Switzerland’s seat of power has a certain subtleness about it which adds to the stature of the ciy. The soul of Bern resides in the Old Town. Its medieval beauty will capture your imagination at the very first viewing. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has a distinct character that has been moulded over centuries. The locals cherish the city’s heritage and the younger generations respect its legacy. The cobbled streets, quaint cafes and book-stores retain the city’s old-world charm.
The biggest appeal of Old Town is the access to its heritage architecture and artefacts. The Historical Museum of Bern is a veritable time machine. It instantly transports you to the past with around half a million objects dating back to the stone age, the Middle Ages and the Alpine Stone Age. It also includes a small Einstein Museum that displays the actual everyday objects he used as well as the letters he wrote.
To continue the Einstein experience, visit the Einstein Haus and gaze upon the place where he developed his famous Theory of Relativity, E=mc2. The house has been restored with period-appropriate furniture and decor to give you a peek into his life from those days. Another place worth visiting in Old Town is 800-year-old Clock Tower known locally as Zytglogge. The main attraction of this immense astrological clock is the circus of mechanical figurines that put on a show three minutes before every hour strikes.
But perhaps the most famous building in Bern is the Berner Münster which is Switzerland’s largest church from the Middle Ages. This impressive structure has played a vital role in developing the city’s architecture. Magnificent from the outside, it is equally stunning from the inside. It features paintings, carvings, stained-glass art and a stately Baroque organ. This organ dates back to the year 1726 and has 5,404 pipes! The Communication Museum offers a fascinating insight into the evolution of human communication through the centuries. Founded in 1907, it includes everything: sign language, spoken languages, postal services, the telegraph, telephone and the Internet.
For outdoor action, you can visit Gurten, a mountain located in Bern and a favourite spot of the locals. It features very prominently in the city’s festivals and celebrations. It hosts the Gurtenfestival in summer and transforms into a tobogganing heaven in winter. The Rosengarten is a quiet place in Bern where you get to relax. Its gorgeous layout beautifully complements the stunning views of the Old Town from the garden. The Botanical Garden houses an impressive collection of flowers and plants belonging to various regions in the world.
Such a beautiful destination requires careful planning to experience it at its best. Here’s look at Bern’s weather around the year to help you decide your best time to visit this little Swiss heaven.
Summer (June to August) is the busiest season of Bern. This is the time when all hiking trails, hotels, museums, art galleries and outdoor activities are fully open and operational. Swimming is a favourite local past time and the riverfront echoes with the cries of laughter and joy. This this is the warmest and the rainiest season of the year. But the rains won’t affect your sightseeing plans. Bern will be crowded at this time of the year and hotels and travelling will be more expensive than the rest of the year. Book your hotels in advance.
Bern has two shoulder seasons and they’re the perfect time to visit if you want to enjoy your holidays without the crowd. Spring (March to May) and Autumn (September to November) are the in-between seasons which will allow you to have hassle-free holidays. March is still cold, but the rest of the spring ranges between cool to pleasant. Autumn begins on a warm note but temperature dips quickly as winter approaches. While September and October are mostly pleasant, November gets really cold as temperatures slide to single digit. Also, this is the best time to enjoy good discounts on your travel and accommodation.
The winter cold keeps tourists at bay, making winter (December to February) the low season of Bern. As the snow starts piling up, Bern is taken over by athletes and thrill seekers who come in to answer the call of well-groomed pistes around the city. But you get the city to yourself and you can indulge yourself with a leisurely tour of Bern and sample the delights from its Christmas markets. The reduced hotel and travel rates are the icing on the cake. Visit Bern in winter if you do not have a fixed itinerary.
|Spring||2 to 18°C||Cool to pleasant, with rainfall|
|Summer||14 to 24°C||Pleasant to warm, with rainfall|
|Autumn||4 to 20°C||Cool to pleasant, with rainfall|
|Winter||-1 to 5 °C||Cold, with snowfall|
Temperature - From 2 to 18°C, the spring temperatures in Bern swing over a wide range. Chilly at the beginning, the temperature increases as summer approaches.
