The city (pop. 127,000) has been Switzerland’s capital since 1848, but don’t expect fast tracks, power politics, or men in suits the Bernese prefer to focus on the lighter things in life, nibbling the local Toblerone chocolate and lolling along the banks of the serpentine Aare.
Flights: The Bern-Belp airport (BRN; 960 21 11) is 20min. from the city. An airport bus runs from the train station 50min. before each flight (lOmin. 14SFr).
Trains: From the station at Bahnhofpl. to: Basel (l’ihr. 4 per hr. 34SFr); Berlin (8hr.
14 per day, 245SFr); Geneva (2hr. 3 per hr. 47SFr); Interlaken (50min. every hr. 23SFr); Lausanne (lVihr. every 30min. 32SFr); Lucerne (1 V4hr. every 30min. 32SFr); Milan (32hr. 6 per day, 72SFr); Munich (6hr. 4 per day, 117SFr); Paris (4’2hr. 4 per day, 109SFr); Salzburg (7V4hr. 5 per day, 130SFr); Zurich (lVihr. every 30min. 45SFr). 25% under-27 discount on international fares.
Bike Rental: The small blue Bernrollt Kiosk at the train station loans bikes for free. A 20SFr deposit and ID required. One-day loan only. Open May-Oct. 7:30am-9:30pm.
ORIENTATION AND PRACTICAL INFORMATION
Most of medieval Bern lies in front of the train station and along the Aare River. Bern’s main train station is a stressful tangle of essential services and extraneous shops. Take extra caution around the Parliament park, especially at night.
Tourist Office: (328 12 12), on the street level of the train station. In summer, daily city tours (14-27SFr) are available by bus, on foot, or by raft. Open June-Sept. daily 9am-8:30pm; Oct.-May M-Sa 9am-6:30pm, Su 10am-5pm.
Bi-Gay-Lesbian Resources: Homosexuelle Arbeitsgruppe die Schweiz (HACH),
Muhlenpl. 11, is the headquarters of Switzerland’s largest gay organization.
Emergency: Police 117, Ambulance 144.
Internet Access: Stadtbibliothek (City Library), Miinsterg. 61. 4SFr per hr. in the Medi-enraum. Open M-Tu and Th-F 10am-9pm, W noon-9pm, Sa 8am-noon. Basement of Jaggi Bucher, Spitalg. on Bubenbergpl. 47-51, in the Loeb department store. 2 computers allow 20min. of free access; 4 other terminals cost 5SFr per 30min. Open M-W and F 9am-6:30pm, Th 9am-9pm, Sa 8am-4pm.
Post Office: Schanzenpost 1, a block from the train station. Open M-F 7:30am-9pm, Sa 8am-4pm, Su 5-9pm. Address mail to be held: Firstname SURNAME, Postlagernde Briefe, Schanzenpost 3000, Bern, SWITZERLAND, Postal Codes: CH-3000 to CH-3030.
Bern has responded to the influx of backpackers with several new hostels. All offer clean beds with varying services, prices, and personal touches. If the cheaper options are all full, check the tourist office’s list of private rooms.
Ell Backpackers BernHotel Glocke, Rathausg. 75 (311 37 71). From the train station, cross the tram lines, turn left on Spitalg. continuing onto Marktg; turn left at Korn-hauspl. then right on Rathausg. Clean, new, and ideally located. Shoot pool and watch CNN. Internet 2SFr. Reception daily 8-1 lam and 3-10pm. Dorms 29SFr; singles 75SFr; doubles 120SFr, with bath 150SFr. AmExDCMCV. iugendherberge (HI), Weiherg. 4 (311 63 16). From the station, go down Christoffelg; take the stairs to the left of the park entrance gates and go down the steep slope, turn left on Weiherg. Near the river. Breakfast included. Reception June-Sept. daily 7-10am and 3pm-midnight; Oct.-May 7-10am and 5pm-midnight. Closed Jan. Dorms 30SFr; overflow mattresses 22SFr. Nonmembers add 6SFr. MCV.
Hotel Nydeck, Gerechtigkeitsg. 1 (311 86 86), sits above the busy Junkere bar. Take tram #12 to Nydegg. Bright pastel rooms include TV, phone, and bathroom. Breakfast lOSFr. Singles 90-110SFr; doubles 130-160SFr. MCV.
Almost every Platz overflows with cafes and restaurants. Try one of Bern’s hearty specialties: Gschnatzlets (fried veal, beef, or pork), Suurchabis (a kind of sauerkraut), Gschwellti (steamed potatoes), or Toblerone chocolate. Fruit and vegetable markets sell produce daily at Barenpl. and every Tuesday and Saturday on Bundespl. (Open May-Oct. 8am-6pm.)
Eli Restaurant du Nord, Lorrainestr. 2, across Lorrainebr. Take bus #20 to Gewerbeschule. A diverse crowd smokes and socializes. Creative dishes. Meat entrees 22-32SFr. Pasta plates from 17SFr, Su night Indian specials. Kitchen open M-Sa ll:30am-2pm and 6:30-10pm, Su 6-10pm. Open M-F 8am-12:30am, Sa 9am-12:30am. MCV.
