THINGS TO DO IN BERN – ITINERARY FOR 1 OR 2 DAYS
- 1 THINGS TO DO IN BERN – ITINERARY FOR 1 OR 2 DAYS
- 2 TRAVEL TIPS FOR YOUR BERN TRIP
- 3 WHAT TO DO IN BERN – BEST ACTIVITIES FOR 1 DAY +
- 4 MORE THINGS TO DO IN BERN IN 2 DAYS
- 5 FINAL THOUGHTS ON VISITING BERN IN ONE DAY
Are you planning a trip to Bern and wondering about the best things to do in Bern? Well, then this post is perfect for you. I am happy to introduce you to my favorite activities and the top places to visit in Bern in one day (or 2 days).
Switzerland has so many stunning places that Bern often gets overlooked. However, Switzerland´s capital is a beauty. Capitals tend to have the reputation of being crowded, busy, and hectic. But I promise Bern is different.
Before talking about the best places to visit, here are some quick tips.
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TRAVEL TIPS FOR YOUR BERN TRIP
Here is some essential travel information for one day in Bern (or longer) first.
Where to Stay in Bern
If you can, book your hotel in the old town. From there, you can get to all (or most) attractions in Bern within minutes.
- Luxury Hotel: If you are looking for a 5-star luxury place to stay, Bellevue Palace is probably the best place choice. It is centrally located and is great for those who like to indulge in luxury. To check out rates, click here.
- Mid-Range Hotel: I stayed at the 3-star hotel Goldener Schlüssel for 1 night, located in the city center/old town. Though my hotel room was pretty small though, with no direct (and free) parking options and the breakfast was simple, the location was perfect and made up for it. It was also pet-friendly (I had my dog with me). Check out rates here.
- Budget Hotel: Switzerland is no budget-friendly place, and Bern is no exception. Bern Youth Hostel is located in the city center. It offers affordable dorm beds but also private rooms with private bathrooms. Check out rates here.
How to Get Around in 1 Day in Bern
- Most places mentioned on this Bern itinerary can easily be reached on foot. You do not need to travel long distances and if you are used to walking, then bring comfy shoes and discover Bern on foot.
- As basically all of Switzerland, Bern has a pretty great public transportation system. Getting around by bus and tram would be the best option. You can get around easily. If you book a hotel, you will get a card that allows you to use public transportation for free.
- If you get around by car you should know that parking in the old town is difficult and pricey. Also, the attractions are so close by – with one exception – and there really is no need to get around by car.
Security Tips for Solo Female Travelers
Switzerland in general, and Bern in particular, is very safe. I had a great time. I did a 1-hour guided tour, but apart from that, I did most activities as a solo female traveler. There are absolutely no concerns I have regarding solo female travel in Bern (or Switzerland).
Exercise common sense and keep your valuables close to you – and you should be fine.
Budget Tips for Switzerland
- As probably everyone knows, Switzerland is sooooo expensive, so I put all my favorite saving money tips in Switzerland in one post.
- Good news: Many of the attractions in Bern are free – so, you will not have to spend a lot of money on activities.
- As in most parts of Switzerland, there are water fountains providing free, clean drinking water. You might be thinking, that water will not save you tons of money. In Switzerland it does. A small bottle of water can cost CHF 2-3. Also, it means less plastic if you bring your own bottle (or cup) that you just refill.
What to Wear in Bern
- The most important tip I can give you is: wear comfortable shoes. The old town with the cobbled-stoned streets is not very high-heels friendly.
- For a summer pack list in Europe, click here.
- If you visit Europe in winter, check out my winter packing guide for Europe.
WHAT TO DO IN BERN – BEST ACTIVITIES FOR 1 DAY +
Okay, let’s start with the best places to visit in Bern. One of the first things I do when I travel is to find great spots that offer the best panoramas of a city/place.
The Rosengarten (Rose Garden) is one of the most beautiful parks in the city with stunning views over the rooftops of the historic Old Town and the river.
It is at the end (or beginning?) of Bern’s old town and close to Bear Park (more on that later). Getting up there will reward you with nice views and you get to rest and chill in the garden.
There are about 200 varieties of roses (Rosengarten means Rose garden in English), 200 types of irises, and moor beds with 28 different types of rhododendrons.
I saw many people reading or chilling with friends and families. When I travel solo, I don’t really do the “picnic thing”, but I guess this is a great spot to enjoy your outdoor picnics.
Look out for a statue of Albert Einstein – you’ll find a statue of him, sitting on a bench and waiting for people taking selfies with him. What has Albert Einstein to do with Bern? The physicist was living in Bern when he developed his famous formula E=mc² in 1905. You could even visit his former residence – the Einsteinhaus museum in the old town.
