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Six things people who live in Bern may take for granted

If you’ve lived in Bern for a while, chances are you are no longer appreciating how special the city really is. Here are six things (some) Bern residents take for granted.

A busy street in Bern in 2020.
A busy street in Bern in 2020. Photo by Prateek Mahesh on Unsplash

From its exquisite food scene to its beautiful scenery perfect for hiking, you don’t need to look far or long to find good things about Bern – yet sometimes those are the very things long-term residents tend to overlook.

Here are some things you (too) might take for granted.

Parks, parks, and more parks

Bern is known for its laidback atmosphere and somewhat slower pace of life when compared to some of Switzerland’s larger cities, such as Zurich and Geneva.

This makes the capital city ideal for a casual stroll through one of its many parks and when it comes to parks, in Bern you are truly spoiled for choice.

Whether you decide on a romantic stroll in the city’s quaint Mettlenpark, or you want to smell the roses in the Rosengarten – arguably Bern’s most beautiful park offering views over the rooftops of the historic Old City, the Münster as well as the loop in the Aare river.

You may also want to swing by the Botanical Garden of the University of Bern for a more exotic selection, or, if travelling with kids, visit the Tierpark where over 200 species of animals can be seen 365 days a year.

While there, we also recommend checking out the BärenPark which is located at the foot of Bern’s Old City. There, you may just be able to sneak a peek at one of the enclosure’s real-life bears, which by the way have been the symbol of the city for centuries, though the origins are disputed.

Bern is also famous for its Gurtenpark – a mountain park boasting multiple features such as hiking trails, an observation tower, a playground, as well as numerous other attractions.

READ MORE: Basel vs. Bern: Which is best for a weekend break?

Taking a dip in the Aare

Likewise, did you know that swimming in Bern’s Aare is one of the city’s most beloved summer sports?

Seasoned swimmers in Bern’s waterworks are often spotted sporting an Marzilian Aarebag featuring Bern’s signature bear print. The bag can be taken for a swim while keeping your belongings perfectly dry.

Most of the Aare swimmers meet up at the Marzilibad or Lorrainebad and walk upstream by the river, either from Marzili towards Schönausteg, or from Lorrainebad towards Altenbergsteg – before jumping in the river and drifting downstream.

You can also check out the three most popular Bern swim routes here.

However, whichever route you decide on, do remember that swimming in Switzerland’s rivers (and the Aare specifically) is usually only recommended for experienced swimmers.

Fresh, tasty water wherever you go

Bern’s public fountains aren’t just great for swimming (yes, that’s a thing), the majority of them provide perfectly safe drinking water.

The city has 102 public fountains – 36 of which are in the city centre – most of which (and all 36 in the centre) offer fresh, clean and tasty Bern spring water for free, meaning buying bottled water is a thing of the past.

All wells in operation are cleaned weekly and regular care of the fountains ensures chemical ingredients and cleaning agents steer clear of the water.

Going to another (non-Swiss) city, you’ll have a quick look around before you realise that there’s not so many water fountains.

Attractions wherever you look

As the capital of Switzerland, Bern sure knows how to deliver on the entertainment front.

In the centre of Bern’s Old City you will find the Zytglogge, a medieval clock tower that was built in the 13th century and originally served as a gate tower of Bern’s western fortifications.

If you’re in the mood for a museum visit, you should definitely drop by the Einstein Museum which is based within Bern’s iconic Bern Historical Museum.

Many people might not know that Albert Einstein was living in Bern when developing his theory of relativity. The exhibition dedicated to him explores both his private and professional lives as well as the fascinating world of the 1920s.

You can also grab an audio guide in various languages (German/French/English/Italian/Spanish/Japanese/Hebrew/Chinese/Russian) to enjoy your visit even more.

You can also visit the house at Kramgasse, where the physicist lived with his family in the early 1900s.

READ ALSO: Why the Swiss city of Bern is receiving hundreds of noise complaints

From 21st August to 12th October 2023, politically minded individuals can also take part in a tour of the parliament building which are free of charge and available in German, French, Italian, and English.

READ MORE: Basel vs Bern: Which Swiss city is the best to live in?

Important role in Swiss history

Founded in 1191, Bern is the de facto capital of Switzerland and thus also the political centre of the country as well as the centre of the Bern-Mittelland economic region.

