Bern – The Beautiful Capital of Switzerland
Bern is a truly beautiful city, with numerous sights that attract lots of tourists every year. The old town has many historic sites to show, so it is no wonder that in 1983 it became a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site. Being the capital of Switzerland and the country’s fifth most populous city, Bern is one of the world’s highest ranking cities in terms of quality of life.
History shows that it was founded sometime in the 12th century, and legend tells that its name was given by its founder Berchtold V, Duke of Zähringen. It is said that he decided to name the city after the first animal that he would see on his next hunting trip, which was a bear. Now that you think about it, Bern really does sound a little like ‘bear’, doesn’t it?
If that piece of information sounded interesting to you, then maybe we should also tell you about the city’s beautiful Bear Park, along the River Aare. Originally only a bear pit, the park offers now 6,000 square meters (64,583 square feet) of space for the majestic animals. The pit is still part of the park, and the bears can access it freely.
Also a significant landmark of the capital is the imposing Parliament House (Bundeshäuser), which is the official seat of the country’s parliament and government. Built in 1902 in a very beautiful Florentine style, the central building of the grand complex flaunts a huge chandelier with 214 bulbs. You will also be impressed by the stained glass dome, which shows the emblems of the country’s 26 cantons. Also representing these subdivisions of Switzerland’s territory are 26 illuminated water jets in the Parliament Square, which was only inaugurated in 2004.
No one can leave Bern without visiting the medieval Clock Tower, also known as the Zytglogge. If you’ve visited Prague before, you will certainly notice the resemblance between this tower’s clock and the one in the Astronomical Clock of the Czech capital. What makes this landmark very special for children and adults alike is the four-minute twirling of the figures in the tower, a dance that takes place before very full hour chime. If you are here at the right time (between May and October), you may also have the privilege of admiring the clock’s large and intricate mechanism, as part of an inside tour.
If you want to see more than just wonderful architecture and historic buildings, go to the heart of the city. Here you will discover a vast Botanical Garden (5 acres) with approximately 6,000 types of plants and seven impressive greenhouses that protects them during the cold season. In love couples and flower enthusiasts will be even more excited to visit the superb Rose Garden with its hundreds of species of roses, rhododendrons and irises. The garden affords wonderful views of the city, and there is even a fine restaurant here, if you are looking for a complete romantic getaway. Bern is an excellent place to fall in love all over again!
- For souvenirs look for some nice antiques, handicrafts, and fine chocolate.
- Foods to try in Bern: gingerbread, marinated liver, and rösti (a potato-based dish)
Festivals to go to include the Berner Fasnacht (carnival) in February, the Gurtenfestival (music festival) in July, and the Zibelemärit (Onion Market) fair in November.
- For plush accommodation try the Bellevue Palace Hotel, or the Schweizerhof Bern.
- When you feel like shopping and unwinding, the Westside Shopping and Leisure Center awaits you on the city’s outskirts, with cinemas, shops, restaurants and even a water park. Its unique architecture bears the signature of famous architect Daniel Libeskind.