In the words of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe when he visited Bern in 1779: “Sie ist die Schönste, die wir je gesehen haben” (“It is the most beautiful [city] we have ever seen”). Over 200 years later, the city still impresses and awes visitors with its beauty. But Bern is not just pretty to look at, it also has an irresistible charm, is incredibly diverse, and exudes a feeling and a way of life that can only be felt in Bern.
Bern's Old City
The Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the heart of Bern. Its arcades do not only protect us from the rain and the sun, they also house a plethora of unique shops and stylish boutiques. One special feature of the Old City are the bars and restaurants in the vaulted cellars – in the past, the sandstone cellars were used to store supplies, now they’re filled with hip beer bars, ateliers, or second-hand shops.
Surrounded by nature
Be it on a bike, on foot, or by water – anyone who’s on the move in the federal city will quickly realize: they’re surrounded by nature. The Aare in particular holds a very special place in the hearts of the locals. Going for a dip in the emerald water of the river is an essential part of a Bernese summer. In the cooler seasons, there are also many ways to explore Bern’s urban nature, for example by going on an e-bike tour or a walk on the Gurten, Bern's local mountain.
Attention, gourmets! Cozy old-town cafés, elegant restaurants, and hip bars – Bern's gastronomic scene leaves nothing to be desired. Beer fans are also in for a treat: Bern is known as Switzerland's beer capital. With its many breweries and countless beer bars in the city centre, brewed happiness is usually just a short walk away.
Looking for a museum to visit in Bern? You’re in luck: the city has over 20 of them. So it comes as no surprise that Bern is known as the city of museums. And that’s not all: there’s libraries, archives, the botanical garden, and Jegenstorf castle – a true mecca for fans of cultural activities.
When transitioning from a confederation (an alliance of independent, sovereign cantons with no unity) to a federation, the people of Switzerland where unable to agree on whether the country should have a capital and if so, which city it should be. The discussion ended in a compromise: on 28 November 1848, the National Council and the Council of States elected Bern to be the home of the federal authorities, however, it is called federal city and not capital. Many foreign visitors are surprised to learn that Bern is Switzerland’s “capital”. To them, it would seem more logic if it were Zurich, the country’s economic centre, or international Geneva. But Bern is perfectly positioned, geographically speaking, for mediating between the different parts of Switzerland, and its multilingualism is also an advantage. This is why, in the end, Bern was chosen to be the country's political centre.