The best way to enjoy the mountains and fountains in Bern

‘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

Little girl strolling down the Kramgasse towards one of many fountains in Bern, with flags all along her path
We explored the city on foot. It’s is well doable, even for little legs. The Bern Bahnhof (station) was our starting point. We noticed how spotlessly clean the city is with well-maintained facades and how pedestrian-friendly it is for a capital. In Spitalgasse, the flags of all 26 cantons are being displayed. We arrived at the Bärenplatz and turned right to the Bundesplatz where, to the joy of our girls, the water fountains seemed to be celebrating this beautiful spring day. It set the tone for a day of pleasant exploration as we wandered the city. The Bundeshaus (Parliament building) is crowned with the statues of 3 ladies representing political independence, peace and freedom. Not only the building itself but also the view that you have from the balcony behind is impressive.

Man with sunglasses enjoying the view from the terrace behind the Federal Palace of Switzerland, Das Bundeshaus, in Bern

Two little girls smiling with in the background the splashing fountains and Das Bundeshaus, Federal Palace of Switzerland, against a clear blue sky
Stairs and arches behind the Federal Palace of Switzerland, Das Bundeshaus, in Bern

Zytglogge

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.

CosmopoliClan's 2 little girls, one by each side of the fountain on the Münsterplatz, one of many fountains in Bern

CosmopoliClan's little girl looking up at the Kindlifresserbrunnen, or Child Eater Fountain, at the Kornhausplatz, one of many fountains in Bern

 

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.

Sideview from the Bern Minster, or Berner Münster, Cathedral against a blue sky

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.

Little girl on a balancing board in the Münstergarten in Bern on a sunny day

 

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.

The Senkeltram from uptown Bern to downtown by the river, where the Matte quarter is located

A row of typical houses in the Matte district, downtown Bern

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?

CosmopoliClan dad and his girls climbing the Nydeggtreppe staircase from the Matte district in Bern, Switzerland
CosmopoliClan's two little girls, a bear statue and a piggy bank at the The Bärengraben, or Bear Pit, in Bern

An amazing view of the city of Bern from the Bärengraben or Bear Pit, taken from behind a red-leaved tree on a sunny day wit clear blue sky
 
A bear in the Bärengraben or Bear Pit in Bern

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.

Families relaxing and picnicking in the Rosengarten in Bern

A panoramic view of the city of Bern from the Rosengarten

Gurten mountain

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.

Panoramic train to the Gurten, one of the mountains in Bern
CosmopoliClan's little girl holding a bouquet of wild flowers on the rolling green hills of the Gurten mountain in Bern, Switzerland

 

A panoramic view over Bern from the Gurten mountain

Two little girls riding a dragon at the play area on the Gurten mountain

Say cheese!

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.

CosmopoliClan mom and her 2 girls enjoying a Swiss raclette at a local restaurant in Bern

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!

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2 Comments

  1. Loved your post. We haven’t been to Switzerland with our daughter but have visited twice as a couple. The thing about Switzerland we loved is the ease of transport throughout the country – always a train to meet a bus on time. Always. And no doubt its a beautiful country and the people are wonderful! We have been luck enough to visit Bern, Lucerne, Lugano and Zurich in our travels. Can’t wait to go back…wish it was a little closer….we are Aussies!

    1. Hi Adrian! Thanks for taking the time to comment. Waauw you’ve seen more of this natural beauty than we have despite of the distance! But we’ll make it right now that we’ve discovered its charm. And yes, the well organized public transport makes exploring Switzerland a breeze. We always tended to look overlook the gems surrounding us and seek our adventures further away. I hope to balance it more in the future. But we won’t compromise on our intent to visit Oz! The articles on your blog will surely prove to be helpful! And I notice you haven’t been to Belgium yet… If you do, give us a shout so we can exchange our experiences live!

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