Coming off of a wild 2022, which saw me visit 26 countries across 5 continents and spend much of my time traveling abroad and working remotely, I was fully ready to spend much more time at home, unwinding and just enjoying being present (and not living out of a suitcase!). But lo and behold, it's only part of the way through January and I'm sitting in a hotel in Zurich to write this blog post.
I think this trip counts as low key though, I only visited two cities in Switzerland - my first time in this country, making it #49 on my list - and the real reason I came was not to check off a bunch of stuff from my bucket list but rather, to catch up with Joaquim, a friend of mine, for the first time since we'd met back in late 2021 in Porto.
I arrived by train from Salzburg (via Munich and Zurich) to a below-freezing Bern and we walked the short, cold distance from the central Hauptbahnhof to his adorable bright yellow flat shared with his two roommates Finn and Aude. Wednesday night was quiet and brief, with my arrival late in the evening. On Thursday, he had some meetings and preparations at his university so I worked remotely from his university's library for the day. We got out in the early evening to enjoy the final fleeting hours of the winter sun and wandered around the city, before I enjoyed my first ever Swiss fondue with Aude, Joaquim and an ex-roomie of theirs, Kim, which was made even more delightful with Swiss German music and plenty of giggles and even a home reno project of nailing twinkle lights above a window.
On Friday, we both worked from his flat before venturing out into the sun again for pretty views across the city and a homemade Pad Thai for dinner with Kim. We got exceptionally lucky with the weather for my three days in Bern - freezing cold but so beautiful and sunny. On Saturday, we spent the entire day exploring Bern, wandering through Swiss weekend markets, trying local delicacies, climbing the many steps to the top of the Münster, eating a vegan buffet lunch and participating in a tour of the beautiful federal Parliament (Bern is the capital of Switzerland so this is the heart of Swiss politics).
Perhaps this is the year for less solo long-term travel and instead more meaningful travel, rekindling connections with people who love me and who I can laugh with. Let's see...
My recommendations for food and drinks in Bern:
- Marta's Cafe - yummy hot chocolate and vegan scones in a below-ground cave (and they do cool live music events, too)
- Turnhalle - an ex-school gymnasium converted into a cafe by day and a dance bar by night
- Markt Waisenhausplatz - a daily market in the heart of Bern; be sure to try a gâteau du vully
- Tibits - vegan buffet spread where you pay what it weighs
- Rösterei - a go-to cafe for a great cappucino or chai latte
And here's a quick guide to five wonderful things to do in Bern:
The idyllic old town of Bern is surrounded on three sides by the Ahr River. Built between the 12th and 15th centuries, the homogenous buildings haven't changed much since, giving an old town flair and delightful streets to wander through with a steaming mug of hot Swiss cocoa in hand.
We came here as the sun was setting and witnessed a beautiful panoramic view across the river and city of Bern. Located out front of the Münster, this place is a wonderland in the winter and is apparently the go-to spot for a drink on a summer's afternoon.
Across the Nydeggbrücke is the old tram depot which has been converted into a riverside restaurant and beer garden, offering lovely views back towards the Aldstadt.
Situated on a hill overlooking the city, this peaceful park has some of the best views in all of Bern. A restaurant offers stunning window seating and a long path along the perimeter of the park is the perfect sunset-watching spot.
Berner Münster // Cathedral of Bern
In the heart of the Aldstadt is the Cathedral of Bern, built beginning in 1421, with a 100 metre tower dominating the skyline of the city. You can climb all the way up to the top of the tower, spotting cathedral bells as you go, for the best view in the entire city. The cathedral is built in Gothic style and is the tallest in the whole country!
Bern Parliament Tour
Bern, as the capital city of Switzerland, is home to the impressive federal parliament building, situated overlooking the river. When parliament is not in session, you can take a one-hour guided tour of the beautiful building and even have the chance to sit in the chairs that council members sit in.