With an urban population of just over 120.000 (over 600.000 in the metropolitan area), Bern is the de facto capital of Switzerland. Located in the canton of Bern (the second most populous Swiss canton) and right upon the Aare River, Bern is a quiet and tidy city. The official language spoken in Bern is German (and a few of its variations, such as Bernese German) but many people speak English, should you have questions.
Located in the temperate climate zone, temperatures around Bern tend to fluctuate heavily depending on the season. With a generally-cool temperature holding sway over the lands, you sure need to pack those thick clothes. Precipitation is frequent so consider lugging along that umbrella as well. But, before we delve deeper into the meaning of the city, let’s just say that Switzerland has its own rules when it comes to the weather. Adhere to these rules with proper preparation and you shall be welcomed with the most awe-inspiring sights that you have ever beheld.
Bern’s commuter rail service is called the Bern S-Bahn. Handling more than 175.000 passengers during weekdays (counting in the metropolitan area as well), it is the most frequent choice of transport in the area. Ticket prices may be a bit high for your standards but considering that you are in Switzerland, you should sometimes turn a blind eye to such things. What we mean to say is: do take a comfortable amount of money with you if you travel to Switzerland, for it is not the cheapest place in the world (yet the vistas and the fresh air are worth every coin).
Divided into five distinct lines, Bern’s tram system is a thoroughly-planned and systematic masterpiece. The 5 distinct lines are as follows: the Bern Bahnhof – Weissenbühl (line 3), the Fischermätteli – Worb Dorf (line 6), the Bümpliz – Ostring (Line 7), the Brünnen Westside Bahnhof – Saali (line 8), and the Wabern – Wankdorf Bahnhof (line 9). There are 102 stops along these lines in total, so choose accordingly when you intend to make certain stops. Also, trams in Bern are a bit cheaper.
With 35 stops throughout the city, the trolleybus system is another convenient way to get around town (not to mention the buses). Three lines operate at this moment: the Holligen–Bahnhof Bern–Bollwerk–Brückfeld–Neufeld P+R (line 11 with 11 stops), the Länggasse–Bahnhof Bern–Schosshalde–Zentrum Paul Klee (line 12 with 17 stops) and the Bahnhof Bern–Bollwerk–Wyleregg–Bahnhof Wankdorf (line 20 with 10 stops).
Located near the town of Belp, just outside Bern, the Bern Airport is the main terminal serving the capital. If you ask around for details, do know that it is colloquially known as Bern-Belp or Belpmoos. Air-traffic isn’t all that heavy, so crowd-problems are completely inexistent.
SIGHTS AND ACTIVITIES:
Many tourists who visit Bern first hit the famous Zentrum Paul Klee. An art museum dedicated to the renowned Paul Klee, the Zentrum is home to more than 4.000 masterpieces. Even though this may seem like an impressive number, it only represents about 40% of the artist’s palette.
The Bern Historical Museum should be your next stop. The second largest historical museum in Switzerland, the establishment was built by the famous architect André Lambert in 1894. The castle-environment alone is sure to affect you on a deep and emotional level but what’s even more interesting is the adjacent Einstein Museum. Dedicated to the life and work of the renowned physicist Albert Einstein, the museum even offers you a glimpse at his 1921 Nobel Certificate. If you are on a knowledge-seeking path, do not leave out this fine establishment for you may also have the chance to visit the place where Einstein has lived for a period (the renowned Einsteinhaus).
Before we go any further, we must advise you to visit the Old City in its entirety, for its marvels are of unparalleled beauty. Within the bounds of the aforementioned area lies the Zytglogge (the multifunctional medieval tower of the Old City). Throughout history, it has served as a prison tower, a guard tower and a clock tower but now it is but a breath-taking monument there to cause you gasps. Built more than 800 years ago, the tower has undergone a few redecorations. What’s most interesting about it is the 15th-century astronomical clock that resides within its hard shell. You cannot visit Bern (or the Old City for that matter) without admiring the creativity of past artisans and masons.
Next up, you should hop over to Bern’s famous Museum of Fine Arts (Kunstmuseum Bern). With an impressive collection of over 50.000 art pieces, the establishment is the oldest fine arts museum in Switzerland. Note that some these creations originate from as far back in the past as the Middle Ages. If you happen to find yourself on Hodler Street, do consider basking in these creations (oh, and do take your children with you if you have them there).
One of the largest Swiss Reformed churches, Bern’s Church of the Holy Ghost is something worth admiring both from a distance and from within. In its current state, it can harbour more than 2.000 people. Also located in the Old City, you should not miss it by any means.
We must now draw your attention to the beauty and the splendour of Switzerland. No matter what you do, you should rent a car and get to the outskirts of the city to admire its natural environment. You might even consider taking a road trip along the Aare River. The water itself is usually cold but that does not prevent you from admiring its scintillating surface.
Bern is a city that flawlessly reflects the characteristics of its home country. Clean, organised, quiet and lovely – these are the attributes that pertain to the proud capital of Switzerland.