When I think of capital cities, I imagining bustling downtown cores filled with an abundance of towering skyscrapers.
I imagine concrete jungles that never sleep and streets filled with people, people, and more people. I imagine populations of at least 500,000 or more.
Is this what you imagine too?
Bern, Switzerland’s capital city, is ready to swoop in and redefine your perception of capitals. I know it completely changed mine.
I visited Bern right at the start of December in 2017. As I arrived in the city’s downtown core, I expected to find myself in a busy urban centre with high-rise buildings, crowds, traffic, and all those other capital city trademarks. Instead, I found myself in a rather relaxed yet grand medieval winter wonderland.
You see, I was so focused on the fact that I was visiting a capital city that I completely overlooked the fact that Bern’s entire old town, Altstadt, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city boasts an abundance of well-preserved medieval landmarks and structures, such as clock towers, cathedrals, and arcades, that make the city a spectacular place for history and architecture fans alike. With a population of less than 150,000, the city is rarely overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle many other capital cities experience. Built on hilly terrain and protectively cradled by the vibrant Aare River, the city’s geography also makes it worthy of admiration (and a photographer’s dream).
I only spent 24 hours in the Swiss capital city, but I was completely captivated by it. Despite the negative degree weather, I spent hours exploring the city’s streets and historical sites. My camera basically never left my hand!
Do you want to be enchanted by Bern, Switzerland too?
If you’re planning to visit Bern, make sure to check out these 6 spots to experience Bern’s best (AND most Instagram-worthy) views.
And as always, the spots listed in this post are budget-friendly because they’re 5 CHF or absolutely FREE to visit.
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The Federal Palace of Switzerland, locally known as the Bundeshaus, is Switzerland’s house of parliament. While the building itself is more than a little bit impressive, a quick 1-minute walk through the arches on either side of the building will take you to the Bundesterrasse – the Parliament building’s terrace. There, you’ll have the opportunity to gaze down at the Aare River and the city buildings lining the old town’s southern edge.
Enjoying the winter sunshine on the Parliament building’s terrace.
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If you keep walking along the Bundesterrasse, you will reach Church Field Bridge (Kirchenfeldbrücke), which connects Old Town Bern to the Kirchenfeld district across the river. By taking a look over to the other end of the Kirchenfeldbrücke, you’ll be setting yourself up to be captivated by Bern’s castle-like Historical Museum, which proudly takes centre stage amongst the buildings and greenery surrounding it.
Can you spot the turrets that are part of the Bern Historical Museum across the river?
3. Berner Münster
As the tallest cathedral in all of Switzerland, the Bern Minster (Berner Münster) is a pretty majestic sight from street level. However, for only 5.00 CHF, you can take the 200+ steps up the church tower and experience the best panoramic view of Switzerland’s capital city.
The Bern Minster’s commanding exterior.
Just a quick snap of Altstadt Bern from one of the windows in the tower’s stairway.
The panoramic views of Bern, Switzerland and the Aare River from the cathedral’s tower can’t be beat.
4. Zytglogge (from Kramgasse)
Right in the heart of Bern’s Old Town at the end of Kramgasse, you will find the Zytglogge – a medieval clock tower with an astronomical calendar clock. Every hour on the hour, the Ancient Greek Chronus, jesters, and bears come to life to mark the passage of time. As well, according to historical sources, Bern’s Zytglogge helped spark Einstein’s discovery of what would be coined the General Theory of Relativity.
On top of the sights listed in this post, Bern’s old town is also pretty famous for its abundance of 16th century fountains. Check out the Zähringerbrunnen in the photo above.Winter or Summer - #Switzerland's capital, #Bern, is one breathtakingly beautiful city to visit. Check out some of the capitals best views: Click To Tweet
Nydeggbrüke is a bridge located on the Eastern part of Bern’s Old Town. It crosses the Aare river and connects the Aldstadt to newer parts of town. Every 10 steps will offer you a new perspective of the Aare River Loop and the Old Town’s charming buildings. On this bridge, a simple walk can easily turn into a photography adventure.
I definitely wouldn’t mind calling one of these houses “home.”
The Aare River’s vibrant colour is nothing short of incredible.
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Once you cross the Nydeggbrücke, you will find yourself at the base of a fairly steep hill. If you make your way up this hill, (which I highly recommend), you will end up in Bern’s Rose Garden (Rosengarten). During the warmer seasons, the garden is full of lush roses for all to enjoy. During all four seasons of the year, park visitors can experience beautiful, almost bird’s-eye views of Bern’s Old Town and the Aare River.
It’s almost hard to believe that you can catch this view from a city park.
Where to Stay in Bern (on a Budget)
If you’re looking to keep your accommodation costs low (by Swiss standards), I recommend staying in Bern Backpackers Hotel Glocke. The hostel is located in the heart of Bern’s Old Town, and it’s just around the corner from the famous Zytglogge. All of the spots described in this post and Bern’s main railway station are less than a 15-minute walk away from the hostel. Bern Backpackers Hotel Glocke is also exceptionally clean and has some pretty desirable facilities, such as a large and cozy common area, a kitchen, and laundry room. Click here to check out the hostel on Booking.com.
You can also search here to discover more accommodation options in Bern, Switzerland:
With temperatures still dipping into the negatives in Toronto, Canada, I felt that it would be appropriate to share one more winter-themed post for the season. (To be honest, I’m also not so sure that I would’ve been able to resist and hold off sharing my ever so slight obsession with Bern for another 8 months).
Switzerland’s exceptionally scenic capital city offers a whole list of memorable sites and attractions for individuals to visit and experience. And in case you’re not feeling up for winter city explorations, Bern is just as captivating in warmer weather. Just take a look below:
Bern, Switzerland in the summer. Photo credit: b1-foto on Pixabay.