The River Aare swirls in icy shades of cyan below the quaint Nydeggbrücke arch bridge. A sharp, mountain-fresh breeze cuts across my face.
In Bern, the capital of Switzerland, you can see The Alps glistening in the distance to the south from many vantage points.
They cast a spell over the city: the water, the air, they’re just better here. Switzerland, in general, makes you feel like you’re in some Evian-drenched wonderland.
The wind is bracing, but I zip up my jacket and lean into it. The picture-perfect scenery demands it.
Think a sea of terracotta pantile roofs. Forest-carpeted hills. And barely an ultramodern building in sight.
It’s certainly a deviation from the evermore chaotic skylines of most capital cities.
On ground level, it’s similarly charming: all snug passages, cobbled streets, over 100 fountains and that gorgeous river.
It’s semi-official that Bern is the world’s most Instagrammed winter city. That is according to research by a laser eye surgery clinic of all places, at least.
If true, it’s not hard to see why. One quick visit to the 800-year-old Bern, population 130,000, reveals a medieval treasure trove of selfie opportunities.
Or, if you prefer to turn the camera the other way, essential attractions to photograph. Either way, here’s a round up of the best – no matter what time of year!
1 Bern Minster
The 100.6m spire of the Old City’s most famous cathedral – the Harry Potter-esque Bern Minster, founded in 1421 – looks great in panoramic shots of the city.
You can also snap it from the other side of the banks of the Aare on a woodland walk, one of the most enjoyable moments of our trip.
2 Zytglogge clock tower
Dating back even further, to 1191, is the delightfully zany Zytglogge clock tower. The clock face itself looks like a relative of Prague’s medieval astrological clock, the oldest in the world.
It too makes for an awesome photo, looking as it does like a giant, eccentric antique. Getting a decent landscape shot that isn’t ruined by throngs of tourists is tough, though!
3 Albert Einstein bench
There are four benches to find featuring statues of Bern’s most famous homeboy, Albert Einstein.
The best is on a hill in the gorgeous Rosengarten, where an amazing panorama of the city lies in the background. The garden’s restaurant makes full use of the view, and serves delicious traditional fare like barley soup and cured wild boar.
The Nobel-prize winner is further celebrated at what was once his humble abode, in the town center. Decked out as it was in the early 1900s, the most surprising aspect is the modest size. To think, such a tiny apartment once housed such genius.
By all accounts, as the museum inside recounts, Einstein was very happy living in Bern 1903 and 1905. It was a time of great professional prosperity, which saw him develop his Theory of Relativity.
5 All the art at Kunstmuseum Bern
Bern’s number one modern arts museum is world-class. Until mid-April you can catch The Collection Hahnloser exhibit, featuring works by blockbuster names like Van Gogh, Cezanne, Bonnard and Matisse.
We checked out the gallery, Einsteinhaus and more with a money-saving Swiss Federal Railways pass. Ours also ensured free travel around the city – and better still, the entire country. Lausanne and Geneva are around hour and two hours away from bern by train, respectively.
6 Jack’s Brasserie at Hotel Schweizerhof Bern
This sumptuous five star superior Hotel Schweizerhof Bern has two major selling points. The first, its cozy rooftop bar. It offers, once again, stellar views of the cityscape. The second, its sister eatery Jack’s Brasserie. One of Switzerland’s most iconic restaurants, it has twice been awarded 14 points from Gault Millau Restaurant Guide.
The wooden paneling on the floor and walls, low lighting, the beautifully dressed tables with crisp white tablecloths… The interior is truly, immensely glamorous in a throwback style.
More photogenic still is the beautifully-presented French-Swiss food. Disclaimer: veal, omnipresent in Switzerland, is served here. If that’s not your thing, there’s plenty more to choose from. The soups (salsify, oxtail) are amazing, while fresh, delicate seafood is another staple. Lobster, salmon, mussels, trout, salmon, trout and codfish all currently feature.
The indulgent chocolate mousse, pictured above, is possibly the richest dessert we’ve ever eaten. I dread to think how many calories were in it…
For more information on Switzerland visit MySwitzerland.com or call our Switzerland Travel Centre on the International freephone 00800 100 200 30 or e-mail, for information [email protected]; for packages, trains and air tickets [email protected]