Nestled near the Swiss Alps, Bern is Switzerland's fifth-largest city and the de facto capital. Bern is a popular one-day stopover for tourists, heading towards Alpine villages in the Swiss Alps. This one day in Bern itinerary covers how to spend 24 hours in Bern, Switzerland without missing out on any of the city's main landmarks.
Bern is known for its old town, walks along River Aare, museums, and glorious 15th-century buildings. There are just too many things to do in the city, especially when you have only one day. With this in mind, I wrote this fast-paced Bern itinerary. So be ready for the exciting day!
If you have booked accommodation in Bern, you can get a free Bern Ticket. It allows you to travel for free on public transport. The ticket also includes the popular Gurten and the Marzilibahn funiculars, and the elevator to the Minster Terrace.
On the other hand, if you are travelling around Switzerland, the Swiss Travel Pass is a perfect option for free public transport and entries to the museums. You can use this pass everywhere in Switzerland, including Bern.
This one day in Bern Switzerland itinerary covers the city's main landmarks such as Bern Cathedral, Bear Pit, Gurten funicular, Bern Historical Museum, Rosengarten, and the Old Town which is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.
You will start your day at Bern train station where I recommend purchasing a local transport card if you don't have a Bern Ticket or a Swiss Travel Pass. Even though you can reach most of Bern's attractions by foot, I suggest taking a bus or tram to go to further destinations such as the Rosengarten and Gurten Funicular's.
This day is fully packed with interesting sights and activities. Feel free to skip some stops if you wish to spend more time in museums or parks.
Not too far from Bern train station, you will find the Wonder Waffel cafe. It serves a wide variety of fresh-baked waffles filled with various fruits and ice cream. Also, you can order a milkshake, tea, or coffee to go with your waffle.
If you are vegan, you don't have to worry as Wonder Waffel has plenty of options available for vegans including vegan versions of waffles and milkshakes.
It is a popular place among locals and tourists, so be prepared to wait in a queue. If it's a nice day outside, I recommend just grabbing a waffle to go and eating it while exploring Bern.
The Alpine Museum is one of the points of interest in Bern Switzerland that is usually missed by tourists.
The museum’s exhibitions are focused on the Alps and allow visitors to learn more about these magnificent mountains. You will learn about mountain farming, tourism, and current climate issues affecting mountains.
The restaurant ‘las alps’, located inside the museum, serves healthy food and refreshing drinks. If you skipped Wonder Waffel breakfast, ‘las alps’ is the perfect place to have brunch before continuing exploring Bern.
The Bern Historical Museum is one of the largest museums in Switzerland and the main museum of Bern city. It has more than 500,000 specimens (from Stone Age to modern-day) which have great historical significance.
If you aren’t interested in archaeological collections, head to the Einstein Museum, which is part of the Bern Historical Museum, the Einstein Museum tells the story about the famous physician Albert Einstein. You will find plenty of interactive videos of his theories and discoveries.
After visiting museums, if you head towards the Aare River, you will notice a highly elevated iron bridge - Kirchenfeld Bridge or Kirchenfeldbrücke. It connects Bern’s old town to Kirchenfeld neighbourhood which is now known as the ‘museums neighbourhood’.
The bridge was built in 1883. Its design was inspired by the contemporary English architectural style.
From the bridge you can get excellent views of the river and Bern’s old town, so have your camera ready. Be prepared for tourists groups since Kirchenfeld Bridge is one of the best and most popular places for views in Bern.
The Parliament building (known as Bundeshaus) is one of many things to see in Bern. Founded in 1902 by Hans Wilhelm Auer, this fascinating building is the seat of the Swiss Parliament. It is also regarded as the ‘heart of Swiss democracy’.
Free guided tours are available for visitors when Parliament is not in session. Inside you will find debating chambers, the grand lobby, and domed hall.
Outside the building, you will see a Bundesplatz (The Parliament Square). The square is a popular area for viewing fountain displays. It has 26 fountains which represent the 26 cantons (districts/regions) of Switzerland.
If you fancy a nice and healthy lunch, head to Tibits Gurtengasse. It is a vegetarian restaurant offering more than 40 delicious homemade meals suitable for all ages and tastes.
