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Bern, Switzerland PDF Print E-mail
Written by Debra C. Argen   

Bern, SwitzerlandExploring Bern, Switzerland, we learned that this charming, historic, capital city has great shopping, many museums, and much more to delight visitors.


Bern, SwitzerlandFounded in 1191, Bern covers 52 kilometers, and is the fourth largest city in Switzerland (after Zurich, Geneva and Basel), with 127,650 inhabitants. Centrally located, it is easily accessible by train or plane, and is only a 50-minute train ride from Interlaken, 1-hour from Basel and Zurich, 1.25 hours from Lausanne and 4 hours from Frankfurt and Milan.

Hotel Bellevue Palace, Bern, SwitzerlandEdward F. Nesta and I have been to Bern many times and have always enjoyed staying at the charming Bellevue Palace . During a visit to Switzerland in October 2006, we returned to stay at the 1913 art nouveau 130-room and suite hotel with the impressive stained glass ceiling in the lobby. This old-world elegant hotel is the only five-star hotel in Bern, and with its premier location next to the Swiss Houses of Parliament, it is the frequent host of high-profile guests including royalty, heads of state, and celebrities.

La Terrasse - Hotel Bellevue Palace, Bern, SwitzerlandDuring our stay at the hotel, we had a wonderful dégustation dinner at their stunning restaurant, La Terrasse. We savored Grilled Turbot, Sautéed Norwegian rock lobster tails with fennel cream, Scallops in puff pastry with spinach and garlic, Chicken with grilled polenta with parmesan cheese and mushrooms, Venison with a pool of blueberry sauce, saffron noodles topped with Brussels sprouts with sliced mushrooms, a cheese course, and Crêpes Suzettes. Afterwards, we convinced Executive Chef Heinrich Lauber to share his recipes for a superb three-course dinner for the Chefs' Recipes section.

Read other articles on the Bellevue Palace in the Hotels and Resorts, Restaurants, and Chefs' Recipes sections. The Bellevue Palace is part of the Victoria-Jungfrau Collection,

Bellevue Palace
Kochergasse 3-5
CH 3001 Bern
Telephone:      +41 31 320 4545
Fax:                 +41 31 311 4743
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We took a tour of the city and discovered that there are 26 fountains in front of the Parliament symbolizing the 26 kantons (like states) of Switzerland working together. In 1848, Bern became the capital of the first federal state.

Bern, Switzerland - Tuesday MarketWe arrived in Bern on a Tuesday and had the opportunity to see Market Day where the locals buy fresh flowers, fruit, vegetables, cheeses, and handicraft items. The market, located in Parliament Square, is open all year every Tuesday and Thursday from early morning until 1:00 pm. On Saturday mornings, there is another market that sells meat and fish.

Bern, Switzerland - Covered ArcadeTouring the Altstadt (Old Town), which received UNESCO World Heritage designation in 1983, we enjoyed strolling through the impressive 6 kilometers (4 miles) of covered arcade shopping. Here we found everything from small specialty boutiques to the usual chain stores. As we went farther away from the main center, the arcade shops became more interesting where craftspeople are producing bespoke clothing, gold and silver jewelry, and quality leather goods. Although when we were in Switzerland the weather was perfect, the arcades provide shoppers with the ultimate luxury experience of walking outside from shop to shop without having to face the elements.

Also of interest in the Old Town are the many fountains with themes of soldiers, virtues, or even fantasy sculptures which date to the 16th century. The fountains are not merely decorative; you can actually drink pure water from the fountains in Bern.

Bern, Switzerland - Bern Astrological ClockA "must-see" in Bern, is the clock tower with the Golden Knight who has struck the bell on the hour since 1530. The clock tower was the first gate of the city and features two clocks. Later mechanical figures were added to the glockenspiel, which rings 4 minutes before the hour. Of particular interest to watch is the rooster that crows three times, followed by the jester who alternately rings his two bells, followed by the rotating bears. Kaspar Brunner, previously a weaponry blacksmith, designed the clock in 1530 because he wanted to create a clock that would always work, and it still does. The other clock is the "Zytglogge" an astrological clock, which features the astrological signs, phases of the moon, days of the week, and the month. The clock features Bern local time, because in medieval times, every city had their own time according to their geographical location. There are clock tower tours every day at 2:30 pm.

