Bern, Switzerland, was such a pleasant little surprise of a town! It is absolutely gorgeous everywhere you look. The whole city looks just like a Bavarian postcard. This was our second stop on our 14-day European vacation, and I fell in love! ( Known for its bears, clock tower, and rose garden, Bern is a beautiful little Swiss town with a charm that is exactly what you would expect from this area of the world.
We were only in Bern for about a day and a half, but it was the perfect amount of time, and a great little retreat after the busyness of Paris.
According to legend, the town got its name (which sounds like the German word for “bear”) when Berchtold V, Duke of Zähringen killed a bear in 1191 during the clearing of the forests to build the town. Today, there is a bear zoo-like exhibit on the side of the mountain. A few live bears roam around and I think occasionally do tricks, as there is a small bear pit in the middle of the town.
When the bears are not in the pits, you can actually go down in them, as Bri did while we were wandering around.
One of the best parts about Bern, though, was its hospitality. Every restaurant, every shop, and especially the place we stayed just poured out their “herzlich willkommen” (hearty welcome), which is apparently a common phrase or mantra for the city, because it was on multiple signs around town.
We stayed in an apartment near several national embassies that we found on Expedia. We chose it for its recommendations of the couple who owns and lives in the apartment building. It was basically a big house that had been cut up into suites. Ours came with a full kitchen, a bathroom, a separate bedroom, and was just down the hall from the laundry room, which we had full access to during our stay.
The sweet couple, Eddie and Maxine, greeted us when we arrived, showed us our apartment, and immediately showed us on a map all of the major attractions and things we might be interested in during our stay. There were Swiss chocolates on the table, and all the Nespresso pods we could ever drink.
Eddie and Maxine have two beautiful Irish Setters (Charlie and Byron), who are known to occasionally steal a baguette off an unattended table. The guest book we signed (and read) was full of praises for this wonderful family, and our note was no different. My husband and I could not rave enough about this wonderful little place!
Another hidden gem of Bern was a wine bar and restaurant called Klösterli Weincafe. This was quite possibly the most amazing meal of our lives! Bri had some kind of baby deer schnitzel, and I had the dorado (some kind of fish).
But it wasn’t even about what we ate, so much as how it was plated. Somehow, the flavors and textures just came together perfectly, so that each of the elements made each bite better than the last. My plate had leeks (I mean, what even is a leek, anyway?) and flavored mayonnaise (NOT usually a fan of mayo), but somehow when I put the mayo and the leek with the fish and the wild rice all together on my fork, it was spectacular. Bri had the same experience with his schnitzel.
So with a meal like that, of course we HAD to have dessert (you know, just to make sure it was good)! And guess what? Also amazing! We had the spiced pear. But it wasn’t just a spiced pear. It had little chocolate truffles and brown sugar and a spiced plum and coffee ice cream, which, when put all together was fantastic. Go here. Eat all the foods. It is wonderful.
We were only in Bern for one full day, which was really plenty of time, since the town is very small. The main road is a true arcade, meaning that all of the walkways are completely covered. This way, if it is raining or snowing, you can still go all the way down each side of the street without ever having to leave the covered area.
All along the walkways (also underneath the covering) are shops that range from Omega jewelry to fancy chocolate shops, to wine shops, to a guns and outdoors shop, to restaurants, and even Belgian waffle carts. We spent several hours just walking up and down this main street, which also has a large cuckoo-type clock that comes to life on certain hours.
We also “hiked” up to the Rose Garden, which is up quite a hill. Although the roses weren’t in bloom, we did get a fantastic view of the city from the top of the hill, as well as all of the gorgeous fall foliage, which was in full leaf-turn mode.
We had dinner that night at the Altes Trammdepot (literally, the Old Tram Depot), which also brews its own beer. The atmosphere was young and cool, and I had an incredible fall salad (yes, salad!!!!) complete with roasted pumpkin slices and fresh figs. I also may or may not have had the jumbo soft pretzel (let’s be honest: I ordered the salad so I could feel better about the pretzel and beer…)
ColaTownTourist’s Travel Tips:
I learned a few things during my travels that I wish I’d known before I went. In case they are helpful to anyone else, here they are:
- Go to Bern. It is amazing.
- You MUST visit Klösterli Weincafe! Order anything, and it will be fantastic!
- The Swiss use Swiss Francs, rather than the Euro. Sometimes they will still accept the Euro, but be prepared to go ahead and get new currency.
- There are trams all through the town, but since it’s only about a 15-minute walk to just about anywhere, you might just save some money and hoof it. Our hosts provided tram tickets for the duration of our stay (included in our hotel cost), but we really only used it going to and from the train station in and out of the city itself.
- Say hello to Byron and Charlie!
Check out the other parts of my Adventures in Europe:
- Part 1 – Paris, France
- Part 3 – Cinque Terre, Italy
- Part 4 – Florence, Italy, plus a quick stop in Pisa
- Part 5 – Rome, Italy