Bern or Berne is the federal city (i.e. capital) of Switzerland. I visited once, but missed the bears in the bear pit as it was winter and too cold for our furry friends. I did see them this time. As we didn’t stay for the night, I didn’t spot the other type of bear. Wink wink.
The old town of Bern is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and thanks to its six kilometres of arcades – the locals refer to them as ‘Lauben‘ – boasts on of the longest weather-sheltered shopping promenades in Europe.
The medieval air of this city with its many fountains, sandstone facades, narrow streets and historic towers give Bern a cosy feeling.
The elevated Rose Garden above the Bear Park and the platform of the 101-metre-high cathedral tower offer the best views of the old town round which the River Aare flows.
The former entrenchments and bastions drop down steeply to the river. The boutiques, bars and cabaret stages of the old town, some of which are located in vaulted cellars, and the small street cafes attract locals as well as a lot of tourists.
Although Bern has a very good public transport network it is best to explore the city centre on foot.
The Zentrum Paul Klee situated on the outskirts of the city houses the most comprehensive collection of works by the artist Paul Klee.
The Albert Einstein House bears testimony to the physics genius’ stay in Bern at the start of the 20th century and may ideally be combined with a visit to the Einstein Museum. With the History Museum, Art Museum, Swiss Alpine Museum and Communication Museum Bern offers a very varied range of exhibitions.
Curia Confoederationis Helveticae
Bern is the seat of Switzerland’s government. The Curia (Bundeshaus) rises above the city just a stone’s throw away from the railway station. The doors to the Houses of Parliament are open to visitors most of the time.
In summer the River Aare provides an opportunity for the ultimate bathing experience; very good, experienced swimmers allow themselves to drift along in the clean Aare while enjoying a view of the Houses of Parliament.
The Botanical Gardens are also located along the river, as is the Dählhölzli Zoo and the old Matte district. Bern and bears, the cities heraldic beast, are inseparable. A visit to the Bear Park, habitat of a family of bears, is a must-do.
In the squares of the city centre colourful weekly markets present their wares. The Onion Market (Zibelemärit) which takes place on the fourth Monday in November is particularly worth visiting: visitors to the traditional market dedicated to onions start pouring into the city in the early hours.
With all the flags, banners and heraldry. With the Zytglogge. With the grey medueval buildings, Bern oozes Playmobil town. I love it. Bern isn’t probably top of your mind when you think of Swiss cities, but it certainly deserves a daytrip.
With the help of MySwitzerland.