Strolling through the Old City, sightseeing, a relaxed nightcap in one of the typical vaulted cellars – even if you only have one day in Bern, there’s all kinds of things you can discover and experience. If you have more time, you can visit the cultural institutions and events, enjoy the unique, beautiful view of the city and the peaks of the Bernese Alps and follow the fragrant smell of the famous AOP Emmental cheese into the rolling hills of the Emmental valley.
Day 1: Discover Bern’s Old City
A Stroll Through Bern’s Old City
Albert Einstein, Paul Klee and Friedrich Dürrenmatt: they all walked under Bern’s arcades. Be it luminaries, travellers from all around the world or locals – Bern’s Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its distinctive sandstone buildings, charming alleys and grand monuments, fascinates everyone and is best discovered on a relaxed morning stroll. If you’re visiting on a Tuesday or Saturday morning, you should stop by the farmers market, where you can get fresh produce and products from in and around Bern and enjoy the Bernese way of life.
Go for a walk
Bern Minster and Minster Terrace
High above the rooftops, you’ll find the best view of Bern’s Old City: Bern Minster is one of the city’s most important landmarks and has Switzerland’s highest steeple. If you want to reach the very top, you’ll have to climb the 312 steps to the steeple’s viewing platform – but you’ll be rewarded a spectacular panorama that will quickly make you forget all about the climb. If you don’t feel like stairs, there’s still a way get a wonderful view: the terrace right next to the Minster is a pretty little park with a small café (the Einstein au Jardin) and regular markets, as well as a beautiful view of the Aare, our favourite river, and the Matte neighbourhood, the oldest part of Bern.
To the minster
Photo Stop at Rose Garden
From one lookout point to the next: the Rosengarten (Rose Garden) is one of Bern’s most beautiful parks and features a fantastic view of the Old City and the winding Aare river. In good weather, the view extends way beyond the city and all the way to the Bernese Alps, making Rose Garden the perfect place to relax and take some souvenir pictures. If you feel like a homemade iced tea or a freshly brewed coffee, head to Restaurant Rosengarten in the park and keep on enjoying the view from its terrace.
Lunch at Altes Tramdepot
The restaurant and brewery Altes Tramdepot lies just a short walk from Rose Garden and on the banks of the Aare river, above the famous Bern Animal Park, BearPark where bears Finn, Björk and Ursina live. 31’000 hectolitres are brewed each year in the two giant, shiny copper tanks that stand right in the middle of the restaurant. Visiting the restroom is also quite the experience, as you pass the brewery in the basement – to laypersons, it looks a bit like chemistry class or a science fiction movie. The restaurant serves seasonal and local dishes as well as Swiss classics such as Bauernrösti (Farmer’s Rösti) and homemade Spätzli (traditional thick pasta).
Eating on a budget
Tour of the Zytglogge (Clock Tower)
Take a peek into the inside of the centuries-old clockwork, find out about the history of the Bernese landmark and enjoy the view of the Old City from the top of the tower – the one-hour tour is equally great for fans of technical masterpieces, history or panoramas. What do the little figurines stand for? How does the elaborate mechanism work? What stories are hidden behind the thick walls of the famous monument? And what can we see when we look out of the tower windows? You’ll find the answers to these and other questions on the tour of the Zytglogge (Clock Tower) in the heart of Bern’s Old City
Shopping in the Old City
A must when visiting Bern is a bit of «Lädele», which is what the locals call shopping. Studios, boutiques and many different little shops – under the arcades and in the typical vaulted cellars, unique and often locally made treasures await, making a shopping trip to Bern’s Old City a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The best thing about it: on rainy days, you won’t need an umbrella. Bern’s six kilometres of arcades make up the longest covered shopping promenade in all of Europe. You can walk from the main station all the way down to Nydeggbrücke and almost always be covered by the arcades.
Discover Bern’s shopping treasures
Dinner at Harmonie (One of the Best Fondues in Bern)
The historic, century-old restaurant next to the famous Zytglogge (Clock Tower) in the Old City serves delicious Swiss specialties all year round. Word is, they have one of the city’s best cheese fondues! If you opt for the traditional meal, you’ll be spoilt for choice – there are no less than four variations on the menu: «Classique», «aux truffes» (with truffles and cham-pagne), «moitié-moitié» and «Bärner Chrütter» (with herbs).
More Bernese fondue recommendations
Nightcap at the Kornhaus Gallerie Bar
Be it nutty Aberlour, smoky Orban or 16-year-old Longmorn – when looking through the drinks menu of the Kornhaus Gallerie Bar, you’ll notice the fine selection of Whiskeys. If you prefer a different drink, you’ll be sure to find something to your liking: the bar in the historic location also offers light wines, refreshing cocktails and bubbly champagnes, for example. Whether you feel like ending the day in one of the typical vaulted cellars, a hip beer café or a relaxed bistro – there are all kinds of different places waiting to be discovered.
Go for a nightcap
Day 2: Culture and Views
Museum of Communication
How about a morning visit to the museum? The permanent exhibition is all about communication in all its forms. Why do we even communicate? And who with? What does it take to understand each other? The museum answers these questions in a playful way and invites visitors to participate. There are interactive stations, surprising objects, movie karaoke, large screens and even a love letter generator – which might just help you win over a special someone.
More museum recommendations
Up, up and away
After learning everything there is to know about communication, it’s time to head up: Bern’s local mountain, the Gurten – 858 metres above sea level – is a green paradise with fantastic views of the Bernese Oberland’s snowy peaks, the sparkling Aare river and the beautiful city of Bern. You’ll instantly forget about the hustle and bustle of the city when you arrive at the top and find yourself amongst grazing cows, rattling hiking poles and playing children. Take streetcar no. 7 from the Museum of Communication to the main station (3 minutes), then no. 9 to the valley station of the Gurtenbahn funicular (15 minutes). From there, you can reach the top of the Gurten either on foot (about 40 minutes), by bike or by funicular.
Lunch at Gurtners
Lunch with a view: at Gurtners at the top of Bern’s local mountain, tried-and-trusted dishes are reinterpreted and put on the menu (which changes monthly) alongside hearty traditional reci-pes. A trip to the Gurten does not only provide a wonderful view and fun and excitement for the entire family, but also delicious meals in a stylish setting.
Sledding on the Local Mountain
As soon as there is snow on the rooftops of Bern, the Gurten turns into a little winter wonder-land. The sledding slope leads through the forest, over hilly passages and through narrow curves all the way down to the half-way station of the funicular. If you prefer a calmer ride or if it’s your first time on a sled, there is a small, short slope on the meadow. Visitors who don’t own a sled can rent one of the sixty sturdy Davoser sleds awaiting at the top station of the Gurten funicular.
On your sleds, get set, go!
Dinner at Lötschberg
On Zeughausgasse alley, Bern is almost part of the Valais: the restaurant Lötschberg AOC offers wine fans the best wines from our neighbouring canton and from all over Switzerland. To complement them, the menu includes authentic Swiss raclette and fondue. The ambiance is not traditional, but rather an urban, modern interpretation of alpine and chalet chic that at-tracts tourists and homesick Valaisans alike.
Take a trip to the Valais
Ice Skating on Parliament Square
The artificial ice rink in front of the impressive Federal Parliament is popular with locals and guests alike and brings a bit of Big Apple vibe to Bern: every year, thousands of visitors lace up their skates and glide across the illuminated, 600-square-metre skating rink. The restaurant by the rink is perfect for warming up while enjoying some mulled wine and fondue. If you don’t have any skates, you can rent them at the rink. And the best thing: there’s no admission fee.
Lace up your skates