Top 5 sights for first-timers
Extending from Nydegg Bridge to Bubenberg Square and framed by the curving Aare River, Bern’s Old Town is a delight to wander around. It features six kilometres of limestone buildings, medieval arcades and Renaissance fountains.
The new enclosure for Bern's famous brown bears – which are also the city's heraldic animal – has a landscape where the bears can climb, fish and play, but also just retreat and relax.
Zytglogge (clock tower)
This striking structure was Bern’s first western city gate and formed the boundary of the first city extension. Its ornate astronomical calendar clock was built in 1530 and its display of mechanical figures set into motion every hour is imposing.
Parliament Square and the Houses of Parliament
Construction of the Parliament buildings began in 1852 and took 50 years. The building complex is the seat of the Swiss government and features lots of ornate decorations including a grand central domed hall. Kids love to dodge the fountains in the square in warmer months.
This represents the most impressive example of late Gothic architecture in Bern. The basilica with its three knaves towers above the roofs of the Old Town. The portal with its depiction of the Last Judgement is an especially outstanding feature. Switzerland’s highest church tower offers magnificent views across the city into the depths of the Swiss Mittelland and the snow-capped mountains of the Bernese Oberland.
Top 5 sights for old hands
Kunst Museum Berne
This fabulous fine art gallery has wonderful temporary exhibitions and an amazing permanent collection: a room full of old masters, another of exemplary 20th century works from the likes of Rothko, Pollock, Picasso, Dali and Miro, and a room room with works by Van Gough, Pisarro, Renior, Cezanne, Manet, Degas, Sisley, Monet, Gioacometti, Toulouse-Lautrec and Bonnard, and top Swiss artists Hodler and Anker. There’s also a lovely cafe.
The centrally located Botanical Gardens, containing around 6,000 plant species growing on an area of more than two hectares outdoors and in seven glass houses, is a great option when you want some rest and respite from the city.
The Marzili swimming pool is located right below the Parliament buildings by the Aare River and in warmer months is ideal for a refreshing dip. It is a popular meeting place too. Skilled swimmers can swim in the river itself, which snakes around the centre. Amazingly, the water meets drinking water standards.
Zentrum Paul Klee
Designed by Renzo Piano and opened in 2005, this striking, curving building contains the world’s most important collection of works by Paul Klee (1879-1940). There’s also a children’s museum, topical exhibitions and numerous events.
Monument im Fruchtland 3
Einstein House and Museum
Not only can you visit Albert Einstein’s house in the centre of the Old Town – his home from 1903 to 1905, where he developed his theory of relativity – but also a museum dedicated to the great man, with memorabilia, films and written records all presented in an easy-to-understand way.
Einstein Haus: Kramgasse 49
Einstein Museum: Helvetiaplatz 5