Exploring the old town is always my top priority whenever I travel to a new city. Old towns often have a unique atmosphere and charm that can’t be found in more modern areas of a city. It’s where we can interact with locals and see well-preserved architecture and monuments—an authentic experience of the city and its culture.
Thun, a beautiful Swiss city in Bernese Oberland, also has an old town. Although it isn’t as big and famous as Bern or Lucerne’s old town, Thun Old Town has an underrated charm that makes wandering fun and enjoyable.
Today, you will see the most beautiful scenes in/of Thun Old Town, which can spark your wanderlust and visit Thun. I’ll tell you where they are and how you can also find them. Let’s get started!
If you have ever wondered why you should visit Thun in the first place, here’s what I can say.
Thun is a special place because it is one of the few cities in Switzerland to have a castle built beside a preserved old town. It is also a picturesque city because it is located beside Lake Thun in the Bernese Oberland—a spectacular natural scenery.
I think Thun is the smaller version of Lucerne. It also has a flower-embellished wooden bridge, the city center sits by the lake, and mountain excursion destinations are less than an hour away.
If you are curious about what Lucerne looks like, you can start learning about Lucerne as a tourist attraction from the articles I linked below.
- 10 Beautiful Things To See In Lucerne
- Free Things To Do In Lucerne
- 10 Unique Landmarks and Experiences in Lucerne
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Going back to Thun…
I keep on mentioning that Thun is a beautiful city, but you might not be familiar with where it is exactly. So, where are Thun and its old town exactly?
Thun is located 30 kilometers south of Bern, a 20-minute single train ride or approximately a 30-minute drive away. Like most European cities, the old town of Thun lies at the center of the city. Looking from the sky, you can see Thun Old Town exactly at the point where River Aare meets the northern tip of Lake Thun.
If you make Bern your home base in exploring central Switzerland, Thun is undoubtedly a fantastic option for a day trip or a half-day trip. Below are the things to inspire you to visit Bern.
Now, let me show you what makes Thun a worth seeing place.
Beautiful Things To See In Thun Old Town (Picture-Perfect Places)
Growing up in an archipelago, alpine cities like Thun are strangely spectacular to me. Our cities are mainly coastal—totally opposite of what Thun looks like. I marvel at the quaint appearance of the Old Town with the eternally frozen mountaintops nearby.
Exploring the city, I was surprised to see that Thun has a small island in the Aare River that passes right through its center. The islet is called Bälliz, and there you can find a number of stores, restaurants, and cozy cafes where you can hang out if you feel a little tired after exploring the city.
We don’t have places (shopping districts on an island within a river) like that at home! Cool.
Anyway, speaking of beautiful things to see in Thun Old Town, it’s the part where you can start seeing some really picturesque scenes.
The start? Well, that’s the case when arriving in Thun by train. It may differ if you are going to Thun by car.
There are a few ways to get to Bälliz from Thun train station, though. However, you don’t have to ride any bus to get to Bälliz from the train station. On foot, you can reach the islet within five minutes.
Note: If you come to Thun by car, you’d probably see Thun Castle first because the closest parking lot is under the hill where Thun Castle was built. The pedestrian exit/walkway goes straight to the castle grounds.
Do you need more ideas where to go in Thun? I can help you with that! You can try reading: Is Lake Thun Worth Visiting: 10 Beautiful Places To Visit. (Links open in a new tab)
1. Obere & Untere Schleuse
Assuming you arrive in Thun by train, I suggest you start your journey in the city by walking along Aarefeldstrasse. It is the street perpendicular to the train station to lead you directly to the first beautiful place in Thun: Obere Schleuse.
I believe you already know that Obere Schleuse is a German word, but what is it specifically?
Obere Schleuse (Upper Lock) is one of Thun’s 18th-century covered wooden bridges, also designed as locks to prevent flooding in the city. It is located on the southern tip of Bälliz, linking the island to Aarefeld (the area where the train station is located).
The second lock or covered wooden bridge is called Untere Schleuse (Lower lock). It is the path to Mühleplatz of the Old Town from the island, the third bridge on the northern banks of Bälliz from Obere Schleuse.
