IN ASSOCIATION WITH SWITZERLAND TOURISM

Bern: A World Heritage Site steeped in history and culture

Duke Berchtold V did Bern a great favour in 1191 when he chose an easily defensible peninsula of the River Aare as the site for what became Switzerland's capital. Water is an asset to any city, but the walk beside the Aare and through the trendy waterside district of Matte - once the artisans' quarter - is one of the great pleasures of a visit. On the hill above, the city's 11 fountains have become emblematic of Bern. So too is the Clock Tower with its astronomical display and procession of mechanical figures, including bears - the other celebrated symbol of the Swiss capital. Amble through the cobbled streets of the old town with their harmonious rows of four- and five-storey houses in pale grey-green sandstone; it will become crystal-clear why this medieval jewel is a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Accommodation

The bar and restaurant terrace of Bern's only five-star hotel, the Bellevue Palace at Kochergasse 3-5 (00 41 31 320 45 45; www.bellevue-palace.ch), has a spectacular panorama, and its recent refurbishment combines the 19th-century elegance of its public rooms with more modern bedrooms. Doubles from SFr350 (£156).

There's a Parisian air about Hotel Belle Epoque (00 41 31 311 43 36; www.belle-epoque.ch) at Gerechtigkeitsgasse 18 with its imaginatively styled rooms and art nouveau decor. Doubles from SFr280 (£125).

In a quiet location within walking distance of the railway station at Belpstrasse 43 is the modern Hotel La Pergola (00 41 31 941 43 43; www.hotel-lapergola.ch), which has two electric bicycles for free use by guests. Weekend doubles from SFr150 (£70).

Culture

As Switzerland's capital, Bern enjoys a cultural life far richer than its population of 300,000 would suggest. The latest addition to the city's 27 museums is the Zentrum Paul Klee (00 41 31 359 01 01; www.zpk.org), an audacious new gallery and chamber-concert hall designed by Renzo Piano which emerges from a hillside. It holds the world's largest collection of Klee's work which is shown on a rotating basis, along with special exhibitions in a second gallery.

Around Helvetiaplatz at the southern end of Kirchenfeldbrücke is the Historical Museum of Bern; the Art Gallery (00 41 31 350 00 40; www.kunsthallebern.ch) with changing exhibitions; and the Swiss Alpine Museum (00 41 31 350 04 40; www.alpinesmuseum.ch), which provides a fascinating introduction to 21st-century environmental predicaments as well as the history, flora and fauna of the Alps. The Museum of Fine Arts (00 41 31 328 09 44; www.kunstmuseumbern.ch) at Hodlerstrasse 8-12 has paintings from Fra Angelico to Rothko. Other museums are devoted to natural history, communications, psychiatry, textiles, ancient sculpture, theatre, rifles and hunting, and even the Salvation Army, which began its work in Switzerland in 1882.

The top club for jazz is Marians Jazzroom (00 41 31 309 61 11; www.mariansjazzroom.ch), which has an intimate lounge for the concerts at 7.45pm and 10pm. Booking is recommended. For three floors combining dance floors, lounge and bar, try Liquid (00 41 31 951 98 26; www.liquid-bern.ch) at Genfergasse 10.

Eating and drinking

After admiring the revolving figures on the Clock Tower at midday, it's time for lunch, and only a few steps away is one of Bern's best: Restaurant Harmonie (00 41 31 313 11 41; www.harmonie.ch). It has been family-run since 1915 and has a delightful period feel. It serves such dishes as asparagus vol-au-vent and veal in Madeira as well as traditional fondue and rösti. Equally traditional is the Schwellenmätteli Restaurant (00 41 31 350 50 01; www.schwellenmaetteli.ch) beside the River Aare beneath the Kirchenfeldbrücke, which serves Italian dishes such as gorgonzola and mushroom risotto.

For a pre-prandial beer brewed on the premises, try the Altes Tramdepot (00 41 31 368 14 15; www.altestramdepot.ch) at the east end of Nydeggbrücke near the bear pits (which are being enlarged). With a terrace overlooking the river, it's a good place to watch the sun set over the old city and you can eat there too. Don't miss having at least a coffee and cake at the Kornhauscafé (00 41 31 327 72 72; www.kornhaus.org) at Kornhausplatz 18, located in the vast arcades of an 18th-century grain store. Below, in the even more atmospheric cellars, is a restaurant and bar.

Shopping

Even those who dislike shopping will find it a pleasure to saunter through Bern's covered arcades that separate the street from the shop fronts. The small size of the shops has largely excluded shopping chains from the centre.

On the first Saturday of the month from March to December, there is a craft market on the terrace beside the 15th-century cathedral. Mühleplatz in the Matte by the river hosts a flea market on the third Saturday of May to October.

Events

One of the most important jazz events, the 31st Bern International Jazz Festival is currently underway, and running to 27 May. It features top stars from the worlds of jazz, blues, gospel and Latin. BEA Nights (28-29 April, 4-6 May) offers a range of rock, soul, and funk and features the likes of Alan Parsons Live Project, Jethro Tull and Barclay James Harvest.

If you fancy some exercise while in Bern, you could book to take part in the 25th mini-marathon on 13 May ( www.gpbern.ch). Last year 22,000 people took part in the Bern Grand Prix through the lovely streets with groups of musicians adding to the atmosphere. The booking deadline is 22 April.

People come from all over the world to take part in the workshops of the Bern Dance Festival from 7-17 June and to give displays of their country's dance styles. The festival involves bars, restaurants, theatres and concert halls.

