Bern is the capital of Switzerland, sitting in the German-speaking area of the country. The German influence in Bern is palpable, from the architecture to the food and even the language. Bern has a lot of historical and cultural character, with a delightful Old City and scores of museums. A day or two in the Swiss capital should definitely be on your list! Here are the 5 best attractions in Bern.
Bundeshaus (Federal Palace)
The Bundeshaus or Federal Palace is the national seat of the Swiss government. The tiny European country practices direct democracy. Voting is not only for electing representatives, but also for referendums ranging from public building proposals to traffic regulations. You can learn all about the Swiss system on a guided tour of the Bundeshaus, available in English on Saturdays. The building itself is rich in history and architectural splendor too!
What could be more Swiss than a clock? The Zytglogge is a clocktower in Bern’s Old City, and one of its most famous landmarks. You can visit the clocktower on a tour or by standing out in front of it on the hour with a crowd of tourists. The Zytglogge is an astronomical clock dating from the early 13th century. It was originally built as a gate clock on Bern’s western edge and has served as guard tower, prison, clocktower, and civic memorial throughout its long history.
The former home of Albert Einstein – who resided in Bern from 1903 to 1905 – has been restored and opened as a museum for visitors. Two years isn’t a long time, but Bern can cash in on Einstein fame because he developed his Theory of Relativity there. At the Einsteinhaus you’ll learn about the scientist’s work on the Theory while glimpsing into his home and family life too. The house is conveniently located in the Bern Old City.
The historic center was constructed during medieval times on a hill, surrounded by the Aare river. Here you’ll find shops, cafés, restaurants, and bars – many of them in cellars that are below street level. The best way to explore the Old City is on foot. With its narrow streets and stunning architecture to behold, taking the bus will be the last thing on your mind. The heart of the Swiss capital has plenty of touristy sites to see as well, like the Bern Cathedral, Rathausplatz, and the Kindlifresserbrunnen fountain in Kornhausplatz.
Zentrum Paul Klee
Bern has its fair share of museums, and one of the most interesting is the Zentrum Paul Klee. Dedicated to the work of artist Paul Klee, it was designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano. It lies on the outskirts of Bern and functions as both museum and cultural center. Zentrum Paul Klee houses the largest collection of Klee’s work anywhere in the world, and it’s surrounded by a park that’s perfect for walking.
Bern: Tons to Do and See
The whole city of Bern has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site – and for good reason. The city has preserved many of its original medieval structures, creating Bern’s famous sense of historical charm. Don’t let the city’s borders stop you’re exploring though. There are tons of natural sites to see just outside of Bern – it is Switzerland after all. There’s the Dählhölzli Zoo on the edge of Bern, water sports along the Aare, and hiking near the Gurten Mountain just south of the city. Whether you’re visiting for the day or planning to stay longer, you will never be bored in Bern.