Elevation 527 m/1729 ft
Capital of Switzerland
Gateway to Central Switzerland
UNESCO Old Town
Berne is the capital of Switzerland with beautifully retained historic features and plenty of activities. As a medieval city, Berne was originally founded in 1191 and built around the Aare River. Since then, Berne has managed to successfully maintain its old town which is today a UNESCO World Heritage site. The many fountains, sandstone facades, narrow streets, and historic towers add to Berne’s unique charm.
UNESCO inscribed the city of Berne as a World Heritage site in 1983 after centuries of preservation. The Münster Cathedral is Europe’s most recent construction of late Gothic architecture as an 18th century Protestant church. In front of this Cathedral is a popular meeting square called the Münster terrace. Another main attraction in Berne is the famous tower clock built in 1530. People often gather in front of the tower to watch its mechanism from the 16th century perform a unique spectacle at every hour.
As the country’s capital, Berne is the center for Switzerland’s government with its Houses of Parliament situated directly next to the train station. The Houses of Parliament welcomes Berne’s visitors for a look inside the building. The building is located along the Aare River. The Aare River bisects the city and serves as a central landmark for many of Berne’s main attractions. One of these attractions includes the Bear Park which serves as the home of Berne’s heraldic animals. In addition to its historic element, Berne also has a modern flare of design and culture especially at The Zentrum Paul Klee.
Berne is centrally located in the heart of Switzerland, making it the gateway to the Alps. With a dense rail network and direct connections to other European cities, Berne is the perfect base for further excursions.
Attractions and Activities
Berne’s visitors have endless opportunities to discover many different parts of Switzerland while residing in the city. There are plenty of attractions and activities to discover within Berne aside from many surrounding excursions. Despite Berne’s amazing public transport system, the city’s center is best explored on foot, especially its Old Town.
Excursions in Berne
As part of another UNESCO World Heritage site, the Aletsch region includes the Alps’ mightiest ice flow at 23 km/14 mi in length. The large Aletsch Glacier is stunningly impressive with 27 billions tons of ice stretching from the northern slopes of Mount Eiger and Jungfrau down into Valais. This excursion will bring you through the famous Lötschberg tunnel and Helical tunnel via Kandergrund.
Bernese Oberland Cruises
The Bernese Oberland Navigation has a fleet of 12 cruise boats and 2 paddle steamers that navigate either Lake Brienz or Thun year round. The cruises depart from Interlaken Ost and West, which is about 46 minutes from Bern via car or train. This excursion offers a unique perspective of the Bernese Oberland. The wide range of unique cruises make this half or full day excursion ideal for every traveller.
The quaint medieval village of Gruyeres is located north of Montreux with train duration of 1 hour and 30 minutes. The village’s museum can be found inside Gruyeres 13th century castle and exhibits 800 years of regional history, architecture, and culture. Also be sure to check out Gruyere’s Cheese Factory to enjoy free samples while learning about its origin and production process. Visiting Gruyeres can be made into a full or half day excursion.
Travel to Europe’s highest station located at the Jungfraujoch with an altitude of 3454 m/11,332 ft. The Jungfrau railway has pleased its visitors for more than 100 years of operation and adventure. The railway journey consists of 7 km/4 mi tunnel passages and marvelous views of the Eiger North Face. The Jungfraujoch experience begins in Grindelwald, which is 1 hour south of Bern via train.
Another wonder of the Bernese Oberland is the Schilthorn with its magnificent 360° panoramic views at an elevation of 2970 m/9744 ft. At the summit enjoy a delicious meal in the revolving restaurant of Piz Gloria with views of Mount Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. The summit also has an interactive adventure exhibition on James Bond as many scenes were filmed in this location.
Golden Pass Panoramic Express
The Panoramic Express train is part of the famous Golden Pass scenic route. The train departs from Interlaken Ost and travels through the resort town of Gstaad. It travels further towards Montreux, winding through a narrow valley to the beautiful shores of Lake Geneva. Although the Panoramic Express ends in Montreux, travelers can complete a scenic loop back to Berne. This requires taking local trains from Montreux to Brig and further towards Spiez.
As a popular full day excursion from Montreux, visit the typical mountain village of Zermatt elevated at 1620 m/5310 ft. The 2-hour train ride travels along the sunny southern flank of the Lötschberg Mountain and provides a great first impression of the Valais. The route to Zermatt staggers through the beautiful valley landscape and eventually leads to the Matterhorn Mountain. Extend this excursion by taking a cogwheel railway up to the 3089 m/10134 ft Gornergrat peak.
