The pocket-sized capital of Switzerland is sure to win you over immediately. Built on a verdant natural promontory facing the Alps and the Oberland peaks, Bern decorates the river Aare, which you can wander along or even kick your shoes off and have a paddle in. One of the smallest capitals in Europe, Bern has a beautifully preserved medieval centre which is listed as a Unesco World Heritage monument. Here you'll find that cars are banned from the centre: pedestrians, trams and flowering gardens prevail instead. This dynamic and innovative place was to inspire some great inventors. It was here that Albert Einstein honed his E=MC²; that Theodore Tobler invented the Toblerone; Max Morgenthaler invented Nescafé; and not forgetting of course all the famous watch brands which come from Bern, such as Swatch, Omage, Longines, Rado and Rolex.
Check out the Bundeshaus, or Federal Palace, with its artwork by 38 artists representing the 38 regions of Switzerland. From the top of the palace you can enjoy a splendid view across to the Alps, including the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains. On the Bundesplatz you can admire 26 fountains symbolising the Swiss cantons. In November the Onion Market takes place here, attracting a large crowd who come to see the stalls of plaited strings of onions, jesters dressed as onions, onion sculptures, nuts, crafts and plenty of delicious things to eat, the whole four day festival culminating in a giant confetti battle.
Bern's most famous landmark has to be the giant clock on the 13th century Berne City Hall. The medieval Zytglogge, or Clock Tower, is a symbol of the city, and of Switzerland's clock-making tradition. The ornate astrological calendar and the clock itself were designed in 1530. Listen out for the tolling of the largest bell in Switzerland at noon and 6pm every day. You can go and visit the bell which is housed at the Münster, or Cathedral of Saint Vincent (though you might want to bring some earplugs). For a total contrast to all this medieval history, head to The Paul Klee Centre, built by Renzo Piano, it's a museum and cultural centre in one. The multimedia equipment will take you through 4000 works of art by Paul Klee, who was born just outside Bern.
At the Historical Museum of Bern you can learn all about Albert Einstein in the world's largest exhibition dedicated to the father of modern physics.
Bern's emblem is the bear, and if you're visiting Bern with the family, why not take the kids to the Bern Bear Park. The Gurten Park is a great place to let off steam, and it has a funicular railway to take you to the summit where you'll find wildflower meadows and pine forests. Each year the Gurten Festival takes place here, while the Bern Carnival is the major event in the city. Jazz fans flock to the International Jazz Festival which boasts some of the world's top names on the bill.
Cute and cultural, Bern ticks at just the right pace.
Station to station