Berne, Switzerland

Overview

Berne is the capital of Switzerland, a diverse and beautiful city! Berne is a medieval city founded in 1191, on and around the River Aare. Berne has quite a few attractions and historic sites, as well as an active cultural life. It is here that Albert Einstein worked, the Toblerone chocolate bar is made, and Emmental cheese, known as Swiss Cheese, reached out to the world.

With its stately sandstone buildings, historical towers and 11 magnificent fountains, Berne is one the most impressive examples of medieval town architecture in Europe. Over the centuries, the townscape has been preserved virtually intact, and in 1983 the UNESCO inscribed Berne as a World Heritage Site. The noble dome of the House of Parliament presides above the city, just a few steps from the main station, and also from the Aare River, the Prison Tower and all the other places of interest in Berne. On most days, the doors of the House of Parliament are open to the public with visitors permitted to watch the live proceedings of the parliament.

Umbrellas made from stone...
One house after the other – shop after shop. Entire rows of houses merge into one integrated whole, all connected by long covered promenades – the arcades. Rain or shine, it is a pure delight to leisurely stroll along one of the longest shopping promenades in Europe.

The city of Bern was built with local sandstone in Gothic style with gables, bay windows, and more arcades than any of the city in Europe. Berne claims Switzerland's highest Gothic cathedral, the Münster-Cathedral, and the Heiliggeist-Kirche, a prime example of 18th century Protestant church architecture. Throughout the city are towers, arcades, and lots of old fountains. The Münster-Terrasse, a square in front of the Cathedral, has been a famous meeting place over the centuries.

The fantastic Clock Tower has puppets that pop out before the hour and perform a little skit. The Center Paul Klee exhibits the largest collection in the world of one of the greatest 20th century artists. The Swiss Alpine Museum displays a history of the Swiss Alps.

Bern's shimmering green river is named Aare. It twists and turns alongside the old town and offers countless restful havens. Only a few minutes' walk from the station will take you to tree-lined embankments surrounded by nature. The Aare attracts people of all ages. Especially in summer when the river's refreshing clean water invites you to jump in and cool off in the middle of town. Swimming then becomes the favorite pastime of the Bernese.

Attractions and Activities

Discover Berne

In Berne, you are close to everywhere. The Swiss capitol is an ideal excursion center for tourists to discover Switzerland that don't want to pack and unpack their suitcases every day. We are presenting you just a few of the many activities and tours that are possible in and around Berne and to other parts of Switzerland.

Full-day Excursions in Berne

FLYER E-Bike Experience at an Unbeatable Price!
Connect your visit to the Old Town of Bern – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – with our three exciting e-bike routes of the Tour de Berne. Each of the three routes starts and ends in Bern. Spend a weekend experiencing various attractions, the loveliest scenic views and the cultural highlights of the Bern Region – all with the ease of the FLYER e-bike.

Schilthorn – Piz Gloria (2970m/9744ft)
The most spectacular 360° panorama in the Alps! Dine-and-wine in the world's first revolving restaurant at an altitude of nearly 3000 metres. Impressive views embrace some 200 snow-capped peaks, ranging from the Bernese Alps to Mont Blanc in France and Germany's Black Forest.

Aletsch Glacier
Enjoy spectacular views of the high alpine region of the Valais and the Aletsch Glacier – the longest glacier in Europe that is 18km/11 miles long and 800 meters thick. This excursion takes you through the famous Lötschberg tunnel and the helical tunnel between Kandersteg and Kandergrund.

Engelberg/Mt. Titlis
A secluded mountain world with the world's first revolvoing aerial cableway awaits you with fascinating panoramic views of ice-capped summits and glacier crevasses. This destination is in Central Switzerland and reached through the Bernese Oberland with a very scenic ride (or drive) along Lake Thun and Lake Brienz and over the Brünig Pass. The return journey takes you to Lucerne and its lake.

Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe (3454m/11333ft)
Snow and ice 100% guaranteed! The Sphinx observation hall, impressive Ice Palace and hiking plateau – these are the year-round attractions up on the Jungfraujoch, the highest railway station in Europe. Summer attractions include a skilift, husky-drawn sledging and adventure activities.

Chateau de Chillon
In a unique setting on the shores of Lake Geneva, stands one of the most beautiful historic buildings in Switzerland. Originally a fortress built in the 13th century, the Castle of Chillon underwent numerous transformations with a view to its adaptation to the advances in the defensive and offensive weapons of the age.

Train Adventure
The first leg of this trip takes you to Zweisimmen where you board the Panoramic Express for a ride through the Saanenland region to Gstaad, then on to Montreux (Chateau de Chillon). Then the second leg takes you from Montreux to Brig (Valais, Aletsch Glacier) and through the Lötschberg tunnel via Kandersteg and Spiez back the Berne.

Zermatt – Gornergrat (1605 m/5266 ft)
The journey takes you through the Lötschberg tunnel to Brig. From Brig, the route climbs through rugged valley landscape to Zermatt and the majestic Matterhorn. This popular excursion can also be combined with a trip by cogwheel railway up the 3089-metre Gornergrat.

Gruyeres
The small village of Gruyeres is probably one of the most charming ones on the Old Continent. It is easily reachable from Berne and you can walk the cobblestone road to the old castle and visit the Cheese Factory. The traditional lunch in all the restaurants is raclette, a must for all cheese lovers!

