Easy to fall in love with at first glance, Switzerland’s tree-encircled capital city sits perched above the stunning greenish blue Aare River, curling through not so much an urban setting as a slice of fairytale lanes dotted with colorful fountains depicting historical or legendary figures. Doubtless, there is plenty for the visitor to explore.
Bern is Good City for Relaxing Strolls
Certainly not for late-night club hoppers or even those travelers on a quest for Europe’s attention getting monuments and museums, Bern is a hidden gem for those who appreciate a relaxing wander, a stroll through modest museums, and for those want to step away from it all. Bern is not as in-your-face touristy as Paris, Rome, or London may be, but that’s wherein its charm lies.
Unlike many other cities, the rain won’t stop visitors from taking a promenade al fresco. The ubiquitous archways that line the streets provide cover. It’s nearly possible to walk from one end of the city to the other without getting more than a few drops wet.
Bern’s Zytglogge – Clock Tower
Perhaps the focal point of Bern’s city sights and a good way for visitors to orient themselves in town is the 16th century golden clock tower or Zytglogge. Located at the crest of Kramgrasse, modest crowds gather round the intricately detailed, gold encrusted timepiece in order to see a parade of costumed bears march in a circuit on the hour.
An impressive astronomical clock details an extraordinary amount of information, including moon phases and sunrises throughout the year. Guided tours of the clock tower and its colorful history are available during the summer and the winter holidays.
Bern’s Bärengraben – Bear Pit
One of the city’s favorite tourist stops is now closed after Pedro, its furry 28 year old occupant was put to rest. History holds that the city’s namesake comes from the first animal killed in its forests, a bear.
The Bear Pit, located at the eastern end of the Nydeggbrücke (bridge), has symbolized the city for several hundreds of years. Now, construction of a new, more bear friendly area is due to be completed in October 2009. Adding onto the old pit, the future bear zone will stretch to the Aare River, giving the animals more room to roam and catch fish in the water.
Bern’s Museum Collection
Especially ideal for a rainy or cold day, Bern provides refuges full of information about the area in the following:
Swiss Theatrical Museum
Museum of Fine Art
Swiss Alpine Museum
Bern Historical Museum/ Einstein Museum
Swiss Rifle Museum
Natural History Museum
Museum of Communication
Day Trips to Interlaken and the Swiss Alps from Bern
Snowpeaked mountain tops will undoubtedly tempt the outdoorsy to discover what’s beyond the horizon. Visitors to Bern find themselves in a great central location for branching out into Switzerland’s alpine terrain for the day.
Skiing or summer sightseeing from a funicular in Interlaken is 56 kilometers or 35 miles away from Bern, easily accessible by train. From Interlaken, the famous Alp peak of Jungfrau is 20 kilometers or 12 miles south. Enveloped by Alps, the Swiss scenery can be enjoyed by trains that take visitors up the mountains to viewpoints.
It may take some effort to filter through shops adorned with toy bears, knives, and chocolate, but behind all that, Switzerland’s capital city tells its tale of legend, people, and history to the interested and savvy traveler.