Biel Mini Guide
Biel in a Nutshell
Biel or Bienne is a town in the canton of Bern
in Switzerland. It is unique as it is multilingual with both German and French being spoken simultaneously, hence the two city names. The town lies under the Jura Mountains on the shores of Lake Biel. It is famous for being at the heart of the Swiss watchmaking industry.
How Can I Get There?
The nearest major city is Bern, which is 30 minutes away by car or train.
What Can I See in the Town?
Head for the pretty old town and see the 15th century gothic church and the medieval guildhalls. You will come across many decorated fountains and can stop at one of the cafes which have so much character in this part of the city. Leave the old town via Seevorstadt, the tree lined road that takes you to the lake, along there you will find the cultural quarter. There you can visit the Neuhaus Museum for a little art and history or the Schwab Museum for finding out about the town’s first inhabitants. The Centre Pasqu Art is a cultural centre dedicated to contemporary art, photography and cinema. In February the city hosts the annual Holy Week carnival, one of the most spectacular in Europe, quite appropriate for a city that loves to celebrate.
Out and About…
Visit the Jura Mountains - take the cable car from Biel and it’s a seven minute trip up to Magglingen, where many mountain walks start. Head for the port and take a cruise on the lake and see St Peter’s Island. You can also cruise down the River Aare or take in the three lakes tour (Biel, Neuchatel and Murten). Why not visit a vineyard while you are there? The villages of Twann and Ligerz produce wine, go for a tasting or wait for the autumn wine festivals, just after harvest.
Tell me About the Cuisine
The local cuisine is most famous for its fresh-water perch caught on the lake, but also for the Marc and Trebor sausages. Seasonal favourites include asparagus and venison but you will also find classics like fondue and rosti.
Where can I Stay?
The 4 star Elite Art Deco Swiss Quality Hotel is right in the town centre and just 10 minutes walk from the old town. Try Mediterranean specialities at the Brasserie Restaurant or have a drink at Baramundo Bar. The hotel has an incredible art deco façade and is furnished throughout in the same manner.
Biel (also know as Bienne) is a much overlooked city, the 10th largest in Switzerland but an absolute jewel. It’s the home of Swiss watchmaking and there’s a watchmaking museum where you can trace the development of the craft. Biel is also the start of a cruise known as the ‘Three Lakes Cruise’ starting from Lake Biel and heading into Lakes Neuchâtel and Murten.
You could take your hire car from Biel to try something unusual – quality Swiss wine from the vineyards nearby. Biel is also at the foot of the Jura and a funicular railway takes you up to the top of Magglingen.