Restaurant Peking, Speicherg. 27, off Waisenhauspl. Some of the only palatable Chinese takeout in the Germanic world. Takeout lOSFr; sit-down 12-15SFr. Open M-Sa llam-2:30pm and 6-ll:30pm.
Kornhaus Keller, Kornhauspl. 18. Vaulted, frescoed ceilings, golden kegs, and candlelight-all the trappings of gourmet. Try the beef medallions with risotto (39SFr) or mushroom ravioli (24SFr). Open M-Sa ll:45am-2:30pm and 6pm-l:30am, Su 11:45am-2:30pm and 6pm-ll:30pm. MCV.
Manora, Bubenbergpl. 5A, near the station. Self-service chain with big platefuls that are nutritious and cheap. Open M-Sa 6:30am-10:45pm, Su 8:30am-10:45pm.
THE OLD TOWN. The massive H’Bundeshaus, center of the Swiss government, dominates the Aare. (45min. tour every hr. M-Sa 9-llam and 2-4pm. Free.) From the Bundeshaus, Kocherg. and Herreng. lead to the 15th-century Protestant Munster (cathedral); above the main entrance, a golden sculpture depicts the torments of Hell. For a fantastic view of the city, climb the Munster’s 100m spire. (Open Easter-Oct. Su ll:30am-4:30pm, Tu-Sa 10am-5pm; Nov.-Easter Su llam-2pm, Tu-F lOam-noon and 2-4pm, Sa lOam-noon and 2-5pm. Tower 3SFr.) Several walkways lead steeply down from the Bundeshaus to the GlAare River; on hotter days, locals dive like lemmings from the banks and the bridges to take a ride on its swift currents, but only experienced swimmers should join in.
KUNSTMUSEUM. Bern’s Kunstmuseum includes the world’s largest Paul Klee collection and a smattering of big 20th-century names: Giacometti, Ernst Kirchner, Picasso, and Pollock. (Hodlerstr. 8-12, near Lorrainebrucke. Open Su and W-Sa 10am-5pm, Tu 10am-9pm. 15SFr, students and seniors lOSFr, 75SFr for Klee collection only.)
BEAR PITS AND ROSE GARDEN. Across the Nydeggbr. lie the Barengraben (bear pits), which were recently renovated to provide the bears with trees and rocks to clamber over perhaps an attempt to make up for the indignity of being on display for the gawking crowds. (Open June-Sept. daily 9am-5:30pm; Oct.-May 10am-4pm.) The tourist office here presents The Bern Show, a slick recap of Bernese history. (Every 20min. Free.) The path snaking up the hill to the left leads to the BRosengarten (Rose Garden), which provides one of the best views of Bern’s Altstadt.
BERNISCHES HISTORISCHE MUSEUM. Anything and everything relating to Bern’s long history, from technology to religious art to 15th-century sculptures, is displayed in this jam-packed museum. (Helvetiapi. 5. Open Su, Tu and Th-Sa 10am-5pm, VJ 10am-8pm. 13SFr, students 8SFr, under-16 4SFr.)
ALBERT EINSTEIN’S HOUSE. This small apartment where Einstein conceived the theory of general relativity is now filled with his photos and letters. (Kramg. 49. Open Feb.-Nov. Tu-F 10am-5pm, Sa 10am-4pm. 3SFr, students 2SFr.)
ENTERTAINMENT AND NIGHTLIFE
Check out Bewegungsmelder, available at the tourist office, for events. July’s Gurten Festival (www.gurtenfestival.ch) has attracted such luminaries as Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, andBjork, while jazz-lovers arrive in early May for the International Jazz Festival (www.jazzfestivalbern.ch). However, Bern’s best-known festival is probably the off-the-wall onion market on the fourth Monday in November. The orange grove at Stadgartnerei Elfnau (take tram #19 to Elfnau) has free Sunday concerts in summer. From mid-July to mid-August, OrangeCin-ema (www.orangecinema.ch) screens recently released films in the open air; tickets are available from the tourist office in the train station.
At night, the fashionable folk linger in the Altstadt’s bars and cafes while a leftist crowd gathers under the gargoyles of the Lorrainebrucke, behind the station down Bollwerk. Pery Bar, Schmiedenpl. 3, is a classic see-and-be-seen bar. (Open M-W 5pm-l:30am, Th 5pm-2:30am, F-Sa 5pm-3:30am.) The Reitschule, Neubriickstr. 8, is a cultural center for Bern’s counterculture; graffitied Sous le Pont serves beer (3.50SFr), indie rock, and hip-hop. From Bollwerk, head left before Lorrainebrucke through the cement park. (Open Tu ll:30am-12:30am, W-Th 11:30am-2:30pm and 6pm-12:30am, F ll:30am-2:30pm and 6pm-2:30am, Sa 6pm-2:30am.)
BERN Photo Gallery
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