Hello everyone! Do you know that the capital of Switzerland is neither Zürich nor Geneva? It’s called Bern. Actually I didn’t know that until I decided to move to Zürich. All my friends were saying:”Oh! You’re gonna live in the capital.” But then I told them:” No, the capital is Bern.”
Actually, I’ve been here twice, once on early spring and once in summer. I don’t really feel it’s capital, instead, I feel it’s more like a historical town with old fountains and a river like jade.
In 1983, the historic old town in the centre of Bern became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Bern is ranked among the world’s top ten cities for the best quality of life. When you come here you will know why, there are not so many attractions you should run between. Instead, I feel that I just need to take a walk, sometimes sit down on the grass by the lake and have a picnic, and you will see what Bern offers to you. This is one of the few cities that I didn’t feel I needed to hurry up, maybe because it’s small, maybe because the general atmosphere is like this.
I suggest a whole day in sunny weather here. What I recommend is the University of Bern and the park in front of it, the Parliament Building, the Cathedral of Bern, the Zytglogge, the fountains, the Nydegg bridge, and of course, the Bear pit.
The historical fountains, Zytglogge and Einsteinhaus
When you get off your train, I suggest you walk on Spitalgasse, Marktgasse, Kramgasse, and Gerechtigkeitsgasse until you reach the Nydegg bridge. On your way, you will see a lot of Renaissance allegorical statues on public fountains in the Old Town. One of the more interesting fountains is the Kindlifresserbrunnen (Bernese German: Child Eater Fountain) which is claimed to represent a Jew, the Greek god Chronos or a Fastnacht figure that scares disobedient children.
When you walk about half way, you will see the Zytglogge. Built in the early 13th century, it has served the city as guard tower, prison, clock tower, centre of urban life and civic memorial.
Despite the many redecorations and renovations it has undergone in its 800 years of existence, the Zytglogge is one of Bern’s most recognizable symbols and a major tourist attraction.
If you keep walking you will see Einsteinhaus Museum on you right side. Since Einstein lived here in Bern, you can go to his flat to have a look. The living conditions of Einstein and his family are shown accurately in the apartment on the second floor with furniture from that time. Einstein’s biography and his life’s work are presented on the third floor. It’s open everyday from 10:00 to 17:00 but for more info about special closing time, tickets and guided tours please click here.
The Bear pit
Keep walking and you’ll see the the Nydegg bridge. which is very close to the Bear pit.
According to Wikipedia, “The bear has long served as symbol of Bern. Legend has it that, in 1191, Duke Berthold V of Zähringen vowed to choose as namesake the first animal his hunt met in the wood that was to be chopped down for his new city. As Konrad Justingerschronicle puts it:
Then they caught a bear first, which is why the city was called Bern, and so the citizens had their coat and shield, which was a black bear in a white shield, going upright.”
If you walk up from here it’s the Rose Garden, which gives you a great view of the UNESCO World Heritage Site – old town of Bern. I suggest that you go down and sit by the river, relax and maybe have a picnic. 🙂
The Cathedral of Bern and the Parliament Building
On your way back you don’t necessarily need to take the same route. Both the Cathedral of Bern and the Parliament Building will be on the left side of the route you walked before.
The Bern Cathedral is a Swiss Reformed cathedral. Built in the Gothic style, its construction started in 1421. Its tower, with a height of 100.6 m, was only completed in 1893. It is the tallest cathedral in Switzerland and is a Cultural Property of National Significance.
The spire of the Cathedral is open every day. Climb up the 312 steps and enjoy the magnificent view across the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site and, on a fine day, enjoy the breathtaking view of the Bernese alps with the peaks of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau! On your way down, you will see the heaviest and most important bells of Switzerland.
If you are interested please click here to know more about opening hours of the church and tower and click here about entry prices for the tower.
The Parliament Building (Federal Palace) is the name of the building in Bern in which the Swiss Federal Assembly (federal parliament) and the Federal Council are housed. It consists of a central parliament building and two wings (eastern and western) housing government departments and a library. Unfortunately you can only visit the inside with booked tours unless there are some other events. For more info about tours and visiting the inside please click here.
There is a square in front of the Parliament building with a lot of restaurants, cafes etc, offering Italian food or authentic swiss food such as cheese fondue and rösti. (I didn’t really like the cheese fondue, bot because I don’t like cheese, it’s just……anyway, if you have never tried it before, be prepared. :P)
One tip for you. Do walk around the Parliament building and at the back of it, you will have wonderful views of the city as well as the swiss alps far away. It’s just like a painting with the snowy mountains as background, and if you have time, walk down the small path to the river, then you’ll realize why people live here have the best quality of life.
University of Bern
The last spot that I loved is the University campus. It’s located a little bit high than the city and you can see the top of the tall building in the whole city and agin, in nice weather, the snowy mountains as background. The photos that I took here are my favorite in Bern.
This is my trip to Bern, and I can assure you if you come in good weather and good mood, you’ll definitely fall in love with the city.