Tibits Gurtengasse offers a wide range of salads, sandwiches, soups, hot meals, desserts and juices. The best thing about the restaurant is that you can try everything you want! Just serve yourself from the buffet and pay by weight.
If it's a nice day, grab a seat outside and enjoy the refreshing breeze while eating. Also, Tibits offer takeaway services, so you can easily ask for takeaway and eat it later.
The Pfeiferbrunnen or Bagpiper Fountain is a 16th-century fountain, decorated in vibrant colours and with a bagpiper sculpture on the top. It is listed as a Swiss heritage site of national significance.
The fountain was designed by Hans Gieng - a Swiss Renaissance sculptor. When it was built, the Pleiferbrunnen stood in front of Gasthaus zum Kreuz (hotel for minstrels - medieval entertainers).
Around 1919, it was moved to its current location in front of Spitalgasse 21.
Kafigturm is one of the most popular places to see in Bern in one day. Established in 1256 as a defence tower and city’s gate, Kafigturm served as a prison for a long time. Today, the tower is known for its medieval architecture, dungeons and exhibitions.
Another interesting thing about the tower is its front clock decorated in a distinctive red colour that was added to the building in the 17th century.
If you wish to enter the tower and climb its steep steps for the great views of Bern, the tower is open daily except for Sundays. Guided tours are also available for the dungeons.
Waisenhausplatz or The Orphanage Square is a plaza that was the medieval city centre of Bern. Today, it’s a public square that hosts various seasonal markets such as Christmas markets.
Around the square, you will find lots of cafes and little restaurants where you can relax and enjoy the view of the busy streets. To be honest, there is not much to do in Waisenhausplatz. I recommend making a quick stop, rest for a moment, have a snack or a drink and then move onto the next destination.
However, if you are visiting around Christmas time, make sure to browse around the market filled with traditional snacks, drinks, and handmade gifts.
From Waisenhausplatz head towards the river where you will encounter Kornhausbrucke (also known as Kornhaus Bridge). It is another high-level steel bridge that was built during the industrial age. The bridge connects Bern’s historic old town to the modern Altenberg neighbourhood.
Kornhausbrucke is known for fantastic views of the distant Alps, Aare River, Government buildings, and Bern’s old town. It is also recognised as "the best place for views of Bern's cityscape". So make sure you have your camera ready!
Kindlifresserbrunnen or Child Eater Fountain is another masterpiece by sculptor Hans Gieng. The fountain is located at the Kornhausplatz (Granary Place). It was built in the 16th century.
Kindlifresserbrunnen fountain’s sculpture depicts a monster (ogre) who is eating a naked child from a bag full of kids. There are many legends about the monster’s identity; however, lots of people agree that it depicts a carnival character who was used to scare disobedient kids.
Of course, this is just speculation as no one knows the real meaning behind it.
A visit to Bern is not complete if you haven't seen Zytglogge (Clock Tower).
The clock tower used to be the city's western gate from around 1191 to 1256. In 1530 the astronomical calendar clock was installed on the front of the tower. Today, Zytglogge is one of the Bern's main attractions as it is the oldest clock in Switzerland.
When the clock strikes an hour, everyone gathers to watch the parade of mechanical figures including bears, a jester, a golden rooster, and Chronos - the god of time.
Daily tours leading to the top of the tower can be booked online or at the tourist information centre. I highly suggest booking in advance if you want to participate in a tour.
Zahringerbrunnen or Zahringer Fountain is probably the most famous fountain in Bern’s old town. The fountain was built in 1535 and dedicated to the founder of Bern - Berchtold von Zahringer.
Its sculpture depicts an armoured bear with a bear cub at his feet. According to the legend, Zahringer killed a bear while searching for a good place for a new city. This is the reason why the fountain has bears.
By the way, fountain water is drinkable, so don’t hesitate to fill up your water bottle.
Einsteinhaus (Einstein House) is the actual apartment where Albert Einstein lived and created theories about space and time.
The famous physicist lived in Bern between 1903 and 1905. He developed his Theory of Relativity while living in this Bern apartment. Today, the apartment has been made into a museum that is accessible to visitors.
