We are visiting Thun on a trip from Interlaken in which we also visited Bern, easily done in one day. When returning from Bern back to Interlaken, the train passes though Thun, so get off the train and take a walk around for a few hours in this beautiful historic Swiss city. You might find it so lovely you will come back and stay for a few days.
From the train station to the Old Town is just a few blocks. This will take you through the modern shopping part of town, and there you have a view of the Aare River that passes through the center, with water so clean you can swim in it. Then walk along arcade-covered sidewalks into the Old Town.
Part of the city is on an island in the middle of the Aare River, which makes for lovely waterfronts with outdoor restaurants and a view of the covered wooden bridge so typical of Switzerland.
Beyond the island on the north side of the river you'll come to the main part of the Old Town where the charm really kicks in, walking along a cobblestone road for pedestrians, which then becomes a split-level road, Obere Hauptgasse. This is the main street called Obere Hauptgasse, and it is quite unique because it has two levels. You can walk along the upper level which is on the roof of the ground-floor shops, or you can walk along in the street down below.
Continuing along on the main street for a few blocks, you'll notice quite a few restaurants here as well as bars and cafés, with a variety of shops. You will soon reach the main square of town, the Rathausplatz, the city hall square. With a fountain in the middle, it's surrounded by the town hall and various guildhalls, and former hospital, now police station. In the summertime they’ve got outdoor concerts and other events, and street markets Wednesday and Saturday nearby on Balliz.
Although the Old Town is rather small, about 10 blocks long, you'll find plenty of spaces to go wandering through – especially with the river running through the middle. It creates a delightful watery landscape. There are various lanes along the waterfront with bridges across it. You could easily spend half a day here, walking around, doing a little shopping, and sit at an outdoor table with a view of the river. And then there is the hillside with the greatest treasure of town, the castle up on the hill, which dates back to the 12th century. There is a historic museum inside, so you might go in and take a look.
The town has a distinguished history and played a significant role as primary gateway to the Bernese Oberland up until a century ago when Interlaken was created by the railroads. Before that time Thun was the main city of this lake region with the Lake Thun and Lake Brienz and Interlaken in-between, and the mountains beyond, with the Jungfrau and the Bernese Oberland. You might see a few soldiers as you walk around because Thun has always been a military center going all the way back to the Middle Ages and still today, there is a training base nearby. Switzerland is politically neutral, but not pacifist.
But wait, there is more to see in Thun, as described in the following sections provided by the official Tourist Information Offices.
Following information is from the Switzerland National Tourist Information website:
With its historic buildings, towering raised promenades steeped in history, the white castle on the Schlossberg and the fantastic views over the lake set against the backdrop of the imposing Bernese Alps – Thun’s charm enchants locals and tourists alike.
Thun lies at the north-western end of Lake Thun, and is the gateway to the Bernese Oberland. The River Aare, which flows from Lake Thun to Bern, shapes the cityscape of the eleventh-largest city in Switzerland with some 44,000 inhabitants.
The city’s most famous landmark is the mighty Thun Castle, with its tower that was built between 1180 and 1190, which towers majestically over the Old Town. A historical museum is housed in the tower rooms, showcasing finds from the past 800 years relating to the region and its history, as well as a special exhibition which changes each year. Pride of place goes to the restored 12th-century knights’ hall, however. The view from the castle tower of the mountains and the lake is also unparalleled.
The historical raised promenades in Thun’s old town are yet another highlight. But they are not the only reason to enjoy a stroll through the cobblestone streets. As well as traditional rows of houses, Thun is home to various small shops on different levels that invite visitors to browse and explore.
Thanks to its enormous diversity, the city of Thun is worth a visit at any time of the year: While the charming old town and the delightful river and lakeside promenade are bursting with life in the spring, cultural open-air events such as the popular Lake Thun Festival get everyone in the mood for a summer of fun.
Autumn, on the other hand, is the ideal season in which to get in touch with your artistic side, whether at the Thun Art Museum or the Thun Panorama in Schadau Park, an imposing panoramic painting of the city from 1814. And then again, walkers have always been particularly drawn to the coldest season too, with its wintry lakeside landscapes, and which offers the perfect opportunity for fine diners to enjoy the culinary delights on offer in the city’s many restaurants.
Christmas is the perfect time for a shopping trip through Thun’s festively dressed old town. And the Christmas market on Waisenhausplatz is a popular spot to meet for a chat over a mug of mulled wine. After an active winter’s day, the numerous restaurants, especially along the banks of the Aare, offer the perfect place in which to enjoy culinary delights and pleasant company. Even in the winter season, a boat sails on Lake Thun every day. So it is still possible to explore the city and region from the water at this time of year. Thanks to its outstanding transport links, Thun is also an ideal starting point for numerous winter activities throughout the entire Bernese Oberland holiday region.
