Welcome to Bern
The official capital of Switzerland, Bern looks nothing like a major modern city. It more closely resembles a medieval fairytale town, with its Astrological Clock Tower, bear pits (containing real brown bears, which live under the bridge, like furry trolls) and four miles of covered sandstone arcades, filled with ancient apothecaries and mirrored cafes. The twelfth-century Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site, full of ramshackle charm, vintage shops and potted geraniums, the Town Hall and the towering Munster Cathedral are 15th century, while the newer areas, near the banks of the jade-green River Aare, feature grand museums, theatres, wide boulevards and cosy bars and restaurants.
Bern is remarkably small, picturesque, and cheerful - and the city sets its own course. The official time is set by the Clock Tower, and all distances over the Canton of Bern are measured from here.
Famous past residents include Albert Einstein and artist Paul Klee, both of whom have very impressive museums dedicated to their lives and works. The city’s symbol is the bear, but few cities have living embodiments of their symbol gambolling on the river banks. Yet in the mythical, winding streets of Bern, it all seems perfectly normal.
The Astrolonomical Clock (Zytglogge)
The Rose Garden
Hotel Innere Enge
Shopping is excellent in Bern, and there are plenty of antique and vintage shops, particularly around the Munster. The ‘Lauben’ (covered arcades) are idea for shopping in bad weather. Shops open 6 days a week, till 7pm.
The Zoo is a great day out for families- there are over 200 species, and amazingly, most of it is free. The reptile house carries a small charge. The Zoo is open all year round.
Bern is full of galleries and museums. Visit the Einstein House, when the great scientist developed his Theory of Relativity, The Bernisches Historisches Museum which showcases the history of Switzerland, the Zentrum Paul Klee, The Natural History Museum and the Swiss Alpine Museum, amongst others. Some are free, and a Berncard offers discounted entry on various attractions
Try Emmenthal cheese, made in the nearby region- the Emmenthal show dairy offers a full historical perspective on the making of the great cheese.
The Bern area has 12 Winter sports areas suitable for families, including skiing, snow-shoe trekking, sledging and cross-country skiing.
Take cash, in Swiss Francs. Many smaller businesses don’t accept credit cards, and Euros are not valid currency.
Most shops close on Sundays, as do many attractions- so it’s a good day to get into the countryside and explore the Alpine regions.
Bern is a very small and compact city, easy to reach by train or motorway. It has a large, central train station, where hourly express trains go to Interlaken, Zurich and Lucerne.
BUS AND TRAM
The bus and tram service runs regularly throughout the city. Tickets are available from dispensers at stops, and cost CHF 1.90 (for a maximum six stops) or CHF 3.20. A day pass for the city network is CHF12 (Zones 10/11). Late night Moonliner (www.moonliner.ch - the site is in German) night buses depart Friday and Saturday nights from Bahnhofplatz at 12.45am, 2am and 3.15am; but normal passes aren't valid. Night fares start at CHF 5.
Info: www.bernmobil.ch 031 327 27 27
At the Tourist Office, you can buy a Berncard which offers discounts on fares and cheap admission to some attractions and museums. CHF 12 per day (CHF 9 for reductions.)
There is a local S-Bahn train service that’s very efficient and runs from the main station into the surrounding suburbs.
It’s a great city for walking, not so easy by car- city centre parking tends to be expensive. In blue zones you can park for free for 1 hour from Monday-Saturday between 08.00-19.00 hours with a blue disc. Blue discs can be bought at petrol stations, restaurants, kiosks, police stations, and garages.
Unlimited parking is permitted in the white marked parking bays, but these are rare, so check the information on nearby signs.
Park and Ride is a good idea, and can be found at Ausserholligen, Neufeld and Wankdorf.
This website has useful car park information: http://www.car-parking.eu/switzerland/bern
Cycling in Bern is easy and popular. With a passport/ID and a 20 CHF deposit, you can hire a bike for 4 hours for free from Bern Rollt (http://www.bernrollt.ch). After that it’s 1 CHF an hour.
Bikes are available from Milchgässli/Hauptbahnhof (the main station), open all year. Hirschengraben and Zeughausgasse, open from May to October.
There are taxi ranks beside the main station and several more taxi stands in the city. You can also hail them on the street or outside large hotels. Bernmobil is the capital's transport system; a BernCard is valid on its trams and buses. A free bike service is also an option for getting around.
Holidays in Bern
A SWISS ROAD TRIP
From 13 days