City Excursions from Berne to other cities in Switzerland
Geneva is located a 90 minute train ride east of Montreux and is home to 200 international organizations. Geneva has many international highlights including the European United Nations Office and Red Cross Committee. Similar to Montreux, Geneva is French speaking and lies in a Lake Geneva bay.
Lucerne is one of Berne’s most popular destinations in regards of daily excursions and is only 60 minutes away via train. The city is renowned for having an attractive landscape, a historic Chapel Bridge, and excellent shopping possibilities. When visiting Luzern, travellers have the exciting opportunity to take the scenic ride via Interlaken and over the Brunig Pass.
Summer Sports in Bern
The Aare River loops around Berne’s old town and is a popular swimming attraction in the summer months. People of all ages enjoy floating with the river’s current as it The River originates from the Oberaar glacier in the eastern Bernese Alps, giving it a refreshing temperature that people of all ages like to enjoy. Swimming in the Aare is accessible within the city at the Marzilibad and includes views of the Houses of Parliament.
Discover the city further with one of three exciting e-bike routes. All of the routes begin and end in the city while exposing riders to amazing scenic views. Take advantage of this opportunity to explore Berne’s many cultural highlights and hidden gems. This E-bike experience allows visitors to get around most of the city at a comfortable and leisurely pace.
Winter Sports in Berne
Bern is within close proximity to some of the Bernese Oberland’s most renowned winter resorts including Interlaken, Grindelwald, Wengen and Murren. Visitors have the opportunity to practice any winter sport at each of these resort locations. Located closest to Berne is Interlaken as it is located 46 minutes away via train.
There are also plenty of indoor sport facilities within the city of Berne.
Entertainment in Berne
The Grand Casino Berne
Enjoy a night of entertainment at the Kursaal Bern or what many refer to as the city’s little Las Vegas. The venue’s impressive architecture contributes to an exciting nightlife atmosphere. The Kursaal’s exciting attractions include its Grand Casino, Hotel Allegro, fine dining, and hosting of yearly events such as Bern’s Jazz Festival.
Shopping in Berne
Bern offers a wide range of options in terms of shopping in many different areas. Shopping in Berne’s old town can be done in spite of any weather conditions due to its 6 km/4 mi of arcades. Bern’s newly developed Westside shopping center also offers unique experiences with 54 stores, 13 restaurants, 11 theaters, a 4-star hotel, water park, and premium wellness Spa.
Museums in Berne
Zentrum Paul Klee
This museum houses the worldwide largest collection of Paul Klee’s work. Regarded as the 20th century’s most important artist, Klee created the 4,000 paintings that are on display at this museum. The museum building has an intricate wave-like design and also houses a music hall, children’s museum, and seminar rooms. This museum visit is an artistic learning experience and may interest people of all ages.
Famous physicist, Albert Einstein lived in Berne for two years of his life between 1903 and 1905. Einstein’s former flat is located in the old town, just 200 m/650 ft from the Clock Tower. Since 1977, the Albert Einstein Society has restored the flat’s original furnishings and opened it to the public. Visit this exhibition to explore Einstein’s environment in which he developed his most important scientific work.
Berne’s Museum of Fine Arts
This museum’s collections are among the finest in the country as they include pieces from national and internationally renowned artists. The art is comprised from Italian Trecento, 15th century Switzerland, and 19th to early 20th century international painting trends. The museums large collection includes works from Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, Ferdinand Hodler and Meret Oppenheim.
Swiss Alpine Museum
Discover the atmosphere of Switzerland’s mountains at the Swiss Alpine Museum of Bern. This museum’s unconventional exhibitions discuss current issues and topics pertaining to the world’s mountains. Learn about the important role of the Alps in regards to today’s art, literature, society, economics and politics at this museum. The interactive and special exhibits make this museum an educational experience for all ages.
Location and Map
Located in Central Switzerland, Berne’s nearest International airport is in Zurich, 125 km/78 mi away. The travel time to and from Zurich is between 60 to 75 minutes via car or train. Other city proximities near Berne include 157 km/98 mi from Geneva and 56 km/35 mi from Interlaken. In addition to having international train connections, Berne also has its own regional airport.