Bern Mini Guide
Why go to Bern?
The historic medieval old town of Bern is formally recognised as a place of special cultural or physical significance, a cultural World Heritage Site. Albert Einstein worked out his theory of relativity while living there. Bern is also the birthplace of Toblerone, with Jean Tobler setting up a confectionery shop there in 1868.
Where is it and How Can I Get There?
Bern is situated in west Switzerland. The airport is relatively small compared to other Swiss airports, so flights are limited. If you cannot find a suitable flight, Basel
have more options and are a short drive to Bern. The road networks are very accessible and there are plenty of underground parking facilities. If you're hiring a car in Switzerland
for the first time we recommend reading our Drive Smart guide to ensure you know the rules of the road and can drive safely in and around Bern.
What’s the Story?
Bern is the capital of Switzerland, although not the largest city. The majority of Bernese people speak German and use the Swiss Franc as currency. Early Bern folklore alludes to Bern’s name originating by the founder deciding the place would be named after the word for bear, the first animal he hunted on an excursion. There have been various theories since, one of which that the Celts related the word Bern to cleft, which makes perfect sense as the city is situated in a horseshoe shape made by the River Aare.
What is There to See and Do?
There are a huge number of museums in Bern including the Albert Einstein House (he lived there while writing the theory of relativity), truly a museum for everyone. Look out for colourful and unique fountains dotted around the city. The main attractions include: Houses of Parliament, botanical gardens, bear pits and the Cathedral at Munsterplatz. Take the funicular railway through the alpine meadows up to Bern's local mountain, the Gurten for great views of the city. It's found in a park which has an excellent restaurant for a gourmet treat. Try and time your visit to coincide with a midday wake up from the local cockerel in the clock tower, you will have a little surprise. Throughout the year you can partake in the various festivals of dance, music, buskers…..and onions.
If I Hire a Car?
Take a short hop to the metallic wave-like architecture of the Zentrum Klee Museum, easy to drive to and great parking. Drive to the picturesque Bern mountains, no need for a Bernese Mountain Dog as there are plenty of watering holes en route and when you arrive.
Shopping and Souvenirs
This will not be a problem as Bern has 6km of sheltered shopping arcades for you to meander through, not mentioning the tucked away gems off the beaten track.
What is There to Eat?
Try raclette, which is less expensive than a full fondue but just as tasty and filling. This is a slow meal, take a seat, fill your glass and sit and relax while eating your chosen foodstuff and the glorious melted cheese. There are copious bars, cafes and restaurants to have lunch and dinner in the old town.
For the night owls there are various clubs in Bern, mainly opening at 2200, entrance fees are around 15 Swiss francs. The city also does civilized chill and relax very well, with jazz bars and cafés.
If you want a city experience with a huge amount of chic 'je ne sais quois', Bern is the place for you.
Bern has so much to see; from the old bridges that cross the Aare to the historic old town, declared a World Heritage Site in 1983. For shoppers, Bern is perfect. It has 6kms of shopping arcades, the most in Europe – look out for the chocolate shops and make sure your hire car in Bern has plenty of storage space!
In Bern old town, a popular destination is the Zytglogge or Time Bell, a medieval clock which operates with musical bells and puppets when it strikes the hour. Bern has many festivals and exhibitions too as well as a thriving art scene.
Common Questions from our customers...
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