Deciding how long you should visit Bern can be a little tricky, especially because it is often referred to as one of the smallest capital cities in Europe. But, as early as now, I’m telling you, don’t let its size trick you!
Bern has more than a dozen tourist attractions you can visit, and you may need more than 2 days to fully experience/see them all. But 2 days is not always the case, considering several factors like your budget, interests, and length of stay in Switzerland.
For today, I’m going to share my opinion and things you should consider when deciding how long to spend in Bern. And whether you decide that you’ll be spending hours, 1 day, 2 days, or more, in Bern, thinking about how to visit Bern is no longer necessary. I have already prepared an itinerary for you.
We all have different preferences when we travel. One answer to the question “how long to spend in Bern” is subjective and will not totally fit everybody.
At the same time, we also have to consider several factors, like the ones you can find below. I think they are the most common considerations.
- Length of stay in Switzerland — I suggest visiting Bern for more than a day if you have plenty of time in Switzerland. Because Bern is definitely not the primary destination in Switzerland where you should spend more time.
- Your interests — If you like visiting romantic, time-transporting places, I’m definitely sure you’ll like to spend more time in Bern. It has several fascinating museums, as well. And if you like visiting museums you have to spare at least half a day.
- Season of your visit — In most cases, tourist attractions have longer opening hours during summer and shorter when it is winter. One example of this in Bern is the Bern Cathedral.
- How fast you see things — As much as possible, I encourage everyone not to rush and be quick in seeing a destination. Enjoy the time you are there. Find the beautiful little details and appreciate the place.
- Photography — Let’s admit it, we all want good photos when we visit. Bern has beautiful vantage points and several places to watch the sunset. If that’s your thing, perhaps, you’d not spend only hours in Bern.
With these considerations, half a day, one day, two days or three days, or any amount of time can be enough for everybody to enjoy Bern.
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However, here’s my opinion…
One day should be enough for general people and typical tourists wanting to see the highlights of Bern. That includes the landmarks and points of interest in the old city and the beautiful parks and vantage points across the River Aare.
Although you may agree that one day is enough to visit Bern, it’s important to remember that you can already see Bern’s unmissable attractions (Bundeshaus, Zytglogge, Bern Cathedral, and Rose Garden) within a few hours. And if you also want to visit the museums in the city, you might need 2 days for your visit.
Looking for different ways to travel in Switzerland? Check my itineraries below.
Later, you will find more explanation and the itinerary you can use as a guide in visiting Bern. If you also like beautiful scenery and finding beautiful architectural landmarks, I think you will like my sample Bern itinerary.
Spending A Few Hours Or Half Day In Bern
I still think Bern is an unmissable destination even though it does not have beautiful views of the Alps, which is usually the main reason why people come to Switzerland. Bern has a preserved medieval city considered a UNESCO World Heritage site, and it’s a must-see even for just a few hours.
Of course, half a day or a few hours are not enough to see Bern. However, it should be perfect for travelers who will travel within Switzerland only for a short time, like 3 days. I suggest spending more time in the Jungfrau Region, Lucerne, or Zermatt if this is your case.
Learn more about Lucerne and Jungfrau Region here:
- Jungfrau Region or Interlaken
Also, are you the kind of tourist who only wants to do sightseeing and take happy travel selfies or photos? If so, a half day in Bern is also well suited for you.
What’s nice about Bern’s old city is that it is very walkable and the attractions are only minutes from each other on foot. Most importantly, you can expect that every hour you’re in Bern will be worth it because Bern has a picturesque cityscape, continuously feeding your wanderlust as you move around in the old city.
Did you know? The old city of Bern has around 6 kilometers of arcade streets. At the same time, the streets have these cute colorful fountains that are like little gems you can find along the way. These arcades and fountains are truly a feast for the eye.
So, how can you spend half a day in Bern?
In spending a very short time in Bern, it’s important that you see its unmissable attractions: Bundeshaus (unique attraction), Zytglogge (iconic landmark), Bern Cathedral (architectural marvel & beautiful artworks), and Rose Garden (best scenery). Visiting these attractions can keep you engaged in Bern for 3 to 4 hours.
Unmissable attractions in Bern
I recommend spending half a day in Bern in the afternoon so that you may get a chance to see the golden hour in Bern. And if you like, you can stay up until the night in the Rose Garden for a lovely view of the sunset over the skyline of Bern.
To learn more, please check my Bern Half Day Itinerary. There, I thoroughly discussed what you can experience in a half-day visit to Bern, mainly focused on the 4 unmissable attractions previously mentioned.
A One Day Visit To Bern
Undoubtedly, the primary reason why people visit Bern is because of its preserved, quaint high-medieval old city. With all the impressive things and beautiful scenes in it, without a doubt, it should be the main focus of any trip to Bern.
The thing is, the old city of Bern has more to offer other than its unmissable destinations (Bundeshaus, Zytglogge, Bern Cathedral, and Rose Garden). It also has cute fountains, scenic parks, fascinating museums, and several more architectural attractions that you might also want to see.
If now you think you need more than half a day to fully experience the old city, you are right.
Here are the places in Bern that you can leisurely visit in addition to the unmissable tourist attractions
And if you are traveling with your partner, I believe your one-day Bern trip can end so romantic if you have the Rose Garden at the end of your itinerary. The Rose Garden has a restaurant with a view (a sunset view of Bern is possible).
Can you imagine? You and your partner toast a glowing red wine because of the setting sun’s warm light.
If you think one day is enough for you to visit Bern, you may see my Bern Itinerary For One Day to learn more. I thoroughly discussed each point of interest in that post. That should help you not miss anything worth seeing in Bern’s old city.
