Visiting the Dählhölzli Zoo in Bern

“So how was the zoo? Have you seen the elephants? ” my husband asked our kids as we returned from Bern’s Tierpark. The kids were stunned, so I went to explain to him that in Bern, there is no such zoo as we know it from Prague or Zlín, where you can see elephants, giraffes, lions and other exotic animals. Tierpark Bern is more of a nature park, a forest not far from the city center, where you will find, with a few exceptions, mostly European animals. But your visit experience will definitely not be impoverished.

Arrival

 The Tierpark is located in a forest along the Aare river about 10 minutes bus ride (line nr. 19 to Elfanau, stop Tierpark) from the main train station. But you can also walk here from the station – it’s a pleasant walk, especially if you take the Marzilibahn funicular. From the valley station of the funicular, it is a 20-minute walk along the river to the entrance to the zoo.

Parking here is a bit difficult, because parking spaces along Dalmaziquai and Tierparkweg are limited. In addition, parking costs 2.2CHF/hour.

Opening hours and admission fees

Due to current Covid-19 measures, the zoo now has opening hours from 9:00 to 19:00. It is usually open at the following times:
From the beginning of March to October 15 from 8:30 to 19:00, from October 16 to the end of February from 9:00 to 17:00.

Admission: adults 10 francs, children 6 – 15 years 6 francs, family admission (max. 2 adults and max. 4 children aged 6 – 15 years) costs 24 francs.

Visit during the covid-19 measures

In addition to the adjusted opening hours, the measures also apply to the zoo’s exposition: only the outdoor area is open, the vivarium and other buildings remain closed. It is mandatory to wear masks (from the age of 12). The outdoor area of the Dählhölzli Zoo can accommodate a maximum of 500 visitors at a time, which is ensured by an automatic counting system.

Zoo plan

Although the zoo is not large, I recommend taking a folding map of the area at the ticket office. But don’t worry, if you don’t take it, you certainly won’t get lost in the zoo. There are boards with an orientation plan in several places, you can also follow the arrows during the tour.

You can make the visit more fun for kids with an audio guide, which you can download as a mobile application using a QR code. The guide starts at the main entrance and continues to the next 10 stops at the zoo, where you can listen to the stories of local animals. The guide is spoken in a dialect. You can also try a quiz with the kids and test how well you know the animals.

Vivarium

Although the vivarium is currently closed to visitors, we were here two years ago, so I can show you what it looks like here. First of all, be prepared for the fact that it is quite hot here, but there are hangers for your coats ready. Some people here may breathe harder due to the heat and increased humidity (don’t tell me I didn’t warn you). In the vivarium you will find a wide range of species – birds, reptiles, primates, amphibians, fish and even insects, all in a beautifully created tropical environment.

You will definitely be captivated by the aquarium showing coral reefs.

Open-air premises

As I have already mentioned, except for the vivarium, the zoo breeds mainly northern European species. So here you will see moose, ground squirrels, seals, owls, bison, but also wolves or arctic fox. The biggest hit is certainly the Ussuri bears. When they run to the fence, it’s really an experience.

Childrens playground

There is also a beautiful playground and tables for picnics on the grounds (at the Eulenbistro). The playground reminded me more of a small rope park and the kids liked it here.

Free part of the zoo

You can even visit part of the Tierpark without paying the entrance fee, so it is a nice free family-friendly activity near the Aare river. The free part of the park, which includes a nice walk through the forest and by the river, will allow you to see quite a few animals, including lynx, raccoons, and pelicans. In the section “Kinderzoo” (currently unfortunately also closed) you can see farm animals such as donkeys, rabbits, pigs, and goats (which you can even pet) for a change. The Kinderzoo also has another children’s playground and the Dählhölzli self-service restaurant.

Bear park

Tierpark Bern includes not only the Dählhölzli zoo but also the famous Bärenpark at Nygeggbrücke almost in the city center. From the zoo, it is about a 45-minute walk along the river.

Summary

  • This small zoo does not try to compete with the bigger well-known zoos, on the contrary – I think its uniqueness lies in the fact that (except for animals in Vivarium) shows animals mostly of European origin and tries to mimic their natural environment as much as possible.
  • If we lived in Bern, it would be a place we would visit regularly.
  • Although the zoo is relatively small, count on spending 2-3 hours here.
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