Famed for its bears, its beer and its beautifully preserved medieval architecture, picturesque Bern delivers a slice of urban Switzerland that might just surprise you.
Surrounded on three sides by the turquoise waters of the Aare river, Switzerland’s unassuming capital combines the charm of a small provincial town with the entertainment, cultural and culinary credentials of a big city.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983, Bern’s old town invites you to amble its cobblestone streets and atmospheric arcades, to visit its 13th century Zytglogge and imposing 600 year old cathedral, to marvel at masterpieces by Picasso, Dalì, Kandinsky and Klee, to swim in the Aare, to take coffee or champagne at Adriano’s, to sample some fresh chocolate from Läderach or a cold beer from one of the city’s almost 200 craft breweries ... all whilst pondering Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity, which the renowned physicist developed whilst resident in Bern between 1903 and 1905!
If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Bern, the majority of the best places are within the old town. At the luxury end of the market, The Bellevue Palace, adjacent to the Federal Parliament in the heart of the city, offers elegant five star accommodation, warm hospitality and stunning views of the Aare and Bernese Alps. Described as ‘the official guesthouse of the Swiss government’, the hotel and its various bars and restaurants have long been favourites of politicians, foreign royalty, gourmets and wine connoisseurs, and it remains one of the spots to be seen in the city. But if you want something slightly less regal, there are numerous three, four and five star properties within walking distance of all the major sights, all of which meet or exceed expected standards for their class.
First time visitors will be pleased to hear that there’s a lot more to Swiss cuisine than melted cheese and chocolate. In fact, the culinary scene here is buzzing with creative chefs in and around the city combining Swiss staples with international flavours in increasingly innovative ways. From Michelin star restaurants such as Steinhalle, and Wein & Sein to the historic Kornhauskeller with its traditional Bernese specialities and magnificent ceiling frescoes, Bern’s diverse dining offer covers everything from cosy, comfort food to haute cuisine. And although it is better known for its beer, the city is also an intriguing destination for the wine lover.
Bern’s central position and proximity to some of Switzerland’s most famous vineyards makes the city an excellent choice for wine focused excursions. Guided tours for individuals and groups are offered by a number of companies here and to a number of acclaimed regions, perhaps most notably the Lavaux appellations Dézaley and Calamin. Though each trip is distinct, cultural tours and tasting are at the heart of the programme with the opportunity to sample (and purchase) wines which are rarely available outside Switzerland.
So, if you’re looking for a laid back capital with an easy confidence, look no further than Bern. This city of flags and water fountains, brown bears and craft breweries, food and flower markets, is also a wine city waiting to be discovered!
Gerechtigkeitsgasse 56, Bern, 3011
Helvetiaplatz 5, Bern, 3005
Münstergasse 50, Bern, 3011
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