I must admit that I have never visited Bern before, nor even thought about it. I guess the largesse that is Zurich and Lausanne just overshadows what is truly an amazing town. But if your travels give you the chance – whether from traveling around Switzerland or taking a side-trip from Northern Italy – you really should add this to your itinerary. It will only require a few days, but I promise it will be a few days well-spent.
Although only my first trip to Bern, I would say that there are definite gaps between hotel ratings in this small yet charming city. There are 2 five star hotels and if money is no object, I would tell you to stay at the Hotel Bellevue. I didn’t stay here, so I can’t vouch for the rooms, but I did have drinks here and the décor is amazing and I probably wouldn’t want to leave.
The four star hotels are a step down from the five and I’m not just stating the obvious: the four stars tend to be a bit more rustic and “stereotypical” of what I would expect from a swiss hotel. I stayed at the Belle Epoque (http://www.belle-epoque.ch/hotel-bern/en/) and although not cheap – nothing is in Bern, or Switzerland for that matter – I really liked it. The rooms were big and the staff really quite kind. The one thing I noticed, which you should be aware of if traveling in the summer, is that the hotel does not have air conditioning. I don’t like AC myself, but the large fan in the room and the windows facing outward could make for a noisy night. So, beware: if it’s hot, there’s no AC and if you go, ask for a room NOT facing the street.
As I said above, nothing in Bern is cheap but I certainly did enjoy the hospitality of my friends and can recommend a few places for a wonderful meal.
I loved Verdi (http://www.bindella.ch/gastronomie/ueberblick-ristoranti/restaurant/verdi-ristorante/26/show/) and although not Italian pasta like you get in Italy, it really was lovely. What helps, without a doubt, is the décor which is charming, funky, and just incredibly inviting. If you have only one night in Bern, this is where I would go.
If you are searching for something a bit more affordable, Restaurant Zunft zu Webern (http://www.restwebern.ch/). The staff were incredibly kind and given that I was hankeringfor spaetzle, and the hotel kindly called and asked them to make it for me, how can you go wrong? The restaurant didn’t really offer much in terms of décor, but it was packed with locals – I heard no English – so it had to have been good.
I was also fortunate enough to be taken to Jack’s Brasserie in the Hotel Schweizerhof (http://www.schweizerhof-bern.ch/). The food was good and when served by waiters in white coats, how can you go wrong? And for a Sunday brunch, I thought it was a perfect setting.
I didn’t eat here – but I hear it is amazing – but I did come here for a drink on my last night in Bern: the Kornhaus keller (http://www.bindella.ch/gastronomie/ueberblick-ristoranti/restaurant/kornhauskeller/4/show/). This is just a stunning place and even if you don’t want a drink, or to have dinner, just pop in and take a look, or a picture, and it will be permanently etched in your memory. What a stunning place!
I’m not typically one for guided tours but my friends arranged for a tour of the city through the Tourism Office. It was a cold and rainy/snowy day, as it often is in Bern, and so, on a whim, my guide asked if I wanted to go in to the clock tower. Yes, I enthusiastically replied. Although large groups can’t go in, and those afraid of heights and small places might want to reconsider, I loved it and it was definitely a highlight of my tour. So, if you have the chance, go up the clock tower. You won’t regret it.