For most first-time visitors in Switzerland Bern is usually not the top choice for a day trip. I totally understand it. In the country with such beautiful nature, why should you waste your precious vacation time to visit cities? Bern wasn’t also on my radar for a long time. I knew it was a Swiss capital but I didn’t know what was so special to see there. Finally, this spring, I went to see it on a one day trip from Zurich. And the only thing I regret is that I waited so long.
Bern offers lots of things to do and you can easily stay 2-3 days here but even if your time is limited, one day is enough to get an idea of the city. Bern is easy to reach by train from almost every part of Switzerland and if you travel by car, the day trip from France and Germany is also possible. Here are some ideas what you can do if you only got one day in Bern.
Stroll through the Old Town of Bern
The Old Town of Bern is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the best preserved medieval sights in Europe. The Old Town is the main attraction in Bern. It was built on the peninsula and is framed by the Aare river. All the sights listed below are situated not far from each other and are easy to reach on foot. I didn’t take a single tram on my visit to Bern but if you don’t like walking, trams will take you everywhere you want.
A unique feature oft the Old Town is six kilometers of arcades with all kinds of shops – from boutiques to traditional markets. The arcades also are the perfect cover in rainy weather and in hot summer.
You can either walk the Old Town by yourself and admire the unique architecture or take a tour. My trip was spontaneous and I didn’t have time to plan a tour but I feel like I missed a lot of interesting facts and history about Bern. Bern Tourism offers a few different types of tours so you can choose the best way for you to discover the city.
As you walk through the Old Town, you will notice numerous fountains with statues on the street. Each fountain is unique so take a closer look at them.
House of Parliament
The Parliament building is impressive from outside but what if I tell you that you can even go inside? The tours of the Parliament building are free of charge but you better book a spot in advance.
I loved how the square in front of the Parliament looks. Water fountains, children playing, people eating ice cream – this is not exactly what I expected to see right in front of the Parliament Building.
The Clock Tower (Zytglogge)
The Clock Tower is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Bern. Every hour people gather to watch the little figures move but don’t expect too much. The clock is really old so the most amazing part of “performance” is when you think how it can be so old and still working.
Climbing a cathedral tower is one of my favorite activities to do in every European city. For a small fee, you can climb around 300 steps of the Bell Tower ( the highest church tower in Switzerland, by the way) for a unique view over Bern. If you are lucky, you can even see the Alps.
Albert Einstein lived in Bern for 2 years and developed his Theory of Relativity here. His apartment on the second floor is open for the public to visit for a small fee. This is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Bern but I didn’t go there myself. From the photos on the Internet, it looks just like an apartment with old furniture and seems not very interesting to me unless you are an Einstein fan. There is also a separate Einstein Museum that you can visit in Bern as a part of Bern historical museum.
Bear pit is a sight not to miss in Bern. The bear is a symbol of Bern and animals has been kept in the city since a long time. In 2009 the new BearPark was opened on the banks of the Aare river. Now bears live in much better conditions and have bigger space for themselves than before.
But even if you not so interested in bears, Bear Park is also a great photo point. From the bridge that leads to the park and from the lower and upper terrace, you get one of the best views of the city.
A Rose Garden, as a name suggest, will be especially interesting for flower lovers. But even if you arrive in the off-season, you can enjoy a beautiful view of the Old Town and Aare Loop. Rose Garden is a popular place for locals to relax and go for the picnic.
This was just a short list of things you can expect to see in Bern in one day without rushing from one sight to another.
Did I convince you that Bern is worth at least a one day visit? 🙂