One night in Bern, Switzerland

We spent the last night of our Switzerland trip in the city of Bern, which is the municipal centre of the Bernese Oberland and is a world away from the stunning natural scenery of the alps. The city of Bern was built around a loop in the Aare river and now days has expanded past this geographical boundary. Bridges cross the river at various points to help connect the city.

A view of the snow capped Bernese Oberland alps from Bern

Bern although small, is the 5th most populous city in Switzerland and is built on varying elevations making the use of funicular railways and elevators necessary. The city is quite picturesque with beautiful gardens, quaint cottages and a stunning view of the distant alpine skyline. The wide cobblestoned streets mark it as an important city during the medieval period and the old clock tower and 15th century gothic Cathedral are testament to this.

Bern’s main street, historic buildings and cobblestoned streets

Despite the picturesque old town setting, the city still has a very cosmopolitan vibe with a lively night scene, large shopping centres and efficient transportation hub. We decided to visit Bern as it was an easy way to break our onwards journey to Paris as the train timetables did not line up. We ended up spending a pleasant 24 hour layover shopping, sightseeing and eating. We also happened to stumble upon a fair at Gurten Mountain and a pop up ‘Cheap Mondays’ sale in the middle of an outdoor square!

The clock tower in the centre of Bern town.

Things to see

  • The town clock tower is a demonstration of Swiss clock making brilliance and marks the time every hour with a clockwork display
  • Rose Garden, is where you can see a view of the city from a hilltop lookout point
  • Gurten mountain, is Bern’s local mountain with a range of activities including a miniature railway. You can get here by foot or take the local funicular railway
  • Albert Einstein museum
  • Münster cathedral, the famous gothic church of Bern
  • The Bear Park, which has been recently built to provide a natural environment for its three resident bears
  • Bern Botanical Garden contains the alpinum where a large selection of alpine plants and Swiss flora and fauna are showcased
  • Bergisches Historisches Museum (History Museum) here you can explore the city’s history

Albert Einstein museum:

Bern for a short period was home to Albert Einstein; a museum of his life and work accomplishments has been set up in his old apartment. The living areas are quite small, although this did not impede Einstein in completing some of his greatest work. Einstein’s theory of relativity was written during his time in Bern.

The dining room of Albert Einstein’s apartment, it has now been turned into a museum.

The museum also houses a cafe downstairs where you can have a bite to eat or drink. The decor is avant garde and feels very different to the early 1900s decor of Albert Einstein’s apartment.

Food

Restaurant Lötschberg:

Whilst in Bern we decided to hunt down some fondue and came across the highly recommended Restaurant Lötschberg. Their fondue was incredibly rich; made with wine, shallots and 250gm of cheese per person! We chose to go for the classic cheese blend option which was served with bread and potatoes for dipping. The melted cheese had a strong flavour and was incredibly decadent when dipped with bread. We unfortunately, only managed to get through half the fondue pot as it was incredibly rich!

All that fondue served with bread and boiled potatoes

Fürst Bakery:

The other highlight in Bern were the German style bakeries scattered around the town. I decided to sample a fantastic pretzel for breakfast the following day! We had this at Fürst Bakery which was close to our AirBnB.

Pretzel from Fürst bakery.

Bern is a great place for a short stopover, there is quite a lot to do within the city, although a couple of nights maximum suffices. The city of Bern gives you a real taste of local Swiss life, with a stunning backdrop of the alpine skyline. Bern on the surface appears to be a quaint, old world city, however on closer inspection exudes modern European polish and sass.

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