Nestled in the middle of the country, Bern is Switzerland’s capital city. It’s also pretty darn adorable, with Medieval clocks, timbered buildings, arched bridges and church steeples rising into the sky. What’s more, there are some incredible day trips from Bern to add to your itinerary.
So it should come as a surprise to no one that’s it’s a popular spot for tourists. It’s also a prime location for day trips to some of Switzerland’s most interesting cities and most beautiful scenic landscapes.
If you’re planning a trip, here are five worthy day trips from Bern.
- 5 Incredible Day Trips From Bern
- 1- The Lauterbrunnen Valley
- 2- Thun
- 3- Mürren and Schilthorn
- 4- Zürich
- 5- Freiburg, Germany
5 Incredible Day Trips From Bern
1- The Lauterbrunnen Valley
Sandwiched in between sheer cliffs, this valley is known for its 72 waterfalls.
It also is the inspiration for Rivendell. You know, the one from Lord of the Rings.
Tolkien went hiking here in his youth and decided that this magical landscape was most definitely where his elves would choose to make a home.
How to spend your day in the Lauterbrunnen Valley
This destination is all about nature, so wear good walking shoes and bring plenty of water.
When you exit the train station, walk toward and then through town.
The town is adorable and as the town thins into fields and farms, the landscape shifts in beautiful ways.
In spring and summer, expect snow-capped peaks in the distance and fields bursting with wildflowers on either side of the trail that leads from Lauterbrunnen to Stechelberg at the other end of the valley.
In fall, expect the waterfall-laden valley to often be wreathed in a spooky fog. And in winter, bring your snow gear because you’re likely to encounter snow-dusted paths and frozen waterfalls.
The easy walk from one end of the valley to the other takes a couple of hours at a leisurely pace and you can grab a bus from Stechelberg back to Lauterbrunnen when you get there.
On your way back, make a stop at Trümmelbach Falls – a roaring waterfall that comes crashing out of the mountain.
For a fee, you can enter the caves and watch the waterfall as it winds its way through them. Or, for free, you can visit the foot of the falls.
To get there, walk along the road from the Trümmelbach entrance toward Stechelberg.
To your left, you’ll come upon a small farm with a series of signposts in front pointing toward Brech, Wengernalp, and Wengen.
Follow the signs around the farmer’s garage and toward the cliffs.
You’ll see a small path leading down to a river to your left and the base of the waterfall is right there.
What (and where) to eat in the Lauterbrunnen Valley
The Bernese Oberland is known for rösti – a hash brown-like dish sometimes infused with herbs or smothered in sauce.
The best rösti in the region is served at the Hotel Oberland. Try the Trucker Rösti and pair it with a mini bottle of Merlot from Ticino.
(If hash browns aren’t your thing, here’s the top chef in Switzerland’s list of must-try dishes.)
Alternately, if you’re on a budget, check out the Horner Pub for good pub food at reasonable prices, or grab some bread and cheese from the bakery and grocery store near the train station and have a picnic in the sun.
How to get from Bern to Lauterbrunnen
Take the train from Bern’s main station to Lauterbrunnen (with a quick train change at Interlaken Ost station).
It’ll take about 1.5 hours to get there and trains run every half hour or so.
A bucket list experience in Switzerland is the Jungfrau railway trip to the Jungfraujoch, which is Europe’s highest railway station (3454m above sea level). To get there from Lauterbrunnen, take the cogwheel Wengernalp Railway to Kleine Scheidegg. Although it’s possible to visit the Jungfraujoch as a day trip from Bern, it’s a long day. Check out this day trip to the Jungfraujoch.
Bern’s little sister city is less than 20 minutes away by train, nestled along the banks of the Aare River and Lake Thun.
The city has to be one of the most beautiful in Switzerland with its cobbled centre and covered bridges and its lakeshore pathways with views across the water to the Alps.
How to spend your day in Thun
The main attraction here is the castle – a small, classic, fortified castle built on a hill overlooking the city, lake, and Alps.
Inside, you’ll find a local museum featuring old black and white photos, pieces of doors where former prisoners carved messages, and insights into the town and region.
Climb to the top of the turrets (three are accessible to the public at this time) and you’ll get stunning panoramic views of the city, river, and lake.
If you’re visiting in summer, you can rent a rubber boat and float down the Aare back to Bern (which takes about three hours).
What (and where) to eat in Thun
Locals rave about Schwert Thun (literally translated to Thun Sword), which is both a restaurant and a cute hotel.
This area also has some very good local wines, so stop by the local liquor store (vanderheijden.ch) and ask if they have Lumi (a limited white wine made from red grapes) or something from Spiez.
How to get from Bern to Thun
Hop on a train to Thun and you’ll be a Thun’s railway station in just 20 minutes. Trains run every half hour or so.
