Many people have not heard of Bern and this surprises me because it is a beautiful city. The Swiss capital is full of stunning architecture, museums and parks to explore. I visited in winter so the Christmas markets were in abundance and summery vibes had well and truly passed. Bern seems to be a city that would change with the seasons with many people swimming in the river, greenery lining the streets and cafés spilling into the alleyways in the warmer months. However, I strongly recommend visiting Bern at any time of the year.
As with many Swiss cities, is rather expensive here too. So I found that simply wandering around and absorbing the atmosphere is the most cost-effective way to enjoy the capital.
From my short time in the city I have compiled a brief guide to help you when you explore it.
Hostel dorm bed: 40CHF / $50AUD
Espresso/cafe crème: 3CHF / $3.20AUD
Inexpensive meal: 12CHF / $14AUD
Supermarket lunch: 4.50CHF / $5AUD
Getting to Bern
Bern is very well-connected to the rest of Switzerland. The fast SBB trains will get you there from Zurich in around an hour, and similarly from Luzern or Geneva. Bern is also the gateway to the Interlaken/Berner-Oberland region which is an epic place to explore! It is only about 50mins from the main station to Interlaken.
I found Bern to be a very walkable city. The streets are full of pedestrians and the French-inspired architecture is best enjoyed on foot. There are undercover walkways on most streets in the old city to shield you from passing trams.
There are many trolley buses and trams throughout Bern which will be able to take you to most places, however these will come at a cost.
What to see
As the capital of Switzerland there are many things to see and do here. The city is bursting with stately buildings and national museums, so it is up to you to choose! Here are a few of my ‘must-sees’:
Parliament House (Bundeshaus)
Views from the Bundeshaus
The Bundeshaus is worth a visit because it is spectacular! When I was in the city parliament was sitting so I could not explore inside but information about it can be found here. However the outside is equally spectacular. The stone facade is incredible and walking around supplies great views over the city.
The Bern Münster is a wonderful church and a must-visit when in Bern. It is incredibly old and has a fascinating history to uncover. Exploring the church is completely free.
The Old Town
The streets of Bern are lined with beautiful buildings and filled with trams
Wandering around the Old Town has to be the best thing to do in Bern in my opinin. The streets are fascinating and the architecture is simply stunning.
Bern Clock Tower
The stunning Clock Tower in the old town
The Bern Clock Tower is beautiful and seems to pop out of nowhere. It is definitely worth finding if you can!
The Rose Garden
Because I visited Bern in winter the Rose Garden was not in operation but during the warmer months it seems to be an absolutely splendid place to visit in Bern. You can find more information about it here.
The Winter Markets
If you are visiting in winter then checking out the winter markets is a must. There are loads of stalls selling festive goods and incredible foods. There are small Christmas markets dotted throughout Bern. The biggest one I could find was in front of the Bundeshaus but there was also a small one in front of the Bern Münster.
This is a fantastic museum to check out if you are in Bern. It contains a wealth of information about the city’s history. If you are interested in visiting you can see the website here for information on exhibits, opening hours and ticket prices.
Bear Park (Bärengraben)
Once again, visiting in winter meant that this attraction was not open (the bears were hibernating) but it is a classic Bern tourist attaction to do. In the warmer months there are plenty of bears to encounter. More information about the Bärengraben can be found here.
The view over the city from the Bear Park
What to eat
As with my general Guide To Travelling Switzerland on a Budget, the advice remains pretty similar for Bern. Although there are plenty of nice restaurants around the city, they are definitely expensive.
For a cheaper meal head to the outskirts and find smaller restaurants, here a meal will cost you around 12CHF. There are some cheaper Thai restaurants within the city centre also. There are some relatively inexpensive places to eat around main train stations as well.
For those really on a budget, simply find a supermarket (Coop or Migros) and pick up some food from there. Both of these supermarkets have fair prices and have food for lunches too. There are hot options and cold options available, and a lunch for one will be about 4.50CHF. Both supermarkets have plastic cutlery and places to heat up food. Migros also has ‘Migros Takeaway’ which has a sit-down area with sandwiches, pasta, quiches, salads, and more for sale.