Bern, Switzerland is a beautiful, medieval city that is full of stunning architecture, vibrant culture, and rich history, there is something for everyone to explore and enjoy in this unique European city.
It is also a great place to visit if you are looking for amazing views, as the city is nestled in the Alps.
In this blog post, we'll give you a run-down of the 14 best attractions and activities in Bern – from visiting UNESCO world heritage sites to exploring the lesser-known treasures.
So whether you're looking to explore Bern's history or just want to have some fun, read on for Lovely Terra's recommendations.
1. Explore the Old Town of Bern
Bern's Old Town is one of the most impressive and charming destinations in all of Switzerland.
Starting at its six kilometers of cobbled streets, lined with arcades and fountains, there simply is no other place quite like it.
This beautiful part of the city has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1983, thanks to its picturesque architecture and timeless charm.
With its beautiful sandstone buildings and cobbled streets, the city exudes charm and old-world elegance, making it one of the most popular destinations in all of Europe.
Within the Old City itself, visitors can find some of Bern's best attractions and things to do, like visit the iconic Clock Tower or Fountains.
Whether you're looking for excellent food, beautiful gardens, or bustling markets, there is truly something for everyone here.
Bern's Old Town is a must-visit for any traveler looking to experience Switzerland's rich history and unique culture.
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2. Check out the Bern Münster Cathedral
Located in the heart of Bern, the impressive late-Gothic Berner Münster is a must-see for anyone visiting this beautiful medieval city.
With its soaring bell tower and lofty spire, this magnificent cathedral dominates the Old Town, providing a striking backdrop to the cobbled streets and charming architecture below.
Inside, the walls are adorned with stunning stained glass windows that illuminate the space with vibrant hues, while intricately carved choir stalls offer a glimpse into everyday life in 16th century Switzerland.
From here, you can also marvel at the three grand organs that grace the nave and steep yourself in centuries of local history and culture.
To truly experience all that this incredible cathedral has to offer, be sure to pay a little admission to climb to its lofty spire and take in breathtaking views of Bern from above.
You'll be rewarded with sweeping vistas of Bern's Old Town, along with stunning views of alpine peaks such as Eiger and Jungfrau towering in the distance.
Berner Münster is open every day and the admission is free except for the above mentioned attraction.
So if you're looking for an unforgettable adventure during your trip to Bern, don't miss out on a visit to this magnificent medieval cathedral.
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3. Admire the Zytglogge - Clock Tower
Perhaps the most iconic landmark in Bern, the Clock Tower is a must-see for visitors to this charming city.
Also known as the Zytglogge, this awe-inspiring structure rises high above the other buildings in Old Town.
Every hour on the hour, onlookers gather in front of the Clock Tower to witness a special performance by its unique mechanical figures, including a parade of golden roosters, bears, and jesters, along with the god of time - Chronos.
Inside the Clock Tower lies another treasure: medieval clockwork mechanisms that seem to capture time as you soak in your surroundings.
Built from thick stone walls and massive wooden beams, this historic structure takes visitors on a journey through past centuries.
Best of all, those who are up for the challenge can venture all the way to the top of this magnificent building and take in the stunning view over Bern and beyond.
Whether you opt for an exhilarating ascent or simply admire it from below, there is no doubt that the Clock Tower is one of Bern's must-visit attractions.
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4. Spend some Time at the Rose Garden
Located above the River of Aare on the eastern edge of the Old Town, the Rose Garden (or Rosengarten) is one of the city's most stunning and beloved parks.
With breathtaking views over the historic Old Town and looping Aare river, this outdoor space is a must-see for anyone visiting the Swiss capital.
Boasting more than 400 different types of roses, azaleas, and rhododendrons, this verdant oasis is an absolute delight to explore.
There is also a charming water lily pond with fountain at its center, as well as plenty of open grassy areas that give the park a spacious, inviting feel.
You can also find various attractions within the Rose Garden, including a pavilion cafe, picnic spots, and even a small restaurant tucked away in its grounds.
Best of all, if you visit during springtime you will be treated to gorgeous blossoms on the Japanese cherry trees scattered throughout - an enchanting sight that cannot be missed!
So if you're looking for the best things to do in Bern, look no further than this breathtaking public space.
Whether you want to snap some unforgettable photos or simply enjoy a relaxing afternoon among nature's finest scenes, the Rose Garden has it all.
Read also: 17 Best Things to do in Switzerland
5. Explore Einstein Museum and Historical Museum of Bern
If you are looking to explore some of the best attractions and things to do in Bern, then be sure to visit the Einstein Museum and the Historical Museum of Bern.
Nestled inside a stunning 130-year-old Andre-Lambert building reminiscent of 15th century castles, these two museums offer an exciting glimpse into Swiss history.
