Guide to Bern, Switzerland's medieval capital

12th September 2018
Guide to Bern, Switzerland's medieval capital

The fact that 34% of Bern’s population consists of resident foreign nationals proves how popular it is with expats. Ranked in the top 5 countries in the World Happiness Report 2018, Switzerland’s capital promises a high standard of living against a stunning backdrop.

Find out about living in Bern before you make your move.

Visas and residence permits in Switzerland

Citizens of EU (European Union) and EEA (European Economic Area) do not need visas. However, UK expats will need to register at Bern’s migration office within 14 days of arrival for a residence permit. You’ll need to bring your passport, proof of address or tenancy agreement, passport photos and (if applicable) a marriage certificate for your spouse.

Working in Bern is easy if your current employer needs you to be there. But if you are job-hunting in the capital, being fluent in German will give you a distinct advantage.

Transport in Bern

Traveling to and from Bern: Bern's international airport (Bern-Belp) might be small but it’s well connected. For expats that want to get back to the UK or need to meet with contacts around Europe, direct flights to London, Munich, Paris and Barcelona make international travel quick and easy.

If you prefer, you can make use of the Swiss Federal Railway network, Bern’s station offers rail connections to Zurich, Geneva, Basel and Lucerne among others.

Getting around in Bern:

In typical Swiss fashion, Bern’s efficient transport system makes it easy to get around. In fact, Bern is compact enough to explore much of it on foot. If you plan to live in the suburban outskirts, regular buses and trams make your commute a breeze.

For the expat that prefers the wind in their hair, the capital offers free bike hire via the Bernrollt scheme. Present your ID and a deposit and you can enjoy adult or kids bikes and skateboards without charge for up to four hours.

Heritage, culture and leisure in Bern

Bern was founded in 1191 and has a rich heritage. A walk through the old town takes you along the river Aare. Miles of arcaded walkways, the towering gothic Bern Minster cathedral and famous Clock Tower (Zytglogge) have made the old town a famous and beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site. From high up in the cathedral tower, you can enjoy a spectacular vista over the city and the Bernese Alps. In the arcades, specialty shops and bustling bars offer modern amenities in a quaint setting.

Art-lovers will enjoy the Paul Klee centre just out of town while outdoors enthusiasts can hit the hiking trails in summer or the snow capped mountains for adrenaline-fuelled winter sports.

The weather in Bern

Bern’s climate makes for an easy transition for expats from the UK. Its western location means it has more rainfall than other parts of the country but the spring and summer are warm and winters mild. In July, the average temperature is 22°C and in December it can drop to 3°C at night.

Find out more about moving to Switzerland in our expat guide.

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