No other city in Switzerland offers such a wonderful wealth of culture, leisure and entertainment like Bern. Hurry and hectic are foreign words to the Bernese. In their city, people enjoy life and take time for what is really important. The magic word for this distinctive lifestyle is deceleration. The Bernese do not easily let themselves get worked up, and will take life at their own pace. The Old Town ambiance does indeed make it easy to relax and let go.
The Old Town of Bern has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983. Founded in 1191, the Swiss capital is situated majestically in the Aare loop. Twelfth century city planners demonstrated a flair for building a very impressive city, which today is considered to be one of the greatest and most well-preserved examples of medieval urban architecture in Europe. The orderly arranged narrow streets have remained intact up to the present day. The historical town is characterized by the well-maintained sandstone facades and the unique skyline of Bernese roofs. Eleven beautiful sculptural fountains from the 16th century and the Bern Minster complete this extraordinary picture.
Six kilometers of arcades line the narrow streets of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, forming one of Europe's longest covered shopping promenades and offering visitors a very special shopping experience. And while international chains have long dominated the main boulevards of other cities, the arcades are still home to many local stores. The cellar shops are another of Bern's unique features. In the Middle Ages, the architects of old Bern provided for storage cellars to be built under each house along both sides of the wide streets. Today these same cellars function as fashion boutiques, art galleries and wine shops. Colorful markets set out their wares on both Bundesplatz (Parliament Square) and Münsterplatz (Minster Square) every Tuesday and Saturday, offering fresh produce, flowers and meats.
However, the Bernese are also interested in contemporary architecture, as the recent construction of two monumental buildings demonstrates. The Zentrum Paul Klee (2005) from architect Renzo Piano is considered to be an architectural masterpiece that blends into the surrounding nature in a most amazing manner. The Westside leisure and shopping center (2008) is another Bern highlight, whose architectural uniqueness simply spellbinds its visitors. American architect Daniel Libeskind has created an extraordinary world that harmoniously combines wellness, events and shopping under one roof.
Bern has so much more to offer: numerous events such as the International Jazz Festival Bern, the Bern Carnival and the traditional Zibelemärit (Onion Market). The Bernese are especially proud of their “most beautiful river pool in the world,” the Marzili, which draws countless visitors every summer to enjoy a refreshing dip in the Aare river during the hot weather. The diversity of Bern is also reflected in its culinary options. Cuisine from around the world is served up alongside traditional specialties such as Bernese Rösti. And Bern also has a chocolate persona: the most famous Swiss chocolate “Toblerone” with its characteristic triangular form was created in Bern about 100 years ago.