Best Day Trips from Bern, Switzerland by Train

sculpture of a man and woman on a bench by lake geneva in montreux one of the best day trips from bern switzerland

Updated post: 26/01/20 | January 2020

Bern, Switzerland’s understated capital city, is enchanting.

Encircled by the turquoise waters of the River Aare it boasts a perfectly intact medieval centre with cobbled streets of grey sandstone buildings. But as well as being a destination in its own right, Bern is also a perfect base for exploring more of Switzerland.

Its central location and excellent railway links mean that visiting the surrounding area is a breeze, with the bonus of travelling through some of the most stunning scenery to be found anywhere.

With this, Bern is one of the best European solo travel destinations if you are looking for stunning scenery and easy train travel.

To help you make the most of your time there, here are the very best day trips from Bern by train.

 

 

Video: Best day trips from Bern, Switzerland

Travelling in Switzerland by train

Thanks to Switzerland’s efficient and highly integrated transport system, doing these day trips by train is easy. However, as Swiss rail travel does not come cheap, a rail pass is worth considering.

I travelled around Switzerland by rail on a Global Interrail Pass. This cost approx €500 for ten days first-class travel within a month. For those living outside Europe, the Eurail pass is available.

Updated prices for Interrail 2020

A 10-day first-class travel within a month pass is no longer available. A pass giving you seven days first-class travel within a month will cost around €446; for ten days’  first-class travel within two months reckon on paying €534.

However, if most of your travelling is within Switzerland it is worth considering a Swiss Travel Pass, which comes with extra benefits, or even a regional pass. Just do your homework before you travel.

With the high cost of rail travel in Switzerland, an Interrail / Eurail Pass or a Swiss Pass (or regional travel pass) is a gift that keeps on giving.

Bern’s railway station has to rank as one of the grimmest in Europe. At the platform level, it resembles an oppressive concrete bunker. Outside the station in the evening, at times it felt slightly threatening.

Although I think that any personal risk is minimal – on the whole, Switzerland is a relatively safe country – I advise that solo female travellers remain vigilant.

The best day trips from Bern

Switzerland’s efficient and integrated public transport network means that you don’t need a car to visit these wonderful places as day trips from Bern:

  • Vevey
  • Montreux and Chateaux de Chillon
  • Fribourg
  • Thun
  • Grindelwald & Bernese Oberland
  • Lake Brienz

All of these places are within a 1hr 40min train journey from Bern; some are only half an hour away.

Each of these day trips can be done individually or grouped together. It depends entirely on how much time you have, and on how long you wish to spend exploring each destination.

For example, you could group these destinations into two long day trips:

  1. Bern -> Vevey -> Montreux (Chateaux de Chillon) -> Fribourg -> Bern
  2. Bern -> Thun -> Grindelwald -> Lake Brienz -> Bern

 

Map of day trips from Bern

The choice is yours!

To help you make up your mind, let’s now take a closer look at these destinations

Vevey

Although Vevey may not be as firmly on travellers’ radars as its better-known neighbours, it was a town that I found beguiling. This is what the author Edward Lear had to say about it:

Vevey is … Paradise, and I don’t see how people there … can have the impudence to suppose that they can then go to Heaven.

Vevey’s literary and artistic associations don’t end with Edward Lear. Its location on the shores of Lake Geneva and Alpine views have attracted W M Thackeray, Graham Greene and Charlie Chaplin to name but a few.

Nowadays, Vevey is more well-known as the headquarters for Nestlé, who have been in town since 1814. Don’t miss the gigantic fork poking out of the water in front of its museum, the Alimentarium.

fork-in-lake in vevey switzerland
The Fork, Vevey

I thought that Vevey was special. It’s a small, friendly, laid-back town which also had a great local lakeside market.

My motivation for visiting the town was Images Vevey, an outdoor photography festival. Every other year, Vevey becomes an outdoor art gallery with works showcasing national and international artists, displayed throughout the town. The next festival is due to take place in 5th – 27th September 2020.

Exhibit by lake from Images Vevey 2018
Images Vevey 2018

Bern to Vevey by train

  • The train journey from Bern to Vevey takes 1 hr and 30 minutes with a change of train at Lausanne.
  • On the journey to Lausanne sit on the left-hand side of the train for views of the vineyards tumbling down to the shores of Lake Geneva, bursting with plump grapes, ripe for harvest.
  • Vevey train station is an easy ten-minute walk to the lakeshore

Montreux and Chateaux de Chillon

From Vevey, Montreux is less than 10 minutes by train. Therefore, it is easy to visit both towns as one day trip from Bern.

Bigger and brasher than Vevey, Montreux is best known for its annual music festival. Held between June and July, the Montreux Jazz Festival attracts the good and the great from the world of jazz.

But, for me, Montreux’s main attractions were the Chateaux de Chillon and the flower-lined footpath that winds its way south along the lakeside to the castle.