Bern, Switzerland - Bern Astrological Clock Bern, Switzerland - Bern Astrological Clock
Golden Knight And Other Mechanical Figures

Bern, Switzerland - Muenster Kirch We visited the Cathedral at Münsterplatz, called the Münster Kirche, built in 1421 as a Catholic Church dedicated to St. Vincent. The Reformation came in 1528 and the Gothic church became a Protestant Bern, Switzerland - Moses fountain at Muenster Kirchchurch with removal of all Catholic artifacts including the altars, although the stained glass windows remained intact. Of particular interest inside, are the stained glass windows and the organ. Outside, look for the scene from the Last Judgment with over 200 figures carved  from wood and sandstone, and the Moses fountain in the square. The Münster Kirche is open daily except Mondays.

Bern, Switzerland - Muenster KircheMünster Kirche
Cathedral Place 1
P.O. Box 532
CH-3000 Bern
Telephone:      +41 31 312 0462  

Bern culturally has much to offer visitors from classical and jazz concerts, theatre, and over 28 museums, many of which accept the
Swiss Pass with free or reduced admission.

Bern, Switzerland - Zentrum Paul KleeOur first museum stop was to the Zentrum Paul Klee, which opened in June 2005, and is housed in an impressive building designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano who wanted to create a landscape sculpture.

Paul Klee (1879-1940) was a prolific artist (the museum has over 4,000 of his pieces) as well as a violinist, and said that he sometimes "painted music." His philosophy was to break down barriers to art and make art more accessible. He studied art in Munich, but he felt that it was not until he went to Tunisia that he "got colors and became an artist." His art is not definable by a period; he loved everything, and felt that "art is making the invisible, visible." In addition to the exhibitions, the Zentrum Paul Klee also features a theatre for musical venues, a library, a children's play area, and workshops where adults and children can create their own art. An example of Paul Klee's concept of barrier free art was the exhibition of Hats, where visitors could create different personalities simply by trying on a different hat.

The museum has two restaurants, the casual Museum Café, and Restaurant Schöngrün, located next door, which earned 16 points GaultMillau since opening in 2005. Edward and I had a light lunch at the Museum Café followed by an espresso at the Restaurant Schöngrün where we relaxed and exchanged ideas about the museum. Zentrum Paul Klee is open from 10:00 am - 5:00 pm Tuesday - Sunday, with extended hours until 9:00 pm on Thursday, and is closed on Monday.

Zentrum Paul Klee
Monument im Fruchtland 3
CH-3006 Bern
Telephone:      +41 31 359 0101
Fax:                 +41 31 359 0102  

Our next museum visit was to the Kunstmuseum Bern, which houses an impressive collection of fine arts covering eight centuries. A few of the artists featured include: Erich Heckel, Giovanni Giacometti, and Pablo Picasso. The museum is open on Tuesday from 10:00 am - 9:00 pm, 10:00 - 5:00 pm Wednesday - Sunday, and is closed on Monday.

Kunstmuseum Bern
Hodlerstrasse 8-12
CH-3011 Bern
Telephone:      +41 31 328 0944
Fax:                 +41 31 328 0955
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Bern, Switzerland - Histoisches Museum BernThe Helvetiaplatz area is a treasure trove of museums all conveniently located next to one another. We visited the Historisches Museum Bern located in a beautiful castle-like building. The museum features historical artifacts, is the world's first Einstein museum, and while we were there, we saw their Egyptian exhibition featuring treasures from the tombs of ancient Egypt. The museum is open from 10:00 am - 5:00 pm and is closed on Monday.

Historisches Museum Bern
Helvetiaplatz 5
CH-3005 Bern
Telephone:      +41 31 350 0440
Fax:                 +41 31 351 0751
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Bern, Switzerland - Schweizerisches Aplines MuseumAnother interesting museum that we visited was the Schweizerisches Alpines Museum, which is the only Alpine museum. The museum features exhibits on the alps and glaciers, historic alpine costumes, skis, traditional winter masks, and much more. The museum is open Monday 2:00 pm - 5:30 pm, and Tuesday - Sunday 10:00 am - 5: 30 pm.

Schweizerisches Alpines Museum
Helvetiaplatz 4
CH-3005 Bern
Telephone:      +41 31 350 0440
Fax:                 +41 31 351 0751
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Bern, Switzerland - Naturhistorisches MuseumThe Naturhistorisches Museum der Burgermeinde Bern has a fascinating natural history collection that will enchant both children and adults. The museum is open Monday 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday 9:00 am - 5:00 pm, Wednesday 9:00 am - 6:00 pm, Saturday and Sunday 10:00 am - 5:00 pm.

Naturhistorisches Museum der Burgermeinde Bern
Bernastrasse 15
CH-3005 Bern
Telephone:      +41 31 350 7111
Fax:                 +41 31 351 7499
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Bern, Switzerland - KunsthalleThe Kunsthalle Bern opened in October 1918 and features artists that inspire dialogues. When we visited, there was a solo exhibition, entitled The List/Previous Correspondence (2001/2006) by Czech artist Pavel Büchler, focusing on 484 framed letters. The museum is open Wednesday - Sunday 10:00 am - 5:00 pm, Thursday 10:00 am - 7:00 pm and is closed on Monday.

