Bern’s cobbled streets and red-roofed houses on the banks of the Aare River give it a small-town charm.
Its UNESCO-listed old town has a medieval look and feel, but the stylish cafes and designer shops hidden in its pretty arcades offer a very modern distraction. With brilliant museums, a dynamic nightlife and 100 striking – sometimes macabre – fountains make it a must-explore city.
Arriving at Bern Airport
Bern’s small, fuss-free airport is less than half an hour from the city centre. It has free Wi-Fi, ample parking, metered taxis and a few car hire companies, as well as excellent transport connections to Bern city centre.
There’s a shuttle bus to the Belp train station every 30 minutes, daily, and from there, you can take the S-Bahn to Bern’s main railway station. If you’re staying even for just one night in Bern, you can ask your host or hotel for a Bern Ticket, which gives you free public transport while you’re in town. Alternatively, buy a ticket from the driver, at a kiosk or over the counter inside the airport.
More expensive but a little quicker, the metered taxis will get you from the airport to the city in about 20 minutes.
In winter, several shuttle buses service the Swiss ski regions of Spiez, Interlaken, Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen.
Bern’s undisputed highlight is its old town. The arcaded sandstone buildings, the 13th-century clock tower and a series of fountains by sculptor Hans Gieng make it perfect for a picturesque stroll. Make sure you visit Gieng’s disturbing Kindlifresser statue of an ogre-like man eating a baby – see if you can work out what the gruesome figure symbolises.
Wander through nearly four miles (6km) of 500-year-old arcades filled with shops and cafes, and in summer, when the government is no longer in session, tour the impressive Parliament Building.
Bern Rose Garden
Perched above the city centre to the northeast is the Bern Rose Garden. Against a backdrop of sweeping city views framed by the mountains, explore flower beds overflowing with over 200 rose varieties and hundreds more iris and rhododendron flowers. Visit at dusk on a clear day for the best vistas.
This Gothic masterpiece took over 400 years to build and now sits proudly in the capital as the tallest cathedral in Switzerland. Join one of the tours held throughout the day to hear all about the cathedral, from its gargoyles to its 320-foot (100m) tower.
Bern Historical Museum
Chart the history of Bern and Switzerland through the exhibits in this castle-like building and delve into the mind of the city’s favourite son, Albert Einstein, at the integrated Einstein Museum.
The Bear Park
The three not-so-little bears at Bern’s Bear Park make for an unlikely sight on the banks of the Aare. Can you spot Finn, Björk and their daughter Ursina lazing in the grass or playing in the riverside pool?