Bern, an idyllic capital city

Today Tinne and I visited Switzerland’s capital, Bern.

We were really surprised; we’d never imagined that a capital city could offer so much peace and calm. It felt good to be there.

The fountains, the old houses, the river and the snowy mountain peaks give the city an idyllic image.

Standing on the bridge, you see the roofs of all these lovely small houses.

The bear is the symbol of Bern. Near the House of Parliament there was this statue of a bear. Tinne just couldn’t resist to give it a hug. Bern has also got real bears. Unfortunately, Tinne was not allowed to cuddle those bears.

The House of Parliament is a truly impressive building. It looks over the snowy mountains, its people and its treasury, the National Bank of Switzerland.

As you can imagine, the National Bank building is a master piece as well. And even more impressive; it issues a world leading currency.

On the market square in Oerlikon we first saw this chess board on the street; black and white stones and giant chess pieces. In Bern there was also a giant chess board in the backyard of the House of Parliament. Tinne couldn’t resist to challenge me for a game of chess. (*edit*, Armin noted in a comment that the initial position of knight and bishop are swapped. And OMG, he’s right!)

And she won!

At the House of Parliament you get a stunning, idyllic view on the mountains of Switzerland.

10 thoughts on “Bern, an idyllic capital city”

  1. As someone that has to work quite a lot in that city (let’s call it town.. I spend roughly every second week there) I just have to chime in.. Bern is beautyful at first, but it gets old rather quickly:

    – It’s very expensive (most cities in CH are, but Zurich and Bern are clear winners)
    – It’s dead in the evening: Really.. This is supposed to be an important city, but it’s dead at night. Try to get something to eat in a restaurant after 22:00 – good luck. During the week? You were really lucky to find a restaurant that is still open..
    – Everyone over there is slow (No kidding. Yes, a generalization, but made from experience)
    – A McD Cheeseburger is 1 EUR in DE and 2.5 CHF (roughly 1.7 EUR) in CH. EUR is weak right now, so let’s round this up to \a stupid cheeeseburger costs twice as much\

    Last part, nitpicking: Bern is _not_ the capital of Switzerland. I don’t claim to be a good source, but even the english wikipedia understands, that this is a \federal city\. Yes, it’s more or less a capital (WP mentions that as well), but it isn’t the real capital of CH (in fact, there’s none) and most people over there react strange if you assume it is. In Bern it’s probably fine (they’ll love it), but everywhere else it’s not a good idea to spread this stuff.

  2. Ok, thanks for your reaction Benjamin. I’m not a city boy who likes Cheeseburgers or a lot of nightlife. If you compare the price of Cheeseburgers with the CH salaries, then your “twice as much”-price actually does make sense. About the nitpicking, then I’ll call Bern CH’s cultural capital city! I wouldn’t agree if you’d claim that a capital city necessarily has to be huge, with a huge population. I’ll pick a cultural quiet capital city any time. And if the people from Zürich want to believe that they are the capital city, then that’s fine for them.

    Is there somebody from Switzerland who has a positive feeling about Bern? ;-)

    The Swiss friends I know in real life aren’t that negative. And two of them are from the canton of Zürich (one of them is from the canton of Bern).

  3. Err, Bern IS the capital city of Switzerland. And I hope the Wikipedia article is clear about this.. It’s like in Australia, where you’d expect that Sydney is the capital but isn’t either.

    I’m in Zürich by the way and I like it here :). If you like Bern you might also like Luzern!

  4. Hmm, that’s the first time I’ve ever heard that Bern is not considered the capital of Switzerland. I’m Swiss and I have now lived roughly ten years in Bern. I studied and now work here. It’s true that Bern is much less “exciting” than other Swiss cities like Zurich and the night life really isn’t all that fancy. But this does have its advantages: Bern is a lot more charming and less hectic (and it’s perfectly possible to get good food after 22:00 :) ).

  5. Well, I’m swiss and bern is definitely our capital. I mean it’s like Washington is the capital of the US, but each individual state has a capital too. The swiss political organization is quite close to the US one.

  6. Reading my post again it was really very negative. Glad you enjoyed the stay and – yes, I know lots of people (my gf included) that love the historical parts of the city, the river Aare, the museums (Paul Klee) etc.. Your pictures are really nice as well.

    It’s just ruined for me due to prolonged stays and project related troubles and I shouldn’t have abused this post to rant.

    So sorry for the comment above. It reads harsher than I intended it to be.

  7. @Armin: OMG! You’re right. Wow, how did we manage to do that?? II guess it must have happened because at first we weren’t sure whether or not playing chess on the street is fine (so we were setting up the pieces quickly) and one of us must have been confused while the other didn’t care enough.

    Oh well, we both had the same handicap, so it doesn’t matter that much.

    We usually play chess on, which of course sets the pieces right, so I wonder if it influenced our strategy.

    Maybe that’s why I lost the game?!

  8. Thanks a lot for this nice review about Bern. I’m always very curious what ppl think about Bern. I grew up in Bern and I’m living here since 27 years.

    As the comments stated you cannot compare Bern, even it is the capital, to a “big” city that many non-swiss are used to know. The nightlife food and bar wise is definitely not that exciting. But there are many places to discover, many cosy basement bars and hidden shops. The ambiance in the old town is just completely different than every other city. In summer it’s a must to swim in the river Aare. In what other capital can you have a bracing swim in front of the house of parliament?

    I’m very glad you liked it and that you don’t judge the city by the price of a Cheeseburger in McD, which is imho the same everywhere in Swiss anyway.

  9. @ the chess game: When Philip introduced me to the chess game, he always put knight and bishop on that spot. In the hurry we probably fell back on our old routine. Well, I am sure that didn’t influence our game. And if Philip thinks it did … I offered him a rematch at but he lost that game as well.

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