater”. The attraction was built in the 16th century, and since then it has been adorning Cornhouse Square.

Good to know! Previously, locals gathered drinking water at the fountain.

Statue of a giant who eats a child

The fountain is a huge statue of a giant who eats a child, while other children sit in his bag and wait for a terrible fate. The base of the fountain is decorated with bears dressed in armor. Interestingly, drinking water still flows in the fountain.

Bear Pit in Bern
Bear Pit in Bern

A landmark that is well known outside the country. The authorities did not spare money for the residence of predators. In 2009, instead of usually pits, a comfortable park with an area of ​​6 thousand square meters was arranged for them.

For the bears, they prepared a territory where they can fish, play, climb trees. Modern bear estates stretch from the old pit to the Aare River and are located opposite the historical part of Bern. An old pit is connected to the city park by a tunnel.

Interesting to know! The first bear pit appeared in the city in 1441, but the attraction, on the site of which the park was opened, was organized in 1857.

Bear in the Bear Pit

In the park you can take a walk on your own or as part of an excursion group and accompanied by a bear keeper.

On a note! Not far from Bern is Lake Tuna, which is worth a visit if you have the time. What to do and what to see in its surroundings, read this article .

Prices for room and board

Housing
Hostel Bern Backpackers Glocke
Bern Backpackers Glocke

There are six districts in Bern, in each you can choose housing of a different price category. Most hostels and hotels are concentrated in the Inner Stadt area.

In the Lengggass-Felsenau area, you can choose private housing, it is very convenient for families who are resting with children. Accommodation per day will cost 195 CHF.

If you prefer to walk in the parks and enjoy visiting museums, pay attention to the Kirchenfeld-Schosschalde district. In the area of ​​Mattenhof-Weissenbühl many attractions are concentrated, respectively, you can choose a comfortable hotel or an inexpensive hostel.

The cost of living in a single room will cost from 75 CHF, and in a double room – from 95 CHF per day.

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Food
Onion pie

Switzerland is an interesting country in terms of culinary traditions. While relaxing in Bern, try the Bernese plate with cold cuts, onion pie, and for dessert – a traditional Bernese hazelnut gingerbread. The capital of Switzerland has many restaurants and cafes for every taste.

  • A meal in an inexpensive restaurant costs about 20 CHF per person.
  • A check for two in a mid-range restaurant will be around CHF 100.
  • Relatively inexpensive, you can eat in chain fast food restaurants – the cost of a set lunch in McDonald’s is on average 14.50 CHF.

Products can be bought in stores and in the market in the center of the Swiss capital.

How to get to Bern from Geneva and Zurich

From the point of view of transport, Bern is located very conveniently, you can get here from the largest city in Switzerland, Zurich and the second largest Geneva .

By plane
Airplane to the airport near Bern

The fastest way – at the airport in Zurich or Geneva, transfer to a plane next to the airport near Bern. A shuttle departs from the terminal building to the station in Belp. From here, it’s fashionable to get to the center of Bern by tram.

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By train

The main station is located in the center of the capital, in the old part of the city. Tourists get off the train and find themselves in the historic square and can visit the temple of the Holy Spirit.

  • Trains run from Geneva every 30 minutes; the ticket costs 25 CHF.
  • From Zurich – every quarter hour, the ticket price varies from 40 CHF to 75 CHF.

Duration from 1 to 1.5 hours (depending on the chosen flight – direct or with a transfer).

At the station of Zurich

From Zurich trains depart:

  • every hour – at 02 and 32 minutes (about an hour’s journey);
  • every hour – at 06 and 55 minutes (about 1 hour 20 minutes);
  • at 08 minutes every hour, a transfer is supposed to be in Aarau (the journey takes 1 hour 15 minutes);
  • at 38 minutes every hour, two transfers are planned – to Aarau and Olten (the journey takes about 1 hour 20 minutes).

The exact schedule and cost of tickets are on the official website of the Swiss railway.

By bus
By bus to Bern

This method is not very convenient, as the bus service is established only between small towns within the same region. To get from Zurich or Geneva to Bern, you will have to change more than 15 buses. If you want to enjoy the Swiss scenery, check out the timetable in advance on the official website for passenger bus services.

It is important! By bus it is convenient to get to Zurich or Geneva from neighboring countries. And in Switzerland it is better to travel by train.

By car

Switzerland has an extensive road network, so getting from Geneva or Zurich to Bern is easy. The trip will take about 1.5-2 hours. The cost of 10 liters of gasoline is about 19 CHF.

Weather and climate when it is better to go

Bern is a city where you can relax at any time of the year. The maximum influx of tourists in the capital happens in the summer and on the eve of the New Year and Christmas holidays. At this time, prices for accommodation and meals are increased by 10-15%. The climate in Bern is quite pleasant – summers are cool and winters are dry and mild.

Winter Bern

Interesting to know! It is best to go to the capital of Switzerland in the spring, when the greens are juicy, bright. The city is also attractive in October, when it is shrouded in a kaleidoscope of multi-colored paints. Autumn is notable for the fact that there are few tourists on the city streets and relatively calm.

Weather in Bern
  • Summer Bern is warm (temperature is not higher than +19 degrees). You can swim in the river Are.
  • Autumn Bern is especially cozy and lovely. The temperature in September is comfortable for walking, and in the second half of autumn it drops to +10 degrees.
  • Spring Bern is different. In March, it is cool, the weather is rainy, and from the second half of April the city flourishes and transforms, the temperature rises to +16 degrees.
  • Winter Bern is beautiful in its own way, especially on snowy and sunny days. The temperature almost never drops below -2 degrees. If you are relaxing in a Swiss ski resort, be sure to check out Bern.

Cognitive facts

  1. Bern is on the list of the oldest European cities.
  2. In terms of quality of living, it takes 14th place according to the results of the Mercer assessment, in terms of security – the second in the world.
  3. Medieval burn
  4. Most of the buildings have preserved the unique architecture of the Middle Ages – 15-16 centuries.
  5. The number of foreigners in Bern does not exceed 23%, most of them are Germans and Italians. Among foreign residents, diplomats and members of their families are singled out separately – the total number is about 2.2 thousand people.
  6. Many are interested in the question – the capital of Switzerland – Bern or Geneva? Officially, the country does not have a capital, however, the main state structures are concentrated in Bern, therefore it is considered to be the main city of the country.
  7. Multi-colored plates with addresses. This tradition has been preserved since the time of the Napoleonic war of conquest. The French soldiers were mostly uneducated, so signs painted in different colors helped them navigate the city.
  8. Chocolate Toblerone
    Toblerone
  9. Bern gave the world two sweet souvenirs – Toblerone chocolate and Ovomaltine. The first recognizable triangular chocolate was invented in Bern by confectioner Theodor Tobler. Until now, sweet treats are produced only in Bern. Another treat was created by Dr. Albert Wandler, in addition to traditional ingredients, it includes malt.
  10. The Bernese dialect is slow, this fact is an occasion for ridicule. The main language is German, but residents also speak French and Italian.
  11. The main source of income in Bern is tourism. Most of the tourists are Swiss, they like to relax here and enjoy the historical and architectural beauties.
  12. Bern is built at a height of 542 meters – according to this indicator, Bern ranks third in Europe.

Bern, Switzerland – a small, old town, where every house, temple, museum, fountain is imbued with the spirit of the Middle Ages. The city authorities managed to maintain the flavor of the 15-16 centuries and harmoniously combine it with modern architecture and the rapid pace of life.



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