Being originally from Switzerland it is only natural that I feel very passionate about this topic. Not only do I help many clients with their trip to this mountainous country but I also return home on a regular basis.
When asked what they would like to see in Switzerland, most of my clients start with Interlaken, Lucerne, Zurich and Zermatt. What they don’t understand, is that despite the small size of Switzerland, it is not necessarily easy and fast to get from one point to the next. The Alps pretty much split Switzerland in half and many times you have to travel around the mountains before you can get to a specific place. This is why I always recommend having a hub. Not only does it mean you don’t have to pack and unpack all the time, but it also allows you to adjust your itinerary depending on weather. Personally I also think it is very important that you get to experience Switzerland versus simply taking as many pictures as possible.
Bern is the underdog when it comes to the list of destinations promoted by the Swiss Tourism Board. However, I think it actually deserves to be on top because of its central location.
Here are 10 reasons why Bern makes an excellent hub when traveling to Switzerland:
- Bern is the Gateway to the Bernese Alps
Granted, many say it is Interlaken and it is true, Interlaken is closer, depending on where exactly you want to go that is. Wherever you want to go in the Bernese Alps, you will either have to go through Spiez or Interlaken. Both destinations are reached in approximately 1 hour scenic train ride from Bern.
- Bern is the gateway to the French part of Switzerland
Whether you want to visit one of the cities like Lausanne or Montreux, or visit the Gruyeres cheese dairy or Cailler chocolate factory, explore the vineyards of the Lavaux, a comfortable train ride of approximately an hour will take you there.
- Bern is the gateway to Zermatt and the Matterhorn
Without doubt, the Matterhorn is one of Switzerland’s most famous mountains. Zermatt is a charming mountain village to explore. In 2006 the Lötschberg Base Tunnel opened and cut the travel time from Bern to Zermatt in half. Instead of having to travel around the mountain range, you can now cross via one of the longest tunnels, approximately 35km/22 miles. It takes approximately 2 hours to travel from Bern to Zermatt via train.
- Bern is a UNESCO Heritage town
Founded in 1191 (almost 100 years before Switzerland was founded) the medieval town was developed over several centuries. The Old Town dates back to the 15th and 16th century and retains much of its original character. Not only does it offer wonderful sights like Bern’s Clock Tower or the Muenster but it also boasts numerous medieval fountains, all spouting potable drinking water.
- Bern is perfect for rainy days
Why you might ask? Bern’s Old Town is lined with 6 km/4 miles of arcades which are not only beautiful and unique, but make shopping on a rainy day a breeze.
- Bern is very pedestrian friendly
Cars can only drive in the heart of the Old Town with a special permit. The locals travel around either via the public tram and bus system, ride their bikes, or walk. It is a pleasure to stroll through Bern on foot. When you get tired you hop on a tram. It is as simple as that.
- Bern is perfect for a workout
The Old Town of Bern sits on an elevated peninsula surrounded by the River Aare. Throughout hundreds of years, the river has carved out the valley surrounding the Old Town. Today, many staircases connect the lower river level with the upper Old Town. A perfect way to burn calories whilst sightseeing. Oh, and you can always climb the Muenster tower, the 222 stone steps should do the trick.
- Bern is home to the Paul Klee museum
The Zentrum Paul Klee features about 40% of all of Paul Klee’s pictorial oeuvre. Apart from the large collection of excellent artwork it is also an architectural masterpiece by Renzo Piano. Three undulations perfectly blend into the green countryside.
- Die Berner – The Locals
When traveling Switzerland you will quickly understand that despite the small size of the country, there are quite a few differences between the cities and areas. Many Swiss say that the Bernese are slow. I will argue that this is inaccurate. The Bernese are simply less driven than, let’s say people from Zurich. Not because they are lazy, but because they want to enjoy life. They strive to find a balance between career and happiness. Why is that good for you? No matter what you wear, you will get by in Bern. People here are casual and relaxed. No need to fret over a not so fancy wardrobe.
- Bern’s Outdoor Spaces
Whether it is a stroll along the river Aare, a pic-nic on the Bundesterrasse, or an ice cream in the beautiful Rosengarten overlooking the Old Town, Bern is an outdoor town and people enjoy the fresh air. You will find them sitting outside at restaurants, you will find them sitting on the lawn enjoying the sun. You will even find kids playing in the 26 fountain display (representing the 26 Swiss cantons) located right in front of Switzerland’s Parliament. Bern is absolutely fantastic for anyone who loves to be outside.
Have you been to Bern? Want to go? Have a question? Feel free to comment below, I would love to hear your feedback!
Written by STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat has been creating customized vacations to Switzerland for 8 years. She is the owner of AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm specialized in creating and customizing personalized travel itineraries. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org