Not many cities have managed to retain their historic features quite as successfully as Bern, the capital of Switzerland. The old town of Bern is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and thanks to its 6 kilometres of arcades - the locals refer to them as 'Lauben' - boasts on of the longest weather-sheltered shopping promenades in Europe.
The medieval air of this city with its many fountains, sandstone facades, narrow streets and historic towers is unique. The elevated Rose Garden above the Bear Park and the platform of the 101-metre-high cathedral tower offer the best views of the old town round which the River Aare flows. The former entrenchments and bastions drop down steeply to the river. The boutiques, bars and cabaret stages of the old town, some of which are located in vaulted cellars, and the small street cafes attract locals as well as a lot of tourists. Although Bern has a very good public transport network it is best to explore the city centre on foot.
The Zentrum Paul Klee situated on the outskirts of the city houses the most comprehensive collection of works by the artist Paul Klee. The Albert Einstein House bears testimony to the physics genius' stay in Bern at the start of the 20th century and may ideally be combined with a visit to the Einstein Museum. With the History Museum, Art Museum, Swiss Alpine Museum and Communication Museum Bern offers a very varied range of exhibitions.
Bern is the seat of Switzerland's government. The Houses of Parliament (Bundeshaus) rise above the city just a stone's throw away from the railway station. The doors to the Houses of Parliament are open to visitors most of the time, and if you're lucky you might even bump into a member of parliament in the streets of the city.
In summer the River Aare provides an opportunity for the ultimate bathing experience; very good, experienced swimmers allow themselves to drift along in the clean Aare while enjoying a view of the Houses of Parliament. The Botanical Gardens are also located along the river, as is the Dählhölzli Zoo and the old Matte district. Bern and bears, the cities heraldic beast, are inseparable. A visit to the Bear Park, habitat of a family of bears, is a must-do.
In the squares of the city centre colourful weekly markets present their wares. The Onion Market (Zibelemärit) which takes place on the fourth Monday in November is particularly worth visiting: visitors to the traditional market dedicated to onions start pouring into the city in the early hours.
Set in the heart of Switzerland, Bern is the gateway to the Alps. The capital city may easily be reached by car or by air via the Bern-Belp Airport and bus links to the city centre. Visitors who prefer to travel by train may take advantage of the dense rail network with its direct connections to the major European cities. Bern’s central location makes it the perfect base for overnight accommodation and for excursions throughout Switzerland.