Finally, a place that turned out to be exactly how I had always pictured Switzerland. In a nutshell; Bern is beautiful. As I looked out of the window from my hostel (Berne Backpackers Hotel Glocke) I felt like I was looking at the town from Beauty and The Beast. I would never have guessed Bern was the capital of Switzerland. When I think of a capital city I think of the chaos and over crowdedness we associate with London, however Bern is the polar opposite.
The streets were deserted when I visited except for the odd taxi or group of excited tourists. There were no police sirens waking you in the night or drunken yobs shouting below your window after a heavy night out the town. In fact the only thing to disturb my sleep was the Zytglogge (clock tower) chiming, and I soon learnt to sleep through this. It was quite surreal to think that this place is a capital city.
I spent my first day exploring the city on foot. Ducking and diving down side alleys, embracing getting lost and finding beautiful places by accident. I’d done a lot of research on Bern beforehand and knew I wanted to see the fountains that were dotted around the centre. (Fact: there are over 100 fountains in Bern). These fountains are exquisitely painted and date back to the Middle Ages. You can’t help but stop and stare in awe at them. The photograph on the right is of one of my favourite fountains and in the distance you can see Zytglogge.
As the city was much smaller than I anticipated I managed to see the majority of it within a day. For someone who usually crams their diary full of things to see and do it was quite a novelty to have some down time. I’d allocated two days to Bern and if anyone is wanting to visit I’d say this is the ideal amount of time to spend there, although if you want to use Bern as a base for getting to other Swiss villages/ towns then you could easily spend 4 or 5 days here.
During my downtime in the city I managed to read an entire book cover to cover – another novelty for me! I found the most beautiful park hidden on the hillside behind a church and settled down for an afternoon of reading and sunbathing. I even treated myself to a lunch of crusty bread, brie and Swiss beer. These few days were incredibly relaxed and thoroughly pleasant. I would happily return to Bern, although this may be in a few years time because as we all know, Switzerland isn’t the cheapest of countries to visit!
You can walk the entire length of the city in no time at all, it was so easy to navigate around and I felt perfectly safe at all times. I made friends with a girl in my hostel and we decided to hike up to the Rose Gardens to watch the sunset over Bern on my last evening there. THIS IS A MUST DO. If you do one thing in Bern do this! The hill is pretty steep to get to the Rose Gardens but I can promise you it’s worth it. We were joined by several other people who had the same idea and together we watched the sky change to an array of colours from yellow and orange to pink and purple. It was truly spectacular. I can’t promise every sunset is like that, but my experience was incredible to watch.
As we were walking back down the hill and back to the hostel we were talking about things we wanted to do whilst we were in Switzerland and we both said we wanted a cheese fondue, so guess what we had for dinner…
Pretty much every restaurant in Bern had cheese fondue’s on the menu so we chose one just across the street from the hostel and it was delicious! You get potatoes and bread with the biggest bowl of cheese I have ever seen! Now I am a major cheese lover, if I could only eat one food for the rest of my life it would probably be cheese, but even I was defeated by the fondue. Swiss cheese is strong and has a lingering taste which means after a while it can become quite overwhelming. Between us we tried our best but didn’t quite manage to finish it. Lesson learned: have more than 2 of you sharing the fondue!
On my last morning before I caught my train to Zurich I had planned on visiting The Einstein Museum but it was just my luck I went on the day it was closed! When I return to Bern, because I know I will, I will make sure I visit here for sure! For now though, a photo on the outside of the building will have to do…
Although I had pretty much seen and done everything I had wanted to in Bern I was still upset to be leaving. This quaint city had been such a peaceful experience and I had thoroughly enjoyed my few days there. If I had more money and more time I may have stayed a bit longer, but there were only a few days left of my Swiss adventure and there was still Zurich to explore so it was time for me to say goodbye for the time being. One day I will return…
Transportation: Transportation in Bern is free with the Bern Ticket and is valid for the duration of your stay.
Hostel: Berne Backpackers Hotel Glocke cost me £47 for two nights in a 6-bed mixed dorm.
Tourist information: The tourist information at the main train station is the best place to start if you need extra information on Bern. The staff were really helpful and friendly!