TIPS FOR VISITING ROSENGARTEN:
- It takes a 5-minute uphill walk from Bären Park.
- If you want to avoid the uphill walk, you can also take a bus from the city center (no. 10) that brings you up all the way. You get out at the “backdoor” of the park and then no more uphill walking is included.
- No entrance fee
- Bring snacks and a blanket for a nice picnic
- There is also a restaurant
The Bären Park (Bear Park) is centrally located and just a few minutes’ walk from the Rosengarten – and surely a surprising sight.
A friend told me a couple of years ago about some bears living in Bern’s city center (that is where according to some myths, Bern, German=Bär, has got its name from). I could not believe it and was very curious about finding out more.
And it is true – we have a family of three brown bears – named Finn, Björk, and Ursina, living in Bern. They just live next to the river with their own “pool” (located on the Aarenhang) in an area of 6,000 square meters.
Though they live kind of freely, there are fences so there is no risk for humans. And we should not be a risk for them either, so avoid loud screaming and definitely do not throw something at them.
This attraction is surely unique! And since it does not feel like visiting a zoo, it is also a good place to visit for those hesitating visiting zoos for ethical reasons.
There is also a little place with information about the bears, and fake bears are displayed (but the bear family is seriously real).
TIPS FOR VISITING BÄRENPARK
- Bears do hibernate (between October/November for a couple of months), then you will not see them.
- There is no entrance fee but donations are welcome
- It is open 24/7 but there is no guarantee you will see them
Personally, I think the Aare River is the most beautiful in Switzerland – even with only one day in Bern you should be able for nice walks.
The Aare river’s total length is almost 300 km – so you will only get a glimpse of the river in Bern. Most attractions are close to the river so you will come across it for sure.
It is just pretty with its unique color, and strolling along and enjoying these views was relaxing. And as mentioned: the people in Bern take it slowly and blend in and do the same. In summer, many people (especially locals) also swim in the river. If you want to do the same, bring towels and your bathing clothes.
On your way to the next stop, cross this bridge – the Nydeggbrücke. Why? Because you have great views in every direction!
Crossing the bridge will just take a few minutes. It is “just a bridge” and yet one of my favorite places to visit in Bern because of the great views!
Another top thing to do is to visit the Münster Platform (Minster Terrace). The terrace offers lovely views of the Alps and the Aare River. It is not only about the view though – you have the option to dine, picnic, relax, stroll the park area, or or or.
This place is also popular in the summer months as many trees offer shady places to you.
TIPS FOR VISITING MÜNSTER PLATTFORM
- It is free to visit
- Open 24/7 but the best time is to visit on warm and sunny days
- It is easily accessible (despite its elevation, there is not much uphill walking required)
- It is a great place to relax
Cathedral of Bern (Berner Münster)
Also, the Cathedral of Bern (Berner Münster) is worth visiting. It is a Swiss Reformed cathedral built in the Gothic style and its construction started in the 15th century.
Its tower, with a height of about 100 meters was only completed in the 19th century though. You can visit the cathedral and also climb up the tower.
Since I was with a dog, I had to skip that part and could not enter, but I have seen pictures that promise a splendid view.
TIPS FOR VISITING THE CATHEDRAL OF BERN
- The Cathedral is free to visit
- You can climb the tower (not to the very top though) – 344 stairs. There is an entrance fee of about CHF 5 for the tower.
Though the Cathedral is located in the old town, it is time to explore the rest of the old town. The old town of Bern is a must-see! No question about that.
Interestingly, the whole old town has become a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983! It is close to the other attractions mentioned above and thus easy to put on your Bern itinerary.
I recommend strolling through the streets and discovering beautiful old and colorful houses (with flower pots everywhere). But not only the amount of flower pots surprised me.
I was also surprised to see little cafes/shops in the attic – so watch out for those shops, and if you stay a bit longer, you might be able to check one out as well.
In the old town, you will find several of the main attractions including
- Clock Tower (Zytglogge)
- Town Hall
- Muenster Cathedral
TIP: If you like discovering Bern via a tour, you can book your tours vis GetYourGuide. I mainly use Viator or GetYourGuide and like both, though I nowadays book tours more often via GetYourGuide. I have picked a few tours that might help you explore the Old Town of Bern. Find out more about a guided tour of the Old Town.
Clock Tower (Zytglogge)
One of the main tourist attractions is the Clock Tower which is also located in the old town. It was built in the early 13th century and it has been a guard tower, a prison, a clock tower, and the center of urban life and civic memorial.
Every hour, on the hour, medieval figures (dancing bears, the cheeky fool, and the crowing rooster) appear from the Clock Tower.
