Bern restaurants and bars
Local attractions, museums and art venues
Even if you’re local, a visit to Bern Cathedral is almost always a pleasant diversion as long as you have a good head for heights. The imposing Gothic Bern Münster dates from 1421, and the bell tower winds skywards up 254 steps that shouldn’t be attempted unless you’re in good physical health. Once you get to the top, though, you’re rewarded by immense views of the Bernese Oberland, with Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau all visible on a clear day. It's a good way to orientate yourself within the city, as the loop of the River Aare and the limit of the UNESCO heritage area are easily discernible. If you don’t succumb to dizziness on the way down, take some time to enjoy the peaceful beauty of the cathedral’s interior amid the soaring ceilings and ornate stained glass.
A short ride from Bern city centre by tram and the funicular Gurtenbahn sits this low mountain, whose summit was developed by the capital in 1999 as an outdoor leisure area. At 858m, the Gurten sports fabulous views over Bern on a clear day, and makes for a welcome getaway from the city. The leafy offering includes a viewing tower, several restaurants, a children’s play area, plus hiking and mountain biking trails. In winter, if the snow descends low enough the Gurten is ideal for beginner skiers and family sledging. The Gurten also hosts several events, including an annual big-name music festival.
This elegant five star hotel prides itself equally on its venerable history and its impressive location in the old town. While other luxury hotels woo guests by embracing the latest interiors trends, the Bellevue Palace is wedded to old-world glamour. The period furniture and the on-your-best-behaviour vibe might not suit you if you thirst for the new, but there's nothing stuffy about the service and the rooms are exceptionally comfortable. The flagship restaurant La Terrasse feels like a special occasion-only venue, with its heavy table cloths and impeccable silver, but the bar is a popular nook for an after-work drink, suggesting that the locals have found something to love here. Other amenities include a rooftop sun terrace and a gym, while leisure guests would do well to take advantage of access to the enormous spa at the Bellevue's sister hotel, the Victoria Jungfrau, a day trip away in Interlaken.
Hotel Belle Epoque
This establishment is possessed of a singular variation on the sense of history that pervades most of Bern. It will not appeal to those who love clean lines and modern simplicity, but the hotel's small size and stated commitment to the 'existential lightness' of its eponymous epoch mean that guests can expect a warm welcome. It's also something of find for art lovers - provided they share the owner's obsessive historical focus - with an unexpected collection of original pieces by Klimt and Toulouse-Lautrec. The in-house restaurant is cosy and specialises in steak tartare; otherwise the fare is simple if not particularly remarkable, but you might be in danger of overdosing on the décor, such is the period attention to detail in the dining room. The bar, meanwhile, offers a suitably authentic setting for a frivolous cocktail.