Fun things to do in Bern

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Most Viewed Things to Do in Bern

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    Communication Museum

    by slothtraveller Written May 28, 2013

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    The Communication Museum (or Museum für Kommunikation) is worth a few hours of your time. The museum deals with methods of communication through the ages and most of the exhibit descriptions are trilingual; in German, English and French.
    Included in the museum are exhibits that range from Swiss postal vans to Tamagotchi cyber pets. There is a range of mobile phones that made me chuckle- some of them are huge and not very mobile-looking at all!
    I enjoyed the exhibition called 'As Time Goes Byte' where the development of computers over the last 50 years is chronicled. I was pleased to have the opportunity to play on some old Commodore computer games that I remember from my youth! Indeed, the museum is a very interactive one. As well as playing computer games, you can also have a go at operating a telephone switchboard amongst other things.
    The piece de resistance of this museum is its massive stamp collection exhibited in row after row of drawers. The collection is split up into three parts; Classic Switzerland, Modern Switzerland and Foreign Countries. I am by no means a stamp enthusiast but the time I spent in this exhibition went very quickly as I enjoyed looking at a fraction of the many stamps on show, each giving a historical insight into the country they represent.

    The museum is open 10-5 Tuesday to Sunday. Closed Mondays. Entry for the permanent exhibitions of the museum costs 12 CHF. Swiss Pass holders get in free.

    Museum entrance Swiss Post van
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    Bernisches Historisches Museum

    by slothtraveller Written May 3, 2013

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    I visited Bern's History Museum on the final day of my trip to Switzerland in 2013. I originally only planned on spending a couple of hours there but I ended up staying for four hours! This was mainly due to the fact that a temporary exhibition featuring a group of the world famous Terracotta Army warriors was visiting Switzerland for the first time. The exhibition entitled 'Qin- The Eternal Emperor and His Terracotta Warriors' is an amazing collection of early Chinese relics and artifacts focusing primarily on the Qin and Han dynasties. It was fascinating to see the life-sized Terracotta Warriors and to learn more about where they were found and why they were constructed. I didn't realise that Qin's Terracotta Army included other figures such as entertainers, as well as warriors. There was also an amazing life-sized representation of a horse that I doubt could have been improved upon had it been made today. I spent over an hour in the Qin exhibition before I even saw what the rest of the museum had to offer. Sadly I couldn't take any photographs of the Qin exhibition as photography is not allowed and you are asked to leave your belongings in one of the lockers provided before entering.
    The other floors of the museum cover a diverse range of topics. Of the exhibits specific to Bern, there is a vast collection of silver as well as captured treasures from Bernese conquests in the 15th and 16th centuries. The ground floor features exhibits on other cultures, such as the Ancient Egyptians, American Indians and Asians.
    My favourite part of the museum other than the Qin exhibition was the Einstein museum which can be found on the second floor. This is the world's only museum dedicated to the life and work of Albert Einstein. Here I learned that Einstein finalised his Theory of Relativity while living in Bern. I particularly liked the Einstein Museum as not only does it show a timeline of Einstein's life and achievements, it also chronicles a timeline of events that were happening at the time such as the Great Depression, the Second World War and the McCarthy witch hunt. This helped me put Einstein's life into context.

    The Qin Exhibition runs from 15th March to 17th November 2013. You can prebook tickets online, although I purchased mine on the day and didn't have to wait. For the duration of the special exhibition, entry is a rather steep 28 CHF but this does include the whole museum, including the Einstein Museum. The Swiss Pass is not valid for this particular museum. Opening hours are Tues-Sun 9am-6pm. Closed on Mondays.

    Entrance to the museum The History Museum in Bern
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    Fidelio by Ludwig van Beethoven

    by Nemorino Written Dec 27, 2012

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    In December 2012 we went to a performance at the Bern City Theater of Ludwig van Beethoven’s only opera, Fidelio. The staging was a bit of a muddle, I’m afraid, but the singing was very good. The singers were given an enthusiastic standing ovation with rhythmic clapping at the end.