Weather - Bern gets a proper spring season that sees temperatures over 19°C. The snow completely disappears after March and the skies clear up. This season also receives average rainfall that is not too severe to disrupt travel plans.
Significance - This is the season when Bern is slowly coming back to life after a snowy winter. It takes some time to cast away the vestiges of winter. When spring arrives, the city blossoms into a riot of colours, a huge transformation from the subdued hues of winter. The hotels begin to open, and trails start clearing out.
Why you should visit now - Bern is the last city you would think of going to enjoy cherry blossoms. But come April, Rosengarten’s cherry trees burst into full bloom. The cherry blossoms perfectly frame the Old Town in the distance for a dreamy photo-op. The spring magic continues at the city’s Botanical Gardens. The meticulously landscaped park is covered in greenery and a variety of young blossoms. A serene morning walk ends at the cosy Cafe Fleuri with a nutritious organic breakfast.
The city’s pride and symbol, bears, come out from their hibernation at the Bear Park. It is fascinating to watch them venture out of their caves after a long winter. Along with the bears, Bern’s spring fashion also commences as the show held for public viewing. This happens at ‘Loufmeter - Modeschau uf dr Gass’ which is a unique open-air fashion show that takes place in the Old Town every spring. The models begin their walk from Kornhausplatz and go around the streets before circling back for the grand finale. And you can have a front-row seat at any of the sidewalk cafes that line the catwalk’s route.
Bern celebrates Museum Night on 22nd March every year when around 40 museums and cultural institutions open their doors at night for a different perspective. Do not miss the Oldtimer rides that start from Hotel Bellevue Palace.
Things to know before the visit - If you’re visiting during early spring, you’ll have to carry a thick jacket. The latter part doesn’t need thick layers of clothing. Museum Night tickets are available at Bern’s main train station, but several hotels offer a 50% discount on tickets.
Tips - Dress for a moderate weather, but always keep a jacket handy. Entry to most events is free and does not require tickets or registration. Enquire with your hotel before attending.
Temperature - The summer temperatures in Bern average between 14 to 24°C. During the day the temperatures doesn’t vary much, but decreases considerably during the night.
Weather - The summer weather is rather pleasant and warm by Swiss standards. Though an occasional day may see the mercury levels rising to 30°C, it never gets too hot to handle in Bern. Though it rains the most during this season, it won’t interfere with your plans.
Significance - Summer is a pretty busy time in Bern as the tourist season is in full flow. You can make the most of what the city has to offer, and also enjoy some of the best hiking around the city. This is also the time for music festivals and street parties.
Why you should visit now - Locals welcome summer with a deep-dive into the Aare river. Head to the Marzili pool where you can join the locals in the summer tradition. If you don’t fancy a swim, grab a raft and complete the Bremgarten Loop that starts and ends at its namesake. The other way to enjoy the rivers is from their banks. Spend a balmy summer evening on the sofas that line the riverbanks and relax with a refreshing drink from the pop-up bars to the soothing murmur of Aare.
Bern has around 176 breweries and micro-breweries which do a great amount of business at this time of the year. Take a beer tour of the city led by a beer connoisseur and get acquainted to Bern’s brewing culture. Ice cream is one more summer favourite that is revered here. The Gelateria di Berna reportedly serves the “best ice cream in Switzerland” and the locals are proud patrons of it. Try some unique flavours like chocolate sorbet or strawberry-balsamico for a kick.
The Gurtenfestival and the Buskers Street Music Festival liven up the summer with music, dance, theatre and acrobatics. Join in the fun for workshops, dance lessons and daily concerts.
Things to know before the visit - Bernese are proud of the Aare river and strive to keep it clean. Make sure you don’t litter in or around the river. The hiking trails are usually well-marked, do not venture off trail routes. August 1 is a national holiday in Switzerland and most of the outdoor activities are closed.
Tips - Pack light summer clothes and carry along a pair of sturdy trekking boots. While it doesn’t get too hot on the trails, keep a water bottle handy. If you’re exploring the Old Town, you can drink directly from the fountains.
Temperature - Autumn sees a drop in average temperatures as they range between 4 to 20°C. Though it starts off warm, it gets progressively colder.
