Bern

From the time it was built on a high, narrow peninsula above the rushing Aare, Bern's streets have followed the river's flow. The original town began by what is now the Nydegg Bridge—it controlled the ferry crossing there—and spread westward, uphill to the Zeitglockenturm (known locally as the Zytglogge), a clock tower constructed in 1191 to mark Bern's first significant western gate. Further expansion in 1256 stretched the city to where the Käfigturm now stands; one last medieval growth spurt, hot on the heels of a resounding victory over the Burgundians in 1339, moved the city walls west yet again to the present-day train station, the Hauptbahnhof.

The bustling, commercial city center radiates out from that train station. To get to the Altstadt, follow the trams across Bärenplatz and through the Käfigturm. Marzili and Matte, former working-class and still flood-prone neighborhoods, lie together along the riverbed of the Aare. All these areas are easily explored on foot, but in Marzili and Matte you may want to take your cue from the locals: walk down, ride the funicular up. The cluster of museums in Kirchenfeld, on the south side of the river, is a short (spectacular) walk or tram ride away.

Sort by: 15 Recommendations {{numTotalPoiResults}} {{ (numTotalPoiResults===1)?'Recommendation':'Recommendations' }} 0 Recommendations
CLEAR ALL Area Search CLEAR ALL
Loading...
Loading...
  • 1. Bärenpark

    Altstadt

    Bern almost certainly gets its name from the local contraction of the German word Bären because of the bear that Berchtold V supposedly first hunted...

    Bern almost certainly gets its name from the local contraction of the German word Bären because of the bear that Berchtold V supposedly first hunted in the area. The image of a bear is never far away, from the official coat of arms to chocolate morsels. The city has kept live bears since 1513, when victorious Bernese soldiers brought one back from the Battle of Novara and installed it in a hut on what is now Bärenplatz. Brown bears Björk, Finn, and their daughter, Ursina, seem to feel at home in this open-air enclosed area just off the Aare River, complete with quasi forest, shrubs, and cave, where they can play, swim, climb, and sleep all day. Photos and plaques in English describe the bears and their lifestyle. The park is open all hours, every day.

    Grosser Muristalden 6, Bern, Bern, 3006, Switzerland
    031-3571515

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 2. Berner Münster

    Altstadt

    Master builder Matthäus Ensinger already had Strasbourg's cathedral under his belt when he drew up plans for what became the largest and most artistically important...

    Master builder Matthäus Ensinger already had Strasbourg's cathedral under his belt when he drew up plans for what became the largest and most artistically important church in Switzerland. The city broke ground in 1421 on the site of a smaller church that was dismantled once the cathedral's choir could accommodate Sunday worshippers, and work continued, with minor interruptions, for about 180 years. The finishing touch, the tip of the open, octagonal, 328-foot steeple, was added almost 200 years after that, in 1893. Today Switzerland's highest church tower houses a tower keeper (in an apartment below the spire) and presents wraparound views of Bern and the surrounding mountains. The Reformers dismantled much of the Catholic Münster's interior decoration and paintings (dumping them in the Münsterplattform, next door), but the exterior 15th-century representation of the Last Judgment above the main portal was deemed worthy and spared. The archangel Michael stands between ivory-skinned angels with gilt hair (heaven) on the left and green demons with gaping red maws (hell) on the right; painted images of the Annunciation and the Fall of Man flank the carved figures as you pass through the doors. Elaborately carved pews and choir stalls within are crowned by 15th-century stained-glass windows that show an easy mix of local heraldry and Christian iconography. The organ, above the main entrance, is often used for concerts.

    Münsterpl. 1, Bern, Bern, 3011, Switzerland
    031-3120462

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Steeple SF5
  • 3. Kunstmuseum Bern

    City Center

    The permanent collection here, one of the largest and most diverse in Switzerland, begins with the Italian Trecento (notably Duccio and Fra Angelico), then follows...

    The permanent collection here, one of the largest and most diverse in Switzerland, begins with the Italian Trecento (notably Duccio and Fra Angelico), then follows Swiss art from Niklaus Manuel in the 15th century through Albert Anker and Ferdinand Hodler in the 19th and on to Giovanni Giacometti and Cuno Amiet in the 20th. The impressionists are covered, from Manet through Monet; the Nabis, by Bonnard. Picasso bridges the gap between Toulouse-Lautrec and Braque; Kirchner, Kandinsky, and Klee represent German expressionism through Blue Rider to Bauhaus. Mondrian and Meret Oppenheim round out the 20th century. Temporary exhibits often take it from there.

