Bern Switzerland: Exploring the Minster, Bern City Hall & the Botanical Garden

During my explorations of Bern Switzerland on May 14, 2013 I left the Old Town, crossed the River Aare on the Nydeggbrücke and arrived at the AltesTramdepot, a former streetcar maintenance facility which today is a restaurant with a micro-brewery. It also is the location of a tourist information centre. The restaurant’s sunny west-facing terrace provides an amazing view across the Aare River of the peninsula that makes up Bern’s medieval old town. It was just the perfect place for a lunch in the sun. I sat down to enjoy a scrumptious fresh salad and a typical Swiss pretzel and enjoyed the gorgeous panorama in front of me.

A great view of Bern from near the Altes Tramdepot restaurant

A great view of Bern from near the Altes Tramdepot restaurant

Then I started walking south on the hill above the Aare River. This part of Bern is very green as there is a forest right on the flanks of the river. Many mansions and embassies are located in this neighbourhood and there is a stunning view of the old town centre of Bern.

The embassy district of Bern Switzerland

The embassy district of Bern Switzerland

I crossed the Aare River again and walked back into the old town of Bern again on the Kirchenfeldbrücke Bridge. There are many important sights in this area: the Kultur-Casino Bern, the Swiss National Bank, the Bundesplatz (government plaza) with the Bundeshaus (the Federal Palace, seat of the Swiss Government), the Bärenplatz (Bear Square) with an outdoor market and many more. The small side streets are full of interesting shops that are located underneath the arcades of the medieval buildings.

The embassy district of Bern Switzerland

The Bundesplatz area in Bern Switzerland

Passing by the extensive shopping opportunities in the Amthausgasse and the Herrengasse, I walked to the Münster of Bern, the Bern Minster, a Swiss Reformed cathedral whose construction started in 1421 but was not finished until 1893. The tower of Switzerland’s tallest cathedral is currently undergoing renovations and unfortunately I could not look inside as there was a funeral going on. The terraces on the banks of the Aare River provide gorgeous views of the river and the banks on the other side.

The Bern Minster - Bern's Gothic cathedral

The Bern Minster – Bern’s Gothic cathedral and great views over the Aare River

I continued my walking tour of Bern from the city’s minster and walked along the medieval Kreuzgasse to the Church of St. Peter and Paul. The old medieval part of Bern makes for a truly charming walk and there are plenty of opportunities to sit down in outdoor patios and enjoy a drink among the historic buildings of Bern. Among Bern’s hallmarks are its famous arcades which were built in the 15th centuries when houses expanded their upper floors into the street. The Great Fire of 1405 had destroyed all the wooden buildings, and the local citizens rebuilt their town with stone houses, leaving Bern with one of the most consistent medieval city cores in Europe. Switzerland’s capital is a really enchanting city.

Right next to the Church of St. Peter and Paul, I arrived at the Bern City Hall, built in the early 1400s in a late Gothic style. There is a nice square in front of the city hall and the surrounding streets are full of arcades with little shops and restaurants.

The medieval City Hall of Bern Switzerland

The medieval City Hall of Bern Switzerland

Then I strolled back northwards across the Aare River across the Lorraine Bridge to the Botanical Garden of Bern. This lovely urban oasis extends over more than two hectares (almost five acres) and displays 6000 types of plants.

Although the city already had a botanical garden in the late 1700s, the current location was completed in 1862. The Bern Botanical Garden is part of the Botanical Institute of the University of Bern and contains a large selection of Alpine plants in a section called the “Alpinum”. The Palm House showcases tropical plants such as bananas, coffee, sugar cane and pineapples while the Fern House features tropical mountain ferns as well as palm and tree ferns. You can even undertake an entire journey around the globe with plans from Australia & New Zealand, Asia, Africa, North America and Europe. Throughout the facility there are benches to sit down on as well as the Café Fleuri which serves a variety of refreshments. The Botanical Garden is a great place to sit down and relax, overlooking the banks of the Aare River.

An urban oasis: the Botanical Garden of Bern Switzerland

An urban oasis: the Botanical Garden of Bern Switzerland

After soaking in the late afternoon sun in this idyllic environment, I walked back through the river-side neighbourhoods on the north side of the Aare River in Bern. The area around the Kornhausbrücke Bridge has lots of mansions and stately old apartment buildings. A bit tired from a long day of sightseeing I picked up some fresh bread, some tasty Swiss cheeses and some fruits in the supermarket and settled in for a comfortable evening in my apartment and a nice chat with my local hostess Sandra.  I needed a good rest since on the next day I would be driving to Zurich for my last day in Switzerland.

A walk through the neighbourhoods north of the Aare River in Bern Switzerland

A walk through the neighbourhoods north of the Aare River in Bern Switzerland

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