Bern : City transport and tours
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Bern’s city centre is small enough that you can easily walk everywhere – the stroll from the train station to the Bärengraben is only around fifteen minutes and takes in the length of the Old Town on the way. Walking is the only way you’re going to be able to get a sense of the atmosphere of the arcades and it’s the principal delight of Bern, but a close second best comes in the form of horse-drawn carriages, which ply for trade in the central squares during the summer months.

Bern’s network of buses and trams is comprehensive and efficient. Pretty much all lines run through Bahnhofplatz, which is bedecked with signs pointing the way to each individual stop. A ride of up to six stops costs Fr.1.50 (valid in one direction for 45min), of seven or more stops Fr.2.40 (valid 1hr 30min), or you can get a day ticket for Fr.7.50 which covers the entire city and suburban network (excluding night buses, which cost a flat Fr.5). Make sure you have a ticket before you start your journey, since you can’t get one on board and the fine for travelling without one is Fr.50. Eurailers, InterRailers and Swiss Half-Fare Card holders get no reductions on Bern city transport, but Swiss Pass holders travel free.

If you need any information or timetables, check with the public transport office (Mon–Fri 6.30am–7.30pm, Thurs until 9pm, Sat & Sun 7.30am–6.30pm), just off Bahnhofplatz next to Manorarestaurant. The routes that are most likely to be of use to visitors are tram #9 (direction Wabern) for Gurten, bus #12 (direction Länggasse) for the university, and bus #20 (direction Wyler) for Lorraine, although the last two destinations are no more than ten minutes’ walk from the train station anyway.

The station has the usual bike-rental facilities (daily 7am–9pm). During the summer months (May–Oct), the municipality runs a free bike-rental scheme to get unemployed people into work. There are two pickup points, one outside the Loeb department store opposite the station, the other on Kasinoplatz (both daily 9am–8pm). For a Fr.20 deposit plus your passport, you can ride away for free; keep the bike longer than a day, and you’re charged Fr.20/day.

With a Fr.6.50 flagfall, plus Fr.2.70 per kilometre (more at nights and Sundays), Bern’s taxis are a luxury, and there’s little need to use them. Plenty hang around at the train station, and also at Casinoplatz and Waisenhausplatz, but if you need to call, try Bären (031/371 11 11) or Nova (031/301 11 11).

The tourist office has a wide range of organized tours of Bern and the surrounding area. They offer a two-hour guided walk through the Old Town, starting from the station tourist office (June–Sept daily 11am; Fr.12); and a slightly shorter guided tour of “Hidden Bern”, starting from the Bärengraben tourist information booth (July & Aug daily 11am; Fr.12). One of the more interesting ways to see the city is from a river raft (you’re likely to get at least a bit wet, so sportsgear or a swimming costume is advisable) – ask at the tourist office for details of where to meet (June–Sept daily 5pm; Fr.30). Otherwise, there are plenty of bus tours of the city and various boat trips on the river (Fr.23–30), as well as full-blown day trips to the Thunersee (Fr.41; see p.260) and even the Jungfraujoch (Fr.164; see pp.278–9). Beware that most of the tours run in the summer season only.

A favourite Bernese getaway – if one were needed from such a gentle, slow-paced capital – is to the hill of Gurten, which towers over the city from the south. Take tram #9 to Gurtenbahn, in the neat suburb of Wabern, and walk 100m along Dorfstrasse to the funicular (daily, every 20min: May–Sept 8am–10pm, Oct–April 8am–6.30pm; Fr.7 return; Fr.7.50 city transport pass valid). The whole journey from the train station to the summit only takes about half-an-hour. On top you’ll find a kids’ play-area, a lavish folly of a castle (currently under renovation, but due to open in 2000 as a hotel and restaurant) and wide expanses of countryside laced with hiking trails that give views over Bern, out towards the Jura, and across the peaks of the Bernese Oberland. In winter the hill and snowy slopes are crowded with sledding families; in summer, you might have difficulty escaping the hikers and picnickers. Every year, for a weekend in mid-July, Gurten plays host to a very popular rock music festival; ask for details at the tourist office.

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