Most people may not know it, but Bern is actually the capital city of Switzerland. Like most people, I would associate Zurich as the capital city due to it’s size and financial status, plus the country’s main airport is also near Zurich. When you talk to people about visiting major Swiss cities, Bern doesn’t come up often.

And since I was staying in Switzerland for an extended time, it would be a shame not to visit my host country’s capital at least once. Getting to Bern is pretty easy. Again, railway is the most convenient and economical way to get there.

Bern is built along a bend in the Aare River and is rather small when compared to Zurich. So although it’s the capital city, it doesn’t feel like one. The Old Town is located on a hill in the bend of the  Aare River and bridges connect it to the newer expanded city areas.

A view of Bern's Old Town along one of the bridges spanning the Aare River.
A view of Bern’s Old Town along one of the bridges spanning the Aare River. The medieval looking Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The main shopping street in Bern.
One of the shopping promenades in Bern. There are 6km of shopping promenades like this in Bern, making it one of the longest shopping streets in Europe.

I find that Bern  is small enough  to walk around. There are trams and buses that visitors can  take to get around faster, but I always enjoy walking as it allows me to see the local culture and street life at a more intimate level.

The famous sight in Bern is the Zytglogge, or translated into english is 'Time Bell'.
The most famous sight in Bern is the Zytglogge, or translated into English ‘Time Bell’. Basically, a clock tower with moving puppets that play music at every  hour.There is a guided tour of the interior of the clock tower.
The Bern Münster, a cathedral built in the Gothic style. This is the main church in Bern.
The Bern Münster, a cathedral built in the Gothic style. This is the main church in Bern.
Bears are heraldic emblem of the city and there is bear pit that houses the city's bears.
Bears are on heraldic emblem of the city and were kept in a small pit when I was there in 1997. It was really depressing to see the city’s emblems being kept like that.

There was a bear pit that houses bears which are symbols of the city’s emblem. However, I found that it was quite depressing to see the majestic looking bears being kept in a pit, and these animals are supposed to the emblems of the city. I hear that the pit is now converted into a bear park and the bears are allowed to roam freely in a large compound where they can also swim in the river.That’s much better.

I only spent a day in Bern and did not stay overnight. Due to that, I also did not see more sights in the city. I feel that a 2~3 day stay would really allow a visitor to appreciate the city more at a leisurely pace.

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