A popular etymological theory is that Bern got its name from the bear (Bär in German), when the city’s founder, Berthold V, duke of Zähringen, snagged one here on a hunting spree. In today’s spacious 6000-sq-metre open-air riverside park dotted with trees and terraces, three bears now roam relatively freely.

You’ll find the BärenPark at the eastern end of the Nydeggbrücke. With any luck you’ll spot Finn, Björk, Ursina as they frolic, swim, eat and poop in the woods, as nature (almost) intended. Obviously, things are quieter in the winter, when hibernation is the name of the game. An inclined elevator provides barrier-free access between the riverside walkway on the banks of the Aare to the top of the steep enclosure.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Bern attractions

1. Münster

0.36 MILES

Bern’s 15th-century Gothic cathedral boasts Switzerland’s loftiest spire (100m); climb the 344-step spiral staircase for vertiginous views. Coming down,…

2. Einstein-Haus Bern

0.43 MILES

Housed in the humble apartment that Einstein shared with his young family while working at the Bern patent office, this small museum includes a 20-minute…

3. Zytglogge

0.54 MILES

Bern’s most famous Old Town sight, this ornate clock tower once formed part of the city’s western gate (1191–1256). Crowds congregate to watch its…

4. Kindlifresserbrunnen

0.54 MILES

Bern is home to 11 decorative 16th-century fountains depicting historic and folkloric characters. The most famous is Kindlifresserbrunnen (Ogre Fountain),…

5. Historisches Museum Bern

0.59 MILES

Tapestries, diptychs and other treasures vividly illustrate Bernese history from the Stone Age to the 20th century in this marvellous castle-like edifice,…

6. Schweizerisches Alpines Museum

0.59 MILES

The Swiss Alpine Museum hosts special exhibitions; its permanent collection of relief maps and Alpine mountaineering exhibits are kept under wraps.

7. Museum für Kommunikation

0.62 MILES

Fresh from extensive renovation and expansion, Bern's Museum of Communication reopened its doors in August 2017. Occupying almost 2000 sq metres of…

8. Berner Altstadt

0.63 MILES

Bern’s flag-bedecked medieval centre has 6km of covered arcades and cellar shops and bars descending from the streets. After a devastating fire in 1405,…