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.