The Chateaux de Chillon is straight out of central casting for a fairy-tale castle. Although it has undergone several centuries of adaptations, restorations and renovations, the castle’s original structure dates from the House of Savoy in the 12th Century.

exterior of chateux-de-chillon
Chateux de Chillon

It is striking for its position on a small rock island jutting out from the banks of Lake Geneva and for its state of preservation (probably due to those centuries of tinkering). Little wonder that it is the most visited historic building in Switzerland.

After you have finished admiring the castle, take a gentle walk back to Montreux along the Chemin Fleuri, Montreux’s lakeside promenade, which is framed by flowerbeds bursting worth colour.

Flowrs against lake and mountian at Chemin Fleuri, Montreux
Chemin Fleuri, Montreux

Don’t miss the 3m-tall statue of Freddy Mercury in front of the covered market on the shoreline. Queen’s charismatic frontman was a frequent visitor to Montreux, recording many of the band’s hits at the Mountain Studios in Montreux Casino and owning an apartment in town.

freddy-mercury-statue-montreux
Freddy in Montreux

Bern to Montreux by train

  • The quickest train journey from Bern to Montreux takes around 1 hr and 40 minutes, with a change of train at Lausanne.
  • As before, sit on the left-hand side of the train for those lake and vineyard views.
  • Montreux train station is one block from the lakeshore.

Getting to Chateaux de Chillon from Montreux

  • To reach Chateaux de Chillon, take to the water. The dock at Montreux is five minutes on foot from the railway station.
  • An elegant, wood-panelled boat will bring you from Montreux to Chillon in 15 minutes for 10 CHF (10 USD) or 14 CHF in 1st Class on the upper deck (2019  prices); 50% reduction with Interrail Pass. There are also sailings from Vevey and Lausanne.
  • Alternatively, bus #201 will bring you there.

 

Fribourg (Freibourg)

Located just over 30 km south-west of the Swiss capital, Fribourg is a very easy day trip from Bern.

Its position, straddling the French-German language border, is reflected in its linguistic divide. Residents on the west bank of the Sarine River, which divides the city into two, speak French. Those on its east bank speak German.

fribourg-switzerland - view from Pont Mileu
Fribourg, View from Pont Mileu

Although it is a dramatically handsome, historic city with a lively student buzz, it did leave me a little cold.

But it’s hard not to appreciate the medieval architecture rising out of the gorge carved by the Sarine River. Wander through the 12th Century Old Town and then head to Pont du Mileu for great views.

Also, stop by the 13th Century Gothic Cathedral of St Nicolas. A day to trip to Fribourg is worth it for the cathedral’s exceptional sculpture depicting Christ’s burial.

Bern to Fribourg by train

  • The train journey from Bern to Fribourg takes from 21 minutes.
  • Fribourg train station is on the western edge of the old town

 

Thun

Encircled by mountains and with the turquoise vein of the Aare River running its historic centre, the city of Thun is a delight.

Dominating the city is the Oberhofen castle, built by the Dukes of Zähringen around the turn of the 12th and 13th Centuries, which houses a museum celebrating the history of the region.

If time is limited you can do worse than wander Thun’s old town or stroll along its riverside promenade, perhaps stopping at one of the cafes. If you’re lucky, you may catch surfers valiantly attempting to keep upright in the fast-flowing waters by the Untere Schleusenbrucke, Thun’s 300-year-old covered, wooden bridge.

water skier in Thun by wooden bridge
Thun. wooden bridge

If you are travelling around Switzerland armed with the Lonely Planet guide, it urges you to walk up the 400+ steps to Jakobshubeli viewpoint for “a magical 360-degree view.”

I say don’t bother. When I visited in September, any view was blocked by trees. However, it did seem to be a popular spot for kissing couples.

And did I mention that there are over 400 steps?

Bern to Thun by train

  • The train journey from Bern to Thun takes 20 – 30 minutes.
  • If possible, sit on the right-hand side of the train carriage for the best views.
  • The Aare River and historic centre of Thun are within easy walking distance of its train station.

Grindelwald & the Bernese Oberland

South-east of Thun, continuing on the same train line from Bern, is Interlaken, from where you can catch a train to Grindelwald. To get close up and personal with the Bernese Alps, this is one of the very best day trips from Bern.

sculpture of man playing accordian in grindelwald switzerland
Grindelwald

Grindelwald is in a swoon-worthy setting. Nestled in a valley between the peaks of the mighty Eiger, the sparkling slithers of the Oberer and Unterer Glaciers and the Wetterhorn, and studded with Alpine chalets and pastures, Grindelwald is like a film set.

However, its real treasures lie in the peaks and hiking trails that surround it. Therefore, resist the urge to linger in Grindelwald and take the cable car to First, a minor summit at an altitude of 2167m.

This is prime hiking territory. Pick up a map at Grindelwald’s friendly tourist information office en route to the cable car station.

