Bern, the Capital of Switzerland, is a lovely town for a city trip! We’ve been to Bern on several occasions, but every time we walk the beautiful streets of Bern, we say to each other that we should really come more often! Bern has nice historical buildings, a picturesque old town with medieval fountains, tower clocks, and covered streets with little cute cafés. From several spots in the city you can overlook the Aare river, which becomes a highlight in summer months when people float down the river on rubber boats, or on inflatable unicorns.
While walking through Bern, you will see that most buildings all have the same greenish color. This is because a large part of the city burnt down in 1405 and was rebuilt using the same sandstone.
Here are some things we like to do when we visit Bern!
Wandering around the Old Town of Bern
The Old Town of Bern lies partly along the Aare river. The Old Town is very walkable, so we usually just park right at the Bärengraben, or at the Rathaus parking. Of course, Bern is also very well accessible by train. If you go to Bern from Geneva, there are also special trains with a playground in it for kids!
Bärengraben, the Bear Park
The bear is the symbol of the city of Bern, and the animal can be found represented all over the city on the fountains or buildings facades, and on the city’s flag. Bern has had bear pits for a long time in history. The bears used to live in quite small bear pits, but now have a sort of park along the Aare river. A lift makes it possible to go down to the footpath along the river with a stroller to try to spot the bears. There is a café at the Bärengraben, so you could have a drink, or lunch here.
Covered streets of Bern
From the Bärengraben, you can cross the bridge over the Aare river and you will walk straight into the Old Town. If you take a left on the Junkerngasse, this will take you through this quiet street with a building with beautiful paintings on it on your left-hand side, and it will take you to the Cathedral, of Bern, the Berner Münster. Behind the Berner Münster is a small park overlooking the Aare, the Münsterplattform, which is a peaceful place to have drinks or a coffee.
Zytglogge, and Einsteins House
We then usually continue to the main street of Bern, the Kramgasse, with its archways with cute small shops, cafés, and art galleries, towards the famous Clock Tower of Bern, the Zytglogge.
The Zytglogge, which dates from the 13th century is probably Bern’s most known landmark and has a beautiful astronomical clock. When you pass the Zytglogge and go to the right, you will see a very known fountain in Bern of an ogre eating a baby (uhm, yes, scary but interesting).
More decorated fountains can be found on the Kramgasse street, and if you walk back on that same street, you will also pass the house where Albert Einstein used to live. Albert Einstein lived on Kramgasse no 49 for several years and it is possible to visit his small house and learn a bit more about his life and his settlement in Switzerland.
Paliament Building, Bundeshaus
The federal palace where the Swiss Government seats, is located on the Bundesplatz in Bern. The building can be visited when there are no meetings, and they also organize special Family visits on a few days of the year. To learn more about when the next Family visit to the parliament takes place, and in which language, check out their website: https://www.parlament.ch/fr/services/visite-du-palais-federal/visites-guidees-pour-les-familles
An English version of this part of the site is not available, probably because the visits are organized in local languages.
On the Bundesplatz in front of the parliament, you will find fountains where kids run around in summer, and an ice-skating rink in winter.
What to eat in Bern
Bern lies on the good side of what is called the ‘Röstigraben’, the Rösti border in Switzerland, referring to the cultural border between the French and German speaking parts of the country. Yes, Rösti is a Swiss national dish, but is more eaten in the German speaking part, than in the French or Italian speaking parts. In some restaurants you even have a separate Rösti menu. Of course, we tried the Bernese style rösti, which was delicious.
When in Bern, we always buy a local pie at the Beeler bakery. It is a delicious hazelnut pie with the image of a bear on it. Yum! Address of Beeler bakery: Spitalgasse 36, close to the train station.
Would you like to know more on Swiss Food? Then this article could also be of interest to you:Museums in Bern
Bern has a large offer of good museums! We have been to some of them, and others are still on our list and make for more good reasons to come back.
Museum of Communications in Bern
The Museum of Communications is a very interactive and family friendly museum where you can learn on all forms of communication, be an actor yourself or have a fake dinner with digital characters. You can take a selfie in an old-fashioned way, but then add yourself to the bigger picture by adding your photo to a big mosaic on the wall. You will see old Swiss Post busses and mailboxes, ask yourself questions about the information you give by using a shops membership card, and many more. Totally approved for families!
Website of the museum: https://www.mfk.ch/en/home-en/
Paul Klee Museum
This museum is still on our list. Our youngest son has been there on a school trip and loved it, but the rest of us still need to check this out. They have special activities for kids. Check out the museum’s website for more information: https://www.zpk.org/en/
Other museums in Bern, and some water fun
Other museums which seem interesting to us are: the Einstein Museum and the Swiss Alpine Museum, but there are many others still to be discovered!
If you are not into museums, a fun place worth noting is Bernaqua, a water park with slides for kids! More information on Bernaqua: https://www.bernaqua.ch/fr-CH/ParcAquatique
But what about that floating on the Aare river?
Ah, another thing on our list of things we still want to do in Bern… 😊 Sounds like a very cool experience, but requires good swimmers of course, safety first. If you truly want to experience Bern in Summer, it seems like the best way to do it is the way the locals do, by floating on the Aare river. Bern tourism has explanations and their favorite routes on their website: https://www.bern.com/en/aare-river/floating-favorite-routes
Another local thing, Bern’s traditional onion market
The Zibelemärit is held every year on the fourth Monday of November, and is a long traditional happening in Bern where farmers come to sell onions and garlic, onion pies, and onion soup. Unfortunately, since it is always held on a weekday, it is quite difficult for people with kids from other parts of Switzerland to attend this festival on a school day.
From Geneva to Bern by train:
If you are going to Bern by train with young children, it could be a good idea to take the special Swiss train with a carriage that has a playground in it! You can search for your train in the time table and check if they are marked with FA in the timetable.
More information on the family coaches on Swiss trains and on which routes they run can be found here: https://www.sbb.ch/en/station-services/on-the-train/on-board-service.html