Bern is one of the most quintessential Swiss towns that you could visit. It’s the capital of Switzerland, which you might have already known but I found that to be a bit surprising just because Zurich and Geneva were much more well known to me. However, spending New Year’s in Bern that made this cute Swiss city to grow on me.
Before I share all the secrets for how to make the most out of a New Year in Bern, let me share with you a few things that you might not have known about Bern.
- Bern is the 4th largest city in Switzerland with 130,000 people living there.
- Bern is known as the city of Bears. They currently have 3 bears living in the city center named Finn, Bjork and Ursina.
- Albert Einstein was living in Bern when he developed the Theory of Relativity.
- The street signs in the Old Town are different colors – green, white, yellow and burgundy. This is a hangover from when Napoleon conquered the city in 1798. His troops were largely illiterate so the colored signs were used to help them find their quarters.
- Bern’s two gifts to the sweet-toothed world are Toblerone and Ovomaltine.
- German is the main language (81% of the population) followed by Italian (3.9%) and French (3.6%).
- All of the Old Town is a Unesco heritage site, making tourism big business.
Planning your visit
Getting to Bern
The trains in Switzerland are amazing. Compared to trains in Italy, these are in a league of their own. You can get really anywhere that you need to go in Switzerland via train, and the train rides are always so beautiful.
I arrived by train from Zurich and then left via train to Geneva where I was meant to fly onward. The nice thing about booking a trip through Switzerland is that it’s so small and easy to navigate, it makes it quite simple to book a flight into one airport and fly out of another.
Staying in Bern
During our stay in Bern we had a private room at Hostel 77. I think what I loved the most about Hostel 77 was their website! (It’s really cute) But the hostel stay was perfect. I love staying in private rooms at hostels because you still get the chance to meet other travelers, have all the simplicity that hostels provide (with laundry, kitchens, bars and more) and still have the privacy of your own room.
Hostel 77 offered even more luxuries than I was used to with hostels. They had a free breakfast every morning and has plenty of substitutions for vegans! We were given special milk for cereals and even coconut yogurt. They also had a great bar/cafe in the lobby that was open late every night and early every morning. You can buy specialty drinks at night like various bottled beers and sodas and then coffees and cakes during the day. They also had things like pasta and sauce that you could cook in the kitchen upstairs. The last thing that this hostel had to offer was a free city card to Bern. We were able to ride every bus and tram throughout the city for our entire stay! It was awesome.
What to do in Bern
Here’s a quick list of all the sites that you should make sure to see when you are visiting Bern, Switzerland.
- Bundesplatz (Parliament Square)
- Kirchenfeldbrucke with it’s view of the Parliament Building
- Marktgasse with Zytglogge (the Clock Tower)
- The Kornhauskeller Restaurant (We had lunch here one day and it was amazing. They make a Vegan Paella which was full of flavor and spice.)
- The Kornhaus Bridge with it’s views over the Old Town
- The view from the terrace of the Hotel Allegro
- Arcades in the Munstergasse
- The views from the Bern Minster
- The view from the local mountain Gurten (if you do check this one out, your Bern City card from the Hostel 77 gets you up to the top without having to walk!)
Where to buy Swiss Chocolate, Syrups and Craft Beer in Bern
Now we all know that Switzerland is famous for Swiss Chocolate, Syrups and Swiss Cheese, so I wanted to share with you all my favorite places to go for must eats. And don’t worry, if you are vegan they had a great selection of dark chocolates for you to enjoy.
- Confiserie Beeler - They have been producing their own, homemade chocolates for generations!
- Confiserie Eichenberger AG - The specialty here is the Bernese hazelnut gingerbread.
- Confiserie Tschirren AG - Tschirren is a premium chocolatier, producing luxury Swiss confectionery for 3 generations. Their sweets are craved around the world!
- CraftGallery - For all your craft beer needs.
- Mandelbarli - They make almond bears, which I couldn’t eat but they sure looked cute!
- Sirupier de Berne - A family run shop with over 30 different homemade syrup flavors.
Where to Eat in Bern (as a Vegan)
I found that Bern wasn’t the worst city for finding restaurants with Vegan options. Most everywhere we went had something on the menu for us. The top places that you have to eat while you are there are:
- The Kornhauskeller Restaurant. You can’t miss eating here. It is Bern’s most luxurious cellar restaurant with high, decorated ceilings and elegant decor, it’s the perfect place to have lunch.
- Tibitis was more of a chain style restaurant but it was a popular place to have brunch on Sunday. How it works is that you grab a plate, fill it with whatever you want, then have it weighed and pay what you’ve picked up. They had SO MANY vegan options that I ended up spending a small fortune just to try them all. I was impressed with the food and definitely recommend it.
- Kung Fu Burger - Now, I didn’t eat here because it was closed the whole time that I was visiting Bern but it has amazing reviews and I want to go next time I am there. So if you’ve had their burgers and loved it, let me know!
- The Butcher - I’ll admit, we weren’t sure we were going to be able to find something to eat at a restaurant called The Butcher but we were pleasantly surprised with their wide selections of Vegan options! A great place to go for a burger and a beer.
Looking for something else? Check out my favorite place to go for finding Vegan food to eat.
Where to go out in Bern
My FAVORITE thing about Bern is all of the underground restaurants, shops and bars that they have. I love that style of trap door, with the bar underneath. Bern was full of great places to go for a drink with good atmosphere and plenty of people out and about for the New Year celebrations. Here’s a quick list of the best bars in Bern.
- Abflugbar - Abflugbar is actually famous around the world for their cocktails. With discreet, sandstone colored walls and unique seating arrangements, this bar might make you feel like you are hanging out in a modern day airport, but don’t worry, things here are a lot less hectic.
- Adrianos Bar & Cafe - Offers a nice, lively atmosphere, this is one of the most popular spots for a coffee or after work drink among locals.
- Apfelgold - This bar is dedicated to the sweet things in life.
- Au Trappiste - The popular Beer-Cafe is a cozy meeting-point for people who want to discover something new and relax after a day of work.
- Barbiere - They have their own in house brewery so make sure you check them out!
- Bonbec Bern - Bonbec has many meanings but it’s most literal translation is ‘Good Mouth’. That’s what you can expect when you head in for freshly prepared Indian Chai, an innovative aperitif culture and a small menu of lovingly arranged dishes inspired by scents all over the world.
- Krater Karlo - Newly opened you can head to Krater Karlo for freshly brewed coffee in the morning, stews in the afternoon and lively, unique cocktails after work.
Believe me, you can’t go wrong toasting in the new year’s in Bern.