This guide to using the main station in Bern will guide you through what to look out for, when arriving or departing from the city by train; or if you will be changing trains in Bern.
For first time users Bern train station can be a tad confusing and that’s partially because the majority of long distance trains to and from Bern, are calling at the station while on route to other destinations.
As a result the trains spend comparatively little time at the gleis (platforms/tracks), so there is a sense of pace around the station.
The regular users of Bern station know where to go and what to do, but don’t be tempted to go with the flow.
Take your time and work out your best option for exiting the station, or making connections between trains.
A feature of Bern station is its long and curved gleis (platform/tracks), which for most of their length are under a concrete roof.
The resulting lack of sight lines across the station can also be disorientating, particularly when two double deck trains are simultaneously occupying both sides of a platform.
The BLS trains
The Swiss national rail operator SBB doesn't provide all of the mainline trains in Switzerland and the other main operator is BLS.
Bern is the hub station for BLS, so it operates most of the local (S-Bahn) and regional (RE and IR) trains to and from the city, including trains on routes to Biel/Bienne, Neuchatel, Spiez and Thun.
Though tickets for destinations for all of the routes which BLS operates can be purchased from SBB's ticket machines, counters and travel desks.
What is particularly unlikely to be obvious, is that the gleis (platforms/tracks) in Bern station used by the long distance trains (gleis 1 – 13) have TWO sets of entrances and exits.
(1) Towards the middle of the platforms are stairs and fairly long ramps, which lead to/from an underground passage way.
This passage connects the platforms with the main entrance hall; the quickest route from/to the city centre.
(2) Some distance away, at the far (western) ends of the platforms, are escalators and lifts that link the platforms to a secondary exit/entrance above the station on the street Länggassstrasse; which has a taxi rank
Look for the curving roofs that cover this part of the station.
If you have luggage etc and will be changing trains in Bern, the only lifts to/from the gleis (platforms/tracks) are located here.
This Länggassstrasse bridge above the gleis (platforms/tracks) is by the front of trains, which have arrived from Basel, Brig, Luzern, Interlaken and Zurich; and to the rear of trains that arrive in Bern from Geneva and Lausanne.
Getting to Bern station early, so that you can take your time when leaving the city from it's main station by train is highly recommended.
Six Things Worth Knowing About Taking Trains from Bern Station:
(1) If you will be taking a long distance train from Bern, aim to be on the gleis (platform/track) around five minutes before the train is due to depart.
Several different trains per hour depart from each gleis (platform/track), so being able to double check the departure indicators, before the train arrives in the station, can help ensure you are boarding the right train.
(2) Also arrive early if you will be taking an IR train on the routes towards Biel, Neuchatel and La Chaux de Fonds.
SOME of the trains on these routes depart from gleis 49-50 which are some distance (a minimum of a 5 min walk) from the main entrance.
The Länggassstrasse entrance is much closer to gleis 49-50.
Though these more distant platforms/tracks are mainly used by local trains on routes S5, S51 and S52.
(3) The local trains on lines S7, S8 and S9 leave from a separate underground part of the station (gleis 21-24).
(4) Virtually all long distance trains from Bern don’t commence their journeys at Bern station.
They call at Bern on route to other cities, so tend to arrive in the station only 5-10 mins before they are due to depart.
(5) Most of the mainline platforms at Bern Station are comparatively long, they are divided into zones, but most trains will only occupy some of the zones.
The electronic departure indicators on the platform will show in which zone the 2nd class, 1st class (and restaurant) coaches will be located, when the train arrives
(they don’t show the location of specific coaches; and can be a tad inaccurate).
So being on the platform, before the train arrives, gives you time to work out in which zone you need to wait etc; and can give an advantage in finding seats and luggage space etc.
(6) It’s also a good idea to keep the departure time of your train front of mind.
Some long distance trains can spend more than 10 minutes waiting at Bern station.
So if your train is already waiting when you arrive at the platform, you may not have to hurry to follow the crowd, who will be boarding by the nearest door; you may have time to move along platform to board the train through less busy doors.
Also keep your departure time in mind if you have reserved a seat.
Working out where your specific coach will be located, when the train pulls in, can be a conundrum at Bern station.
But don’t spend too long looking for the coach when the train does arrive; if need be board and then work out where your seat(s) is located once you’re on the train.
When stepping on to the gleis (platform/track) from a train, the only evident exit may be the steps down to the passage, that leads to the main entrance.
