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Bern - Urban Atmosphere and Rural Tranquillity

Bern is an impressive city. It offers all excitements city travellers could wish for: party, spas, culture, action and shopping facilities. Nevertheless, Bern's inhabitants have kept the characteristic easy-going and calm nature which you usually only find in rural regions.

The capital of Switzerland

Geography - Discovering Switzerland's capital

Bern is the federal capital of Switzerland and the German-speaking canton of the same name. It has an area of 51.60 km² and a population of about 139,000 people. Next to Zurich, Geneva, Basel and Lausanne, Bern is one of the biggest Swiss cities. It lies in the region Bern-Mittelland and is crossed by the river Aaare. You find the mountain Gurten in the south and the Bantiger in the east. Bern is divided into six districts, which consist of quarters. There is temperate climate and the individual seasons are very marked, which is typical of the regions north of the Alps.

Bern - city and nature

Culture - From covered shopping promenades to the Zentrum Paul Klee

Bern was founded by the House of Zähringen in 1191, became a free imperial city in 1218 and joined the Swiss Confederation in 1353. In 1983, Bern's old town became part of the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage. The medieval covered shopping promenades (Lauben) have been preserved to the present day and are characteristic of the city. The old town with its medieval character is generally well-preserved. Bern's inhabitants are known for their tranquillity. They do not get worked up. Of course, there are many other sights beside the old town. You find a great number of churches such as the Bern Minster, the Church of the Holy Ghost, the Trinity Church and the Nydeggkirche. In addition, there are numerous museums and art galleries. The Zentrum Paul Klee, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Historical Museum (also called Einstein Museum), the Natural History Museum and the Kunsthalle Bern are definitely worth a visit. If you want to take a break from urban life, you can relax in one of the many parks. Beautiful examples are the Gurten, the Rose Garden and the Kleine Schanze. In the evening, the Bern Theatre presents three kinds of performances: plays, ballet and musical theatre. A true highlight and a must for every traveller is a visit to the Bear Park, in which you can see brown bears - the animal of the city of Bern.

Zentrum Paul Klee in Switzerland

Experience - Shopping, party and much more

Travellers quickly notice Bern's cosy atmosphere, which is partly due to its manageable old town. It only takes 25 minutes to walk from the Bear Park at one end of the old town to the main station at the other. The arcades (Lauben) of up to six kilometres of length constitue the longest covered shopping promenade in the whole of Europe. They offer anything visitors could wish for from great to small shops to fashionable boutiques to second-hand shops. Visitors can spend days shopping and window-shopping here in all weathers. Another popular shopping facility is the Westside shopping centre in the west of the city. On the 1st of August (the national holiday) Bern hosts the greatest European light and water festival (formerly called Aareleuchten). Other events are the Gurten Festival on the local mountain and the BeJazz, a summer and winter festival during which new jazz is played in the alleys of the old town. Travellers who enjoy gambling can pursue this hobby in the Grand Casino Bern. The capital's nightlife is very rich in variety. There are countless bars, discos and pubs, in which you can celebrate until the early morning hours. Historical sandstone buildings often reveal a modern and fashionable ambience. Bern is also a suitable destination for spa holidays as it accommodates several baths, saunas and oases of calm.

Bern's old part of town at night

Activities - Action and adventure in and around Bern

A bath in the Aare is a must for holidaymakers who travel Bern in summer. If you do not dare to go into the river, you can visit one of the free public outdoor swimming pools. The city and its surroundings offer a great variety of leisure and sporting activities. You can go on a guided city tour or explore the Aare on an inflatable tube. This is called Aare tubing and is unique to Switzerland. The Aare also offers great conditions for going diving but this experience is reserved for advanced divers. Furthermore, you can go on a boat trip along the Aare, go climbing, hiking, cycling, mountain biking or motorcycling. Other popular activities are paragliding, Packgeissen trekking (trekking with pack goats), downhill funcross and indoor karting. Visitor who want to see the beautiful city from above should book a hot-air balloon or helicopter flight. In winter, you can go skiing, tobogganing, snowshoe hiking or spend the night in an igloo in the surrounding regions.

The river Aare in Bern


The city of Bern is one of the most popular city trip destinations in Europe. This is partly due to its great accessibility. You reach the city by car, train or bus via the well-developed road and rail network. The quickest means of transport, however, is the plane.

A city trip to Bern is definitely worth your while. The city does not only impress lovers of culture but also offers numerous activities for adrenaline junkies, party-goers, spa holidaymakers and shopping fans. Bern's inhabitants are not familiar with the words "boredom" and "fuss".

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