8 Best Free Things To Do in Bern, Switzerland

by Sam
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Switzerland isn’t the cheapest country, to say the least! And with its capital in Bern, you may be expected to pay a hefty price for most things. 

However, what comes as an expense can also come at no cost at all, with Bern being one of Switzerland’s best places for things to do for free or on the cheap.

This guide was put together for those travelling to Switzerland on a budget or those looking to save a few pennies to make your trip to the Swiss capital a more affordable one.

So, to begin, here are 8 of the best free things to do in Bern.

Best Free Things To Do in Bern Pinterest Pin

Best free things to do in Bern

1. Walk around the Old City

The Old City has been the heart and soul of the Swiss capital for centuries and was installed as a UNESCO heritage site in 1983.

With much of the town adorned in medieval aesthetics, strolling around its narrow alleyways and cobbled streets and seeing its old city architecture will make its visitors feel like they’ve stepped back in time.

A grand building located in the Old City of Bern
Albert Einstein House in Bern

The most impressive place to visit is Kramgasse Street. Side by side, are these beautifully decorated Baroque buildings, including the famous Einstein House, where Albert Einstein once lived.

In front of you, you’ll find these peculiar statues with nicely styled fountains that can quickly turn into a ‘let’s guess what this statue is’ game.  Walking around there is quite an experience!

All the fountains around Bern also offer free refillable water, so I’d refrain from buying any new water to save your pennies. 

A statue in the old town in Bern with a water fountain
A statue in the old town in Bern with a water fountain

2. Gaze upon the Zytglogge (Clock Tower) 

Just at the end of Kramgasse Street is the iconic astronomical clock ‘Zytglogge’ that has been a centrepiece of the Old Town since the 13th century.

It has gone through many uses in the past, including a guard tower and even a prison! It wasn’t until the 15th century, after it was rebuilt that it became the city’s main clock. 

At the back of the clocktower 'Zytglogge' in Bern
At the back of the clocktower 'Zytglogge' in Bern

Today, it still stands as one of Bern’s main attractions and one definitely worth visiting, especially for its little spectacle and the guided tour inside to see how it all operates.

Arrive here 5 minutes before the hour to witness the mechanical animation unfold and see the clock tower come alive. The show includes jesters dancing, bells ringing, and little bears and humans moving together in a seamless sequence.

Where else in the world would you find something like that? 

The mechanical animation in Bern, featuring a jester and moving bears.

3. Visit the bears of Bern 

On the eastern outskirts of the main city, just across the Nydeggbrücke Bridge, is the BärenPark, where Finn, Björk and their daughter Ursina, three real-life bears, roam the banks in an open-air enclosure next to Aare River.

And you’re probably wondering, why the bears? The bear has been a symbol of Bern for centuries and is featured on the Canton of the Bern Flag. 

Bears have been kept in the city since 1513, and it wasn’t until 2009 that the BärenPark was formed to provide more open access for the bears to roam around.

Finn the bear roaming around in BarenPark, Bern
Finn roaming around in the BärenPark

Next to BarenPark is also the Bear Pit, which was the bear’s previous spot before they received a lot of complaints to be moved to their more open space. The bears still roam in the pit, but a tunnel passage is provided to get back to the park.  

Also, be sure to walk down the steps towards the Aare River by the side of the BärenPark for a beautiful view of the Nydeggbrücke Bridge adorned with the crystal clear emerald green waters of the river. 

Aare River with a view of Nydeggbrücke Bridge

4. Explore the Bern Cathedral

The Bern Cathedral is one of the must-visit free attractions in Bern. It’s built in an impressive gothic style, and as you walk through its doors, you’ll see its large interior enhanced with its stunning stained glass windows.

It is the largest cathedral in Switzerland and shines above anything else in Bern’s Old Town. Visitors can climb right to the top of its spire, up 344 steps for the most picturesque view of Bern.

This sadly costs CHF 5 (CHF 2 for kids) to climb up, but it is an option if you’re in the cathedral. 

A wide angle view of the Bern Cathedral and its high tower

5. Join a free walking tour

Free walking tours in Bern provide citygoers and tourists with insights and information about the city and its monuments for free. It is a great way of creating a community within the location while also meeting new people. 

The free walking tour takes place from Central Square (Bundesplatz), and you must reserve a spot as it can get really busy. 

Central Square (Bundesplatz)
Central Square (Bundesplatz) is right by The Parliament Building.

6. Take a wander around the Botanical Gardens

The Botanical Gardens of Bern, next to Lorraine Bridge, is the setting of over 5,500 types of plants, ranging from Orchids to Cacti.

It is a peaceful oasis away from Bern’s busier attractions!

Plants showcased in the Botanical Gardens in Bern in its university

There is also a cafe onsite that is open most of the year, where you can have a nice little brunch in a tropical setting. It has a terrace which offers one of the best views of the Aare River!

7. Take a free tour of parliament

Visiting the parliament (Federal Palace) is one of the best free things to do in Bern. To access the building, you’ll need to join a guided tour and book your slot at least three days in advance. 

For those who only speak English, tours are only available on Saturdays between the hours of 11 am and 4 pm. However, French and German tours are both available from Tuesday to Saturday. 


Free guided tours of the Parliament are only available when it is not in use. However, visitors can sit and watch live political debates in action.

During your tour, you’ll explore the domed hall, the lobby, and the Council chambers while learning all about the history of the building and its significance to Switzerland’s political affairs.

Although the Federal Palace’s is not as majestic as the Hungarian Parliament in Budapest or as massive as the Palace of Parliament in Bucharest, it does have its own undeniable charms and is a must-visit attraction in Bern.

Outside The Federal Place (Parliament Building) in Bern

8. Swim in Aare Marzili and Aare River

During the summer, many outdoor swimming pools in Bern are open for the locals and tourists to swim in for free.

Aare Marzili is one of the most popular areas for free outdoor pools, which is located on the banks of the Aare River next to the Parliament building. It is also catered towards families, with children’s pools on site. 

Feeling Adventurous?

Visitors can also swim in the Aare River. Plenty of the locals love to jump into the river from nearby bridges or stairs for an after-work treat or just a simple cool down.

This is only recommended to those who are confident swimmers, as the river flows and will continue to push you away. So please bear this in mind!

People swimming in the Aare River in Bern

Final thoughts

And there you have it! The best free things to do in Bern for a more affordable trip.

Hopefully, this guide has given you some ideas on how to make the most of your time in Bern without breaking the bank. Because, as we all know, Switzerland, at the best of times, leaves your finances thinking, ‘Why and how?’

If you have any burning questions or need some more tips for your trip to Bern, leave them in the comments below. Anyhow, have a great trip. Safe travels!

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