City Excursions in Berne

Luzern – City of Lights
One of Switzerland's most popular excursion destinations, lovely Lucerne is only 60 minutes' travelling time from Berne. The city is renowned for its attractive townscape, historic Chapel Bridge and excellent shopping facilities. There are various routes to get from Berne to Lucerne. Either going or on your return, take the scenic ride via Interlaken and over the Brünig Pass.

Montreux – on Lake Geneva
Full-day excursion by rail. This attractive excursion crosses the "border" between German and French-speaking Switzerland. The trip runs from Berne along Lake Thun to Zweisimmen, and then by Crystal Panoramic Express to Montreux on Lake Geneva. Can be combined with wine-tasting in Switzerland's largest wine-growing region.

Other Excursions in Berne

Cruises on Lake Thun or Lake Brienz
April – October. (included with some Swiss Rail Passes!) Half-day or evening excursions. Boats are operated on both of these beautiful lakes. Enjoy a leisurely cruise on a modern motorship or one of the renovated stately steamers. Excellent catering and banquet facilities. Theme events and club, company and family festivities. Paddle steamer with Children's Club. Evening cruises with entertainment. Cruises depart at Interlaken Ost for Lake Brienz or Interlaken West for Lake Thun.

Summer Sports in Berne

"Aareschwimmen"
Throughout the summer months the River Aare presents a tempting bathing opportunity. Both young and old alike dive into the clean currents of the Aare, and allow themselves to be carried downstream. The Marzilibad offers great access to swimming in the Aare and best possible views of the house of parliament.

Winter Sports in Berne

Berne is very close to the Bernese Oberland that boasts of such reknown resorts as Interlaken, Grindelwald, Wengen and Muerren to name only a few. Interlaken is less than an hour by train and from there it is not far to any of the mentioned resort villages. You will have the opportunity for all sorts of winter activities including: skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, curling, ice climbing, sleeding, cross country skiing, snowshoe trekking, snowtubing and zorbing.

Indoor sports facilities are readily available in Berne including swimming, tennis, squash, bowling, fitness and much more.

Entertainment in Berne

Allegro Grand Casino Kursaal Berne
The Berner Kursaal and Casino offers a whole palette of possibilities, all under one roof. It is an arena-like theater that is equipped with two lifting platforms and includes the Casino Berne and the Hotel Allegro. Apart from yearly events such as the Berne Jazz Festival there are performances on a regular basis.

Shopping in Berne

Arcades
One house after the other – shop after shop. Entire rows of houses merge into one integrated whole, all connected by long covered promenades – the arcades. Rain or shine, it is a pure delight to leisurely stroll along one of the longest shopping promenades in Europe.

Events in Berne

International Jazz Festival
World-class live jazz can be heard in Bern thanks to the International Jazz Festival. The first festival took place in 1976, and it has been thrilling jazz fans every year since.

Berne Onion Market
A traditional folk festival on the fourth Monday in November.

Christmas Market
Münsterplatz is devoted mainly to arts and crafts. You'll find traditional market fare just 10 minutes away on Waisenhausplatz.

Link to other current Berne events

Museums in Berne

Zentrum Paul Klee
From June 20, 2005 onward the Zentrum Paul Klee will be presenting to the public the world's most important collection of works by Paul Klee (4'000 works, or 40% of his oeuvre). The key services of the cultural centre consist of the presentation of different aspects of the collection, attractive, alternating special exhibitions, a broad offer for children, young people and adults particularly at the Kindermuseum Creaviva, concerts, theaters and other events, together with a multifunctional and multimedia «Museum Street» for visitors to stroll, communicate, rest and recreate.

Einstein House
The physicist Albert Einstein retained close ties with Berne throughout his life (14.3.1879 – 18.4.1955). In 1977 the Albert Einstein Society was able to rent Einstein's former flat on the second floor of Kramgasse 49, restore the original furnishings, and to open the site to the public as a tribute to the scientific achievements of this great scientist.

Museum of Fine Arts Berne
The Collection of the Berne Museum of Fine Arts is one of the most distinguished in Switzerland. It contains outstanding works spanning eight centuries and includes a total of 3'000 paintings and sculptures as well as approximately 55'000 drawings, prints, photographs, videos and films.

Swiss Alpine Museum
Experience the atmosphere of Switzerland's mountains in the nation's only Alpine Museum. Learn more about the Alpine world, its diversity, its historical and contemporary background, and its future prospects.

For a complete list of all museums in Berne, please visit museen-bern.

Recommended Berne Hotels

Berne Hotels

5-stars Hotels
Hotel Bellevue Palace

4-stars Hotels
Hotel Allegro
Hotel Bristol

3-star Hotels
Hotel Kreuz
Hotel Ador

Location and Map

Berne is located in Central Switzerland, 122 km (76 miles) from Zurich, the nearest International Airport. Travel time from Zurich is 75 minutes by car and 60 minutes by train. Berne is 152 km (95 miles) from Geneva and 58 km (36 miles) from Interlaken. Berne also has its own regional airport in Belp with on international flight with Lufthansa flights from Munich.

By train

Take international train connections to Bern.