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 interesting to see and do in Bern. Finally, when researching for day trips to take from Zurich I googled the photos of Bern and decided that it was time to go there. And the only thing I regret is that I waited so long.
There are lots of things to do in Bern and the area around 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 or car from almost every part of Switzerland. If you travel by car, the day trip from France and Germany is also possible. Here are some ideas what to do in Bern if you only got one day to explore the city. And the best part? Most of them are free!
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. 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.
The best thing about visiting Bern is that its main attraction – The Old Town – is completely free to see. You can stroll through the Old Town and admire the unique architecture at no cost. However, if you want to get a deeper knowledge of the history of the city, don’t hesitate to 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 behind the facades. Bern Tourism offers a few different types of tours so you can choose the best way for you to discover the city.
The Arcades in Old Town
A unique feature of 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 enjoy the walk in the Old Town of Bern without getting wet even when it is raining.
Fountains in Old Town
As you walk through the Old Town, you will notice numerous fountains with statues. Each fountain is unique so take a closer look at them. Also, water from fountains is completely safe and free to drink.
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 Park 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. This attraction is free of charge.
But even if you not so interested in seeing 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. You can even check the live webcam to see the view from the restaurant Rosengarten right now.
This was just a short list of activities you can do in Bern in one day. I have only been in Bern in summer but the photo of Bern covered in snow makes me want to visit again in winter. Christmas markets take place in December and this must be the perfect time to see Bern in winter.
Did I convince you that Bern is worth at least a one day visit? 🙂