Welcome to the “swiss capital” the unique city of Bern! It may sound as a surprise to you but Switzerland indeed has no official capital. The devil is in the details: Bern is not mentioned anywhere in writing as the official capital of Switzerland.
The laws simply mention that ‘the Federal Assembly meets in Bern’ and ‘the official seat of the Federal Council, the departments and the Federal Chancellery is the City of Bern’.
But why doesn’t Switzerland have a real capital? This was because for a long time it was a confederation, an association of independent cantons grouped together in a larger entity, but without real unity.
From the creation of the Confederation in 1291 to the fall of the Ancien Régime in 1798, the capital of Switzerland was basically where the Federal Diet, members of the Confederation’s member cantons, met and discussed common issues.
Top places to visit in Bern
1. The magical old town
It’s no secret that Bern’s old town is one of the most beautiful medieval towns in Europe. In fact, The old town of Bern is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and thanks to its 6 kilometers of arcades – the locals refer to them as ‘Lauben’ – You can enjoy strolling there under basically any type of weather. Making it the longest weather-sheltered shopping promenades in Europe! Bern is also known for its unique fountains, each holds a crazy legend.
2. The Zytglogge
Besides its- some may say- underwhelming “performance” once every round hour, The Zytglogge is a landmark medieval tower in Bern. Built in the early 13th century, it has served the city as guard tower, prison, clock tower, center of urban life and civic memorial. Despite the many redecorations and renovations it has undergone in its 800 years of existence, the Zytglogge is one of Bern’s most recognizable symbols and the oldest monument of the city, and with its 15th-century astronomical clock, a major tourist attraction.
Which explains of course why It is a heritage site of national significance, and a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site.
3. The Cathedral- Berner Münster
The Bern Münster Cathedral of St. Vincent is the largest and most important late medieval church in Switzerland. You can also Climb up the 312 steps and enjoy magical panoramic view to the city. on a fine day you can even enjoy the breathtaking view of the Bernese alps with the peaks of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau!
Price: Adult 5chf, Child 2chf.
4. The Bundeshaus
The Bundeshaus and Bundesplatz is the seat of one of the world’s first modern democracies. But more than that, it offers a range of entertainment. From its beautiful architecture to the surprising water feature, lovely promenade with views to the Aare river and even colorful local markets of Tuesday and Saturday.
Fun Fact: The 26 fountains of the water feature on the Bundesplatz represent the 26 cantons of Switzerland!
5. The Aare River
The Aare river in Bern plays a big roll in the locals’ life. They don’t just look at it. One of their fav activities in summer is to throw themself into the water in some part of the city with a waterproofed bag and float their way to the other side of the city. If you prefer a calmer or less activity- the banks of the river are absolutely perfect for a nice picnic with view!
6. The Bear Park
The Bern Bear Park is a unique recreation area at the lower end of the old town of Bern. It is open around the clock and free for all visitors. Since 1513 bears have been at home in Bern, until 1857 in the town itself, then in the bear pit, and since 2009 in the new and spacious bear park.
Thanks to a lift, the entire facility is now wheelchair-friendly.
7. the French Church- the oldest church in the city
The oldest church in Bern is the French Church, built in 1269. It started as a Dominican monastic church, but since 1623, it has served as a place of worship for French-speaking Protestants.
8. Kornhaus restaurant- Kornhauskeller
A unique restaurant in the heart of the city of Bern. The Kornhaus in Bern’s Old Town has centuries of history behind it and is an important meeting place for artists, art lovers, literature buffs and epicureans.
The rose garden is one of the most beautiful parks in the city of Bern which offers a unique view to the roofscape of the historic old town, the cathedral and the Aare. Its also a perfect place for picnic and chill.
The Gurten, Bern’s Local Mountain is perfect for a little nature getaway when visiting Bern. The funicular station can be reached by bus No. 9 within 15min from Bern’s main station.
You can reach the top hiking, by bike or by the cute red funicular. Hiking to the top will take about one hour, and it’s about 30 minutes by bike. The “Gurtenbähnli”, the Gurten funicular, leaves every 15 minutes, starting in the early morning.
11. Tierpark Dählhölzli
Finally, there is also a zoo and an animal park in Bern! The Dählhölzli Zoo has around 200 different animal species– nestled in the Dählhölzli forest and directly on the Aare river and open 365 days a year.
Direction: Bus line 19 from the main station (near the Bern linen weavers) to the ‘Tierpark’ stop.
Price: Adult 10chf, Child 6chf, family 24chf.