Top 19: Free Experiences in Bern
People staying at an accommodation in the city of Bern can use public transport for free in zones 100 and 101 of the LIBERO public transport association for the entire duration of their stay. Good to know: the Gurten and Marzili funiculars and the elevator up to Minster terrace are included.
Bern’s outdoor pools
In the summertime, the Bernese love nothing more than going for a swim. And there’s plenty of places to choose from: The sparkling Aare river and a large selection of public pools attract visitors with their cool waters, spacious lawns, and culinary treats that range from French fries to gelato. From the quirky Wyler neighbourhood pool to the slightly more alternative Lorrainebad to the famous Marzili: Bernese summers are best spent by or in the water – for free!
Go for a dip
Hotel offers for families
Families profit from a free overnight stay for children under the age of 16 in a selection of Bernese hotels. Be it active or relaxed, in an urban setting or the breathtaking landscapes of the Bernese countryside: thanks to the federal city’s central location, the many diverse activities and experiences are only a stone’s throw away.
Free admission to the museum
Going to a museum in the summertime? Why not! It’s especially worth it in August, because on Saturdays, admission to 17 museums, castles, parks and gardens in the city and region of Bern is free. There’s all sorts of things to marvel at, discover, and experience – after all, the destination Bern is home to some of Switzerland’s most important museums and galleries. Added bonus: museums are nice and cool on hot days.
Fresh Fountain Water
They are just as much a part of Bern’s cityscape as the Minster and the Parliament Building: the over 100 medieval fountains with their colourful figurines, statues, and decorations. If you get thirsty while on a shopping spree under Bern’s famous arcades, simply choose the prettiest one and fill up your bottle with clean, fresh drinking water.
An urban oasis
From alpine edelweiss and gentian to banana plants and sugarcane – over 5,500 plant species from all over the world have found a new home at Bern’s Botanical Garden, just a ten-minute walk from the main station. Be it outside or in the succulent or orchid greenhouse, the plants take their visitors on a journey around the world on over two hectares, telling tales of tropical rainforests, arid steppes and barren Alpine peaks. Dream of faraway places while relaxing on the meadow in the summer sun or warming up in the palm house during the wintertime.
To Bern’s plant paradise
Bern’s museums have a lot to offer - oftentimes for free! How about a trip to the Kornhausforum, for example? The gallery on the second floor of the city’s former granary regularly hosts design, architecture, and photography exhibitions and events. Many of them can be visited freely and free of charge. For little culture fans, the Zentrum Paul Klee has the interactive children’s exhibition Creaviva. Admission is free here, too. Kids who feel inspired by the creative atmosphere have the opportunity to express themselves and draw, paint, craft, and create their own works of art at the “Fünfliber-Werkstatt” (five-franc workshop) next door.
Our museum recommendations
Switzerland’s most famous biscuit brand has been around for 111 years. To celebrate, Kambly has pulled out all the stops, so gourmands of all ages can discover all kinds of new attractions and experiences at Kambly’s home in Trubschachen this summer. On the production path, you’ll get to know the journey of “Güetzi” (biscuits) from making the dough to shipping them all over the world, the ingredient wall offers interesting facts about the ingredients that go into the yummy products, and the cheesemaker can teach you how milk is turned into butter. And before we forget: there’s biscuit samples en masse, obviously. It’s perfect for a day trip – and only 35 minutes by train from Bern!
Off to the land of milk and honey!
A 300-metre ball path, a legendary miniature train, paddling pools in the summer and a child-friendly ski lift in the winter – over 20 different attractions await on Bern’s local mountain, and most of them are free! For children especially, the Gurten is the perfect place for exploring, playing, and running around – and grown-ups love it, too. Guests staying at an accommodation in the city of Bern ride the red Gurten funicular for free. By the way: if you’re looking for some sun on a grey autumn or winter’s day, you can often find a few warming rays on the Gurten, accompanied by a spectacular view of the sea of fog below.
Onward and upward
Bern Animal Park, Dählhölzli + BearPark
A grrreat outing: On 365 days a year, explorers of all ages can discover, watch, and get to know numerous indigenous and exotic animals at Bern Animal Park, Dählhölzli. With the exception of the Vivarium and a part of the outdoor area, admission to the popular park is free, and with its petting zoo, BBQ area, and family-friendly restaurant, it is perfect for a day out with the entire family. If you want to pay the “Berner Mutzen” – which is what we call Bern’s heraldic animal, the bear – a visit, simply stroll along the Aare river to the BearPark. It, too, is open year-round and can be visited freely. Good to know: In the winter months (usually from November to March), the bears retire to hibernate and can only be watched via the webcam.
