Adding things to your list so you can cross them off?
Me too! I’ve got to tell you about Bern, so you don’t make the same mistake we did. Originally, going to Bern was in the ‘maybe” column of my list. It wasn’t even really on our bucket list! It’s on the other side of Switzerland from where we were staying with our friends (just a 2 ½ hour train ride, but still…). I just seemed like too much. About 20 minutes after arriving in Bern, I said, “This city needs to be on every Europe traveler’s bucket list.” Learn from my mistake. Get Bern on your travel bucket list. We went to Bern for the museum. We stayed for the park, the bears, the shopping, the culture and the food. Click To Tweet
“Oh! One day in Bern is not going to be enough.”
Moments after deciding it needed to be on our bucket list, I regretfully said, “Oh, one day in Bern is not going to be enough!” Honestly, the only thing on my “Let’s See This” list was the Einstein Museum. Once we stepped off the train in Bern, I realized this was an enchanting city full of medieval history and modern art. The Old City is filled with gorgeous places to relax and enjoy the outdoors without having to hike up a mountain. And don’t get me started on the shopping, art museums and food!
If I only had 1 city to choose to see in Switzerland, I think it might be Bern. You could spend a week giving yourself a deep soak in history, art, science, architecture, shopping and food. It’s truly magical!
Bern, located on the west side of the country, is Switzerland’s capital city. It is known for bears, the Paul Klee Art Museum, Einstein’s House, red tile roofs, and the Aare River which winds its way along creating a peninsular effect for the Old City center. Cross one bridge to get into the old city, and the next bridge to get out. You can also walk along the waterfront path near the Aare River. It’s the long way, but it’s beautiful any time of year.
Bern is only about an hour train ride from Basel or Zurich airports and only 2 hours from Geneva’s Airport. So grab breakfast and head for the train, We’re going to Bern for the day!
When you get off the train,
get your bearings grab a quick coffee.
If the prices are causing heart palpitations, I’ve got a secret! When you’re ready to eat, walk a few streets away from the central arcade. It gets surprisingly local very quickly. You will find cheese, meat, and bread shops every few blocks, so it will be quite easy to put together a picnic style lunch to eat in a park or along the river. If you are famished and need food quick, Migros & Coop are on the Arcade and easy to locate.
Now, head into the Old City. It’s been around since the medieval ages and is considered a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Make sure you don’t miss:
- The Fountains. There are over 100 in the city. Some of the most unique fountain statues representing each of the 26 Swiss Cantons, can be found along the street named “Kramgasse”. Some are quite peculiar, but each fountain holds a story.
- The Churches. The 15th-Century Gothic Cathedral is a true work of architecture and sacred art. There are a few other churches too, but if you have to pick one, choose this one.
- The Bears. Bern has been famous for its bears since the 16th century. They used to live in the Bärengraben, but now they live in the BearPark nearby.
- The Zytglogge and Kafigtum. This 13th century bell tower boasts not just an “Oh, it must be noon, do you hear the bells?” kind of clock. The tower and clock display the moon phases, and an elaborate visual feast of the zodiac and Roman gods that represent the days of the week. It is absolutely magnificent to look at even if I don’t understand everything it does (kinda’ like my iPhone – but way better). Make sure you show up a bit before 11 am for its grand display. It’s not to be missed.
Even MORE things to do in Bern.
- Parliament, Parliament Square, and the Einstein House, Who wants to grab a picnic lunch and eat outside one of these intriguing buildings?
- The Rosengarten, The Botanical Garden. Yes, stop and smell the roses whenever you can. Perhaps a bottle of wine with some cheese and fruit will create a memory that will last a lifetime. Oh, don’t forget the chocolate!
- You can’t miss the arcade (that’s the word for the shopping area with covered sidewalks). It’s 4 miles long! But also take notice and don’t miss out on the shops “down in the basement”. There are some charming little shops and cafe’s.
- Einstein Museum. The museum also did an excellent job of making Einstein’s Theory of Relativity approachable and understandable. Videos, and hands on activities really helped simplify the ideas Einstein for the not-so-genius masses.Bernisches Historisches Museum. This museum is in the same building as the Einstein Museum. I think it’s one of the best in the country. There is so much to learn about this tiny, quiet, neutral country!
I’m still kicking myself for only planning 1 day in Bern.Click To Tweet
Bucket List Friendly Budget
For us this was a somewhat expensive day as we splurged on the Bistro, but we still came
in at budget of 100CHF a day for food. Which is easier when there are just three of us, like today. Don’t forget your Swiss Train Pass will help you save on over 450 museums in Switzerland.
What’s FREE in Bern with your Swiss Rail Pass.
- Alpines Museum der Schweiz.
- Bernisches Historisches Museum/Einstein Museum. (discounted with Train pass)
- Kunstmuseum (discounted with train pass)
- Museum für Kommunikation
- Naturhistorisches Museum
- Zentrum Paul Klee – all my Swiss friends say this is a must-see art museum. It’s on the list for next time!
What’s FREE even without the train pass.
I’ll say it again…We went for the museum, we stayed for the park, the bears, the shopping, the culture and the food. Clearly we did not plan enough time in Bern. We will save what we missed for next time. There will be a “next time”!
Make the wise decision to stay a day or two in Bern.
Here’s some lodging tips to help you save a few Swiss Francs.
- There are some great hostels in Bern. There are a couple in the Old City.
- Airbnb has quite a few great choices near and in the Old City. The prices are probably variable based on the season, so book early if you can!
- Places like Bed and Breakfast EU or B&B Switzerland are great options if you fancy a B&B.
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