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Bern (French: Berne, Italian: Berna) may not be Switzerland's largest or most popular city, but it has been the Swiss capital since 1848. Bern was founded in the 12th century in what is now the centre of Switzerland. Its natural boundaries were shaped by the Aare River, but over time the city has outgrown these boundaries. Bern has not, however, lost its historic charm. Much of the medieval architecture and design that marked its early development is still visited. Understandably, Bern is a UNESCO World Heritage site well known for its rich past.
Summers in Bern are from June to September with temperatures mostly between 20 °C and 25 °C during the day and 9 °C to 12 °C at night. Winters are from December to February with average highs between 2 °C and 5 °C and nights between -2 °C and -4 °C. Precipitation averages over 1,000 mm a year, with most of it falling in the warmer summer months. Snow is possible in winter, but not very common.
Bern Airport (BRN) has flights to Paris, Mallorca, London, Southampton, Munich, Barcelona, Berlin, Djerba, Elba, Hamburg, Hammamet (Tunisia), Ibiza, Olbia, Preveza, Pristina, Rotterdam, Tabarka, Tortoli, Vienna and Zakynthos.
The Swiss Federal Railways (SBB-CFF-FFS) has trains througout the country. Express (InterCity) trains connect twice per hour to Geneva, Basel and Zurich as well as Zürich and Geneva airports. Hourly express trains connect to most other cities, including Interlaken, Brig, and Lucerne.
Bern is well connected to other cities by several highways (A1, A12, A6).
Eurolines connects Bern to several European cities by bus.
Like in most Swiss cities, parking space is rare and expensive. There are several paid parking stations, including at the main train station. As the city center is quite small and all of the major attractions are within walking distance, it's a good choice to park in a "park and ride" and take public transport to the center of town. Using the car in the old town is very difficult and not recommended.
Motorbikers will find free dedicated parking spaces in several places around the perimeter of the old town, including near Waisenhausplatz and at the main train station.
Bern has an excellent public transportation system, with frequent local city services provided by trams, trolleybuses and buses, together with an S-Bahn rail system for longer journeys into the surrounding suburbs.
Tickets can be bought at vending machines at most stops, or with a smartphone using the SBB mobile app. They are valid for all modes of public transport within the zones they encompass. A ticket valid in the central urban zones (101, 102) for 60 minutes costs CHF 4.20 (2014).
Since June 2014, all hotel accommodations in Bern include the "Bern-Ticket", which allows the free use of public transport within the city (zones 100 and 101) for the duration of the stay, including the Gurten funicular and transfer from and to the airport.
The city centre of Bern is easily accessible by foot. The relatively small old town and the area around the main train station is best explored by walking.
Bern is a bike-friendly city, and most thoroughfares include dedicated bike lanes. There are a few challenging spots where bike traffic interweaves with motor traffic, but motorists are used to sharing the road with bikers and will normally pay attention. Because of the city's topography, some stamina may be required, or an electric bike.
Free bikes can be rented for four hours at the "Hirschengraben" near the main train station. All you need is an ID and 20 CHF for deposit, and you can explore Bern by bike. After four hours, you'll have to pay 1 CHF each hour. There are paid bike deposit stations at the main train station, which also offer repair services.
Eating in Bern (or almost anywhere in Switzerland for that matter) can be an expensive proposition for foreign tourists. Be sure to "shop around" before deciding on a restaurant as many of them cater to foreign tourists (especially those serving traditional Swiss food) and have inflated their prices accordingly. Most Bernese natives prefer Italian, Asian, or other non-local cuisine so finding a traditional Swiss restaurant with acceptable prices can often be a daunting experience. Be patient and you will persevere without breaking the bank.
Many Bernese will tell you that nightlife in Berne is not exactly what you might call spectacular, but they're probably comparing it to Zurich or Paris. There are quite a few good spots to hang out at.
For a drink or two, there's a wide choice of bars all over town. However, you might be disappointed with most central options as they tend to be annoyingly conventional, though there are an ample number of exceptions.
The main train station has a tourist office on the west side on the ground floor. They'll try to help you find a hotel room, if you arrive without booking. However, it is better to book ahead if you can, as Bern is a capital city; the budget hotels do tend to fill up on the weekends.
|Bern Backpackers Hotel&Hostel Glocke||Rathausgasse 75,3007 PO Box 503||HOSTEL||86|
|Hotel Alpenblick Bern||Kasernenstrasse 29||Hotel||-|
|Hotel-Restaurant Jardin||Militärstrasse 38||Hotel||-|
|Landhaus Hotel||Altenbergstr. 4-6||Hotel||88|
|Pension Marthahaus||Wyttenbachstrasse 22a||Hostel||89|
|Youth Hostel Bern||Weihergasse 4||Hostel||85|
Switzerland has a high rate of people with their own internet connection and computers, so internet cafes are not as common compared to other countries and compared to the past. But still you will be able to find a computer in the main cities and tourist areas, also at libraries, video rental shops, train stations or tourist information places. Wifi is widely available, though sometimes at a cost. A growing number of hotels, restaurants, coffee bars and fastfood joints now offer free wifi.
See also: International Telephone Calls
Switzerland's country code is 41 and the emergency phone numbers are 117 (police), 118 (fire department) and 144 (emergency rescue service/ambulance). Swiss phone numbers consist of the area code and a local phone number. The area code has three digits and starts with a zero, such as 022 for Geneva. The local phone number has usually 7 digits, but there are numbers with only 5 or 6 digits.
If you stay for some time, it may be advisable to buy a pre-paid cell phone card that you can use in any phone that supports the GSM standard on the 900/1800 MHz bands - they usually cost around 10-40 CHF and are obtainable in the shops of the mobile service providers Swisscom, Orange or Sunrise in most cities. Mobile network coverage is close to 100% by area, even in the mountainous, non-populated areas. There are also a lot of cheap prepaid cards for local calls from other providers. The prepaid cards of the big supermarket chains Migros and Coop for example cost around 20 CHF and include already 15 CHF airtime. The cheapest prepaid card for calls within Switzerland is Aldi Mobile. The cheapest prepaid card for international communication is Yallo. The prepaid cards can be bought online (30 CHF with 30 CHF airtime inclusive), in most post offices (29 CHF with 20 CHF airtime inclusive) or Sunrise shops (20 CHF with 20 CHF airtime inclusive).
Swiss Post is the national postal service of Switzerland and has fast and reliable services. For more information about prices to send postcards, letters and parcels, both domestically as well as internationally, they have a very useful Price Calculator. Domestically, there is priority mail (arriving the following day) and economy mail which takes 2-3 days to be send within Switzerland. Stamps can be bought at the post offices or from shops and kiosks that also sell postcards. In general, post offices are open from 8:00am to noon and 2:00pm to 5:00 or 6:00pm, with a lunchbreak in between. Opening times on Saturdays are usually only during mornings. Larger cities and central post offices might keep longer hours and skp the lunchbreak. If you want to send packages internationally, you might also consider international courier companies like TNT, DHL or UPS.
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