Thun is also known as the summer capital of Switzerland. With mountains, rivers and the magnificent lake on its doorstep, Thun is a paradise for sports enthusiasts, sun worshipers and keen swimmers. You can even go surfing right in the heart of the city. But the opportunity to enjoy a spot of indulgence is always just around the corner too. Whether that’s strolling through the old town, enjoying an aperitif on Mühleplatz or a delicious dinner on the banks of the Aare. Another particularly special way to enjoy a hot summer’s day is with a boat trip on Lake Thun or Lake Brienz. On Lake Thun, the “Blümlisalp” paddle steamer transports its passengers back in time to the days of the magnificent Belle Époque. But all 14 of the boats that operate on the two lakes offer breathtaking views of the three world-famous peaks, the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.
Following information is from the Thun Tourist Information website
And the city of Thun website.
Experience culture, nature and city life on Lake Thun
The combination of mountains and lakes and of historical and contemporary buildings succeeds in Thun. The city of Thun is lively and quiet at the same time. Here you will discover curious to classic culture. Marvel at the numerous stories on the city tour. Picturesque alleys with boutiques invite you to stroll and shop. Afterwards you stay directly on the Aare in a pretty café. Thun, the gateway to the Bernese Oberland, is your ideal starting point for a variety of excursions and experiences.
Thun, the gateway to the Bernese Oberland, has numerous surprises in store for you. Stay in the pretty alpine town and discover the fantastic wealth of offers in a small space. Fall in love with the city in the heart of Switzerland: it's cheerful and cheerful, it's authentic and honest. You can get special insights into history in Thun Castle, on a city tour or on a walk along the lake to see the historic Thun panorama. Museums and beautifully preserved houses take you back to past centuries. The vibrant city brings you back to the present with its numerous cafés and squares, right on the Aare or in cozy corners.
Discover the city of the Alps
Let yourself be enchanted by the charm of the city of Thun with the wooden bridges with locks. The castle towers proudly over the late medieval old town. Stroll on the two levels of the unusual high pavement in Obere Hauptgasse to Rathausplatz or Mühleplatz.
The town hall square is the historic center of the city of Thun and was built around 1500. On this picturesque square in the heart of the old town there is a market every Saturday where you can buy fresh vegetables, fruit and other delicacies. Turn from Rathausplatz into Obere Hauptgasse with the famous elevated sidewalks. Visit the family shops, restaurants and bars on two levels and make a stop at Mühleplatz. On the "Mühli", as the people of Thun affectionately call this place, you can relax wonderfully on the banks of the Aare. Every spring, the bridges in Thun are decorated with colorful flowers. Cross the wooden bridges at the Mühleschleuse or the Scherzligschleuse and watch the surfers surf the river waves.
Your highlights at a glance
In Thun, 28 historical buildings with uniform signage await you in the city center. Take an individual city tour and go to the various buildings with the multilingual information brochure. Learn a lot of exciting things about the history of the city and the various buildings.
On the historical tour you will learn important facts about numerous impressive buildings. For example, you stroll to the Berntor barn and find out there that this is one of the last witnesses to agricultural buildings within the city walls. Did you know that Thun still has a preserved city gate with an archway from the 13th century or that you can marvel at the funny paintings from the 13th to 16th centuries in the church? It is also exciting that the Thunerhof was built in 1875 as a grand hotel. If you are interested in such background information, the historical tour of the city will inspire you. A handy information brochure provides you with lots of other interesting information about the different buildings in downtown Thun.
Do you like it more curious and funny or contemplative and gentle? Art and culture are offered for every taste and every situation. If you've fallen for the city's charm, you're probably looking for a suitable souvenir? In one of the lovingly furnished boutiques in the popular promenade and shopping mile Bälliz and in the Obere Hauptgasse you will find a suitable souvenir. For the special aha experience, you can walk along on one of the numerous city tours . The PanoramaCard Thunersee is particularly attractive for you and your family . This allows you to travel free of charge by bus and postbus throughout the region and receive discounts on numerous excursions.
From history to the present
Thun Castle towers high above the city . The landmark with its four towers dates back to the 12th century. From here you can admire the great view over the deep blue Lake Thun and the Alps with the legendary triumvirate Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. A visit to the castle museum tells you the history of Thun.
