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.
Festivals and events
Time your visit for February to see the spectacle that is Bern Carnival. The city truly comes alive during this three-day celebration. Guggenmusik Cliques (carnival musicians) make their way in groups along a four-mile (6km) route through the city, while theatre performances and street jesters entertain revellers.
International Jazz Festival
Since 1976, Bern has hosted world-class musicians for its International Jazz Festival. This now 10-week-long celebration of jazz greats sees over 200 intimate gigs held in Marian's Jazzroom on Engestrasse. It runs from March through to May, annually.
Zibelemärit (Onion Market)
It might not sound like the most thrilling event in the Bernese calendar, but the November Zibelemärit, or Onion Market, is more than just a retail opportunity for those in need of shallots. This traditional folk festival sees onion and garlic farmers from surrounding regions bring their wares to town. Tuck into onion tarts, pizza or pastry, and wash it down with warming glühwein (mulled wine).
Christmas Market Huttwil
Bern’s Christmas Market is one of the finest in Switzerland. Small wooden huts decorated with twinkling lights sell handcrafted and artisanal produce to festive shoppers every December.