Stroll around the summit, take some photos and, if you have a head for heights, do the cliff walk. This is a platform that dangles precariously over the valley below. And the summit’s restaurant is a perfect stop for a cup of coffee, or a glass of something stronger, whilst taking in the 360-degree panorama.

cliff-walk-at-first-bernese-oberland which is one of the best day trips from bern switzerland
Cliff Walk, First, Bernese Oberland

Bern to Grindelwald by train

  • First, catch a train from Bern to Interlaken Ost, which will take one hour.
  • If possible, sit on the right-hand side of the train carriage for the best views until Thun. After Thun, switch sides for lakeside views all the way to Interlaken.
  • If you are travelling on an Interrail / Eurail ticket, you will need to buy a ticket for Grindelwald at Interlaken Ost. This 30-minute train journey is not included in the pass, although you will get 25% off the ticket price.

Taking the cable car from Grindelwald to First

  • To reach the cable car station for First, turn right out of Grindelwald’s train station and walk for 15 minutes along the town’s main street.
  • The 25-minute cable car ride cost 60 CHF (60 USD) for the return trip; 45 CHF with Interrail / Eurail pass (2019 prices).

 

Lake Brienz boat trip

A list of day trips from Bern wouldn’t be complete without including a leisurely boat trip on a Swiss lake.

As Interlaken straddles Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, you have a choice. I opted for Lake Brienz as I had travelled alongside Lake Thun on the journey from Bern. But whichever lake you pick, you will not be disappointed.

You will need to retrace your steps to Interlaken Ost to board the boat for Lake Brienz. One of the many wonderful things about the Swiss transport system is how integrated it is. Ten minutes after getting off the train from Grindelwald, I was embarking on a leisurely cruise on Lake Brienz.

If you are lucky, your boat will be an old paddle steamer. This is the epitome of understated elegance with wooden panelling and theatrical bursts on the whistle as it approaches its stops.

modern sculpture of woman on the shore of Lake Brienz switzerland
Lake Brienz

Visiting Lake Brienz on a day trip from Bern

  • First, catch a train from Bern to Interlaken Ost, which will take one hour.
  • If possible, sit on the right-hand side of the train carriage for the best views until Thun. After Thun, switch sides for lakeside views all the way to Interlaken.
  • The boat terminal is adjacent to Interlaken train station and boat departures are timed to coincide with the trains’ scheduled arrival times.
  • A one-way ticket from Interlaken to Lake Brienz costs 35 CHF (35 USD). Free with Interrail / Eurail pass.
  • You can then catch the train back from to Bern from Brienz station

Day trips from Bern: Final thoughts

Taking these day trips from Bern by train is easy. The hard bit is narrowing down the choices available to you.

Although a tricky decision, if I had limited time and had to pick one of these day trips, it would be Grindelwald, First and Lake Brienz (or Lake Thun) in the Bernese Oberland.

This region is nature at its biggest and best. Picture soaring mountains, vast glacier fields, turquoise lakes, cascading waterfalls and verdant valleys dotted with Alpine resorts.

But what if you are lucky enough to have more time in Bern?

Taking a peek at the Aletsch Glacier from Europe’s highest train station, Jungfraujoch, is an obvious contender. However, this is a long day trip from Bern and it is eye-wateringly expensive, even by Swiss standards (it is not included in the Interrail / Eurail pass). Also, as you are at the mercy of the elements, making this journey is only worthwhile on a clear day.

Whatever you choose, I hope that you have a fantastic time and come back with stunning photographs. Let me know how you get one by leaving a comment below.

Happy travels!

 

Where to stay in Bern

The prime location for accommodation is Bern’s Old City, or Aldstatdt, for which you will pay a premium. Cheaper alternatives can be found a little further out on the banks of the River Aare.

Splurge

The Bristol I stayed at this 4-star hotel in the Old City, a few minutes stroll from the railway station.  Perfect for those day trips! Newly refurbished with coolly efficient staff, a comfortable bed and a great location. Not cheap but recommended.

Here are some other hotels that I have found in Bern that may suit other budgets:

Mid-range

Habsburg B&B  – A short walk from the Old City, this bed & breakfast has excellent reviews.

Budget 

Bern Youth Hostel – Budget options are thin on the ground in Bern. This is a centrally located option at a bargain price by Swiss standards.

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6 thoughts on “Best Day Trips from Bern, Switzerland by Train

  1. Smita says:

    This was very useful for me with 4 days in Bern. I am going to do exactly what you did. Vevey – had never even heard of it!

    • Bridget says:

      Hi Smita!

      I’m so pleased that you found this post useful. I hope that you have a great time … I’d love to do it all over again!

      Bridget

  2. Lihui kuo says:

    Thank you very much for such clear illustration. It is so well written. I am staying in Bern for 4nights in September, and planning to do exactly what you suggested.

  3. Charmaine says:

    This is such a useful information. We actually have booked the Bristol and plan on visiting Grindelwald. Thank you for posting this!

    • Bridget says:

      Hello!
      Thanks for stopping by and am glad that the information was of value to you.
      Hope that your trip goes well (I’d love to go back!)
      Bridget

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