The hilly and mystical Swiss capital with a beautifully preserved medieval city centre puts a different twist to luxury. The destination itself is quaint with beautiful landscapes; however, Bernese hospitality is an acquired taste. Bernese luxury exists in discrete abundance and the quality of service that they deliver at any given moment, varies. People make a destination beautiful and as much as I was exploring Bern for its luxury, it was the ordinary Bernese, the bus and tram drivers/passengers that turned out to be the most delightful. Nevertheless, something about Bern enchanted me.
Bern’s 6 km of uniquely covered shopping promenades are delightful. They offer everything from stylish boutiques, exquisite jewellry shops, traditional markets, simple second-hand shops to shopping malls of any kind.
What actually makes Bern quaint is the unique cityscape; Bern’s Old town from Nydegg Bridge to Buben Square has been distinguished by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1983. The Clock Tower (Zytglogge). Bern takes great pride in this masterpiece of medieval clock making with an astronomical calendar clock and movement that dates from 1530.Uniquely lined on its cobbled streets are over 100 historic Water Fountains most of which played a key role for Bern’s water supply. Eleven the fountains still retain the original tableaus with their beautiful allegorical figures and each telling a story of its own. They were a meeting place where people gossiped, washed, as well as draw clean drinking water.
The fountains (Justice Fountain or Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen, Ogre Fountain or Kindlifresserbrunnen, Zähringen Fountain
or Zähringerbrunnen, and many more) dating from the mid-16th century bear witness to the wealth of the era’s bourgeoisie.
Bern City is quite small and very accessible, so whatever your interest, you should be able to cover good ground in no time. It is a destination for the historic and cultural traveller. One its many attractions Is the Rose Garden. A mecca for flower lovers, with a wonderful view of Bern, it is also a great place to unwind or even to entertain or dine at its restaurant.
Some of the attractions include:
- The parliament building, seat of Swiss government and parliament sits majestically in the symbolic square.
- The Aare River: The Aare is the longest wholly Swiss river. It originates from the Oberaar glacier in the eastern Bernese Alps, flows through lakes Brienz and Thun, passes by the Federal capital of Bern, is channelled into Lake Biel, follows the southern foot of the Jura range and finally flows into the Rhine at Koblenz, in north-western Switzerland. Passenger boats operate on the lakes as well as the river section from Biel to Solothurn.
Swimmers use the river to commute or for pleasure. The Aare is potable.
- Einstein House:This was home to Albert Einstein from 1902 to 1909. Apparently, this is where his first writing on the Special Theory of Relativity commenced. The Einstein House also has tea rooms at street level serving tea, coffee, cakes and other meals all day.
• BearPark: The 6000m2 BearPark spreads along the banks of the Aare River and provides a species appropriate home for Bern’s bears. The Park has been a landmark since 25 October 2009. According to legend, the bear was the first animal to be hunted and killed by the founder of the city, Duke Berchtold V. von Zähringen, and gave the new city its name. The first official documents about a Bear Pit in Bern close to the Käfigturm (Prison Tower) date back to 1441, the fourth Bear Pit opened in 1857. However, today’s BearPark, which is right next to the old Bear Pit was built in 2009 and is the fifth new home for Bern’s bears. The creators of the new, bear-friendly BearPark have built a landscape where Björk, Finn and bear cub Ursina can climb, fish and play, but also retreat and relax.
• Zentrum Paul Klee: Home to 4,000 works of art by world-renowned artist Paul Klee with over 40% of his complete works housed in the “three waves” designed by Architect Renzo Piano amidst a cultural landscape.
• Museum of Fine Arts: Featuring eight centuries of art in Bern with over 3,000 famous paintings and sculptures.
• City Theatre: This is the place to go to experience about 30 original productions with over 300 performances in the genres of opera/musical, dram and ballet/dance.
• Bern Historical Museum: This is the place where you experience Bern in a time capsule – from the lake dwellers to the ancient Romans and on to the genius Albert Einstein, whose life is presented in 1,200m2 of elaborately staged original pieces, writings and film documents.
• Everything Swiss at the Swiss Brand Museum: This tiny museum which opened in spring 2015 in the old tollhouse near the BearPark provides an insight into everything Swiss business sector through its innovative companies, organisations and products.
If you are into museums, buy the Museum Card. The card with costs CHF28 for 24 hours or CHF35 for 48 hours enables free entry to every museum in the Swiss Capital. The museum card is valid exclusively for overnight visitors and allows the bearer access to collections of all museums of the City.
Shopping in Bern
This is my favourite part of Bern. Shopping in Bern is not like any other city. There are three sides to it all. The 4 miles of historic arcades fronting baroque standstone buildings make shopping in Bern pleasurable. Bern’s unique old town is the “jewel” of the destination. It comprises of beautiful arcades of shops offering everything from boutiques, cafes, jewelry, confectionary and all things nice.
Markets are the highlights of Bern’s streets. Every Tuesday and Saturday, you will find everything from fresh produce to belt buckles. There is a popular Christmas Market held from end of November to end December.
The Westside shopping complex offers a modern recreation covering 23,500m2 with 53 different shops.
How to travel around Bern
The good news is that everyone staying overnight in hotel in Bern automatically gets a Bern Ticket. The Bern ticket allows you to travel freely all public transportation including buses, trams as well as free rides with the Gurten and Marzilibahn, the elevator to the Cathedral Platform and to and from Bern Airport
Events & Festivals:
March to May 2015
Bern International Jazz Festival: For ten weeks, Bern hosts a reputable collection of world-class Jazz artists with performance all across the City. The first festival took place in 1976, and it has every year since. Leading jazz stars channel jazz greats like B.B. King, Michel Camilo, Oscar Peterson, Fats Domino, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald and Etta James.
Every May: Bern Grand Prix
The Bern Grand Prix is not about fast cars. It is about some 25,000 runners participating in a ten-mile run.
Every July: Gurten Festival
Bern’s local mountain Gurten is 864 metres above sea level. It has a distinctive Funicular which offers a gorgeous view over Bern. Gurten also hosts a four-day music festival for fans of rock and pop music. Thousands of fans make their pilgrimage to Bern’s local mountain to celebrate this festival.
Professional artists bring a rich variety of cultural acts to the street.
Fourth Monday in November
Onion Market (Zibelemarit): A traditional festival held every fourth Monday in November. At this festival, farmers bring over 50 tons of onions to Bern.
Travelling to Bern from the London
Bern can be reached either by train or car from other major Swiss cities. Thanks to SkyWork Airlines, there are direct daily flights from London Southend to Bern.
Discover more at Bern.com