    Hodlerstr. 8–12, Bern, Bern, 3000, Switzerland
    031-3280944

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: SF10 (permanent collection only); SF18 (temporary exhibitions); SF24 (permanent and temporary exhibitions), Closed Mon.
  • 4. Zentrum Paul Klee

    Schöngrün

    Engaged creativity are the watchwords in this undulating, light-filled complex inspired by the life and art of Paul Klee and designed by Renzo Piano. The...

    Engaged creativity are the watchwords in this undulating, light-filled complex inspired by the life and art of Paul Klee and designed by Renzo Piano. The permanent collection is the world's largest of works by Klee (about 200 are on display at any given time); temporary exhibits focus on his artistic environment and legacy. The Ensemble Paul Klee performs regular, varied, and colorful short concerts in the auditorium; guest artists from the worlds of theater and dance present productions, readings, and workshops (mainly in German) with a pictorial slant. The Kindermuseum Creaviva, a sunny, paint-spattered area visible from the Restaurant Schöngrün on the north end of the interior Museum Street, is open to children over four and anyone else who would like to make art. A sculpture garden and multilingual audio tours of the permanent collection round out the possibilities. Basic signage is in English.

    Monument im Fruchtland 3, Bern, Bern, 3006, Switzerland
    031-3590101

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: SF20, Closed Mon.
  • 5. Bundeshaus

    City Center

    Conceived as a national monument and the beating heart of the Swiss Confederation (the seven-member Federal Council, the 46-member Council of States, and the 200-member...

    Conceived as a national monument and the beating heart of the Swiss Confederation (the seven-member Federal Council, the 46-member Council of States, and the 200-member National Council all meet here), this massive, majestic domed complex built between 1852 and 1902 takes its symbolism seriously. The 26 fountains out front represent the Swiss cantons; solemn statues inside depict the swearing of the oath on which the union is founded; and two huge murals, one in each chamber, represent the Vierwaldstättersee (Lake Luzern) and a Landsgemeinde (outdoor cantonal assembly) scene, respectively the place where Swiss democracy was founded and the means by which it flourished. One-hour guided tours are available in English on Saturday at 2 pm; book online up to three days in advance.

    Bundespl. 3, Bern, Bern, 3003, Switzerland
    058-3229022

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free, Closed Sun. and Mon., and during parliamentary sessions
  • Recommended Fodor’s Video

  • 6. Christoffelturm

    City Center

    The 14th-century maps, 19th-century photographs, and St. Christopher's huge limewood head give context to the thick stone foundations of Bern's third city gate. The tower...

    The 14th-century maps, 19th-century photographs, and St. Christopher's huge limewood head give context to the thick stone foundations of Bern's third city gate. The tower was built between 1344 and 1366 and destroyed in 1865 after a tight vote in favor of the train station. Its ruins have been incorporated into the underground shopping mall of the train station.

    Christoffel-unterführung, Bern, Bern, 3011, Switzerland

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 7. Einsteinhaus

    Altstadt

    This genteel little apartment has been lovingly re-created to evoke the world of 1905, the miracle year in which then-tenant Albert Einstein, a badly paid,...

    This genteel little apartment has been lovingly re-created to evoke the world of 1905, the miracle year in which then-tenant Albert Einstein, a badly paid, newly married young clerk in Bern's Patent Office, developed and published his Special Theory of Relativity. All signage is in German and English. Downstairs, the Einstein café & bel étage serves drinks, lunch, snacks, and desserts.

    Kramg. 49, Bern, Bern, 3000, Switzerland
    031-3120091

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: SF5, Closed mid-Dec.--late Feb.
  • 8. Grand Casino Bern

    Kornhausbrücke

    All of the slot machines and gaming tables at the Kursaal's Grand Casino Bern function until 4 am on Thursday, 5 am Friday and Saturday,...

    All of the slot machines and gaming tables at the Kursaal's Grand Casino Bern function until 4 am on Thursday, 5 am Friday and Saturday, and 2 am the rest of the week.

    Kornhausstr. 3, Bern, Bern, 3013, Switzerland
    031-3395555
  • 9. Gurten Park

    Bern's very own hill rises 1,000 feet above the city and presents a delightful alternative to the city on clear afternoons. The view moves from...

    Bern's very own hill rises 1,000 feet above the city and presents a delightful alternative to the city on clear afternoons. The view moves from the Jura Mountains in the west to the Alps in the east by way of Bern itself; multiple lawns, terraces, and restaurants allow for picnics, cafeteria service, or formal dining as you gaze. The funicular to the top takes three minutes; head left to the east for a diagram labeling more than 200 distant peaks or right for a 360-degree view from the top of the Gurtenturm. The playground---the largest in Bern---includes bumper cars and a kiddie train; there's also a toboggan run open from March to October. You can also walk up from Wabern, or in winter, whiz down on a rented sled.

