Bern is a stunning city in Switzerland that’s perfect for a day trip! Here’s the ultimate guide to one day in Bern.
I’ll be honest. I hadn’t given Bern a fair chance the first few times I’d visited. There are so many incredible places to visit in Switzerland, and I’d never considered Bern to be one of them! A while back, I had an appointment at the embassy in Bern, so I decided to spend the whole day there, and was I pleasantly surprised! Bern is a beautiful city with plenty to do and so much green space. It’s definitely worth a full day, whether you’re there for an appointment at your local embassy or just in the area! Here’s the ultimate guide to a Bern day trip – one of the best day trips in Swtizerland.
One day in Bern Itinerary – Things to do in Bern!
It’s totally possible to see Bern in one day. This Bern itinerary has all of the city’s main attractions packed into one incredible day. From a morning near the river to an afternoon in the old town, you’ll get a great tour of the city following this itinerary.
From the train station, head on over to Kleine Schanze. It takes roughly 10 minutes to stroll to this hillside park, and it’s absolutely worth a visit! There’s a gazebo at the top of the hill with sweeping views of the city and the river below. I’m a sucker for views over pretty cities, so this is the first of a few viewpoints you’ll see today.
If you have children, there’s a wonderful little playground near the park restaurant. It has spinning structures and a few slacklines, as well as a free little library stand.
The Bundesplatz & Bundeshaus
From Kleine Schanze, make your way left towards the Bern DMB (a funicular station) and then to the Bundesplatz. There are giant chess boards for you to play on, as well as free seats and tables to relax at. Again, there’s a great viewpoint over Bern and the Aare River to enjoy.
You can then visit the Bundeshaus, Bern’s parliament building. You can take a free guided tour of the building if you reserve a ticket online up to 3 days before your visit. There are 50 spaces for each timeslot and you will need to bring an ID or passport to enter. The tours are done in 4 languages with their times below. The tour lasts one hour.
|Wednesday and Friday
Tuesday to Saturday
|Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday
You can book your tour here on the official website.
Walk down the Aare River
From the Parliament building, you can follow a walking trail down towards the Aare River. Walk up the river towards the public pools. A popular summer activity is floating down the Aare River, but there are also pools where the current won’t take you downstream. There’s tonnes of greenery and deck space there to lay out on if you aren’t in the mood to swim.
Even if it isn’t summertime, the river is beautiful to stroll by.
Bärengraben: Bern’s Bears
You can cross the river from the side of the river with the pool and walk back towards town on a walking trail that goes along the river and into the forest a bit. You’ll be heading towards the bärengraben, the park for the brown bears, Bern’s symbol!
The bears have a large area to roam around on the banks of the Aare, and they sometimes roam into the old bear pit where you can get a great view of them. They can otherwise be found hunting around for food or basking in the sun – they can be tricky to find in amongst the trees!
From the bear enclosure, head up the hill towards the Rose Garden (Rosengarten). It’s a short but steep walk up, but you’ll have some of the best views of Bern to your left. Near the top of the hill, there’s a bench with a statue of Albert Einstein. It’s worth a short visit, as it’s an amazing viewpoint and the garden is quite beautiful. The rosengarten has lots of green space if you’re keen to stop and laze in the sun a bit or have a picnic in the park. There’s also a restaurant at the top of the hill, but I’ve recommended another restaurant below – our next stop!
Lunch at Tramdepot
Tram Depot is a small complex comprised a restaurant and an ice cream parlour. The restaurant is also a brewery, and you can see the huge vats and equipment right behind the bar. If it’s a nice day, I highly recommend sitting outside on a nice day! The restaurant serves both burgers and traditional Swiss food. There’s an artisanal ice cream parlour within tramdepot if you’d like to end your meal with a sweet treat.
Wander through the Old Town
If there’s one thing to do on your Bern day trip, it’s this! Bern’s old town is charming and there’s so much to see within this part of the city. From Tramdepot, walk down the bridge into the old town. You’ll get to Gerechtigkeitsgasse, a street with flags swaying in the wind and Bern’s famous arcades with sweet shops and restaurants. The compact layout of the old town is so well preserved from medieval times that it’s a UNESCO heritage site. Within the old town, there are a few things you shouldn’t miss!
Albert Einstein’s house in Bern is where he developed his famous theory of relativity. You can tour his house for a small fee (prices below!) and learn more about Einstein and his legacy. There’s also a cafe outside his house where you can rest with coffee and tea.
Einstein Haus Prices
|Families of 3 or more
|Youth (8-15 yr)
Bern has amazing fountains all over the old town. They’re often pillars that served as a meeting point in medieval times, and they’re central to Bern’s identity and history. The fountains always stream fresh potable water if you need a drink or to fill up a water bottle.
One of the most famous fountains is Kindlifresserbrunnen, located in Kornhausplatz. This sixteenth century fountain shows a man who is eating babies!
The Zytglogge (Clock Tower)
This magnificent clock tower served as Bern’s guard tower, prison, and medieval center of urban life. The face is decorated with some of Bern’s central themes and has been telling time since 1530. You can go on a tour of the clock tower, which takes you behind the face and explains the history behind this famous landmark.
From 1 May to 31 October and 26 December – 31 December, tours run daily. All other times, the tour is only on Saturdays.
The tours begin at 14.15 and last one hour. It costs CHF 20.00 for adults, CHF 18.00 for students and seniors, and CHF 10.00 for children between 6 and 16 years old.
You can make a reservation for the tour here.
Bern has some amazing markets year-round!
Year Round: The weekly market is in Waisenhausplatz on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
Spring & Summer: The Fruit/Veg market is held in Bärenplatz the the Bundesplatz on Tuesday and Saturday mornings.
April: Don’t miss the geranium market at the end of April or the plant market in mid-April!
May: In mid-May, there’s a rare species market (for plants).
November: The onion market (Zibelemärit) comes to town the fourth Monday of November.
December: Christmas markets! Don’t miss Bern’s Christmas markets, held during Advent.
Looking for more nearby Christmas Markets? Here are the best Christmas markets in Alsace.
Bern in One Day: Map
How to get around Bern
Bern is an incredibly walkable city, but sometimes you just need a little break! Bern has a great public transport system that extensively covers the city and surrounding areas.
Bern Public Transport Tickets
You cannot buy tickets on board trams or busses. You can buy tickets from machines and the LIBERO shop at the main station. If you’re planning on using public transport extensively, I recommend buying a multiple journey card, which saves you a little money. With multiple journey cards, make sure to validate tickets at the ticket machines!
If you’re only going a short distance on public transport, there are short journey tickets that only cover 4 stops. These are cheaper than normal tickets and are worth purchasing if you’re just hopping on the tram or bus for a few minutes.
How to get to and from Bern
Trains are the easiest way to get to and from Bern. Bern’s main train station is located right in the center of the city.
You can get direct trains to Bern from most large Swiss cities. To get to Bern, it takes one hour from Basel, one hour from Zurich, and 2 hours from Geneva.
If you’re driving, it takes 1 hr and 10 minutes from Basel, 1hr 30 minutes from Zurich, and 1 hr 45 minutes from Geneva. You’ll drive on major motorways.
The closest airport is the Bern Airport, but it is quite small and services are limited. The most popular airports close to Bern are the Zurich Airport (all major carriers) and the Euroairport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg (budget airlines).
Embassies in Bern
As Switzerland’s capital, there’s loads of foreign representation in the area. Here are some addresses for major embassies/consulates in Bern.
United States of America
Phone: 031 351 45 93
Phone: 0041 31 350 11 30
Phone: 031 356 24 44
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