During the warmer months, locals decorate these covered wooden bridges with colorful flowers. Their unique rustic appearance and the turquoise water of the Aare River are simply a spectacle to see in Thun.
There are several bridges connecting different parts of Thun separated by the River Aare. But keep in mind that you can cross the river through these covered wooden bridges. It’s a simple yet rustic experience to try.
Walking inside the covered bridge, you’ll see not only thick lumbers forming the gables. But also, you’ll see the mechanical parts of the lock, which can be pretty fascinating to think about how they move and function.
Lastly, when it is summer, you may spot locals surfing in the rapids, coming under bridges. Watch out, as they might do some tricks!
2. View of Thun Castle from Bällizbrücke
As you may already know, Thun Castle is the primary landmark of Thun. There’s no doubt about that as it’s Thun Old Town’s tallest building, detectable from Lake Thun and some highways to the city.
Perched on a hilltop overlooking Thun Old Town, Thun Castle shall be visible in most parts of Thun Old Town. You can go to the town’s squares/parks and see the castle peeking above the roof of the old houses and buildings.
But, would you believe me that one of the most picturesque vantage points of Thun Castle is not in a park or square? It is on a bridge called Bällizbrücke.
Bällizbrücke is the footbridge that connects the central part of the Bälliz to Rathausquai in Thun Old Town. The footbridge’s length points straight toward the castle, and its railings create leading lines emphasizing the giant landmark.
Have a look:
It’s a simple view of the castle, yet a picture-perfect spot, right? I like how the two trees welcome you to the central part of the Old Town Thun at the end of the bridge!
For me, Bällizbrücke is a hidden gem in Thun.
Not only because very few tourists come to the spot and know that this bridge has a nice view, but the way to this bridge is literally “somewhat” hidden in Bälliz. If you’re in Bälliz, the way to Bällizbrücke is an alley opposite Kaffeemühle (coffee shop).
3. Obere Hauptgasse and Town Hall Square
Have you ever wandered into your country and stumbled upon an old, quaint, and elaborate house? So often, I did, and there I thought, “I can’t imagine how beautiful this town would be if all the buildings were built this way!”
I just love old-world architecture. It brings me a sense of wonder every time my sight lands on them.
Unlike Modern architecture, these ancient-looking buildings have more than style. They show humanistic creativity—promoting human values and well-being, rather than solely focusing on commercial (“making money”) or technological advancements.
Built during the middle ages, you can expect Thun Old Town to have such beautiful houses. You can find the most charming ones in Town Hall Square. It is where you can also find the oldest structures in town and another picturesque spot for Thun Castle.
Here’s a sample view:
There are three notable buildings in Town Hall Square.
- Hotel Rathaus — it is the oldest brick house in Thun, dating back to the 14th century.
- Town Hall — a 15th-century building with eye-catching historic charm.
- Burgerhaus Thun — an 18th-century late-baroque building with notable elegance.
Let’s say you’re in Town Hall Square and you are currently looking at Thun Castle. If you look to your right, you’ll see Obere Hauptgasse—the main and longest street in Thun Old Town.
In the beginning, I explained why Thun is special. However, if you begin strolling in Obere Hauptgasse, you’ll realize that this city is more unique than that!
Obere Hauptgasse is the street in the Old Town Thun with raised pavements. Like, the pavements on both sides of the main street are above the shops whose entrances are on the main street.
It’s one of the most unique street architecture I discovered in Switzerland. Look:
When it is the flower blooming season or summer months, the locals decorate the railings of the raised pavement with colorful flowers. During those times, Obere Hauptgasse becomes a really charming street.
However, you can already find Obere Hauptgasse appearing beautiful without flower decorations. The quaint pastel-colored facades of the buildings flanking Obere Hauptgasse are already filling the street scene with charming old-world flair.
4. View from Thun Castle’s Tower
Thun is called the Gateway to Bernese Oberland. It’s the part of the canton of Bern where you can start seeing some of the most impressive views of the Bernese Alps.
