To and from the airport
Bern’s airport is small, reflecting its role as a secondary airport. The only major airlines with regular scheduled flights in and out are Swiss, Lufthansa and Air France, and these are limited. Much of the airport’s traffic is charter flights.
Bern is the closest thing Switzerland has to a capital city, but in this decentralized country where the cantons wield power, only some of the government offices are in Bern. It is, importantly, home to the governing Federal Council (cabinet) and the Parliament. It is technically a city where French and German are official languages, but German is by far the dominant language, and if you don’t speak it you will probably have as much luck speaking English as French.
The Bern-Belp airport, located near the town of Belp, is not connected directly by train to the rest of the Swiss rail system. Buses, shuttles and taxis are available to take you to Belp or to Bern and from either one you may continue your travel on the train.
Buses from the airport to Belp and Bern run about once an hour and cost CHF3 and CHF15 respectively.
Although you can find several taxi companies, the city of Bern recommends cabs that carry the quality seal, “Q”. Fares from the airport to Bern, and vice versa, start at about CHF40.
YOUR OWN CAR
If you are driving into Bern, it is important to keep in mind that many streets are closed to automobiles, and parking on the street is limited. Your best bet is to use blue zone parking garages. Buy a parking permit at any tourist centre, the city police or automatic ticket dispensers. Expect to pay CHF8 for 4 hours or CHF15 for all-day parking.
The high number of government visitors makes limousine rentals popular, so several companies provide this service. See the GL Cheerful traveler guide to Geneva, private transport, for details on limo rentals in Switzerland.
Mass transport throughout the city and canton of Bern is run by Bernmobil, which operates buses, trolleys, funiculars and trams. Bern’s train station, the Bahnhof, is a 10-minute walk from the Federal Parliament building, old town and central shopping area, and a 15-minute walk from the popular Baerengraben (bear pit), being rebuilt during 2008-2009 as a modern bear park.
The best option is a day card for CHF7.50, but tickets begin as low as CHF2 for a 30-minute one-way ticket. From Thursday to Saturday evening a special late night “moonlight” service is offered for an additional CHF5.
Regretfully, Swiss CFF rail half-fare card owners do not qualify for discounts on Bern’s public transport system. An alternative is to purchase a Berncard, which gives you free access to public transport, museums and attractions in the region.
Photos: Jared Bloch, top, Ellen Wallace bottom
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Travel to and from Basel, Bern and Zurich: Basel
Travel to and from Basel, Bern and Zurich: Bern
Travel to and from Basel, Bern and Zurich: Zurich
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