Tours are available and allow you to look behind the clock and learn about the history and the view from the top of the tower.
- 01.04. – 31.10. daily
01.11 – 31.03 every Saturday
26.12. – 31.12. daily
- at 2.30 pm (reservations in advance are recommended)
- Prices for a tour are CHF20 for adults.
The Town Hall is where the cantonal and city parliaments take place. Bern is also the capital of the beautiful canton “Bernese Oberland,” which includes areas like Grindelwald, Interlaken, Lake Thun, and Lake Brienz.
The town hall is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Swiss heritage site of national significance.
According to my research, you can do a tour of the Town Hall which was built at the beginning of the 15th century.
There are different town hall tours available:
- There are free Town Hall tours, but there are only a few every year
- You can also do paid tours at other times
- You can check out the official website (information about tours is not available in English at the moment).
Parliament Building (Bundeshaus) + Parliament Square
Bern is the capital of the canton “Berner Oberland” as well as the capital of Switzerland.
The Parliament Building houses the Swiss Parliament. The parliament itself meets under its dome, while the west and east wings are home to parts of the Swiss federal government and the federal administration.
In front of the Parliament, you have 26 fountains – they represent the 26 cantons of Switzerland. You probably guessed it – on hot summer days, their main function is to cool down people (especially children) running through the water fountains.
On Tuesdays and Saturdays, you can find a veggie/fruit and flower market on Parliament Square.
If you get the chance to do a tour, make sure to take it.
TIPS FOR VISITING THE PARLIAMENT
- Tours only place where there are no sessions
- The tours are free and last about 60 minutes
- You can find out more about the tours on the official website of the Parliament
Do you have more than 1 day in Bern and would like to do more?
By the way, this is a lot to put in your one-day Bern itinerary. It is doable, but why not extend your stay a little? If you have more time, these are things to do in Bern in 2 days actually.
The Gurten (above 860 meters above sea level) is another great place to visit. It is a bit offsite in the city center, so I would recommend starting or ending a Bern trip visiting the Gurten.
Good news, if you stay at an official hotel, Airbnb, B&B, etc., you will get a Bern ticket which allows you to use public transport for free, which includes the cable funicular ride up to the Gurten. If you are a hiker, this is one of the smaller popular mountain peaks you can hike up to. There is also a viewing tower for even better views.
If you are with kids, they most likely will enjoy the playground area or the toboggan runs up there. In the summer months, you can bring your own food, make your BBQ – or have lunch/dinner in one of the restaurants.
Tip: Do not try to go there by car. I did, and it was a bad choice because I could not find any parking space close by (at least not on a sunny day). So, take public transportation to get there. Hiking up or riding your bicycle is also possible.
MORE THINGS TO DO IN BERN IN 2 DAYS
If you stay longer than 1 day, here are a few more tips on this to do and see. I have listed the following tips, though I have not done them myself (traveling with a dog sometimes limits your availabilities), so I would love to do them. What about you?
Why not swim in the Aare river? If you visit Bern in the summer, swimming in the Aare is fun. If you take a swim, go to Marzili Lido, which is close to the Parliament Building.
You cannot visit Bern and skip the old town – but why not visit at night and do a night watchman tour, which is a popular activity?
Spooky Side of Bern
If you are into spooky little stories and like to get some goosebumps, you can head to listen to some horror stories while doing a scary tour and learn about the spooky side of Bern.
To discover Bern’s best places in a unique view, why not try out a scooter sightseeing tour? Whether you walk or do a tour with an electric scooter. But honestly, does not it sound more fun with an electric scooter to discover Bern?
Since I mention Albert Einstein before, I want to mention the museum you can visit to learn more about him and his life in Bern.
The Einsteinhaus is the flat where he used to live with his wife and their son for 2 years. It has been restored in the style of that period to reflect Einstein’s crucial years here – the time he developed his theory of relativity.
- The Einsteinhaus is located on Kramgasse No. 49
- Opening hours in 2021: 1 March – 19 December 2021
- Monday – Sunday from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
- Entrance fee: CHF 5 for adults. This is the reduced price because a video show is not shown at the moment due to Covid.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON VISITING BERN IN ONE DAY
One day in Bern is surely not enough to explore all the beautiful attractions, but it will give you a good idea, and with this itinerary, you’ll get to see some of the most beautiful places in Bern.
If time is not the biggest issue, I suggest staying 2 days in Bern to see more of its beautiful spots.
- More about travel tips for Switzerland here
- Find out more about a business trip to Basel
- Check out my 10-day Switzerland itinerary
- Here are tips for an epic Switzerland road trip
- Find out more about the most beautiful places in Switzerland
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