Bern, Switzerland’s capital city, is rich in culture: its beautiful historic district, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and exceptional location at the heart of the panoramic Alps make it an attractive destination. Deborah and Stephan from the Novotel Bern Expo gave us an up-close look at their city and shared insider tips.
The recipe for our favorite pastry, the Mandelbärli, is a one-of-a-kind treasure in Bern and well-kept secret, hidden in the ‘Bear Pit’ and protected by three real, live bears: Ursina, Björk and Finn, who live in the ‘Bear Park’. After this treasure hunt, head straight to the ‘Altes Tramdepot’, a famous restaurant directly opposite the park which serves delicious food and beer brewed on-site.
What monument or building holds a special place in your heart?
The Kramgasse, in the historic district. This narrow street, 330 meters long with pretty stone archways, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s the perfect spot for a leisurely stroll and a bit of shopping. Another spot is the Roseraie, a richly landscaped park with several varieties of roses, irises and rhododendrons. Bern locals love meeting up there, and tourists like visiting. In the spring, the Roseraie is an incredibly beautiful display of colors. And year-round, the park offers the best view of the Aare river and Bern’s historic district.
Any local celebrities?
Fabian Cancellara, one of the greatest cyclists of our time, was born in Bern. At the Rio Olympics, he once again showed Bern they have reason to be proud of him. Another major figure, German artist Paul Klee, lived in the city for many years. Bern is also where Albert Einstein got married, and his first son was born.
A not-to-be-missed event?
Zibelemärit, Bern’s famous onion market, is the biggest event of the year. The fourth Monday in November, onions take center stage in the capital city. The historic district becomes a gigantic market. Vendors display onion braids and onion figurines at their stalls, and children throw confetti. It’s always great fun – and undoubtedly the only Monday of the year people look forward to.
What should visitors definitely take home?
Bärner Schoggi, for sure. It’s a blend of delicious chocolate with honey and almond nougat that’s irresistible. For fans of liquor, we recommend a glass of Aarewasser, which literally means ‘water from the Aare’. Don’t dip your glass in the river – head to a bar instead: Aarewasser is a popular vodka-based cocktail that’s sure to make your evening even more fun.
Where can one find your favorite (sweet or savory) treat?
Bern is known for its real bears and those in the form of key chains and edible treats. The Mandelbärli at Glatz bakery come in a variety of flavors, so everyone can find one they like. There are classical options like vanilla, chocolate and honey, and the fruit flavors are also excellent. At Christmas, coriander, clove and cinnamon Mandelbärli are must-try flavors of this ‘strong as a bear’ little cake that your loved ones will enjoy.
What other specialties is the city famous for?
The “Berner Platte”, a platter of different types of sausages and meats, speck, cured pork cutlets (Rippli) and shoulder (Schüfeli), traditionally served with sauerkraut (Suurchrutt), beans and steamed potatoes (Sauzhärdöpfu). The dish, which is on the menu of every tavern in Bern, is also a popular Sunday meal for local families. Ä Guetä (Bon appétit)!
What’s the most incredible thing you’ve seen in the city?
Most residents of Bern would say the Euro Cup in 2008, when thousands of Swiss and Dutch soccer fans celebrated on the Bundesplatz. For a few days, the Netherlands completely ‘invaded’ the capital and turned it orange. To commemorate the event, the city added a second sign, in Dutch, on the famous Kornhaus bridge, which reads: “Korenhuisbrug”.
What languages are spoken in Zurich, and what common words should visitors know?
The official language is German and the spoken dialect of the city is Bernese German. ‘Matte-Änglisch’ is a special language still spoken in the Matte district, at the foot of the Aare. You can also hear other Swiss dialects, French, and other international languages. ‘Huli’, meaning bed, ‘z’Morge’, meaning breakfast, and ‘Meertrübeliconfi’ meaning blackcurrent jam are a few examples of local Bernese. “Grüessech” means hello, and “Ufwiderluege” means goodbye.