The Historical Museum is home to over half a million objects spanning from the Stone Age through the Middle Ages, Napoleonic era, and into the 19th and 20th centuries.
Meanwhile, the Einstein Museum offers fascinating insights into one of the great minds of modern physics.
Through engaging interactive displays, multimedia exhibits and experiments, visitors can explore the life and work of this groundbreaking scientist within a broader historical context.
So whether you are interested in art, history or science, a visit to these world-renowned museums is sure to be both enlightening and enjoyable!
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6. Hike to Gurten, a Bern's local Mountain
When it comes to natural beauty, there is perhaps no better place than the Gurten mountain in Bern.
Located just south of the city center, this stunning mountain top provides sweeping views of the surrounding countryside and cityscape alike.
As if that weren't enough, there are also a wide variety of hiking trails snaking through the grassy meadows and deep forests that cover much of the Gurten's slopes.
Whether you prefer a leisurely stroll or an energetic trek up through the hills, there is something for hikers of all skill levels here.
In addition to its many natural attractions, the Gurten also offers fun activities for visitors of all ages. In the winter skiers can hit the slopes at one of several small ski slopes specially designed for kids and families, while thrill-seekers can tackle steep toboggan runs as they barrel down from the peak.
After working up an appetite on your hike or other adventure on Gurten, simply head over to one of its excellent restaurants to enjoy some hearty local fare before embarking on your return journey.
And finally, if you're visiting during July, make sure to time your trip with Bern's annual Gurtenfestival music festival as well - you won't want to miss out on this truly unique experience!
Whether you're looking for outdoor excitement or foodie delights, a trip to Bern's very own Gurten mountain is sure to delight and leave you longing for more.
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7. Visit Federal Palace and its Square
Located in the heart of Bern, the stunning Federal Palace (Bundeshaus) is one of the city's premier attractions.
This iconic building houses the Swiss Parliament, and its striking architecture makes it hard to miss in the otherwise picturesque skyline. With its massive green dome set in the center, flanked by two smaller domes on either side, this impressive structure is truly a sight to behold.
As you approach the Federal Palace, be sure to admire its grand facade adorned with elegant columns and decorative stained glass windows.
A trip to this historic building would not be complete without taking in its beautiful courtyard, which features a fountain that shoots jets of water from holes in its floor, at night illuminated by brilliant fluorescent colors.
For even more wonders, don't miss a stop at the ice skating rink and Christmas market at the Federal Palace square during the winter months.
Whether you're visiting for fun or political intrigue, there are plenty of things to do at Bern's famous Bundeshaus that are sure to keep you enthralled.
Read also: 14 Best Christmas Markets in Switzerland
8. Enjoy the Aare River's Wide Variety of Activities
The Aare River is an integral part of Bern, a beautiful and pristine body of sparkling turquoise waters that has shaped the city's history and landscape for centuries.
In addition to its natural beauty, the Aare offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation, with numerous swimming pools along its banks, including the famous Marzili pool complex.
Furthermore, there are various exciting whitewater rafting trips available on the Aare River. For those seeking a greater challenge, there are also impressive rapids along the Aare to test your mettle.
Alternatively, if you prefer a more leisurely pace, you can take the train to Thun and then float back down to Bern with the current.
No matter how you choose to explore the Aare River, one thing is certain: its idyllic views and captivating scenery will leave you in awe.
So if you're looking for an unforgettable experience on your next trip to Switzerland, be sure to plan a visit to beautiful Bern and its glorious Aare River!
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9. Don't miss the Bern's Bear Park (Bärenpark) & Dählhölzli, Bern Zoo
Bern is renowned for its stunning architecture, vibrant culture, and rich history, but perhaps one of the most iconic symbols of this city is the majestic bear.
Nestled at Nygeggbrücke bridge almost in the city center, just steps away from the scenic Aare river, Bern's bear park offers visitors the unique opportunity to interact with these majestic creatures up close.
Here is everything from caves and ponds to bushes and forests, all designed to provide a natural habitat for these powerful animals.
Currently, the Bear Park is inhabited by three beautiful brown bears "Ursina", "Finn", and "Björk".
But that's not all, along with the beautiful bears, other animals also live here.
Beyond Bear Park, is a small but wonderful zoo, also known as Dählhölzli, that offers visitors an opportunity to explore a wide array of animals and exotic ecosystems.
With half of the park open to visitors at no cost, there are plenty of must-see attractions and activities that can be enjoyed without having to purchase a ticket.
These include exciting enclosures like the one next to the Aar River or beside the stock pond, as well as the Children Zoo or flamingos and tetras enclosure.
But for those who want to go deeper into the zoo experience, the other half of the Zoo of Bern can be explored with a paid ticket.
