A couple of weeks ago I found myself free on a Saturday, so we decided to take a little day trip. My first pick: Bern.
I had gotten a hint of how lovely the capital of Switzerland is when we went there to do our Visa interviews a few years ago, before the move to New York, and then again when coming in by train to visit a friend who lived just outside of town. I decided it was time to take a better look, and so off we went.
Bern is about 1 and 1/2 hours from Zurich, mostly on the autobahn, a smooth ride with a nice scenery. Once there, I recommend leaving your car at the Rathaus Parking, which is easy to find, at walking distance from the city center, and affordable. And then just relax and go browse through the medieval city center, which has been recognised by UNESCO as a Cultural World Heritage Site.
The old town is a lovely place to explore, with its cobblestone streets, fountains, and medieval buildings and churches.
The Kramgasse, with its peculiar mix of old and new, is my favorite: on both sides of the street you can walk under the Lauben, store arcades that are home to a variety of shops and cafés. People are everywhere, browsing shopping windows under the Lauben, walking on the cobblestone pavement, stopping at one of the many fountains to chat or take photos.
Bern is home to lots of adorable little shops (and one really, really great English bookstore!), but one of the distinctive features of the city is the many pubs, clubs and bars housed in old cellars, especially along the Kramgasse.
Another cool thing about the Kramgasse is that it ends with the Zytglogge, a famous clock tower dating back to the 13th century. Known for its astronomical clock, the Zytglogge is also a UNESCO World Culural Heritage Site, and a popular spot with tourists and locals alike.
Then of course there is the Bundeshaus, the House of Parliament, seat of the Swiss Federal Government and the National Councils.
But no visit to Bern is complete without a visit to the Bärenpark. The animal that the city’s name came from has also been depicted on the city’s coat of arms since the early 1200, and since the mid-1400 Bern has had a Bärengraben, a bear pit. To improve the bear’s living conditions and in answer to the many complaints, in the late 90s the city built a 6,000-square-meter site on the eastern bank of the Aare river to give a safer and more comfortable home to the small colony of bears that has called this area home for many many years.
After an entire day walking around we were ready to head home, but I felt like I had only just begun to explore this lovely city, so I am ready to go back for more! Who wants to join me?