An unassuming small/medium medieval city, Bern is actually the capital of Switzerland and is worth a visit. Its central location allows easy access to the rest of the country and Bern, itself, has much to offer as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A lovely cobblestone main artery through the city is a beautiful mix of history and modern boutiques. This 4 mile stretch, lined with fountains and arcades, is the central stage for many events and activities planned in the town throughout the year.
Why to go: A visit to Bern makes for a relaxing sight-seeing and shopping day (if you’re so inclined). There’s enough to keep you busy for a full day but not so much that you feel rushed to fit it all in.
When to go: There’s no specific best time to visit unless you’re trying to hit up one of the festivals the town celebrates. If you are a very good swimmer, you might want to consider a visit in the summer when you can join some others who dare to jump into the Aare River and enjoy the view as you drift along the edge of town.
What to do: Don’t miss the historic clock-tower, located right along the main shopping promenade in the Old Town. Every hour on the hour there’s a show which draws a crowd. If you plan ahead, you can also tour the tower and witness the show along with the whole clock mechanism from the inside. An added benefit of the tour is that it provides a nice view of the Old Town from above. Another iconic sight in this town is the bear park where you can see the family of city mascots (bern = bear in German). For a beautiful view of the city, not to mention a relaxing stroll among a fantastic display of flowers, take a walk to the rose garden. And, if you happen to be a fan of Albert Einstein, you might enjoy a visit to the Einsteinhaus which is a little museum in the small apartment he and his wife rented when he was working at the Swiss patent office. This happens to also be where his theories of relativity were developed.
What to eat: One particularly “Bernese” dish is the traditional Zibelechueche (onion tart) which is especially popular every November during Bern’s Zibelemärit (onion market). Other than that there are few other local specialties and you’ll easily find lots of busy restaurants offering non-local cuisine such as Italian and Asian. Of course, for a price, you can always find the country’s specialty, Fondue.