Being the capital of Switzerland, I found it essential to visit Berne. Awarded it's status from the UNESCO World Heritage Site for it's history and culture, Bern is really an essential city to visit in the country. My flatmate had an offer from the train line where two people travelled for 90 CHF if one had a half fare card, so we ended up choosing to go and visit Berne. Geneva to Berne is not a long train journey at all, it only took 1H45 to arrive. So we arrived at the station around 11 which gave us enough time to cover the most of Berne before it got dark. Here is a little one day guide I have put together throughout the day of exploring the capital city.
Once you exit the station, walk down Spitalgasse which is basically the main shopping road and also leads to the most important sights to see in Bern. The first thing we saw on the left hand side was the church Heiliggeistkirche, built as a protestant church in the eighteenth century and is now considered to be one of the most beautiful churches in Switzerland.
Following down this street you will find quite a few fountains. Berne has a total of 250 fountains which are very famous for commemorating important historic individuals or events. For example there is the Pfeiferbrunnen which is based on the bagpieper and Anna-Seiler-Brunnen which commemorates the founder of the first hospital in Berne, 1354. For those of you who don't speak German, Brunnen means water well therefore any name you see with Brunnen attached you will know it is one of the fountains.
Carry on walking until we reached the Bärensplaz where there is a farmers and food market. Opening times vary: January-March & November it is open Tuesday [08.00-18.00] and Saturday [08.00-17.00] / April to October it is open Tuesday [08.00-18.00] Thursday [09.00-18.00] and Saturday [08.00-17.00]. The market is known as "open air shopping". They sell a wide assortment of things ranging from breads, vegetables, flowers etc. Open since the medieval times, the food in this market has been produced in the region and delivered over to sell. There were so many intriguing food options to choose from. I ended up buying a Jamaican Patty whereas my flat mate ordered some tacos from the mexican stool. Food markets in Switzerland are of such high quality that if the food market is there when you visit I really recommend you have your lunch there.
Don’t forget to have a look at the Zytologgeturm, a medieval clock tower built in the thirteenth century; It was the first western city gate of Bern in 1191-1256. Now known as one of Bern’s landmarks and a historical addition to the city.
The Bärensplaz square is situated just before the Bundeshaus, where the Swiss parliament is situated. This building is stunning; the architecture is neo renaissance, similar to that of Vienna, with beautiful green rooftops and ornamented façades. Unfortunately the sun was in the completely wrong place therefore my photo of it is quite shocking and does not do it justice but it is a really beautiful building.[apologies for my photo but the sun was just not in the right place].
Just before you continue your journey down Marktgasse, quickly cross the road to the other side to get a fantastic view from the bridge Kornhausbrüke. Bern is mesmerising; I wouldn’t know what other city to compare it to. It is composed of little hills and valleys.
Just before the bridge, you need to appreciate the Kornhaus, which actually gave the name to the bridge. The Kornhaus is a great example of Bernese high baroque architecture and it is today a very elegant restaurant with münger frescos on it's ceiling.
When you continue your walk down the Kramgasse and turn right through Kreuzgasse into münsterplatz where there is the beautiful Baroque cathedral called "Berner Münster". This cathedral is a prime example of gothic architecture and was first built in 1421 and completed in 1893. The inside is made up of three naves and the portal (as you can see in the picture on the right) illustrates the last judgement. It is said to be the tallest cathedral in Switzerland which from what I can remember, I completely agree.
Following on from here you take the back road that will lead you to the park munsterplatrform. From here you have a stunning view of the left side of the city, with the river streaming towards the dams and the houses built vertically on the valleys; it really is a post-card worthy view. You walk through the park, where, being autumn, the leaves were a mixture of beautiful warm colours, take some pictures and find your way back on the Gerechtigkeitsgasse until reaching Nydeggasse and consequently the Nydeggbrüke (bridge). Out of all the views on “downtown” Berne, this is by far the best. This is where the houses are built on the hill merging into the valley - I find it beautiful how the houses are all varying in heights. It seems as if they were just picked up and placed in random spots.
On this side of the bridge you will find the Bear Park. Home to three bears since 2009, you can come here to have a look at the pride and joy of this capital city. Located along the river Aare, you can walk around this peaceful setting and see if you can spot one of the three brown bears.
Next to the bear park you will find the Swiss Brand Museum located on Gerechtigkeitsgasse 72. Here you have displayed a whole range of products that the Swiss invented. I was quite surprised to see that aluminium foil was invented by the Swiss!
The next thing on the itinerary is the Rosengarten. Although autumn is not necessarily the best time to go and visit a Rose garden because there are actually no roses, we thought to go and have a walk around anyway as we heard there was a beautiful view over Bern. The Rosengarten is located on Alter Aargauerstalden, which was not particularly close; in fact we need to take the bus number 10 from Bundeshaus to Rosengarten. Walking though the garden you can just imagine how beautiful it is in the spring, when all the beautiful roses fill this garden with color. It is home to 223 rose, 200 iris and 28 rhododendron varieties, as well as an enchanting water lily pond. Furthermore it has an enchanting stretch of green grass creating a beautiful and tranquil atmosphere for a walk. There is also a café here you can sit down and have a warm tea or coffee whilst appreciating the view.
To return to the train station just take bus number 10 straight to the train station.
All in all Berne is probably the most important city to come and visit Switzerland. It may be small, and not have as many museums as Geneva, or as many shops as Zurich, or as many mountains as Montreux but after having visited it I now understand why it was nominated a capital city; it has an incredible amount of culture and history behind it that is really worth spending time and appreciating it.