Kunsthalle Bern
Helvetiaplatz 4
CH-3005 Bern
Telephone:      +41 31 350 0040
Fax:                 +41 31 350 0041
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Bern, Switzerland - Bern BearsThe city of Bern takes its name from the German word for bear. Today, the Bear Pit is still a popular place to see the famous three Bern Bears: Urs, born in January 1977, a hybrid European Brown Bear, and Tanya and Pedro, Pyrenean Brown Bears, born in the Barcelona Zoo in Spain. They were delightful to watch as Tanya and Pedro played their version of catch, by swinging a ball on a pendulum back and forth to each other.

Bern, Switzerland - Emmental Exhibition Cheese DairySwitzerland is famous for cheese so we decided to visit the Emmental Exhibition Cheese Dairy (Emmentaler Schaukäserai AG), located 1 hour from Bern, to have an up-close look at the art of making cheese. We took the train from Bern to Hasle-Rüegsau and then switched to the Postbus to Affoltern using our Swiss Pass.

Bern, Switzerland - Emmental Exhibition Cheese Dairy One of the many interesting things we learned is that there are 400 types of cheese made in Switzerland. Of course, the best part of the visit was tasting the variety of cheeses. The  Emmentaler Schaukäserai AG is open 365 days from 8:30 am - 6:30 pm. There are audio-visual commentaries available in German, French, English, Italian, and Spanish.

Read more about Emmentaler: The Art of Making Swiss Cheese in the Gastronomy section.

Emmentaler Schaukäserai AG
Telephone:      +41 34 435 1611
Fax:                 +41 34 435 0151
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After learning about cheese at the Emmental Exhibition Show Dairy, we decided that we should experience Swiss Fondue and had dinner with our friend Mark Steffen, at the family-owned Restaurant Harmonie, which opened in 1915.

We began with Kürbiscrème suppe mit Croutons (Pumpkin Soup), followed by Fondue "aux truffes" et Champagne (Cheese Fondue with truffles and champagne) and Rehpfeffer nach Jägerart (Spezialität) Spätzli (Jugged Venison Hunter's Style).

Bern, Switzerland - Chestnut Puree DessertAfter seeing a strange vermicelli-like dessert throughout our travels in Switzerland, we decided to ask Mark about this dessert. He explained that this is a very popular seasonal dessert made with chestnut puree and served with whipped cream called Vermicelles mit Rahm (Chestnut Puree with Whipped Cream). We took one spoon of the rich chestnut puree and were immediately addicted. The restaurant is closed Saturday and Sunday.

Restaurant Harmonie
Hotelgasse 3
CH-3011 Bern
Telephone:      +41 31 313 1141
Fax:                 +41 31 313 1140   

After a wonderful time exploring Bern, it was time for us to take the train using our Swiss Pass to our next destination, Zurich, Switzerland, where we hoped to experience more of the delicious chestnut puree!

Important information for Switzerland

Switzerland is not part of the European Union, and as such, the currency of Switzerland is the Swiss Franc. As of February 2007, the exchange rate was 1.24 Swiss Francs (CHF) to 1 US Dollar (USD), and 1.61 Swiss Francs (CHF) to 1 Euro (EUR). The Swiss Franc coin denominations are: 5,10, 20, 50 cents and 1, 2, and 5 Francs. Bank note denominations are: 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 1000 Francs.

While many Swiss speak English, it is always helpful to have some basic language knowledge when traveling.

German Vocabulary

Guide to pronunciation

ß = strong S sound (like a hiss)
j = sounds like y
ie = sounds like ea
ü = sounds like ou
w = sounds like v

Basic Vocabulary




Do you speak English?                  

Sprechen Sie Englisch?

Excuse me     



Guten Tag


Auf Wiedersehen

Good Morning

Guten Morgen

Good Evening

Guten Abend



Thank you










Where is?

Wo is?

Train Station



der Flughafen













































































Red wine


Sparkling wine


White wine






Read other articles on Switzerland in the Destinations, Hotels and Resorts, Restaurants, Chefs' Recipes, Spas, Liquor Cabinet, Wine Cellar, Gastronomy, Luxury Products, and Adventures sections.

For information on Switzerland, please visit: For information on Lucerne: For information on Interlaken:

For information on Bern: For information on Zurich: For information on Swiss International Air Lines: For information on the Swiss Pass:

© March 2007. Luxury Experience. All rights reserved.

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