Built by the Dukes of Zähringen at the beginning of the 12th century, the medieval castle above the town of Thun is a prominent eye catcher at the entrance to the Bernese Highland Region. It contains one of the best conserved representation halls of the Middle Ages in Europe, the castle tower (the Knight's Hall), located in the almost unaltered dungeon. The corner towers allow for a beautiful view of the Alps, Lake Thun, and the city. The castle also houses the historic museum, which features a regional history as well as special exhibits on different cultural-historical and current topics.
The surrounding area is also characterized by picturesque castles and historic churches that are over 1000 years old. Immerse yourself in the past world, which can still be seen and felt through contemporary witnesses and buildings. First you stroll past the town church from the 14th century through the old town of Thun with the characteristic high sidewalks. The path takes you along the Aare in the direction of Lake Thun to the Schadau Park.
Let yourself be enchanted by the Scherzligen Church, which is over 1000 years old. Your path leads past the legendary Schadau Castle to a rotunda with a modern glass cube. Here you can marvel at the Thun panorama , the oldest panorama in the world. Back in the present, enjoy a refreshment at one of the city's cafes or bars. On the Foxtrail or FoodTrail Thun you follow completely different tracks, in modern times . Here you can experience fun and exciting moments with your friends or family.
Experience culture in all variations
The cultural program in Thun reveals some surprises. Curious, funny, lively and artistic is what happens during the artist fair in spring. Emotions run high in summer when the musical sounds of the Thunerseespiele play on the lake stage. You quietly hum along to the evergreens while the mountains in the background of the stage glow in the sunset and are reflected in Lake Thun. Do you like it rockier or can it be some blues or classic? Then visit one of the many concerts in the Thun Culture and Congress Center throughout the year .
You will experience happy and fun moments in August at the Thunfest In Thun, culture also means tradition. Have you ever wondered who the «Fulehung» is? In September, immerse yourself in the history of the 1476 Battle of Murten. You will find out what the connection to Thun is and experience how the "Fulehung" chases the crowd through the streets and hands out sweets to the children. The winter is characterized by the Thun Carnival, which as the 5th season keeps the city in suspense for a few days.
For fashion lovers and pleasure seekers
Thun offers you a special "lifestyle". Start on the popular Bälliz shopping mile. Here you will find everything your heart desires, from specialty boutiques to department stores. On Wednesday and Saturday, a visit to the Bälliz is particularly worthwhile if you stroll through the market with regional products. Your mouth will water here: taste the finest cheeses, fragrant bread, fresh fruit and crunchy vegetables. Through the somewhat winding streets you will reach Obere Hauptgasse via the Aare. Here you will find numerous shops with a long tradition or special crafts. Be inspired by the lovingly arranged goods, clothes and objects of all kinds.
Is the day coming to an end? This is the right time for a stroll through the city center with its pretty cafés, tastefully furnished bars and inviting restaurants. Stay, enjoy and fill up on fresh ideas with a cozy aperitif. You can find refreshment for your next adventures in and around Thun in one of the many restaurants. The variety of offers promises a culinary journey for every taste.
Slightly elevated above the town of Thun you reach the village of Goldiwil. The sun terrace above Thun gives you a wonderful view of the city, the lake and the Alps. Goldiwil has a variety of walking paths that lead past beautifully decorated houses. In winter, the ski lift at Multenegg offers well-groomed pistes for children to make their first turns.
Thun is ideal for eventful holidays and the perfect starting point for excursions into the mountains and on the lake. For your active and sporty side, explore the area by bike or on the water. When you walk on the shore of Lake Thun, through the nature reserve, you always have the white mountain peaks in mind. They inspire you to go on a hike or a day of winter sports. As a cycling and mountain bike enthusiast, you will find happiness in and around Thun. With the bike sharing Donkey Republic you can explore Thun comfortably on two wheels on a red bike. The region around Thun and Lake Thun offers 16 cycle and bike tours of all levels of difficulty.
The deep blue water of Lake Thun glitters and sparkles in the sun. In summer you can spend happy moments in the spacious lido . Or you can take a trip in a canoe , kayak or sailing boat . Lean back and enjoy when you let yourself be taken across the lake on one of the big ships or on the historic paddle steamer Blüemlisalp.
When done, if you are not spending the night here, catch one of those frequent trains back to Interlaken, our suggested home base. These trains are famous for their comfort, reliability, you’ve got a restaurant or a snack car on board usually and nice scenery out the window. It's just about 1/2 an hour ride from Thun to Interlaken with 37 trains running every day.
Alternatively, you could take a boat or a bus back to Interlaken, but the train is the quickest and easiest way to get there. The train route is along the scenic southern shore of Lake Thun, one of two lakes surrounding Interlaken, passing through some villages and the city of Spietz on its way.