Families traveling to Switzerland too often overlook Bern, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the country's capital city. Zurich, Geneva and even Lucerne get all of the fame and glory when it comes to tourism, but families are missing out. Animals, clocks, roses, pretzels and fountains are just the start of your journey. Bern is also an easy home base for anyone looking to daytrip into the Swiss Alps. Let's go on a little journey through the highlights of this historical city to see just what it has in store for you on your next trip.
Baren Park and Zoo
Although the Baren Park, or bear pit, tends to always have a bit of controversy swirling around it, you can't deny the draw. The bear is the symbol of this historic city, and bears have been seen in the city for hundreds of years. Their living conditions have greatly improved, although some still question the need for the bear pits in this day and age. The zoo or Tierpark Dahlholzli, which the Baren Park is an offshoot of, can be found further down the road. Like many other zoos across the world, it gives you a taste of the exotic creatures of our planet, while also mixing in a few local friends for your kids to meet.
Flowers, a cafe and a playground - what more could tired parents ask for? Berns Rosengarten, or Rose Garden, sits high above the city, giving families spectacular views of the Aare River and historic center below. Parents can kick back with a beverage in the cafe while they keep an eye on their children at the playground. Take a stroll through the sumptuous smells of the rose garden in bloom in the summer and early fall months. It is a delightful place to escape the hustle of the city and let off a bit of steam with the kids.
This historic clock was built in 1530 and has been ringing in the hour ever since, delighting visitors and their children from across the globe. The clock chimes every 15 minutes, but stay put if you are close by at the top of the hour. This is when the jester rings his bells and the figurines spin around.
If you are looking for a fun and free scavenger hunt to keep the kids occupied as you explore Old Town, look for the eleven Renaissance allegorical statues on public fountains scattered throughout this section of the city. Keep an eye out for the Kindlifresserbrunnen fountain (translation: Child Eater Fountain). It may just scare your kids straight if they are acting up and whining about getting another Berliner donut.
You can't talk about Switzerland and not talk about its food. Yes, the chocolate is amazing. Pop into any bakery, grocery store or shop in the Old Town and you can find chocolates of every shape and size. What you might miss on this chocolate hunt though are the bretzels, or as Americans call them, pretzels. These warm, doughy treats come smothered in salt, but you can also get bretzels slathered with butter and topped with a piece of ham. It makes a quick, easy and cheap snack on the go for hungry kids who are tired of walking.
Bern can certainly hold its own when you visit Switzerland, but it really would be a shame if you missed a day trip into the Alps. Hop on a train or rent a car to get to Lauterbrunnen to catch the Lauterbrunnen-Murren (BLM) mountain railway.Take the train half way up to Winteregg for lunch before continuing onto Murren, a sweet little chalet littered village that is a ski bunny paradise in winter and a hiker's wonderland the rest of the year. Families can easily stroll the paved streets, pop into the local shops and buy treats for the kids as they breathe in that fresh alpine air. Take your time looking up at the Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau, the big three peaks in the Swiss Alps, which tower behind the city of Bern. Take the Jungfrau rail to the top of Europe to get up close with Swiss villages and play with a bit of snow in summer. This trip is not for the faint of heart, but it is worth it for the views and the ice tunnel you will pass through on your trip.
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