Weather - As the temperatures take dip, the weather in Bern begins to cool down. The rains continue, but with a reduced intensity. The weather at the mountains begins to get colder and the higher passes and trails are closed as soon as snow makes an appearance towards the end.
Significance - The tourists start leaving as soon as summer bids goodbye. As the city starts preparing for the winter, many hotels begin to close. The trails remain open till October-end and you can enjoy peaceful treks amidst nature’s canvas splashed in varying hues of yellows, reds and oranges.
Why you should visit now - Autumn is a good time to avoid Bern’s peak season which sees crowds of tourists take over the city. As the summer rush subsides you can take leisurely strolls through Bern’s Farmer’s Markets to take in the colourful sights. The wafting aromas of freshly baked beads and specialty cheeses from around the city will whip up your appetites for your next meal. Give in to the temptation and try some on the spot, local style.
November celebrates the traditional onion festival, Zibelemärit, with beautifully decorated garlands of onions and garlic. The day starts at 4’o clock in the morning as locals eat a breakfast of mulled wine and onion tarts. This celebration is a part of “Living Traditions in Switzerland” and should not be missed. The rope park at Längeney forest is an autumn favourite among the locals. A day full of fun and adventure has a fitting end with an outdoor dinner around a campfire.
The Natural History Museum is highly recommended for its interactive dinosaur exhibit that will let you experience the world of dinosaurs up close. The Shnit Worldwide Shortfilmfestival will treat you to eleven days of short films from all over the world. Some of the movies are screened inside the Heiliggeistkirche (Church of the Holy Spirit).
Things to know before the visit - Pre-book your museum and show tickets online and you might get discounts. Bern also hosts many cultural activities in Autumn. Do enquire around for the latest program guide.
Tips - With so many things to experience, group your sightseeing by location to make it easier to cover. Carry a jacket with you during the day and dress in layers in the evening.
Temperature - The winter temperatures in Bern range between -1 to 5°C but may go even lower on some nights in January and February.
Weather - When winter comes around, snow takes over the city. The days are cold, but the nights are even colder. Temperatures stay in single digits and slide below zero as the season peaks.
Significance - Bern, in winter, is an enchanting city. As the evenings are lit up by golden lights, it takes on an ethereal quality. Skiing and ice skating are the favourite seasonal activities. The city’s Christmas markets add colour and warmth to frosty evenings.
Why you should visit now - Bern transforms into a fairytale land in winter. But it is also the perfect time of the year for foodies. The winter evenings lend themselves to a bubbling pot of fondue to be shared with friends and family. For a unique fondue experience, head to the Platzhirsch restaurant at the Orphanage Square that will serve you fondue under an open sky. Try the Sky Terrace at the Hotel Schweizerhof Bern & THE SPA for Raclette accompanied by a delicately spiced Glühwein and 360-degree panoramic views of the Old City.
Every year in winter, the Parliament square transforms into an ice-skating rink. Entry is free and skates can be hired at the rink. The Gurten turns into a winter playground as toboggans take over the snowy slopes. For an amazingly unique experience, the Kemmeriboden-Bad hotel builds igloos where you can spend a night with your loved ones.
The Schwarzsee ice palace will amaze you with its icy paradise of caves, grottos and igloos. Created from scratch every year by ice sculptor Karl Neuhas, it has a children’s playground and a bar.
Things to know before the visit - It gets really cold in the evenings, so if you have evening sightseeing plans, do layer up to brave the cold. If you’re new to ice staking or skiing, follow the instructor’s instructions to avoid injuries.
Tips - Pack plenty of warm socks and wear waterproof shoes. A thermal suit would be of great help to people who are not accustomed to the cold weather. Carry around a spare change of socks. If they get wet, change them immediately. Get an early start to your day to get more sightseeing done.
As far as capitals are concerned, Bern is a very relaxed place. Here traditions matter, but people matter even more. The city is proud of its cultural and natural heritage and makes active efforts to preserve them both. No matter which season you choose, Bern will receive you warmly. Book your holiday online or simply from your nearest Thomas Cook branch to design your own Swiss holiday.