Bern is of course the capital of Switzerland and lovely to visit. I have friends living there, so I have visited the place many times over the past 15 years. For this post I will do some suggestions for what you could do in just one day.
Our journey to Bern starts at home, a couple of months early. Because if you want to visit Switzerland my main advise is to start saving early. Every time I go there I tell myself to be prepared for how much everything will cost, and I am still shocked every time I go there. So: be prepared!
First of all you will need some accommodation to stay the night. The best thing to do would be to stay with friends, or otherwise try something like couchsurfing. If you prefer to stay at a hotel or hostel, this will cost you. A bed at a hostel will cost you about € 100,- a night and most hotels start around € 150,- / € 200,- a night. Last time us Dodos went, we stayed at Hotel Sternen Muri, just outside the city. This is a 4-star hotel with double rooms starting at € 100,- a night. The hotel looks great, the room was huge, there is an on-site garage and a good restaurant with a lovely terrace. And there is a tram stop directly in front of the hotel, that takes you to the center Bern in about 10 -15 minutes (with trams coming very regularly – this is Switzerland after all). When you park your car at the hotel you do have to pay a small fee per day, but in return you get free tickets for the tram.
Having booked your hotel I would recommend a walk through the town. Simply go to the central station and walk toward the Bärengraben (which is an almost straight line). While you are walking you can admire the medieval structures, take a look at city’s famous Zytglogge (a 15th-century astronomical clock), admire the Bundeshaus (which houses the national parliament, government and part of the federal administration) and take a look at the Renaissance allegorical statues on many of the public fountains.
After you have finished your little stroll through the city, you will cross a bridge towards the Bärengraben. One of the stories that is told about how the city got it’s name, is that its founder named it after the first animal he encountered which happened to be a bear. Whether this is true or not, the bear was the heraldic animal of the seal and coat of arms of Bern from at least the 1220’s. In honour of their city’s symbol, the city created a bear pit (Bärengraben) with real bears in it. The earliest reference to the keeping of live bears dates back to the 1440’s. When I first visited Bern, the bear pit was still in use, but after many protests a new and bigger Bärenpark was opened in 2009. Which has live bears wandering around and you can visit for free.
After you have visited the roaring pride of the city and it is a nice warm day, I recommend you go to the public outdoor swimming pool Marzilibad. Before you go in, you should get some ice cream almost across the street at Gelateria di Berna – which is apparently the best ice cream in town. After you have finished your ice cream and have gotten into your swimsuit, you should walk up alongside the Aare. The Aare is the river that runs through the city and in the summer the people of Bern love to swim in it. The best thing is: it has a current! So, just follow all the naked Swiss people to what will probably be camping Eichholz, jump in the water and let the current take you back to the Marzilibad.
If instead you are traveling with children or don’t want to get wet, there is a lovely little zoo in Bern. Or if you don’t mind going inside, I would recommend the Bern Historical Museum. This may sound boring, but first of all the building looks like a castle from Harry Potter. Over the years I have visited several interesting exhibitions here, among which one about knights where they held real tournaments with knights on horses in the gardens of the museum! The building also houses a museum on what may be the most famous Swiss of all time: Albert Einstein. This part of the museum is very modern, has a lot of material and does a great job of not only telling you about the man himself, but also explaining his theory of relativity.
After you have been bust walking – or swimming – around all day you will probably be hungry. On such a nice day there really is only one place you can eat: Restaurant Rosengarten. It lies just a little bit uphill (so save some energy for last – or simply take a bus), but because of that it has a marvelous view over the city:
And don’t be sad when the sun goes down:
If you decide to go there, it will be wise to put down a reservation. I remember the food matching the view, especially the deserts – so good in fact that I got two…