What to See in Bern, Switzerland in a Day

by on December 6th, 2010
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Bern, Switzerland’s unique capital city has a special place in my heart. It is incredibly charming but nothing like a capital city. All capital cities have something special about them and also something common. I have been to London, Berlin, Rome, Paris and Delhi. The busy business-like atmosphere, the big city feel is common to all of them. When I first went to Bern in 2003, I stepped out of the Hauptbahnhof with the same expectation.

Bern, however, felt like a small village turned into a small town. I have been there later in 2006 and also 2009. There had been some changes. There is now an impressive modern looking glass structure covering the bus stops and pedestrian subways just outside the Bern bahnof. But the look and feel of the whole town has remained the same.

There are plenty of buses and trams, as Switzerland’s public transport system is highly developed. But in Bern, I prefer to walk. If you don’t have any specific job to do and just want to enjoy the place, just start walking from the bahnhof across the Holy Spirit Church on Spitalgasse. Everything is within a short walking distance. The sidewalks are all covered so in bad weather, shoppers are well protected. After a while you’ll reach a square. Take a right. On Tuesdays and Thursdays here at Barenplatz, there is a traditional market where local farmers sell vegetables and flowers . Enjoy its lively atmosphere and mix with the locals and you are already at Bundesplatz or the Parliament Square.

The Parliament Square is a big open area in front of the impressive Parliament buildings. Previously, it was the parking lot. But now there are dancing fountains. Last time we came here with our kid and had such fun running and getting wet. To enter the Parliament Building you need to have prior booking.

Come back straight to the same square and turn right on Marktgasse. Now you will see the first of many 16th century fountains that define the streets of Bern. These 11 public fountains tell many stories through their sculptures. In medieval times these were an important source of water and also a meeting place for the people. The underground water supply connecting these fountains is intact to this day. There are tours available that tell the stories behind these fountains.

You can walk on the sheltered sidewalks or just on the road. Although you will see trams on tram lines and even few cars, it is a pedestrian priority road and you will see how people are chatting and walking slowly and tourists are gathering around the fountains, which are right in the middle of the streets. While walking, you will see some doors on the street floor which take you down to some underground shops. Next on your way is the Clock tower or Zytglogge. Built in 1191, this clock tower is as old as Bern. The astronomical clock was, however, added in 1530. It was actually the western city gate of Bern and also acted as a prison tower for “Priests’ whores.” When the clock bell rings, you can see a golden figure striking the bell with a hammer.

On the covered arcades, you can now window shop some of the costliest brands of the world. You will find a sign that says “Einstein Haus.” Albert Einstein lived in an apartment at 49 Kramgasse in Bern from 1903 to 1905, and it was the beginning of the most fruitful period in his career. The apartment is open to public viewing.

Thus, walking on narrow cobblestone street or elevated sidewalk through the historic heart of the medieval city of Bern, which is also a UNESCO World heritage site, and wondering at the architecture and strange small town atmosphere of the capital city, you will reach the bridge on the Aare River. Enjoy the crystal green water of the narrow fairytale river and the red roofed sandstone houses of the medieval village beside it. The water is so clean that you can see the swimmers’ bodies under the water even from the bridge. Beside it are two main attractions of Bern. The Bear pit has recently been turned into Bear Park where the Bern’s heraldic animals can run, climb, fish and play beside the river and visitors can enjoy the view and watch as they live their life amidst nature.

Just on the left goes up the road to the Rosengarten. It is a beautiful walk uphill and you can have some really nice pictures of the old town and Aare loop from the top. There are a variety of roses and also other flowers like irises and rhododendrons. There is a restaurant up there where you can rest your legs and enjoy the food and the great view.

After you come down, spend the rest of your time strolling amidst the medieval village; you can go back to the Clock Tower and turn right from there to see the KornHaus, an old granary and festival place. You can take a tour or visit the Cathedral of Bern.

Now, you may not like Bern as a capital city as it sure lacks the big city glamour. But its old world charm will cast its magic. And finally, that is what a trip to Europe is all about.

Sources: Bern Official site

MySwitzerland.com


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