10 Best Things To Do In Thun, Bernese Oberland

Described as the gateway to Bernese Oberland, Thun in Switzerland is also one of the biggest cities in Canton Bern. You can find it on the northern part of Bernese Oberland sitting on the northern edge of Lake Thun. It is a stunning town definitely worth a visit.

So, what are the best things to do in Thun? It involves not only discovering castles and strolling around town. Find out by reading the list of the best things to do in Thun below. But before we head to that, a quick background on the town itself and the region it is a part of.

Thun and the Jungfrau Region

Thun has been settled in since the Neolithic Age and the lake was mentioned as “lacus dunesis” in 660. It boasts of beautiful castles, the reformed town church on the Schlossberg, an old church, a park, an accessible lower bridge, and majestic views of the mountains. The city of Thun has a polished look to it.

Thun is part of one of the most visited Alpine regions in Europe – The Jungfrau Region in Bernese Oberland.

The Jungfrau Region covers (aside from Thun) the following stunning locations: Interlaken, Spiez, Brienz, and Meiringen. It also includes the villages of Wengen, Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen, Kleine-Scheidegg, and Kandersteg. Famous mountains to visit in this area are Eiger, Jungfrau, and Schilthorn.

Be prepared to be surrounded by such beautiful scenery if you visit Thun. The Jungfrau region is absolutely stunning. In no particular order, here is what you can do while you are in Thun, Switzerland.

10 Best Things To Do in Thun

1. Tour the Historical Old Town

Image by Siggy Nowak from Pixabay

The first thing on the list is a tour of the historic old town. As with other well-known and beautiful Swiss towns, Thun has a historic old town.  Its old town has elevated sidewalks, unique boutiques, trendy shops, and bars. From the old town, the Thun Castle is a few minutes away on foot.

Thun is a picturesque, polished town on Lake Thun and Aare River.

You can do it by yourself or hire an official guide. There are different tours to choose from. Old-town tours provide you with an opportunity to learn more about the traditional ways of living culture. Thun has a long history that dates back to the Stone Age. 

And if you do not want to have the standard old town tour, you can opt for a culinary tour. This combines the tour of Thun with traditional restaurants and local trendy food.


2. Delight in the panorama from Thun Castle

The Thun Castle is the ultimate historical monument in the city of Thun. Owned by the Lords of Thun, the Thun Castle fell to Berthold IV of Zähringen in 1152. After 1191, it was expanded by Duke Berthold V of Zähringen to become today’s castle. The Thun Castle is a Swiss heritage site of national significance.

Image by Olivia Notter from flickr

To visit it, you can pass by the walking paths along the upper main street Obere Hauptgasse. From the cobbled streets lined with flowered terraces and pretty houses of Obere Hauptgasse, it is scarcely a 5-minute walk to the Thun Castle.

The castle itself has four towers on each of its corners. It cannot be accessed directly but there are bus stops and parking lots nearby. Although the approach to the castle can be quite steep, it is still easy to get there by walking.

Inside the museum lies 800 years worth of Swiss, Bernese, and local history. There are 5 floors in total. A breathtaking panorama of the town, the lake, and the snow-capped mountains can be viewed from the castle’s tower. It has a splendid medieval great hall, as well as unique carpentry from 1434 in the roof truss.

The castle museum is open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm between February and October, and only on Sundays for the remaining period of the year.

Address: Schlossberg 1, 3600 Thun


3. Cruise on Lake Thun

Experience the largest lake in the Bernese Oberland, Lake Thun, by boat. Lake Thun is an alpine lake that is 17.5 kilometers long and 3.5 kilometers wide. Passenger boats in the Jungfrau Region make the rounds on both Lake Thun and Lake Brienz from April to October.

Regular service makes it possible for guests to go to some other destinations along the lake by boat instead of just by land. The boats in Lake Thun depart from behind the Interlaken West train station.

