The first town that we spent time in during our Switzerland vacation was the capital city of Bern. Although Bern is the capital of Switzerland, it is Switzerland’s 5th largest city. We found it to be the perfect size, not too busy, which added to its fairytale like charm. If you really want to feel like you’ve stepped into a story book, all you have to do is spend a day in the Old City of Bern. Walking past the old medieval buildings along the cobblestone streets, feels like you have stepped back in time. You don’t even have to worry about an umbrella in this city because all the side walks in the Old City are covered! This Old City section of Bern is so beautiful and rich in history that the whole area is an UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Site.
Where to Stay
When staying in Bern I highly recommend stay in the Old City area. However, as with all hotels in Switzerland you may have to do a little digging to find a deal. We stayed in the Hotel Goldener Schlüssel, which we discovered through the Rick Steve’s Travel Guide of Switzerland. This hotel was reasonably priced, included breakfast and was located in the best possible area next to the famous clock tower of Bern. However, I will warn you that this was probably the thinnest mattress I have ever slept on and the hotel was a little loud (I recommend bringing ear plugs).
Where to Eat
This was one category that we just couldn’t seem to grasp in Bern. Once we realized how expensive it was to eat in Switzerland, we honestly got most of our meals from the grocery store. The Migros grocery store near our hotel had prepared meals to go (salads, sandwiches, etc) and we ate a lot of those. We did have two restaurant meals while in Bern and I can’t really give either super high recommendations. One rainy day we stepped into Le Mazot to have some lunch and it was okay. Not the best meal I have ever had and not really worth the price. On our last evening in Bern we decided to try a locally recommend restaurant, Loetschberg, to try fondue for the first time. This was a big splurge because this meal costs about $25 per person. We ended up ordered a fondue that wasn’t our favorite (we ended up having a much better fondue in Murren) and we got laughed at by locals a little bit for eating fondue incorrectly.
Tip on how to eat fondue: First, dip the bread or potato in the fondue with the fondue fork. Place your cheese covered morsel on your plate then eat it with your normal fork. If you just bite the food off of the fondue fork you may be laughed at!
What to See:
Historical Museum of Bern
This was probably our favorite place that we went to in Bern! It was free with the Swiss Travel Pass, was not crowded at all and had so much information on the history of Switzerland and Bern. Albert Einstein also lived in Bern for a period of his life and they have a whole exhibit dedicated to him. It was very interesting! Highly recommend this museum.
The Zytglogge is probably the most notable landmark in Bern. Luckily our hotel was right next to this so we got to see it many times. This clock and its tower are about 800 years old and every hour there is a cool little “show” that happens. There are tours you can take to go up in the clock tower, but we just looked at it from the street.
The Münster Cathedral
This cathedral was gorgeous! Unfortunately when we were in Bern, there were restorations happening and we could not go inside. But, the Historical Museum of Bern had a lot of great information on this cathedral and the outside of it is just breathtaking! There is also a little park area near the cathedral that is perfect to just relax in and take in the city.
As mentioned previously, the Old City of Bern is just so beautiful! Although there is not a ton of activities in Bern, spending the day walking through the city is just perfect! Also, while walking through the Old City be on the lookout for Bern’s intricate water fountains. There is one famous fountain called the Kindlifresserbrunnen that is infamous because it depicts a man eating babies.
I highly recommend stopping through this fairytale city if you every make the journey to Switzerland.