The debate over which is the best city in Switzerland is officially over. It’s Bern, the de facto capital of Switzerland. Bern is located in the center of the country, a three hour train ride to every corner of this mountainous paradise. The old town is fairly small but is elevated from other parts of the city. When you walk towards the numerous bridges around the city it provides amazing views of the scenery around Bern.
Highlights of Bern, Switzerland
The symbol of the city of Bern is a bear, it’s on the coat of arms. Cross the Nydeggbrüke Bridge and you will find the UNESCO world heritage site called Bärenpark (Bear Park). I’m a total whore for UNESCO sites, I’ll go out of my way to visit them, even though some are tiny and worthless. This is unique because there are live bears within the city limits.
By far the coolest thing to do in Bern is the river float. It is actually more a body float as most people jump in without a tube. Everyone in town does this float. You can rent a waterproof bag from your hostel for $5 or buy one from a local shop for $25. You start by getting to the main park in the city, just south of the city is Freibad Marzili (Marzili Park). Everyone congregates here, it has beautiful views of the city above it. Follow the crowd walking up the river, they will all have bags over their shoulders or floats in their hands. I walked as far as I could in my flip-flops, which was to a smaller park down the river next to a campground.
Day Trip to Zermatt
The whole float back goes by quickly, 15 minutes max back into town. Then you have to get out of the water because of a series of rapids. I walked with a German guy from the hostel past the rapids and jumped back in the river and went for another 20 minutes down the river to Lorraine Park. Along the way there is a spot where you can jump off a low bridge or grab a beer. You will not miss the spot but the bar name is Trybhouz Bar, just in case.
While in Bern I took a day trip to Zermatt in order to see and potentially hike the Matterhorn. This was an expensive trip for just one day but 100% worth it. The Matterhorn is an incredible mountain with its sharp peak that resides in both Switzerland and Italy. I ended up taking a train up the adjacent mountain of Gornergrat. In total it cost me $225 to get to Zermatt and take the scenic train up Gornergrat. I hiked down 10 miles back into town and headed back for Bern, where I had a couchsurfing set up for that night. If I could do it again, I would have camped in Zermatt or stayed overnight in the one hostel they have. The town is so pretty, it has a 9 hole golf course with a campground right next door and I had a tent!! This was a missed opportunity by me.
"Harvey Falcon" is the the senior adventure corespondant for Ski Bum Van Life. From Europe to Asia to South America and beyond Harvey offers an exciting take on adventure travel. Read all his stories here.
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