    Wabern, Bern, 3084, Switzerland
    031-9612323-funicular

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Funicular SF11 round-trip
  • 10. Heiliggeistkirche

    City Center

    Built in the shadow of the huge Christoffelturm on the site of a disused monastery hospital, this baroque church, laid out like a Huguenot temple,...

    Built in the shadow of the huge Christoffelturm on the site of a disused monastery hospital, this baroque church, laid out like a Huguenot temple, turned out to be a survivor as town walls, houses, gates, and fountains crashed down around it to create today's busy transportation hub. Serenity does still reign within, where natural light floods the green sandstone supporting a magnificent vaulted stucco ceiling.

    Spitalg. 44, Bern, Bern, 3011, Switzerland
    031-3701552

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free, Closed Mon. and Sat.
  • 11. Käfigturm

    City Center

    This tower, completed in 1643, served as the city's prison until 1897. Reconfigured as the Confederation's Political Forum in 1999, it now hosts political events...

    This tower, completed in 1643, served as the city's prison until 1897. Reconfigured as the Confederation's Political Forum in 1999, it now hosts political events and exhibitions.

    Marktg. 67, Bern, Bern, 3011, Switzerland
    031-3102060

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free, Closed Sun. and public holidays
  • 12. Kornhausforum

    Altstadt

    Wine stocked the cellar and grain filled the top three floors of this granary for 100 years during Bern's golden age. Then the 1814 Vienna...

    Wine stocked the cellar and grain filled the top three floors of this granary for 100 years during Bern's golden age. Then the 1814 Vienna Congress separated the city from its territories, and this monumental baroque storage depot lost its function overnight. The cellar was renovated in 1893 and painted four years later; today it houses a restaurant and bar. The Kornhausforum (Media and Design Center) upstairs organizes contemporary design, architecture, video, photography, and applied art exhibits.

    Kornhauspl. 18, Bern, Bern, 3001, Switzerland
    031-3129110

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free; occasional charge for special events, Closed Sun. and Mon.
  • 13. Nydeggkirche

    Altstadt

    A plaque on the outside wall of the church indicates where vestiges of Duke Berchtold's 12th-century Nydegg Castle (destroyed around 1270) still poke through the...

    A plaque on the outside wall of the church indicates where vestiges of Duke Berchtold's 12th-century Nydegg Castle (destroyed around 1270) still poke through the landscape; the church itself was begun in 1341, and its wooden pulpit dates from 1566.

    Nydeggstalden 9, Bern, Bern, 3011, Switzerland
    031-3520443

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 14. Rosengarten

    Altstadt

    The lower Altstadt's hilltop cemetery was converted into a public park in 1913, and today, its lawns, arbors, playground, and formal gardens draw leisurely couples...

    The lower Altstadt's hilltop cemetery was converted into a public park in 1913, and today, its lawns, arbors, playground, and formal gardens draw leisurely couples and families with young children. The gardens are planted with azaleas, irises, rhododendron, and rose varieties such as Ingrid Bergman (deep velvet red), Maria Callas (bright magenta), Christopher Columbus (peach), Cleopatra (red tips, orange interior), and Lady Di (small and pink).

    Alter Aargauerstalden and Laubeggstr., Bern, Bern, 3006, Switzerland
    031-3313206

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 15. Zytglogge/Zeitglockenturm

    Altstadt

    Though its exterior dates from 1771, the internal walls of Bern's first western gate reach back to the 12th century and represent the city's core....

    Though its exterior dates from 1771, the internal walls of Bern's first western gate reach back to the 12th century and represent the city's core. The calendar clock on the Kramgasse side began keeping Bern's official time in 1530; the gilded rooster to the left of the mechanical figures crows four minutes before every hour to begin the sequence of marching bears, fools, and gilded knights who strike the bells. The astronomical clock to the rooster's right keeps track of the day, the month, the zodiac, and the moon. Tours of the horological masterpiece behind it all are conducted in English, German, and French.

    Kramg. at Hotelg., Bern, Bern, 3011, Switzerland
    031-3281212

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Tour SF20, Reservations essential

No sights Results

Please try a broader search, or expore these popular suggestions:

There are no results for {{ strDestName }} Sights in the searched map area with the above filters. Please try a different area on the map, or broaden your search with these popular suggestions:

Recommended Fodor’s Video