For more information, contact Bern Tourism (00 41 31 328 12 12; www.BernInfo.com)

The home of Relativity

The world's most famous scientist lived in many places, but it was while living in Bern between 1902 and 1909 that he had the annus mirabilis that distinguished his entire career.

In 1905 Albert Einstein formulated the Theory of Relativity, created the formula E=mc 2, furnished the first proof for the existence of the atom and laid one of the foundations for Quantum Theory. The significance of these discoveries and the often turbulent social life of the genius are brilliantly portrayed in a visually appealing exhibition at the Historical Museum of Bern. It has proved so popular, attracting over 165,000 visitors in six months, that it has been prolonged to 15 October. The exhibition has many interactive displays, and the outside Physics Park has been enthralling young and old with its working demonstrations of machines that embody the principles of Einstein's theories. An English commentary is available on iPod, though the text throughout the exhibition appears in English.

In the heart of the old town is the Einstein House where the great man lived in a second-floor flat and penned the five scientific papers on which his fame rested, one of which won him the Nobel Prize in 1921. It was here that his recently married wife, the Serbian Mileva Maric, gave birth to a son, Hans Albert, who was later to become a professor of hydraulics at Berkeley in California.

Historical Museum of Bern, Helvetiaplatz 5 (00 41 31 350 77 11; www.einstein-ausstellung.ch). Einstein House, Kramgasse 49 (00 41 31 312 00 91; www.einstein-bern.ch)

Voices
Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond delivers his speech at the Scottish National Party (SNP) Spring Conference in Aberdeen, Scotland April 12, 2014.
voices
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Pare as Megan Draper and Jon Hamm as the troubled, melancholy Don Draper
tvAnd six other questions we hope Mad Men series seven will answer
Life & Style
The new low cost smartphone of Motorola, 'Motorola Moto G', is displayed in Sao Paulo, Brazil on November 13, 2013. The smartphone, with dimensions 65.9mm W x 129.9mm H x 6.0 - 11.6mm D is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 with quad-core 1,2 GHz CPU, a 4.5-inch display and Android Operating System 4.3 and a suggested price of $ 179 USD.
techData assessing smartphones has revealed tens of millions of phones are at risk of being harvested
News
David Beckham is planning to build a stadium in Miami’s port for a new football team he will own
news... in his fight for a football stadium in Miami's port area
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
weird newsMan live-photographs cracking of mysterious locked box on Reddit
Sport
Oliver Giroud kisses the Arsenal badge after giving the Gunners the lead
sportArsenal 3 West Ham 1: Two goals from the German striker and one piece of brilliance from Giroud puts the Gunners back above Everton
News
Plans to decriminalise non-payment of television licence fees would cost the BBC £500m according to estimates drawn up within the Corporation
people
News
weird news
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
filmAs 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star James Dean perfected his moody act
News
Obesity surgery in rats has been found to change the way the body processes alcohol
news
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
artThe Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
Life & Style
US Airways has been at the centre of a Twitter storm after it responded to customer complaints with a graphic sexual image
techUS Airways takes an interesting approach to customer service
Arts & Entertainment
Philip Arditti as Yossarian and Christopher Price as Milo Minderbinder in Northern Stage's 'Catch-22'
theatre
Arts & Entertainment
The Purple Wedding: Joffrey and Margaery Tyrell tie the knot
TV The second episode of the hit series featured a surprise for viewers
Life & Style
Back to nature: women with body issues have found naked yoga sessions therapeutic
lifeDoing poses in the altogether is already big in the US, and now it’s landed here – in mixed classes
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Corporate Sales Manager, Slough

    £30K- £35K pa + Commision £10K + Car and Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly ...

    Sales Manager, High Wycombe

    £30K- £35K pa + Commision £10K + Car and Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly ...

    Travel Consultant - Aberdeen

    £18000 - £27000 per annum: Flight Centre Limited: Join one of the biggest trav...

    Travel Consultant

    £15000 - £27000 per annum + Benefits & Uncapped Commission: Flight Centre Limi...

    Day In a Page

    Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

    Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

    Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
    The pain of IVF

    The pain of IVF

    As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal
    Supersize art

    Is big better? Britain's latest super-sized art

    The Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
    James Dean: Back on the big screen

    James Dean: Back on the big screen

    As 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star perfected his moody act
    Catch-22: How the cult classic was adapted for the stage

    How a cult classic was adapted for the stage

    More than half a century after it was published 'Catch-22' will make its British stage debut next week
    10 best activity books for children

    10 best activity books for children

    Keep little ones busy this bank holiday with one of these creative, educational and fun books
    Arsenal 3 West Ham United 1: Five things we learnt from the battle between the London sides

    Five things we learnt from Arsenal's win over West Ham

    Arsenal still in driving seat for Champions League spot and Carroll can make late charge into England’s World Cup squad
    Copa del Rey final: Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right

    Pete Jenson on the Copa del Rey final

    Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right
    Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

    Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

    With the tennis circus now rolling on to the slowest surface, Paul Newman highlights who'll be making the headlines – and why
    Exclusive: NHS faces financial disaster in 2015 as politicians urged to find radical solution

    NHS faces financial disaster in 2015

    Politicians urged to find radical solution
    Ukraine crisis: How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?

    Ukraine crisis

    How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

    The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

    A history of the First World War in 100 moments
    Fires could turn Amazon rainforest into a desert as human activity and climate change threaten ‘lungs of the world’, says study

    New threat to the Amazon rainforest:

    Fires that scorch the ‘lungs of the Earth’
    Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City: And the winner of this season’s Premier League title will be...

    Who’s in box seat now? The winner of the title will be ...

    Who is in best shape to take the Premier League prize?