Staying In Bern For Two Days
A trip to Bern does not always end with a romantic sunset in the Rose Garden. Sometimes, visitors find themselves relaxing in a Hammam with ultra-soothing mud on their bodies. Others stay within the museums until the closing time.
In simplest words, you still ain’t gonna be bored in Bern if you stay for two days. Bern offers more experiences other than its old city. They range from indoors to outdoors, nature to science, and history to modern technology.
Besides the medieval landmarks, Bear Pit, and Rose Garden, the ones you can find below are the places I find interesting/fun for a 2-day trip to Bern.
- Mini excursion in Gurten — it’s like a large outdoor park on top of a mountain very close to Bern. It has an observation tower, restaurant, recreational activities, outdoor rides, playground, and more. The scenery here is nice, with vast fields and forests, but don’t expect it to be as stunning as the ones in the Bernese Alps or the Pennine Alps.
- Bern Historical Museum — a museum to give you insights into the history of Bern and different cultures all around the world. You can find artifacts from Asia, the Americas, and even Oceania—some dating back to ancient times.
- Einstein Museum is a museum dedicated to Einstein’s private and professional life. Einstein lived in Bern for a couple of years in the early 20th century; that’s why he has his museum in Bern. You can find it together with the Bern Historical Museum in one castle-like building. Inside lies some original items used by Einstein and films to give you full insight into his life and works like the theory of relativity.
- Museum of Communication — this is the museum to visit if it’s nostalgia, fun, and amazement you like to have. The Museum of Communication has almost everything you can think of that relates to how humans communicate. That includes old phones we used decades ago—so nostalgic! The fun comes when you play with the museum’s interactive platforms.
- Natural History Museum — it’s a museum with hundreds of life-sized dioramas of animals & dinosaurs from different parts of the world, minerals from the alps, skeletons, and more. It even has a stuffed replica of Switzerland’s legendary rescue dog, Barry. Stories say that it saved more than 40 lives in the mountains.
- Hammam & SPA Oktogon — A unique spa experience in Bern specializing in Middle Eastern soothing techniques.
- Zentrum Paul Klee Museum — A museum with elegant modern architecture on the outskirts of Bern. It is dedicated to Paul Klee, a famous expressionist painter.
More things to do in Bern for a 2-day trip
You can check my 2-day Bern Itinerary for a detailed discussion of the tourist attractions in Bern mentioned above.
With these and other tourist attractions (please see sources at the end of this post), I can say that you might like to spend 2 days in Bern, particularly if you want to see the old city and you are traveling with your family. Kids will surely love the museums, especially the Natural History Museum and Museum of Communications.
Of course, you might as well like visiting Bern for two days if you love museums! However, if you want to see Bern’s old city and visit all the best museums in Bern, 2 days wouldn’t be enough. Visiting the Museum of Communications and Bern Historical Museum alone can engage you for a day.
Three Days Long In Bern—should you?
Three days is too long to visit Bern since you can already try most of its experiences or visit most of its tourist attractions within two days. I would only recommend staying in Bern for three days or longer if it is your home base for visiting more places in Switzerland—particularly the beautiful destinations in the Bernese Oberland.
Even though that is the case, I can still think of a few reasons why you might decide to spend 3 days in Bern.
1. You are traveling with your family. Bern has some tourist attractions where you might like to bring your kids and spend more time. Aside from the museums, they’ll probably enjoy Gurten and Bern Zoo. Visiting these attractions can keep you busy for an entire day.
2. You love museums. Bern might have fewer museums than Geneva or Zurich, but the museums in Bern are also interesting and fun!
Seeing different museums in Bern is also nice because they are very close to each other. Like, going from one museum to another is only a few steps. The best museums in Bern may take 2 to 4 hours to visit.
3. You are traveling slowly and want to know what it is like to be a local. Every summer, the residents of Bern enjoy the sun in the Aare River. You can join them if you want! You can also try the swimming pools and resorts beside the Aare river.
I think there are nice resorts and parks beside the Aare River south of the old city. You can find them along Aarstrasse. Like, Freibad Marzili—it has an outdoor swimming pool that has a beautiful view of the Bundeshaus.
If you are curious about these new places I mentioned, you can check the sources section of this post, where I linked the official website of Bern. It has everything that you need to discover about tourism in Bern. Alternatively, you can see this list of more things to do in Bern
Day Trips From Bern
One of the reasons why you might like to stay for 3 days or longer in Bern is because Bern can be a strategic location for different day trips in Switzerland.
Interlaken (one of the top destinations in Switzerland in the Jungfrau Region) is only a 45-minute drive from Bern. It’s slightly less than an hour of travel using public transportation (IC61 trains).
Lucerne is another top destination in Switzerland. It is a beautiful city with also stunning scenery, and from Bern, it’s only an hour away by train (IR15 trains).
Discover the beautiful places in Interlaken and Jungfrau Region or the fun day trips from Bern.
Where To Stay In Bern
If you plan to stay for 2 days or longer in Bern and do not have a hotel yet, please proceed to Booking.com. It is my trusted partner company that provides the best hotel and accommodation deals everywhere you go.
Note that this is an affiliate link. If you find my content useful, please support my blog by bookmarking this link and using it to find your accommodation whenever you travel. Thank you very much!
Booking.com has a million hotels, BnBs, and hostels (all sorts of accommodations) which you can choose from. They allow free cancellation on some properties, which can be so handy most of the time. Most importantly, their listings have a lot of reviews that can help you decide where to stay.
Sources: How Long To Visit Bern
You can learn more about the few undescribed tourist attractions in Bern from the official website of Bern.
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