Bern Travel Guide
Compared to Zurich, Bern is a tranquil (but attractive) place. Yet, this city is tremendously important, as it serves as the capital of Switzerland. As such, there are plenty of cultural and historical attractions to fill your time here.
Bern is the capital of Switzerland. As such, a visit to the Federal Palace of Switzerland is practically mandatory. With an impressive neoclassical facade, even a quick visit is worth the trouble.
We recommend taking the guided tour, though, as it reveals loads of details regarding Swiss history. However, be sure to book your spot in advance. Arrive a half-hour prior to your tour, as all participants must undergo a security check.
Next, make your way over to the Cathedral of Bern. Church authorities began building this masterpiece in the early 15th century. However, they only completed the final phase more than 470 years later.
The wait was worth it – its intricately-carved ceiling, paintings, and stained-glass windows will leave you in shock. The level of detail is consistent with the 470 years that it took to finish. If you’ve got the stamina, climb 350 steps to the top of the 330-foot high bell tower. From here, the views of Bern are outstanding.
Learn more about Switzerland’s capital city (and its most famous citizen) at the Bern Historical Museum. Originally intended to be this nation’s national museum, its design is grander than what you would expect. However, when government officials moved the top museum to Zurich, curators pivoted their focus.
As its name suggests, it covers the history of Bern from the prehistoric period to the present day. However, you’ll also find exhibits on artifacts sourced from around the world. Without question, its gallery on Albert Einstein, who lived in Bern for a time, is its top attraction.
Take in the works of one of Switzerland’s best-regarded artists at Zentrum Paul Klee. The building itself is a postmodern work of art, but inside, you’ll find the main event – nearly 1,000 works created by Paul Klee himself.
If you love amusing spectacles, check out the Bern Clock Tower. Every hour, it marks the occasion with a series of chimes. However, Bern’s clock takes things to another level.
When this clock reaches the top of the hour, characters do an amusing dance. The biggest crowds assemble at Noon for a good reason. At that time, the clock’s figurines do their most popular act. Afterwards, take in this tower’s astronomical clock, which has operated since the 15th century.
Bern has a spectacular view of the Alps. However, they’re too far away to grant a great view of the city. However, Gurten, a small peak outside city limits, offers panoramic views of this historic centre.
Take a funicular to reach this peak, which looms more than 700 feet above the Old Town. In addition to a viewing tower, you’ll find a hotel & restaurant, playgrounds, and hiking/biking trails. In winter, downhill skiing is available – a great option for those who fear the peaks of the Alps.
Bern has many amazing parks within city limits. But among them, the Rose Garden stands out. Sitting atop a bluff above the Aare River, it offers interesting views of the Old Town and Gurten. But, as its name indicates, this park’s roses are its biggest draw.
To catch them in full bloom, visit the park in late June. However, this green space is worth visiting in any season. In Autumn, the changing leaves here put on a fantastic show.
End your time in Switzerland’s capital city by spending an evening in the Old City of Bern. By day, explore its many cobblestone streets and enjoy buildings that date back to the 12th century. By night, though, its many cafes, restaurants, and bars offer a lively place to mix with the locals.
What To Eat
At breakfast, opt for Rösti, a Bern favourite. Popular across Switzerland, this potato pancake has preparations that differ from one canton to another. In Bern Canton, for example, cooks prepare it with diced bacon – yum!
After a long day spent exploring Bern, find a restaurant that serves Cordon Bleu. Its French name leads many to think of it as a French dish. However, this breaded, ham & cheese-stuffed meat cutlet is, in fact, Swiss. Have it with fries on the side, or a salad if you want to be (slightly more) health-conscious.
Finish your day by ordering some Meitschibei. Translating to English as “Girl’s Legs”, chefs stuff this U-shaped pastry with a ground hazelnut filling. Flavoured with cinnamon, lemon zest, and sugar, this Bernese treat will delight from the first bite.