‘Life is simple… just add water’ used to be our motto. We used to prefer either city breaks or destinations in the proximity of an ocean. Being overwhelmed by nature is still an important aspect of our ideal holiday. But I feel that we are increasingly taking an interest in more authentic destinations in green locations. With this new curiosity in mind we were keen on visiting Switzerland: so close to home and yet unchartered territory for the CosmopoliClan. Okay, maybe with the exception of a skiing trip with school when I was 11 years old. To keep the driving time to a minimum, we opted to visit the Bern region for our Swiss debut. Read all about our exploration of the mountains and fountains in Bern!
Some trivia on Bern
Founded by the Dukes of Zähringen in 1911 and being the capital city of the Swiss Confederation in 1848, the city of Bern combines its picturesque historical center, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, with an elegant modern city flair. Its setting amidst the green mountains and contouring aquamarine Aare river only adds to the charm. A major fire had destroyed many houses in 1405 but most were rebuilt in sandstone, restoring the medieval architectural style.
The name Bern originates from the German word ‘bär’. According to the local legend Duke Berchtold V of Zähringen would name the city after the first animal he encountered during his hunt and this happened to be a bear.
The CosmopoliClan as your guide
Tag along as we explore the streets of this picture-perfect city. We spent a perfect day there and the pace was just right. We were also amazed about the panoramic views that we found around every corner.
Spitalgasse & Bundesplatz
We walked back to the Bärenplatz where a Rickshaw driver reminded us that it was time to see the Zytglogge (medieval clock tower) animation. He even offered to drive us there for free (just a few hundred meters) if only we would remember him if we fancied a tour of the city later that day. The clock tower was built almost 500 years ago and actually consists of 2 clocks: one displaying standard time and one astronomical clock showing the hour, day of the week, day of the year, phase of the moon, zodiac, sunrise and sunset. The animation starts a few minutes before the hour bell. Dozens of people watch it every hour Next to the astronomical clock, a jester rings the 2 small bells above him and activates a march of bears until bearded Father Time turns his hour glass and rings the bell with his staff.
The hunt for fountains in Bern
The numerous fountains in Bern inspired us to do an improvised scavenger hunt / contest with the girls. Strolling around the city the girls competitively searched for fountains. Each one is a colorful work of art representing heroes or historic events. Did you know that, originally, all fountains in Bern were made of wood? In the 16th century, however, these versions were replaced with the ones that still decorate the streets today.
Münster & Matte
We continued our way to the impressive protestant gothic Münster cathedral with the country’s tallest bell tower (100m). The construction of the entire building took over 450 years.
The girls had a rest by the fountain on the Münsterplatz before we headed to the terrace of Wein & Sein where we enjoyed an amazing lunch. Afterwards we took in the beautiful views in the Münstergarten next to the cathedral.
The girls played around a bit before we took the Senkeltram from uptown Bern to downtown, the Matte quarter by the river, where workers and craftsmen used to live in timbered houses. You can still notice the difference in building style from the uptown houses.
Bärengraben & Rosengarten
We took the Nydeggtreppe to the bridge and made our way to the Bärengraben to watch the bears. It was much busier here than in the center. But we just had to see these animals. How could we have skipped this part of the history of the city?
We then crossed the street and walked the steep slope to the Rosengarten to discover what seemed to be the hotspot for all locals on a sunny day. Not minding the crowd we took in the breathtaking view over the city of Bern. This is a truly amazing look-out.
After about an hour we made our way back down and took the tram to Gurten. We found the Public transportation in Bern to be very convenient and easy so we made use of the free passes we received in the hotel. Near the tramstop, we followed the signs to a panoramic train that brought us up the mountain with a height of 856 meters. Even more panoramic views awaited us there. The main reason we came here, however, was recreational as the mountain offers many fun activities for kids. Even though the miniature train closed just when we arrived, the girls had a lot of fun.
We headed back to Bern for dinner looking back to an amazing day. Going out to eat is incredibly expensive in Switzerland! The cheese fondue pictured here cost us €65 for some bread, potatoes and cheese… And unfortunately, it didn’t meet our expectations.
Our exploration of the mountains and fountains in Bern was only part of our trip of this region. Check out the posts How to enjoy a day in charming Murten and Why (chees)E-biking is the best way to explore Emmental to discover more about this breathtakingly part of amazing Switzerland!
Which Swiss cities have you been to? Any recommendations on exploring those, with or without kids? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!