Discover the charms of Bern: Enjoy the view over the old city from the flowering Rose Garden, stroll along the Aare with a pistachio ice from the Gelateria di Berna, or saunter through the bowers.
Life in Bern is a friendly bustle. The picturesque capital is particularly recommended in summer. Novotel Bern Expo is a perfect base for exploring the city with the bear on its coat of arms. You're a five-minute walk from the square at the heart of the Breitenrain district. This is where the Bernese meet to drink coffee at Barbière and buy rolls at the charming Bohnenblust bakery. You can't miss it, the façade is shocking pink. (The Steinhauer loaf is worth sampling.
Just a moment away from the square is the Rose Garden, with the best view over the Bern old city. In good weather, the view reaches well beyond Bern's local mountain Gurten and the Alps. A visit to the Rose Garden is special in any season, but particularly in summer, when some 250 roses are blooming. Bern's citizens often go to the Rose Garden in the evening to kick their heels on the walls. The relaxed atmosphere is a good reason for young and old to spend time here. Take a relaxed stroll through the park, read a book on one of the many benches, or simply enjoy the unique view of the roofs of the historic old city, the minster and the loop in the Aare river. At the weekend, many families come to the Rose Garden to picnic while their children let off steam on the playground and meadow.
Bern was founded in 1191 by Duke Berthold V of Zähringen. According to legend, he named the city after the first animal killed in the hunt on the lands of the future city – a bear. This is why the bear appears on the coat of arms.
The Bear Pit, one of Bern's landmarks, lies at the foot of the Rose Garden. Around ten years ago, the freely accessible Bear Park was built, where the bears have much more space to climb, fish, play and have privacy. You'll find bears everywhere in the city, and not just in the Bear Park – decorating façades and fountains, as hazelnut cookies or as chocolate figures. The “Glatz” bakery created the legendary “Mandelbärli” almond cookie, now popular well beyond the boundaries of the canton.
Window shopping in Bern's old city is nothing like the over-familiar scramble in the big cities. A stroll through the UNESCO World Heritage Center is a relaxing and enriching experience. The six kilometers of greenery (from the Nydeggbrücke bridge to Bern station) provide shade and welcome relief from the heat on blazing summer days and shelter from wind and cold on rainy days. The lower old city with its winding alleys and mediaeval sandstone buildings is marvelously picturesque, and a unique experience. Anyone looking for something entirely original will walk away happy from the numerous boutiques and ateliers with local design. There are many shops that are unique to Bern, which makes a find all the more special. Just around the corner from the Clock Tower is a new concept store in Amthausgasse, founded by three women with individual business concepts but the same goal – creating beauty. Besides cosmetic treatments they offer handmade jewelry, unusual flower arrangements and lifestyle products from top designers. There are also monthly workshops and events.
No better place to take a break than in the charming and friendly picturesque old city. The cafes in between the boutiques, in the arbors, in the alleys or on the squares are inviting spots to linger and enjoy. You'll find a frothy cappuccino on virtually every corner. For a particularly cozy and sweet experience, there's the vaulted cellars at Café Marta. Besides delicious coffee there are housemade cakes and hot scones with butter, clotted cream and housemade jellies. Or try the “Volver” opposite the town hall, for good coffee, fine wines and delicious tapas. “Fugu Nydegg” serves authentic Thai and Japanese cuisine.
“Savoir vivre” is an important art in Bern, and you can practice it at its best by the river Aare. This is the longest river entirely within Switzerland's frontiers, at 288 kilometers. There's nothing better in summer than boating on the Aare. The Bernese love to take a rubber boat down the Aare, mostly from Thun or Kiesen to Eichholz or Marzilibad. Young and old can both enjoy the boat ride, which often ends with a barbecue at Eichholz or an ice from “Gelateria di Berna”.
But the Aare's pleasures aren't limited to water lovers. There are numerous walks and culinary delights with a river view to be found along its banks. Cool, hip and pretty: the “Zehndermätteli”, “Fähribeizli”, “Trybhouz”, and the “Aarebar”.