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 344 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 Bay
At Bay, the traditional brasserie culture of the past goes hand in hand with current zeitgeist, as French classics are reinterpreted and complemented with new, modern elements. The menu at Bay includes goat’s cheese terrine with iced raspberries, a trio of Knödel dumplings or sole confit with lemon and mint salsa. The architecture of the restaurant combines the old and the new Bern and thus creates the perfect ambiance for an exquisite dinner after a long and exciting day in Switzerland’s capital.
More exquisite restaurants
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. In addition to interactive stations, surprising objects, film karaoke and large-scale video screens, guests can immortalise themselves on their own stamp – the first step to becoming famous!
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.
Dinner at Du Nord
Happy times in the North! The restaurant Du Nord by the Lorrainebrücke bridge is an integral part of Bern’s gastronomic scene and known in all of Bern for its great food. Everything they serve is fresh, homemade and creative. On weekdays, it’s inventive pasta, meat, vegetarian and salad dishes that you won’t find anywhere else. Especially cute and sweet: the dessert «Es Reiheli Schoggi» («a row of chocolate») for one Swiss franc. For Dinner, they bring out the big guns – while still sticking to their typical, uncomplicated style. The short trip from the Gurten (streetcar no. 9 back to the main station and then 10 minutes on foot) to the Lorraine neighbourhood is definitely worth it.
More neighbourhood bistros
Day 3: Discover the Region
Ride an E-Bike to the Emmental Region
Enough time spent in the city, now we’re off to the countryside! And what better way to do so than on a relaxed bike tour? Hop on a bike (with or without an electric motor) and enjoy the ride through the idyllic Emmental landscape. Behind the rolling hills, new valleys wait to be discovered, each with its own charm. Be it on the «Herzroute» («Heart Route»), the «Herzschlaufe Napf» («Napf Heart Loop») or the «Kambly Erlebnis Tour» («Kambly Experience Tour») – there are many bike routes to choose from and there’s something for every fitness level. On your saddles, get set, go!
Bicycle routes in and around Bern
Lunch in Burgdorf
Burdorf’s Stadthaus (city hall) carries the nickname «Rütli des Kantons Bern» («Rütli of the canton of Bern»), because it was here that, around 1830, the first democratic constitution of the canton was set up. Today, the historical building houses a hotel with 18 rooms and the restaurant La Pendule. Chef Christian Bolliger prepares delicious gourmet menus made from fresh ingredients straight from the market, and the à la carte menu holds treats like the Club Sandwich with chicken breast or homemade ravioli. There are also exciting Swiss products offered at La Pendule, for example salmon from alpine breeding in Lostallo or cheeks of veal – perfect after a long bike tour.
The Emmentaler Show Dairy
How do the holes get in the cheese? The answer to that question awaits at the Emmentaler Show Dairy in Affoltern. In the charming village in the midst of the rolling Emmental hills, the possibly most famous cheese in the world is produced, Emmentaler AOP. The Show Dairy is open 365 days a year and gives an exciting insight into the world of cheese: On the tour «King’s Journey», visitors get a close-up look at how, every day, some 8’000 litres of milk are turned into cheese. You will hear interesting facts about cheese and learn about the history of this traditional Swiss product – and even get the opportunity to have a go at some cheese making yourself!
Cheese, cheese, cheese
Dinner at Kornhauskeller
Back in Bern and (hopefully) hungry, the restaurant Kornhauskeller is worth a visit, where the charm of years past is combined with elegant interior decorating: what once was a granary now houses a library, the Kornhaus Forum and two restaurants. The menu includes Bernese specialties and traditional dishes, the culinary focus is on regional and seasonal products.
Nightcap at Klösterli Weincafe
Is there anything better than rounding off a long day of exploring with glass of wine or a cold beer? The perfect place to do that is Klösterli Weincafe below Bern Animal Park, BearPark: some 100 different wines await the guests in the stylish wine bar, 20 of which can be ordered by the glass. For beer fans, there’s Klösterli Bier, which is brewed exclusively for the restaurant. And if you’re lucky, there’s a live concert or a dance show at the adjacent Mahogany Hall, Bern’s oldest music club. We feel like that’s the perfect way of celebrating your three days in Bern – and looking forward to the next visit!
Other cultural institutions in Bern