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City Break: Feel the Bern

The River Aare is a vital backdrop to local life in Bern

Bern has an infectious energy that makes it quite unlike other, more staid country capitals. There’s plenty to see, do and discover in this Swiss centre



A snow globe. That’s Bern.

It’s beautiful just sitting there. A gorgeous gem of a medieval city, with its Old Town, its Cathedral, its River Aare, its Parliament House and its medieval fountains sparkling like jewels under a glass dome; its own mountain, Gurten, rising up at the back, its heraldic bears prowling the foreground.

But the magic truly reveals itself only when you gently shake the snow globe that is Bern. Then, like falling snowflakes in the dome, people shift and shimmer within the microcosm, exploring the streets and squares, enjoying the architecture, becoming part of the enchantment.

Bern’s highest commendation comes from the fact that its citizens absolutely love it. The Old Town might be on UNESCO’s World Heritage list – but its streets are dotted with wonderful outdoor cafés in summer, its 12th-century arcades are crammed with boutiques and confectioners with the most amazing waffles and macarons, its cellars cocoon bars and underground theatres, and its vibrancy is infectious. The energy lights up the city, and everywhere, it seems, everyone is making the most of Bern. Even the square in front of the Bundeshaus seems like public property – it’s given over to a market every week and children scamper happily between the 26 fountains that represent the country’s 26 cantons. And, let’s not forget, this is a city that makes a big deal even about the humble onion – in November each year, thousands of enthusiasts converge on the marketplace to buy, well, onions.

The rest of the year, shimmering gently, the present moving constantly within the past, Bern sparkles anyway.

Primrose has 10 recommendations that will help you absolutely max out your time in Bern. Find them in the May 2016 issue of Lonely Planet Magazine India. Pick up a copy from your newsstand or click to subscribe via Zinio or Magzter.