Image by Benjamin Sz-J. from Pixabay

While on the boat, you can enjoy the 360-degree panorama of the surrounding meadows, mountains, and castles that it offers. Children can ride for free on their birthdays and on Saturdays.

Scheduled services of BLS begin in April and continue well into November. Stops include Hünibach, Hilterfingen, Oberhofen am Thunersee, Gunten, Spiez, Beatenbucht (St. Beatus Caves) and Interlaken West.

The nostalgic Steam Boat Blümlisalp is available once a day during summer from Thun to Interlaken and back. The tour takes 90 minutes and the journey provides amazing views of Hilterfingen – the Hünegg Park with Castle Hünegg Hilterfingen, Oberhofen, and its own castle, as well as Gunten with its wonderful panorama and crystal clear waters.

If cruising isn’t your thing, there are other activities on the lake such as swimming, sailing, windsurfing.

Address: Seestrasse 9, 3600 Thun just across the Thun train station


4. Discover the idyllic Justis Valley

Justis Valley
Image by TouringSwitzerland.com

Justis Valley (Justistal), named after the famed monk Justus, is a beautiful and secluded Swiss Alp with lush green alpine meadows in summer and snowy white in winter. In this idyllic setting, one can hike alongside the Grönbach stream, take part in the famous tradition “Chästeilete” (annual cheese sharing) or visit the Alpine Dairy.

Between September and October, the majority of the stags from the region migrate to this valley for the rutting season.

Justis Valley can be reached from Grön via Sigriswil (11 km southeast of Thun). Sigriswil lies at a high terrace an altitude of 240 m above sea level and has fantastic views of Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau.


5. Visit Oberhofen Castle

Image by joduma from Pixabay

The romantic moated Oberhofen Castle was built from 1180 to 1190 by the Dukes of Zähringen and is considered a Swiss heritage site of national significance. The castle contains a museum that presents the way of life of its former owners, residents and their domestic servants. From the tour of the kitchen and servants’ quarters, visitors will be afforded a glimpse of their lives during the 19th century.

The Knight’s Hall (Rittersaal) of the Oberhofen Castle is one of the most impressive medieval profane rooms in Switzerland. Its chapel followed suit in 1473. From 1849 until 1982, its facade was shifted into the New Gothic architecture by James Colin from Neuchâtel.

For fantastic views, head up to the oriental smoking parlor in the tower.

There is a beautiful garden on the Oberhofen castle grounds filled with conifers, deciduous trees, and four exotic sequoia trees. The entrance to the park is free.

The Oberhofen Castle is open from Tuesdays to Sundays from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm from the 12th of May until the 1st of November 2020. The Oberhofen Garden is open from the 12th of May from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, with longer opening hours in Summer. More detailed information can be found on the website.

Address: Schloss 4, 3653 Oberhofen am Thunersee


6. Visit Schadau Castle and Park

Schadau Castle

Image by Widybrad from flickr

Another castle located in Thun is called the Schadau Castle that was built back in 1852 with the French Loire Valley Chateaux serving as inspiration.

The castle is now a 3-star boutique hotel and a stylish gourmet restaurant, serving also as a good location for weddings, seminars, or other events. It lies directly on the beach area of Thun-Gwatt. Although it is used primarily as an event location, it still enjoys the protection of being a historical site of significance.

The views of Lake Thun together with Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau can be enjoyed from the terrace of the castle. There is also a children’s play area on the ground floor.

Adjacent to the Schadau Castle, and also worth visiting, is an English Garden called Schadau Park.

Address: Seestrasse 45, 3600 Thun


Schadau Park

Image by WidyBrad from flickr

The English Garden called Schadau Park is a place for relaxing near the lake while basking in the sun and enjoying the gorgeous views of Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau.

Schadau Park is open to all visitors 24 hours daily.

Address: Seestrasse 45, 3600 Thun

7. Experience the 360° Panorama inside Wocher Panorama

Image by Henk Bekker from flickr.com

Another interesting attraction in Thun is the Wocher Panorama. Though the exterior of the building may seem plain, the interior reveals a beautiful impression of Thun as it once was. 