    Unlike the five other productions of Fidelio that I have seen so far (two in Frankfurt am Main, one in Edinburgh, one in Bad Orb and one at the Komische Oper in Berlin), which were based on Beethoven’s final version from the year 1814, the Bern production consisted mainly of his original version from the year 1805.

    Although I don’t know Fidelio well enough to make a detailed comparison, I came away with the feeling that the final version is decidedly superior. The original version does have its supporters, however, particularly the principal conductor of the Bern Symphony Orchestra, Mario Venzago, who wrote an article in the program booklet explaining his choice.

    The story of Fidelio is that Florestan, a journalist, has been locked away without charge in the dungeon of a large Spanish prison. His wife Leonora disguises herself as a young man, gets a job in the prison and after several months is finally allowed to go down into the dungeon, just in time to save her husband from being murdered by the evil prison governor Don Pizarro.

    Marzelline, sung in Bern by Camille Butcher, is the daughter of a prison employee. She wants to marry Fidelio, unaware that the handsome young man is really a woman, Leonore, who is there to save her husband.

    Bows after Fidelio Bows after Fidelio Camille Butcher as Marzelline Program booklet
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    Christmas concert at the Church of the Holy Ghost

    by Nemorino Updated Dec 27, 2012

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    On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, 2012, we went to a concert of baroque music in the Church of the Holy Ghost (Heiliggeistkirche) near the main railroad station in Bern.

    The church was built from 1726 to 1729 is said to be one of the largest Swiss Reformed Churches. There are about two thousand seats in the church, most of which were occupied for the concert. Admission to the concert was free, but they gladly accepted donations.

    The concert consisted of arias and instrumental works by two composers who were born in the same year and had nearly identical life spans but very different careers: Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) and Georg Friedrich Händel (1685-1759).

    Bach was born in Eisenach and spent most of his adult life in Leipzig, where he was cantor at St Thomas's School and the city's director of music. Bach composed great quantities of church music in Leipzig, including the Magnificat, the St. John Passion and the St. Matthew Passion.

    Händel was born in Halle and had a huge career as an opera composer, mainly in London, before starting to write religious music relatively late in his life, in his mid-fifties. That was when he started composing oratorios, such as The Messiah, Samson, Joseph, Belshazzar, Hercules, Judas Maccabeus, Joshua, Solomon and many others.

    The concert we attended in Bern was performed by a baroque ensemble playing historic instruments under the direction of Marc Fritze, who also played two pieces on the organ.

    The featured singer was a marvelous mezzo-soprano from the Bern opera ensemble, Claude Eichenberger, whom I had seen four and a half years before as Rosina in Rossini’s opera The Barber of Seville.

    Heiliggeistkirche Christmas concert
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    Tourist Center and Bern Show

    by Nemorino Written Dec 27, 2012

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    By the Bear Park at the end of the Nydegg Bridge there is a Tourist Center with information and souvenirs, as well as an automatic three dimensional multi-media Bern Show that starts three times an hour at zero, twenty and forty minutes past.

    About half the shows are in German. The rest are either in English or French, and there is a sign at the entrance telling which language will come when. Groups can also arrange for special showings in Italian, Spanish or Japanese.

    As of 2012, the price of admission to the Bern Show was three Swiss Francs per person above the age of sixteen. The show lasts a quarter of an hour. It includes a few corny ideas such as a talking chair which claims to have been the favorite chair of the founder of Bern, Duke Berthold V of Zähringen (1160-1218), but otherwise we found the show to be quite entertaining and informative.

    Bern turns out to be a surprisingly young city, since it was only founded in the year 1191.

    In 1218 Duke Berthold V did the Bernese a great favor by dying without leaving any heirs, so the Zähringer dynasty ended and Bern became a free imperial city within the Holy Roman Empire. This essentially meant that Bern was an independent city, since the emperor was little more than a figurehead.