Where the wild things are
Travel back in time
Did you know that the country’s highest church steeple is located in Bern? The first stone for the Bern Minster was put down in the year 1421, and the church has been an integral part of the city’s skyline since the late Middle Ages. The medieval sandstone building is well worth a visit – the impressive organs, frescoes and figurines will make any art and music lover’s heart skip a beat. And don’t forget to climb the 312 steps to the top of the steeple for an impressive view of the mountains Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau and the rooftops of Bern’s Old City. Our recommendation: stop to admire the church bells (the big bell – the largest in all of Switzerland – weighs almost 10 tonnes!). Admission to the Minster is free, access to the spiral staircase is 5 Francs for adults and 2 Francs for children.
Tower above the city
Behind the scenes of the Konzert Theater Bern
How does the Bern Symphony Orchestra prepare for its next concert? Which tips do theatre directors give their actresses and actors right before a premiere? And how is a play perfected? At the public rehearsals, theatre and music enthusiasts can experience what goes on behind the scenes of the Konzert Theater Bern. You can watch the actors, dancers and musicians prepare for the stage, and there’s often also a short introduction or fun facts and information about an ongoing production. To find out when and where the public rehearsals take place, check the website of the Konzert Theater Bern.
See a concert
Visit the Parliament Building
Swiss politics up close: From the domed hall to the council chambers to the famous foyer – on a tour of the Parliament Building, you’ll learn all kinds of interesting and surprising information about the Swiss parliament and the historic building. When the parliament is not in session, free tours take place in German, English, French and Italian from Tuesday to Saturday. And the sessions are the perfect opportunity to experience the debates and votes in the National Council and the Council of States up close. Make sure to reserve your spot in advance!
Off to the Parliament Building
Swiss Bike Park Oberried
No matter your age or skill level, the Swiss Bike Park in Oberried is a true biker’s paradise! Hone your riding skills on various fun trails and courses. The pump track is a special highlight, and particularly brave visitors might take a crack at the jumps (thanks to an inflatable cushion, the landing is safe even for less experienced jumpers). Oberried is about 40 minutes from Bern by bike.
Expensive memberships and sticky gyms? Not in Bern! Bring your workout outdoors: Be it on the equipment at the outdoor fitness park at Marzili, jogging through the Bremgarten forest, or on the BärnParcours along the Aare river – everything can be used for free. And if you prefer swimming to stay fit in the summer, Bern is perfect for you, as there is no admission fee for the city’s outdoor pools (with the exception of the Ka-We-De). The Marzili, Wyler-Bad and Weyermannshaus pools have separate areas for swimming laps.
One of the most beautiful views of the federal city can be found at the Rosengarten: the panorama of the UNESCO-listed Old City is absolutely spectacular. But that’s not all the little oasis above Bern’s BearPark has to offer: The green meadows, framed by over 200 rose, 200 iris, and 28 rhododendron species, are perfect for family picnics or an after-work sundowner with friends. By the way: A special Rosengarten treat are the blossoming cherry trees in the spring. If you want to make sure you don’t miss the delicate spectacle, regularly check the park’s webcam.
Relax and enjoy
Myclimate Audio Adventure
Discover the city from a new perspective: With the help of audio stories, the myclimate city tours touch on climate-relevant everyday issues such as consumption, energy, politics, and the economy. These audio tours are available for different age groups and explain the measures that are being taken locally to protect the climate and the innovative ideas that lead to more sustainability. The “Audio Adventures” can be downloaded on the Izi.Travel website. Please note: The audio files are only available in German.
BBQ at Eichholz
Eichholz, about 30 minutes walking distance from the city centre, is Bern’s most popular campsite and meeting place for “Brätle” (barbecuing), a game of Frisbee, and sunbathing on the Aare river. On warm summer days, you’ll see countless cervelats and cream cheese-filled mushrooms sizzling on the fire pits. Wood for the perfect barbecue is available in the small wooden huts on site - please use with moderation! If your belly is feeling (too) after the meal, the best thing to do is to challenge your friends to a match on the beach volleyball or the soccer field – or to test your skills on the slackline.
Grill ‘n’ chill on the Aare river
Cue the lights! For six weeks a year, from the end of October to the end of November, the audiovisual extravaganza “Rendez-vous Bundesplatz” lights up the Parliament Building. The spectacular interplay of light and sound captivates over half a million visitors a year and focuses on a different topic each time. You don’t need an admission ticket. Our recommendation: Dress in cosy, warm clothes and get some freshly roasted chestnuts and a mug of mulled wine to keep you warm during the show.
Ice skating on Parliament Square
Every winter (from mid-December to mid-February), the artificial rink on Parliament Square invites ice fans of all ages to practise their pirouettes and enjoy some “Schlöfle” (ice skating) in front of an impressive backdrop. Admission to the rink is free, ice skates can be rented on site. By the way: from January on, there are free ice-skating classes for children every Thursday afternoon, and the rink’s restaurant hosts live concerts on Sunday evenings.
Off to the rink!