Within this section, visitors will find some of the most popular animals including gray wolves, bison, otters, carpathian lynx, muskoxen, boars, and many others.
Additionally, there is also a stunning assortment of birds from both Europe and beyond, from colorful songbirds like rock ptarmigans and snowy owls to majestic waterfowl like flamingos and black storks.
And if you're looking for something truly unique to see in Bern's zoo, don't miss out on visiting its vivariums and aquariums packed with diverse species of reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, and fishes from all corners of Europe.
So whether you're just passing through on your travels or looking for things to do in Bern with family friends or loved ones, don't miss out on experiencing this top-rated zoo in Switzerland!
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10. Check Out the Town's Ancient Fountains
Bern is known for its beautiful ancient fountains, which can be found throughout the Old City.
These medieval works of art are not only artistic masterpieces, but also an essential part of Bern's cultural identity.
The cool water that flows from their spouts is drinkable and free for everyone to enjoy, making them a popular gathering place for locals and tourists alike.
Some of the most fascinating fountains in Bern include the Zähringerbrunnen, which depicts a fierce-looking bear in full armor, symbolizing the power and strength of the city.
There is also the Läuferbrunnen, or Runner Fountain, which depicts a barefoot runner blessing villagers with fresh water from his hat.
Both these iconic figures help to capture the spirit of this charming city and make it truly unique.
So if you're visiting this beautiful city, be sure to take some time to explore its fascinating fountains!
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11. Take a trip to Paul Klee Museum
The Paul Klee Museum is one of the best attractions in Bern for anyone interested in seeing an impressive collection of famed German-Swiss painter Paul Klee's work.
Opened in 2005, this museum houses an impressive collection of the artist's works, as well as representations from major art movements such as surrealism, cubism, and expressionism, this museum is a treasure trove for those who want to explore the creative diversity of 20th-century art.
But what truly sets this museum apart from others is its striking architectural design.
Designed by world-renowned architect Renzo Piano, the building takes the form of a rolling landscape, with wide and airy halls that undulate like waves along a green field.
Truly a work of art in its own right, the Paul Klee Museum is one attraction that no visitor to Bern should miss.
Therefore if you're looking for an invigorating cultural experience that will inspire your creativity and enrich your understanding of modern art, be sure to make time for this inspiring museum.
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12. See World-Class Art at the Museum of Fine Arts Bern
The Museum of Fine Arts Bern is one of the oldest and most revered art museums in all of Switzerland.
Boasting a vast collection spanning over 800 years, the museum houses an impressive artistic treasure trove that includes works by some of the most well-known and celebrated artists of all time, including Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, Edmond Jean de Pury, Ferdinand Hodler, Adolf Wölfli, Méret Oppenheim, and Ricco Wassmer.
With an extensive collection comprising more than 3,000 paintings and sculptures as well as more than 48,000 drawings, photographs, films, videos and prints, from a wide range of different mediums and periods in history, this iconic museum truly has something for everyone to enjoy.
Whether you are looking for a fascinating adventure for yourself or exciting activities for your children during your visit to Bern, the Museum of Fine Arts is the perfect place to go.
Located in the heart of downtown Bern just minutes away from the city's railway station, this acclaimed institution promises an enriching experience that will delight visitors of all ages.
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13. Check out some of Bern's spectacular Festivals
There are countless festivals and events to enjoy in the beautiful city of Bern, Switzerland.
Whether you are looking for an action-packed cultural experience or simply a chance to unwind and relax, this thriving city is sure to have something that piques your interest. Some of the highlights include:
The Museum Night, an annual event that takes place in March each year. During Museum Night, over 40 museums are open late into the evening, giving visitors the opportunity to peruse amazing collections and explore this wonderful city's rich history and cultural heritage.
Another exciting festival is the Bern Carnival, which takes place in February or March each year.
This unique festival is typified by the sight of human "bears" being awakened by drummers early in the morning before being released into the Old Town with plenty of noise and fanfare.
If you're a music lover, then you won't want to miss out on the iconic Bern International Jazz Festival, which takes place from March through May every year. Featuring some of the world's top jazz performers, this must-see event draws crowds from far and wide who come together to relax and enjoy great music amidst an energetic atmosphere.
The annual Onion Market Festival is also not to be missed. Held each last Monday in November in Parliament Square, this lively festival features stands selling a variety of local foods - including fresh onions! - alongside plenty of fun activities for people of all ages.
Of course, no visit to Bern would be complete without heading down to one (or more!) of its many Bern Christmas markets during peak holiday season - usually starting at the end of November and running through December until just before Christmas Day.
Whether you're after some artisanal crafts or simply looking for somewhere cozy to escape from the cold winter weather, these festive festivities are sure to brighten up your holiday season!
