Europe on your mind? Make a 72-hour long pitstop in Bern, Switzerland for blissful days of art-loving, river swimming and postcard-perfect living.
Fact: Everyone’s got Switzerland on their travel bucket list. Because every nook and cranny of this picture-perfect country makes our jaw drop. So if you’re planning or dreaming about a trip to Europe, you’ve got to spend some quality time in the Swiss capital of Bern.
Lucky for you, we’ve gone ahead and prepped the perfect 72-hour itinerary for Bern, one of Europe’s most relaxed capitals. Oh and it’s located in the heart of Switzerland which means you’re just an hour or so away from other popular destinations like Zurich, Lucerne, Interlaken and Emmental.
Day 1: Take the Old Town road
Of course, you’ve got to make a trip to the Old Town. Strolling along this UNESCO World Heritage Site (declared in 1983) is almost like time travelling to a perfectly preserved medieval town. You’ll soon realise why the famous German writer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once described the city as “the most beautiful city he has ever seen” in a letter to his girlfriend back in 1779.
You can explore the narrow cobblestoned streets, gorgeous sandstone buildings and sheltered cafes and shopping arcades for hours. Don’t miss Zytglogge, an iconic clock tower and one of the oldest, most recognisable moments in Bern. And it dings – time yourself to reach the spot when the big hand hits twelve. You could also sign up for a guided tour of the clock – see how its 16th-century mechanism work, admire the intricacies and enjoy the view of the city from the top.
Nearby, choose from a bevvy of cafes and restaurants for lunch. When in Switzerland, do as the Swiss and treat yourself to traditional dishes like raclette, fondue and rosti.
Also in the area is the Prison Tower (Käfigturm), the Bern Minster (Münster) and the fountains from the Renaissance. Elaborate 16th-century fountains catch your fancy? Download a self-guided tour and chase as many as you can. While there are over a 100 of them dotting the city, only 11 still stand with original tableaus and allegorical figures.
After you’re done admiring mythical figures and heroes, visit the home of a real-life superstar, Albert Einstein. The Nobel Prize winner and one of the greatest minds of time actually lived in an apartment in Bern from 1903 to 1905. Pop by The Einstein House (Einsteinhaus) to catch a glimpse of how he lived along with memorabilia, original documents and films.
In a mood for a shopping spree? Old Town’s Kram and Gerechtigkeitsgasse streets stretch for six kilometres and are packed with shops as well as unique cellars. Once used as storage space under the house, these cellars are now wine shops, fashion boutiques and art galleries. For dinner, we recommend reserving a table at the city’s most popular cellar restaurants, Kornhauskeller that’s bound to take your breath away with its vaulted frescoed arches, stunning interiors and traditional food. Order your share of Bernese specialities paired with fine wine to celebrate a memorable first day in Bern.
Day 2: Soak up the arts and riverside views
First things first, feast your eyes on the Aare, a marvellous turquoise river that meanders through three-sides of Bern. It’s a sight to behold and if you’re around during the summer months, dive in for a swim. Make like a local and jump in at the Eichholz and allow the river to take your downstream towards Freibad Marzili.
Later, brace yourself for a day of cultural immersion. Start off at the Museum of Fine Arts Bern (Kunstmuseum Bern), Switzerland’s oldest museum that’s home to 3,000 paintings and sculptures as well as 48,000 drawings, photographs, prints, videos and films. Some of the more famous artworks here belong to Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, Ferdinand Hodler, Meret Oppenheim and Jackson Pollock.
Next stop, a contemporary, curvy hill-like structure built by starchitect Renzo Piano. Zentrum Paul Klee, built in 2005, is already an iconic and instantly recognisable institution located on the outskirts of the city. As the name suggests, it’s entirely dedicated to Paul Klee – the Swiss-born artist whose creations was influenced by surrealism, cubism and expressionism movements. After, indulge in a delightful gourmet luncheon at Restaurant Schöngrün in the villa nearby.
Then, make your way to the Aare again for a sundowner and dinner at Schwellenmätteli – a sprawling eatery by the riverside that also serves a view of the House of Parliament (Bundeshaus), the Bern Minster (Münster) and the Old Town.
Day 3: Postcard-perfect parks and perches
If you’re around on a Saturday or Tuesday morning, saunter over to the Parliament Square (Bundeshausplatz). You’ll find several artisan butchers and cheesemakers selling drool-worthy smoked meats, cheese and pastries on the market. Pack some treats and make your way at the Rose Garden (Rosengarten) for absolutely serene sights. Slow down and take in the greens and blooms in this lush park that sits high above the city. Of course, the panoramic views of the capital city and on a clear day, the Alps looming in the distance, make this the perfect spot to relax and unwind. There’s even a little library where you can borrow books for free and return them at the end of the day.
One cannot go Bern without paying a visit to the Bern Animal Park, BearPark (BärenPark). After all, the bear was adopted as the city’s emblem way back in the 12th century. Unlike in the old days, bears are now free to roam around in 6000 sq meters in a natural enclosure by the river.
Catch dinner nearby at restaurant Casa Novo that serves authentic Mediterranean cuisine. The charming terrace right beside the Aare river will make you feel like you just stepped off a film set. Don’t forget to order a glass of wine from the restaurant’s own wine store that features over 100 highlights from Cava to dessert wines.
This post is in partnership with Switzerland Tourism.