Bern is a destination in Switzerland that strikes many tourists as a surprise with its sheer natural beauty. The capital city of the country is built on a sandstone ridge and encircled on three sides by the river Aare that flows through the valley. The well-preserved old town’s charm is effortlessly integrated into everyday city life, and as such, Bern is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Known for its great events like the Summer and Winter Jazz Festivals, the Buskers Festival and the Gurtenfestival, Bern is abundant in rich culture, a fact that’s greatly complemented by the history lurking in the museums and theaters.
Top Attractions in Bern
The Old Town
Bern’s Old Town is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is situated on a cliff surrounded by the impressive aquamarine waters of the Aare River. Much of the old town’s medieval character has been preserved as is evident in the cobbled streets that are bordered by covered arcade sidewalks that seem to go on forever. Any of Bern’s best tourist attractions are centered in the old town like the bridges that cross the Aare, public fountains, statues, towers and the ever popular Clock Tower.
Just west of Waisenhausplatz on Hodlerstrasse you’ll find Bern’s Museum of Art. The museum houses a whopping 51,000 paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photos and films among its collections. Bern Kunstmuseum is Switzerland’s oldest art museum and dates back to 1879. If you’re keen on seeing some of the most famous local and international names like Picasso’s work, this is the place to get to!
The Historical Museum of Bern
Based on the designs of 15th century castles, the Historical Museum of Bern is housed in a 130 year old building and combines the Einstein Museum to form Switzerland’s second largest museum. Boasting more than half a million objects that date back to the stone age through the Celts, Romans, Middle Ages, Napoleonic ear and into the 19th and 20th centuries, the museum pretty much covers it all and more.
One of Bern’s most peaceful and breathtaking places is the Rosengarten boasting stunning views over the city. The Rose Garden Park sits on a hill slope across the river from the center of town and dates back to 1913. Obviously home to an abundance of roses and other beautiful flowers, the park also boasts a spectacular pond, a pavilion, a restaurant and charming picnic spots.
Arguably one of Bern’s most famous buildings, the Berner Münster is better known as Bern Cathedral or the Cathedral of St. Vincent. It’s Switzerland’s biggest church from the middle Ages and played an important role in the development of the city itself. The beautifully decorated church is what you would typically find on a postcard picture, all the drama and breathtaking views en-tow.
The Clock Tower
Bern’s 800 year old Clock Tower is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks and is definitely worth visiting. Dating back to 1530, the 23 meter high tower is decorated with a humungous astronomical clock. You can see the circus of mechanical creatures come out for a play, as they put up a show 3 minutes before every hour. As far as the inside of the tower goes, you’ll be left breathless (literally and figuratively) by the 130 steps up to the top where you’ll find the observation platform sporting some of the best views of the area.
Even if you’re not interested in plants and flowers, you’re bound to love Bern’s Botanical Garden. The garden consists of several sections. There’s the Alpinum that has a focus on montane ecosystems hosting high mountain plants from the Alpine countries, and then there’s a fascinating display regarding endangered species. There are 3 other buildings that focus on desert, tropical and subtropical vegetation and environments, but the Palm House is perhaps the most interesting of them all as it focusses on tropical food-producing plants like bananas, coconuts and coffee.
Located just south of the city center you’ll find the high mountain of Gurten that offers you a 360 degree view of the area. From here you’ll be able to see across the Three Lakes Region all the way to the Jura Mountains.
The Bear Park
Since the bear is Bern’s official symbol, it makes sense that it has its own bear park. Bern houses a few bears in a 6,000 square meter compound located on a beautiful slope across the Aare from the Old Town. The park has an extensive collection of walking paths, most of which lead down to the river.