Buildings on the Thuner Riviera, Thun, Switzerland.
Nicola Fuerer

The 5 best things to do in Thun

From mountain-exploring to boutique-hopping to fine-dining, this beautiful Swiss town is a true Swiss gem for all

Written by Time Out. Paid for in partnership with Interlaken Tourism.

Can you keep a secret? Thun is one of Switzerland’s finest ‘hidden’ treasures, and once you get here, you’ll want to keep the secret to yourself, too. This marvellous town punches way above its weight considering its relatively compact size, boasting a mighty array of sights and attractions, from centuries-old castles and churches to cool and contemporary cafes to fashionable vintage shops. But one of Thun’s other main draws is the incredible natural beauty surrounding it: there are glorious mountain views nearby, and the shimmering Lake Thun and refreshing River Aare are never far away. Plus, Thun is known as the gateway to the Bernese Oberland, making it the perfect base for anyone wanting to extend their journey into the region’s natural wonders.

You’ll never be short on amazing things to do while holidaying in Thun, but here are five of our favourite highlights to get you started, and remember you can find more essentials by clicking here. So, now that you’ve got the heads-up on this Swiss secret, why wait? Book your Thun getaway today and start imagining those dreamy mountain vistas you’ll soon be soaking up.

Discover Thun’s fascinating past by exploring the magical Old Town area, where history comes alive through all manner of sites and attractions. Be wowed by stunning views of the town and the Bernese Alps from the magnificent Thun Castle (dating back to the 12th century), and admire the pretty 14th century church as you make your way through winding, colourful streets and across the 13 bridges that criss-cross the River Aare. If you’re visiting at the weekend, look out for the Saturday market at Rathausplatz, where you’ll find everything from flowers to freshly baked artisan bread.

Thun may be rich in historical treasures, but when it comes to shopping it’s a thoroughly modern affair, particularly on Bälliz, an island on the River Aare that offers some of the best shopping. The town houses a surprisingly large selection of stores catering for all tastes, from hip, independent boutiques to family-owned venues selling traditional goods to designer outlets. Don’t miss the locally famous Schoder shop (now run by the fourth generation of the same family), which sells Swiss knives and cutlery. Best of all, many of the town’s shops are within easy walking distance of each other, meaning you can easily hop from store to store without too much walking, saving your legs for sightseeing!

Remind yourself why you love living in Switzerland with a visit to the Stockhorn, known as Thun’s ‘local mountain’. As you gaze out across more than 200 Alpine peaks from 2,190 metres-above-sea-level, you’ll be enjoying the kind of views that make the rest of the world jealous. The Stockhornbahn cable car will whisk you up to the top in just 20 minutes, or you can walk from the midway station if you’re feeling energetic. If you want to give your legs even more of a workout, make use of the beautiful hiking trails around Stockhorn, where you’ll encounter two peaceful mountain lakes and other breath-taking scenery. Finish your day of mountain adventuring at the Stockhorn Panorama Restaurant, where you can continue to enjoy those incredible views as you tuck-in to a well-earned meal.

One of Thun’s many great qualities is its abundance of outdoor activities for all seasons. Whether you want some casual exercise in the fresh air or are looking to really stretch yourself, Thun can deliver. There are numerous hiking routes around the region, including many that let you experience the surrounding mountains, or you can try life on two wheels by tackling a mountain biking trail – for something gentler, the Donkey Republic bike rental scheme lets you explore Thun’s best sights using a smartphone app and a little pedal power. And since Lake Thun is all around you, it seems only sensible that you should get out onto the water during your visit, which you can do via a paddle in the lido during summer, or by heading out on a kayak, canoe or sailing boat trip.

Did you know that Switzerland has its own pyramid? Head to the Niesen and you’ll see what we mean. At 2,362 metres-above-sea-level, this much-loved mountain offers an unrivalled panorama, which you can travel to in style via the delightful funicular railway. Time your visit shortly before sunset and you’ll witness the pyramid of Niesen’s shadow reflected on Lake Thun – a truly memorable sight. Discuss your day’s viewings over dinner at Berghaus Niesen Kulm (a sleek mountaintop restaurant) or lose yourself in Niesen’s packed cultural programme, which might include live music, literary readings or seasonal celebrations. And it’s not just adults who get to enjoy themselves at the top, as there’s a marvellous wooden ‘play village’ for children to run wild in. Finally, remember to tell everyone at home that you’ve ‘ascended’ the world’s longest staircase, which runs alongside Niesen’s funicular railway. Thankfully, the 11,674 steps aren’t open to the public, but you will technically have undertaken the route they cover, so give yourself a pat on the back.

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