Another city to visit while in Switzerland is Luzern, which is about two hours from Bern. Although it’s possible to visit Luzern as a day trip from Bern, you’d be better off staying longer as there are plenty of things to do in Luzern. However, if you’re keen on visiting Luzern as a day trip from Bern, try this tour to Mount Pilatus.
3- Mürren and Schilthorn
Deep in the Alps, Mürren is a charming, car-free town full of classic Swiss chalets and sweeping views of the region’s highest peaks. And just above it – via a scenic 17-minute cable car ride – you’ll find yourself on the peak of Schilthorn, a former James Bond filming location that now hosts a 360-degree rotating restaurant.
How to spend your day
If you feel like a short (45-minute) hike, get off the train in Winteregg (one stop before Mürren) and take the trail toward Mürren.
The hike is relatively flat and boasts some of the best views in the region, with the three highest peaks snow-capped in the distance to your left.
Once you get to Mürren, wander the cute streets, take some photos from the scenic parks, and then head to the local Sports Center where you can buy a day pass and enjoy the hot tub overlooking the mountains.
If hot tubs aren’t your jam, there are plenty of cliff-side restaurants where you can order a drink and soak in the views.
From there, board the cable car to Schilthorn and spend some time sitting along the windows of the rotating restaurant taking in the 360-degree view of the Alps.
On a clear day, you can see Mont Blanc in France.
What (and where) to eat
Mürren and Shilthorn aren’t known for their cuisine, so it’s best to find the view you want to take in and buy a drink.
For lunch or dinner, a picnic along the trails or in a park is a real treat.
How to get from Bern to Mürren
Take a series of trains and cable cars from Bern’s main station to Mürren (with three stops to change trains/cars).
The route runs every half hour and takes about two hours one way.
To get to Schilthorn from Mürren, you’ll take another cable car that leads farther up the mountain. The incredibly scenic ride takes another 17 minutes. Click here to book a roundtrip from Mürren to Schilthorn and check out this tour from Bern to the Schilthorn.
Frequently mistaken for Switzerland’s capital, this city is the country’s hub of activity.
Zurich has something for everyone – from dining in the dark experiences to Michelin-starred restaurants overlooking the city to hip vegetarian cafes and expansive Christmas markets.
Zürich is a great place to shop and wander.
Start by making your way toward the lake and exploring the cute cobblestone alleyways along the way.
Spend some time relaxing at the lakeside like the locals and then take the tram to the Markthalle Viadukt – a cool food market and collection of restaurants in an old viaduct.
Outside the market, the viaduct continues and is full of boutique shops. It’s well worth exploring.
What (and where) to eat in Zurich
Come in early and splurge on the breakfast buffet at one of the 25Hours Hotels in town (there are two and both have exceptional breakfasts).
For a light lunch or dinner, try Juicery 21 for bagels, smoothies, and bowls. Or grab something at Markhalle Viadukt.
There are several restaurants inside.
How to get from Bern to Zurich
Switzerland is pretty tiny, which means its major cities are all pretty easily accessible.
To get to Zurich, catch a train from Bern’s main station.
The ride should take an hour or hour and a half (depending on which train you choose) and trains run at least every half hour.
5- Freiburg, Germany
Nestled against the famed Black Forest (so named because the Conifers grow so close together, they barely let in the light), this university town is full of cute cobbled streets and trails that wind into the forest and up into the hills.
How to spend your day in Freiburg
Explore the old town and don’t miss the farmers market in the main church square (if you’re there on a farmers market day).
Order yourself a red rote sausage at one of the market stalls for something unique and traditional.
If you’re up for a hike, the uphill trail from Freiburg to Schlossberg is a pretty one.
At the top, you’ll find a creaky metal tower and if you climb it you’ll have a bird’s-eye view of lovely rolling hills and the city spread out below.
What (and where) to eat in Freiburg
The region is known for its namesake Black Forest Cake – a chocolate cake with whipped cream and cherries. And you can’t wrong with schnitzel – breaded, fried veal – which, contrary to what the Sound of Music would have you believe, is served with French fries, not noodles.
How to get from Bern to Freiburg
The train journey to Freiburg should take just under two hours from Bern main station.
Don’t forget your passport.
While you probably won’t encounter border control, since Switzerland and Germany are part of the open-borders agreement known as the Schengen, but the Swiss do occasionally check passports on trains as they cross the border – so always best to be prepared.
Gigi Griffis is a world-travelling entrepreneur and writer with a special love for all things European food and adventure. She’s been travelling full-time in Europe since 2012 with her pint-sized pooch and oversized appetite. She’s the author of Switzerland: 100 Locals Tell You Where to Go, What to Hike, & How to Fit In. You can find her at viciousfoodie.com.