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Discover charms of beautiful Bern

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Nalynn Dolan Caine |
Western Switzerland    A picturesque medieval city under the gaze of the Alps

Switzerland technically has no capital but since 1848 Bern has been the seat of the Federal Parliament and government so it is the de facto capital. Its Old Town, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, framed by the Aare river, is its beautiful best.

Aare riverWith its Renaissance fountains with colorful figures, medieval arcades, gothic cathedrals, and sandstone buildings with rosy red rooftop, Bern is truly a gem of medieval architecture. But if you ask citizens of Bern about it they will tell you that only by swimming in Aare river coming staight from the Alps you can truly get to know Bern. By the way, the temperature of the river is 14C in the summer... But summers are for swimming which provides the perfect setting for familiarizing with Bern and its citizens.

Bern MinsterYes, the capital of Switzerland has many charms. It is best known by well over 100 fountains dating from the Middle Ages. Some of them can be found where they are least expected - in the middle of busy roads. The Old City situated on a narrow hill is home to Switzerland's tallest cathedral, Bern Minster, the most impressive example of Late Gothic architecture. From the highest church tower you can enjoy magnificent views across the city and into the snow-capped mountains.

House of ParliamentHere you will find other churches and a large collection of Renaissance fountains. Here also seats the federal, cantonal and municipal government. In front of House of Parliament there are the water fountains where kids like to play so don't bother stopping your kid from getting wet. On weekend mornings, the public square in front of the Parliament turns into a bustling flower and food market for town folks. It is hard to tell what gives Bern that fairytale look, is that fountains, its arhitecture, or its eighteen bridges spanning the fast flowing Aare...

ZytgloggeSituated at the center of the city, a landmark medieval guard tower Zytglogge - one of three Bern's guard towers - with its the 15th century astronomical clock and moving figures - is definitively a major tourist attraction and city's most important sights. It served as the city's main clock and thus had an authoritative function in Bern. And if you will be searching for a souvenir think about a miniature of the Clock Tower. It is available in different sizes and even features a working clock mechanism, a very nice memory of Bern.

Shopping promenadeCitizens of Bern enjoy long shopping in any weather thanks to the one of the longest, covered shopping arcades in Europe. The history of this over 6km long weather-protected stretch of shopping promenade in Europe reaches back to the 12th century so that traders could earn for living in any weather. But to be able to store their goods, back in the past citizens buit basements what are now underground trendy bars, clubs, special fashion shops, and even theatres.

Market dayIt is always time well spent when visiting different markets, a market of onions that takes place last Monday in November, for example. A nice event that makes the center of Berne smells of onion pie and hot spiced wine. While wondring around the town don't miss museums. There are plenty of museums around, check them out. Or take an instant world travel and pay a visit to the Botanical Garden located right in the heart of the city.

Coffee breakPick a square and take a sit in an outdoor cafe to recharge your batteries. Note that most coffee shops don't actually offer free Wi-Fi to customers, so you have to pay for it. When it comes to food Swiss cuisine is rich in calories and fat and goes way beyond cheese and chocolate and varies greatly from region to region. Bern is famous for its wholesome Berner Platte, a fine dish containing a variety of meat and sausages cooked with beans and boiled potatoes.

ThunNow when full, visit the Rose Garden, home to 220 different types of roses, 200 types of irises and a large park with a wonderful view of the Old Town and Aare Loop. Then take the chance to visit small historic towns like Thun which is set on a beautiful lake of the same name. Or take a ride in the red carriages of the funicular railway and visit traffic-free Gurten for impressive views over and around Aare and city of Bern from the observation tower up there.

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