    The Bern Show includes a large three-dimensional model of the city center. Parts of the model are illuminated to show the development of the city, or individual buildings are illuminated as they are being described and shown on the screen.

    Tourist Center at the Bear Park Entrance to the Bern Show
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    City Theater

    by Nemorino Updated Dec 26, 2012

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    In the first decade of the twentieth century lots of small and middle-sized European cities built impressive municipal theaters, and Bern was no exception.

    To finance this one, a group of prominent local citizens got together and formed a joint-stock company to raise money for the new theater, which they later sold to the city. The neo-classical theater building at Kornhausplatz, at the south end of the Kornhaus Bridge, was designed by an architect named René von Wurstemberger, who also designed several other public buildings in Bern.

    On September 25, 1903, the new theater was inaugurated with, typically enough, a performance of the opera Tannhäuser, by Richard Wagner.

    Second photo: In 2008 this was the theater's logo, with a colon after the word Bern.

    Third photo: The theater as seen from the banks of the Aare River, below the Kornhaus Bridge.

    Fourth photo: Spectators entering the theater in 2008 to attend the opera Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville) by Gioacchino Rossini.

    Fifth photo: Seating in the Bern City Theater.

    1. Bern City Theater, Kornhausplatz 2. Logo of the Bern City Theater 3. Theater from the banks of the Aare River 4. Spectators in front of the theater 5. Seating in the Bern City Theater
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    University of Bern

    by Nemorino Updated Dec 25, 2012

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    In the fifty years since I was enrolled there, the University of Bern seems to have expanded considerably. They now have some 13,000 students in eight faculties.

    The lectures I attended in 1961/62 were mostly held here in the traditional main university building, but now there are also classrooms and lecture halls in other parts of the city. For instance, an old chocolate factory has been revamped for use by the Theological and Philosophical-Historical Faculties.

    Second photo: This is the main building, Hochschulstraße 4, from behind.

    Third photo: At some point in the past five decades the University of Bern acquired a clever new symbol: a small u with a superscript b -- clever in German, that is, because it is pronounced "u hoch b" which is sort of (but only sort of) like the name of the university. In English we would say "u to the b-th power", which is somewhat less elegant, to say the least, and doesn't sound at all like the name of the university.

    1. Bern University, main building 2. Main building from behind 3. University of Bern sign
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    Zentrum Paul Klee

    by Nemorino Updated Dec 25, 2012

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    The artist Paul Klee (1879-1940), who was also a musician, teacher and poet, grew up in Bern and spent about half his life here.

    Klee was known among other reasons as a member of the Bauhaus group of painters and architects, along with such artists as Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956) and Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944). One of the Masters' Houses in Dessau was designed especially for Paul Klee by the architect Walter Gropius in 1925-26.

    On a hill on the eastern outskirts of the city of Bern there is now a striking new museum and cultural center called the Zentrum Paul Klee, which was designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano and inaugurated on June 20, 2005. From a distance it looks like three large waves of metal up on the hill. About 40 % of Klee's artistic works are now on display here -- i.e. about four thousand of the ten thousand paintings and other works that Klee created during his lifetime.

    But the center is intended to be "more than a museum" so it also includes a chamber music hall, event and conference rooms, a "communication zone" with a wide range of electronic and printed information material -- and a large "activity area has been set up to encourage children, adolescents and adults to give free rein to their own creativity."

    The center is open Tuesday – Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Mondays. As of 2008, the standard price of admission was 16 Swiss Francs (14 for students and senior citizens).

    Second photo: Approaching from the south.

    1. Zentrum Paul Klee 2. Approaching from the south
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    Operas, plays and ballets in the City Theater

    by Nemorino Updated Dec 25, 2012

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    After over a century of operation the City Theater in Bern still has its own resident companies for opera, spoken drama and ballet -- which is actually quite remarkable when you consider that the city of Bern only had 127,188 inhabitants at last count. On the other hand, there are some 300,000 people living in the region including the suburbs, and the theater is subsidized by the Canton of Bern as well as the city.