If you’re heading to the city centre and DON'T have luggage, you can follow the crowds and use these stairs; when you reach the foot of the stairs turn left.
However, if you have luggage etc AND are heading to the city centre, there is no need to use the stairs.
There is a slope down to the passage way, but you may have to walk passed the stairs to reach it; turn right at the foot of the slope
It can be a good idea to hang back and let the crowds disperse, particularly if you will be manoeuvring suitcases.
The route to the street from this passage way beneath the tracks, isn't particularly obvious.
The passage way leads to a multi-level atrium that houses the main ticket office and also numerous shops; Bern Station is in effect housed within a shopping mall named Rail City.
To exit the station from the end of the passage way, you need to go up a level, which is where the entrances to the street are located.
There are escalators in this atrium up to street level, plus an easy to miss elevator.
The alternative exit:
If you have luggage and want to take a TAXI to your final destination, the best option is to walk along the platform to the escalators and lifts, which are at the far end of the platform; where the sloping roofs are located.
These escalators and elevators connect to a bridge which spans the station.
When you step on the platform/gleis, this exit may be behind you, it is by the front of trains, which have arrived from Basel, Brig, Luzern, Interlaken and Zurich; and to the rear of trains that arrive in Bern from Geneva and Lausanne.
This secondary exit from Bern station, on Länggassstrasse, has a taxi rank that’s easier to access than that by the main exit.
To reach the heart of Bern on foot, use the main exit and initially walk ahead under the glass canopy that is outside of the station.
Walk along Spitalgasse (the trams go down this street) or Schaulplatzgass and the old town can be reached on foot in around 10 mins
Four Things Worth Knowing if you will be changing trains at Bern Station:
(1) If you’re not sure which gleis (platform/track) your subsequent train will be departing from, when you step off of the train, don’t follow the crowds heading to the exits.
Instead seek out the yellow departure posters that list on all the subsequent trains in chronological order.
These posters can be hard to find at Bern station, they may be only on one side of the boards that they are attached to.
If you’re in luck you may be able to simply wait for your next train on the same platform, you have just arrived at.
(2) If you need to transfer to another platform/gleis and DON'T have luggage etc, head down to the passage way that runs beneath the platforms.
This houses electronic screens that show the departure details of subsequent trains.
(3) If you have luggage etc you can avoid manoeuvring it down one slope to this passage way and then up another.
Instead make use of the escalators and lifts at the far end of the platform.
Here the passage way is ABOVE the platforms, under the curved roof, and has escalators and lifts to platforms/gleis 1-13.
This bridge above the gleis (platforms/tracks) is by the front of trains, which have arrived from Basel, Brig, Luzern, Interlaken and Zurich - and to the rear of trains that arrive in Bern from Geneva and Lausanne.
(4) However, if you are connecting into local (S-Bahn) trains on lines S7, S8 and S9 towards Worb, Solothurn and Unterzollikofen you need to use the underground passage way to access these trains.
They depart from gleis (platforms/tracks) 21-24 which are located on the opposite end to the central atrium, in the passage way that runs under gleis (platforms/tracks) 1-13.
Despite its city centre location there are surprisingly few hotels near Bern station that have exceptional guest ratings.
Factor in the typically expensive room rates common to Swiss cities and the balance begins to tip in favour of finding accommodation outside the city centre, which also happens to have direct and easy access to/from Bern station.
Hotels within 10 mins walk of Bern station:
Hotel Schweizerhof Bern
Baren Hotel Am Bundesplatz
Bern Backpackers Hotel Glocke
Highly rated Hotels with direct and easy public transport links to Bern station:
Martahaus Bern (5 min walk from Viktoriaplatz tram stop on line 9 towards Wankdorf Bahnhof)
Hotel Allegro Kursaal Bern (3 min walk from Kursaal tram stop on line 9 towards Wankdorf Bahnhof)
Hotel Alpenblick (5 min walk from Breitenrain tram stop on line 9 towards Wankdorf Bahnhof)
Novotel Bern Expo (1 min walk from Guisanplatz Expo tram stop on line 9 towards Wankdorf Bahnhof)
Bern Airport Hine Adon (1 min walk from Belp station, 4 x trains per hour from Bern, fastest trains take less than 15 mins)
Holiday Inn Bern Westside (1 min walk from Bern Brunen Westside Station, 6 x trains per hour from Bern, journey takes less than 10 mins)
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