The Wocher Panorama was created by Marquard Wocher of Basel in 1814. In fact, it is considered the oldest cyclorama in the world. Inside the building, one can turn 360° and see a painting depicting the town of Thun and its surroundings. The attention to detail is amazing and it is well worth a visit.

Thun Panorama (Wocher Panorama) is seasonally open from March until December from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Tuesdays to Sundays. Admission costs CHF 9 per adult.

Address: Seestrasse 45, 3600 Thun


8. Explore the Grand Hotel turned Art Museum

Image from Kunstmuseum Thun

Thun’s Art Museum (Kunstmuseum) is located right on the river Aare in what was previously the Grand Hotel Thunerhof. The former hotel during its operational years was the biggest and most luxurious hotel in Bernese Oberland. Unfortunately, it was plagued by bad financial results which ultimately stopped hotel operations.

Located on the right-wing of the first floor, the museum shows works of Swiss Masters Lory, Aberli, Lafond, and Wocher. Creations of Ferdinand Hodler, Paul Klee, and Meret Oppenheim are also available. There are over 7,000 works of art presented in this Art Museum. Furthermore, workshops and attractions are available to the little ones.

Nowadays, the previous Grand Hotel Thunerhof houses the Art Museum, a Café, and Bistro.

The Art Museum is open on Tuesdays to Sundays from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm and Wednesdays from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm. Admission costs CHF 10 per adult.

Address: Hofstettenstrasse 14, 3600 Thun


9. Visit the Scherzligen Church

Image from Wikipedia

The Ancient Romanesque Scherzlingen Church was first mentioned in the year 762. It is now more than a thousand years old. It is part of the Way of St. James – the pilgrim’s way to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. Located on the shores of the river Aare, the church stands also near the fascinating Wocher Panorama. Nearby is the Schadau Park.

The Church is one of the earliest structures in Bern mentioned in written history. It has the canton’s oldest church wooden ceiling (from 1380) and the most valuable painting from the 14th century. This Romanesque Church contains other wall paintings commissioned well into the 16th century.

This ancient but somewhat simple church is nowadays also a popular wedding venue.

Address: Seestrasse, 3600 Thun


10. Attempt boating in the Aare river like the locals

This is one of the favorite activities of locals in summer – Aareböötlen (boating in the Aare river). Before attempting this activity, please ensure that you read through the rules and tips provided for by these websites here and here.

Important Note: It is mandatory that each person has a life jacket or a life ring. In case of an emergency, call the emergency phone number (144) or police (117 or 112).


Thun Tourist Office

The Official Tourist Office of Thun is on Seestrasse 2, near the Thun train station. It is the primary stop for all tourist matters, questions, maps, brochures, and tickets in the area. In here, you can also ask about bike rentals, money exchange, or lockers.

The Tourist Office is open every day except Sundays during their official opening hours.

Also, check out this video from the city of Thun to see how beautiful the city is.

Summary

There are so many exciting things to do in Thun. You can simply relax in the park, walk around the streets, or cherish a beautiful day by riding one of the boats on the lake. The old town is pretty and full of shops for trinkets and souvenirs.

Or you can visit some historical monuments in the area – the Thun Castle (or Museum) or the Ancient Scherzligen Church. The Art Museum and Wocher Panorama are also interesting places to visit.

There is also a light walking path from Thun to the lake. It starts from the train station, over the Aare canal, to the thousand-year-old church Scherzligen, and ends in Schadau Park. If you want to go for a swim, you can walk further to the beach. You can opt to take the bus in Gwatt back from the beach.

There are several other lakeshore destinations along Lake Thun worth visiting. From the stops, my favorites would be Oberhofen am Thunersee for another castle, Spiez (also very pretty and also with a castle), and Beatenbucht. From Beatenbucht, you can discover the St. Beatus Caves. Interlaken is also worth visiting, but we will cover that another time.