Finally, no visit to this incredible city would be complete without checking out Gurtenfestival - a summer music festival held every July featuring top international acts across various genres such as metal, pop & rock as well as dance & hip hop among others.
So if you're looking for soulful outdoor entertainment while soaking up some sunshine this summer, Bern has got you covered!
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14. Take a Day trip from Bern
Grindelwald - is the perfect destination for a day trip from Bern, full of natural beauty and stunning views. Located in the heart of the Swiss Alps, this alpine resort is home to some of the most majestic mountains in the region, including the Eiger, Jungfrau, and Monch.
Whether you choose to hike through these rugged landscapes or hop on the famous Jungfraujoch railway to reach breathtaking panoramic vistas at 3,571 meters above sea level, there is plenty to see and do in Grindelwald.
Additionally, with its lush pastures, traditional Swiss chalets, and adorable alpine cows adorned with jingling cow bells, this charming mountain town provides visitors with an unparalleled taste of Switzerland's natural beauty and authentic Alpine charm. So if you're looking for a memorable day out from bustling Bern, be sure to check out all that Grindelwald has to offer!
Interlaken - for a fun and exciting day trip from Bern. A paradise for outdoor enthusiasts with its endless array of activities and attractions. Whether you're looking to swim, sail, or simply enjoy the breathtaking views, this vibrant town has something to suit every taste.
Some of the best things to do in Interlaken include exploring its beautiful nature reserves and hiking trails. You can go for long walks across seemingly untouched forests and apple orchards, or take a dip in one of its many serene lakes and rivers.
For those who prefer more thrilling activities, there are countless opportunities for water sports like rafting, canoeing, scuba diving, kite surfing, and more. And if you're looking for an unforgettable experience be sure to check out Interlaken's famous Canyon Swing!
Fribourg - located just 35 kilometers away from Bern, is home to some of the finest medieval architecture in Switzerland, as well as a fascinating blend of Swiss and French cultures.
Its medieval streets are lined with towering Gothic churches, traditional houses with colorful wooden balconies, and unique markets that sell a wide variety of local wares.
Other highlights here include the well-maintained old town, which is full of striking buildings like the stunning Cathedral of St. Nicholas; and the Natural History Museum and Musee Gutenberg, both of which offer beautifully curated collections that are sure to delight visitors of all ages.
Whether you prefer spending time outdoors or exploring vibrant cultural spaces, a day trip to Fribourg from Bern makes for an unforgettable experience!
Gantrisch Nature Park - located right on the doorstep of the vibrant city of Bern is a sprawling region filled with natural beauty and a multitude of outdoor activities.
With its rugged mountain ranges and lush green forests, this park offers countless hiking and biking routes that traverse grassy meadows and wind along streams and rivers.
Additionally, the many running trails that crisscross this area provide an excellent outlet for exercise and adventure, making the Gantrisch Nature Park the perfect destination for sports enthusiasts looking to explore Switzerland’s stunning natural landscapes.
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Best places to stay in Bern
Luxury Stay in Bern
Hotel Bellevue Palace Bern - 5* hotel luxuriously furnished rooms at the heart of Bern, just right to Federal Palace, overlooking the Aare river and Bernese Alps.
Boutique Hotel Belle Epoque - 4* hotel nestled in a 500-year-old building close to some of Bern's most popular landmarks, such as Cathedral and Clock Tower.
Hotel Schweizerhof Bern & Spa - the hotel is strategically positioned in Bern and offers luxury rooms with excellent interior design and cutting-edge services.
Mid-Range Stay in Bern
Hotel Jardin Bern - Bern's historic center is about a 20-minute walk away. There are several restaurants in the hotel's immediate surroundings.
Hotel Alpenblick - 3* hotel with an alfresco restaurant, located in an exquisite old building on a quiet residential street, a short walk from the Rose Garden and the Old Town.
The Bristol Bern - 4* located in the heart of Bern’s Old Town, offers elegant rooms, a bar, and lounge.
Cheap Stay in Bern
Bern Youth Hostel - located within a few minutes' walk from the beloved Marzilli public swimming pool on the Aare river, and the Hammam & Spa Oktogon Bern | Aqua Spa Resorts is across the street.
Bern Backpackers Hotel Glocke - with a great location right in the center, offers basic dorms with free Wi-Fi.
Hostel 77 Bern - budget stay nestled at the foot of Gurten mountain, about 2,1 km from city center of Bern, offer breakfast, a bar, shared lounge, garden, and family rooms.
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Bern, Switzerland is a city that offers something for everyone. Whether you are looking to explore the city’s rich history and culture or take in the natural beauty of the surrounding area, there is something for you to enjoy.
With so many attractions and things to do, we hope this list has helped you to plan your perfect holidays. If you have any other suggestions for what visitors should not miss while in Bern, let us know.