The museum is furnished like it was during Einstein times. You will find his work documents and personal items.
By the way, enter the museum only if you arrive before 3.30 PM. Make sure to spend around 30 minutes as you will have to rush to another stop.
A Bern travel guide is not complete without mentioning the Cathedral of Bern or Bern Minster. Founded in the 15th century, the Bern Minster remains the church with the highest spire in Switzerland.
Its spire is over 100 meters high with 320 steps to reach its observation deck. From the deck, you can see a fantastic Bern city panorama with the distant peaks of Bernese Oberland also visible.
After its spire and observation deck, Bern Minster is well-known for its stained glass windows, oak choir stalls, and vaults. Its grand interior amazes every visitor.
Take note that if you want to climb the spire, you need to come to the cathedral by 4.30 PM at the latest. The cathedral and spire are open daily.
Bear Pit or Barengraben (Bear Park) is one of the most visited attractions in Bern. It is a bear enclosure in the middle of the city that belongs to the city's zoo.
According to the legend, Duke Berthold killed the bear while searching for a place for a new city. He swore to name the city after the animal and believed he should have bears living within this newly established city. Since then, bears have become a symbol of Bern and have remained in the city's Bear Park.
Back in the early 2000s, Bear Pit was surrounded by the controversies. Due to this reason the pit was closed and renovated. From 2009, Bern bears are kept in a big space where they can freely roam around.
Bear Park is free to enter. Take the number 12 bus to get directly to the entrance.
Rose Garden (Rosengarten) is the most beautiful park in Bern. It offers panoramic views of Bern’s old town. The park is beautiful all year round.
In the springtime it is filled with cherry blossoms; during summer - more than 400 types of roses are blooming. While in the autumn, the park showcases a palette of richly coloured trees. If you are travelling in the winter, you will be able to see the park covered in snow and enjoy an indoor garden terrace at the restaurant.
If you are looking for where to eat in Bern, Restaurant Rosengarten is a perfect place. It is well-known for its excellent location, great views and, of course, delicious healthy food.
Make sure to book a table in advance if you are visiting Bern during spring break, summer, or Christmas time.
The last stop of this one day in Bern itinerary is Gurten Mountain. Located outside Bern’s city centre, the mountain is an ideal place to relax after a tiring day allowing you to enjoy nature.
Gurten Mountain is 858 meters above sea level. The top of the mountain can be reached by walking or taking a funicular. The funicular departs every 15 minutes and operates almost till midnight. I suggest taking a funicular up and walking down if you are not in a rush.
When at the top of a mountain, you can sit down and relax. If possible, try to come just before the sunset so that you can enjoy great panoramic views.
If you are travelling with kids, there are plenty of activities to keep them occupied. You will find a playground and a tobogganing run track. In winter, you can try sledging and skiing if you rent equipment from nearby shops.
To reach Gurten Mountain from Rosengarten, take a bus or tram that stops at Wabern stop.
This one day in Bern itinerary covered the main attractions of the city that can be easily visited within a short period. This itinerary is suitable for day visitors (day trippers) to Bern and for people who are starting (or ending) their journey in Switzerland.
Bern is a historic and lovely city filled with interesting legends, fountain statues, grand buildings, nature parks, and great places to eat. Also, there are lots of places that offer panoramic views of the distant Bernese Oberland's peaks covered in glaciers.
If you plan to travel around Switzerland and start your journey in Bern, I suggest considering it as your main base. Bern has a wide selection of hotels, holiday apartments and guesthouses suitable for all budgets.
If you make your base at Bern, you can then make many enjoyable day trips to Lake Thun, Lake Spiez, Interlaken, Grindelwald, Lake Brienz, Basel and Zurich. Just make sure to purchase a Swiss Travel Pass (unlimited free transportation during your stay) or the Swiss Half Fare Card (50% discount on all trains). If you plan to visit all of those sights, you will be doing lots of rail travel to earn back the initial
I hope you liked my Bern itinerary and found it useful while planning for your trip. Leave your planning stress behind, follow the itinerary and enjoy your day trip to Bern.
This article was edited by Loredana Elena.
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