    Currently the City Theater has 307 full- and part-time employees, in addition to numerous guest artists from over twenty-five countries.

    The curtain in this first photo was the one used for Rossini's opera The Barber of Seville, showing where the various characters supposedly live in a modern suburban housing development. The actual stage set contained a house that revolved and could be unfolded in various ways for the various scenes of the opera.

    Second photo: The ceiling of the main auditorium in the City Theater.

    Third photo: Seating in the balconies. Altogether there are seats for 750 spectators in the main auditorium.

    Fourth photo: Entrance hall at the lobby level, one flight up.

    Fifth photo: Spectators in the lobby.

    1. Inside the City Theater 2. Ceiling of the City Theater 3. Seating in the balconies 4. Entrance hall 5. Spectators in the lobby
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    Große Schanze

    by Nemorino Updated Dec 25, 2012

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    From track 13 of the main railroad station there is an express elevator which takes you directly to the roof of the parking garage -- without stopping at the any of the three parking levels, where you wouldn't want to stop anyway because you haven't got a car, right? Okay.

    This elevator deposits you at the "Große Schanze", which originally was part of the fortifications that were built around the city of Bern in the 17th century. This is also where the main building of the university is located.

    From here you can look out over the roofs of the Old Town and on a clear day you can even see the Alps from here. On my photo you might be able to see them faintly beneath the clouds.

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    Berner Bierlokal und Gasthausbrauerei

    by bonio Written Jul 25, 2012

    Again something to do rather than a restaurant tip.
    A visit for a refreshing beer after the "bears and rosegarden" didn't have time for a meal unfortunately but - beer and location fantastic and worth a visit whatever time of day!
    Particularly enjoyed a märzen beer as ever

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    Markthalle

    by bonio Written Jul 18, 2012

    Now that's the markethall and i'll call this a thing to do rather than a restaurant visit as there is a great choice of places to visit here, fast and slow food available and a difficult choice for our lunchtime visit. Obviously spent time exploring and making a descision and, for the record, both opted for Meze, Greek specials and very tasty, freshly prepared food at a decent price, enjoyed our visit here.

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    Gurten

    by bonio Written Jul 14, 2012

    The mountain overlooking Bern.
    A warm summer visit, lovely to wander around the parkland. I guess there is plenty to do at other times of year too but, for us great to watch the small train and to enjoy the sunshine! plus the funicular railway up here is a good experience too.
    Enjoyed our visit here immensely.

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    Statute - Around the World - Postal World

    by Mikebb Updated Apr 27, 2011

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    We were walking through the park close to the Bundehaus when we came to this monument to the "Universal Postal World" by Rene de Saint - Marcaux.

    A very large lump of granite forms the base for this large sculpture given to the city of Bern and unveiled on 4th October,1909. It celebrates thw world postal service to 5 continents achieved during 1874.

    Rene de Saint-Marceau

    Plaque - 'Around the World
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    kleine scheidegg - way to jungfraujoch

    by hanspeter_W. Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Under the spell of the Eiger, Mönch & Jungfrau.
    This remarkable round-trip by modern cogwheel railway has long been one of Europe's top holiday attractions. The railway station on Kleine Scheidegg railway station, altitude 2061 m, is situated right at the foot of the notorious Eiger North Face.

    Kleine Scheidegg, the pass between the Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald Valleys, lies directly beneath the towering trio of the Eiger, Mönch & Jungfrau. From here, the Jungfrau Railway begins its remarkable journey to the Jungfraujoch-Top of Europe.

    The most scenic route is from Interlaken Ost via Lauterbrunnen, Wengen and Grindelwald back to Interlaken Ost.
    Kleine Scheidegg is a lively, bustling place. You'll meet Alpine herdsmen with their cattle, climbers preparing to attempt the Eiger North Face and visitors from all over the world. This is also the starting point for some of the loveliest hikes in the region.

    kleine scheidegg with jungfrau in background kleine scheidegg glacier from kleine scheidegg Kleine Scheidegg at winter

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