Although you can already spot the Jungfrau massif from Bern (at the promenade behind the Bundeshaus, to be specific), the views from Thun are undeniably more stunning than what you can see from Bern.
Like, you can just go to Schadau Park (a 15-minute walk from the train station), and you’ll immediately see an idyllic panorama of Lake Thun and the snow-capped mountains.
However, if it’s a totally breathtaking view you want to see, Thun Castle is just the place to be.
The towering Thun Castle, perched on a hill with a height of a 10-floor building, has towers you can climb for the highest vantage point in the city. It’s quite a bit of legwork to reach the top, but the views are so rewarding and not to be missed.
From the castle tower’s windows, your eyes will be blessed with heaven-on-earth scenery, including the city, lake, and mountains. The most iconic part of the panorama is definitely Thun Central Church, with the rest of the Bernese Oberland in the backdrop.
There are several ways you can reach the castle. But if you are in Thun Old Town, the most beautiful way up is through Kirchtreppe.
Kirchtreppe is the beautiful historical wooden staircase in Old Town Thun that links Obere Hauptgasse to Thun Castle and Thun Central Church. It has mesmerizing gables to inspire you to take photos as you climb to the castle grounds.
Visiting the castle and climbing the tower requires a small admission fee (free if you have a Swiss Travel Pass). If you want to know if the castle is worth it (what’s inside and what you can expect to see), you can check my post about Thun Castle.
See more tourist attractions in Thun!
If you have a Swiss Travel Pass, you can also visit Thun Panorama for free. It’s the world’s oldest surviving panorama, depicting a preserved image of Thun centuries ago. Learn more about Thun Panorama here.
5. Skyline of Thun from Bächimattpromenade
Today, Thun Old Town is now only a small part of the modern city of Thun. But, even though that’s true, it’s still the Thun Old Town which you can quickly spot even from a distance (thanks to Thun Castle, which is in the Old Town).
When I first saw Thun’s skyline, the scene of the Disney Castle (at every start of a Disney Movie) came into my mind.
Thun Castle, dominating the panorama, and River Aare below it kinda resembles the scene. I think it’s one of the most magical sceneries in Bernese Oberland, which everyone must see.
There are two ways you can see Thun from Lake Thun.
The first one is very obvious. It’s by taking a boat ride in the River Aare to Lake Thun.
From Thun, hop on a boat to go to other tourist destinations in Lake Thun, like Oberhofen Castle. Find a spot in the boat (left side) with views of Thun Castle. As the boat moves away from the city, you see the panorama of Thun like in the photo.
You do not need to buy separate boat tickets if you have a Swiss Travel Pass. It already includes unlimited boat, bus, and train rides (best to have if you are traveling in Switzerland for a week or more).
The second way to see the beautiful Thun skyline is by hiking in a scenic lakeside promenade called Bächimattpromenade. It’s a pathway that stretches from the eastern banks of the River Aare near Thun Old Town to the Hünibach ferry terminal.
To get to Bächimattpromenade from Old Town Thun, you can walk for 15 minutes along the eastern banks of River Aare towards the lake or take a bus ride (#21) to the Thun Freienhof bus stop. If you travel by car, there is a parking space beside the bus stop.
The boats docked beside the riverbank indicate the start of Bächimattpromenade. It’s also the spot where you can see/photograph Thun Old Town’s skyline with Thun Castle and Thun Central church. Magical, isn’t it?
If you have spare time, I encourage you to continue hiking in Bächimattpromenade. Fairytale scenes await you there.
After walking in Bächimattpromenade towards Lake Thun for another 15 minutes, you shall see Schadau Castle on the other side of the River Aare. Here is the view:
When you reach the end of Bächimattpromenade in Hünibach ferry terminal, and you have a powerful camera, here’s a shot of Schadau Castle you can also create:
So, that’s all the beautiful things/places I really recommend visiting/seeing in Thun. If you visit Thun, I hope I helped you enjoy your trip! 😀 Live life.
Are you looking for ways to visit Thun? Do you want to know how much time you must spend? My posts below can help.
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