Moreover, Bern’s Old City was also included in the UNESCO World Heritage List and attracts thousands of tourists each year.

In addition to Ovomaltine – cocoa flavoured powder made from malt extract and dried eggs, which is dissolved in cold or hot milk – Toblerone was also invented in Bern, and the city was home to some of humanity’s greatest minds, such as physicist Albert Einstein and artist Paul Klee.

Employment opportunities

A number of big multinational corporations are headquartered in Bern, which means there are many job opportunities for skilled professionals.

The canton of Bern has over 640,000 employees in more than 70,000 companies and is the largest industrial canton in Switzerland.

Corporations based in the canton benefit from the proximity to universities, technical colleges, and other research institutions.

The Biel/Bienne and the Bernese Jura regions are particularly important locations for the Swiss watch industry with many Swiss watch brands, such as Omega, Rolex, Longines and Swatch enjoying a global reputation.

Moreover, many local and global corporations meet annually at the Swiss Economic Forum in Interlaken making this an ideal opportunity for networking for both established companies and start-ups.

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What makes Switzerland’s Alpine pasture season worthy of global recognition?

Switzerland's Alpine pasture season has been included in UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. But what makes it so special?

What makes Switzerland’s Alpine pasture season worthy of global recognition?

Why are Swiss Alpine pastures in the news?

On Wednesday, UNESCO announced it had inscribed 45 elements on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity during its annual session held in Kasane (Republic of Botswana).

The list comprises cultural “practices and expressions [that] help demonstrate the diversity of this heritage and raise awareness about its importance.” 

Among this year’s new elements were two Swiss entries, one of which is the country’s popular Alpine pasture season.

What is Switzerland’s Alpine pasture season?

As an exemplary tradition of the Swiss mountain areas, the Alpine pasture season combines traditional skills, customs and rituals related to Alpine farming in Switzerland.

The Alpine pasture season takes place from around May to October in Switzerland when various cattle, sheep and goats are relocated to high-altitude pastures (between 600 metres and 2900 metres) to graze on fresh forage and herbs that thrive in the summer months.

The Alpine farmers, or Alpacists, then look after the livestock and their surroundings, produce different dairy products, and even invite visitors to observe the animals and farming practices.

“The practice contributes to the preservation of natural landscapes and creates economic and social ties between the local populations and the Alpine farmers. It has given rise to the knowledge and skills needed to maintain the sites, as well as to a variety of social and religious practices such as rituals, prayers and blessings, traditional clothing, livestock competitions and local festivities,” UNESCO writes.

Some of these practices also include “traditional clothing, livestock competitions and local festivals” like the Alpine cattle ascent (inalpe) and the Alpine cattle descent (désalpe) where – depending on the region – the most beautiful cow of the herd is crowned.

Festivals to celebrate the herd animals heading to their summer pastures play a vital role for farmers and locals as they highlight craft practices that are otherwise rarely observed in Switzerland.

“The knowledge, skills, and customs of the Alpine pasture season, including farming and cheesemaking, are often transmitted informally, within families and their seasonal employees or among members of Alpine societies and cooperatives. They are also transmitted through regional training centres, cultural events and tourism,” UNESCO says.

READ MORE: Why are cows so important in Switzerland?

UNESCO also recognises Swiss irrigation technology

Switzerland’s cattle weren’t the only ones to join UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity this year.

Its centuries-old irrigation technology from Bern and Lucerne also made the cut.

The multinational agricultural technology was proposed for inclusion on the UNESCO list by Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland and Germany, zentralplus reported.

According to UNESCO, traditional irrigation involves temporarily digging small ditches and channels to distribute water from as springs, rivers, streams, and glaciers to meadows.

This sustainable form of water supply, which serves to cultivate dry areas, also has a positive effect on biodiversity.

In Switzerland, this technology is celebrated with various social gatherings and other festivities to mark the start and ending of the water season.

UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity also includes six other Swiss entries.

These include the Craftsmanship of mechanical watchmaking and art mechanics (2020), the Holy Week processions in Mendrisio (2019), Alpinism (2019), the Avalanche risk management (2018), Art of dry stone walling, knowledge and techniques (2018), the Basel Carnival (2017), and the Winegrowers’ Festival in Vevey (2016).

Since 2020, the craft techniques and customary practices of cathedral workshops, or Bauhütten, in Europe, know-how, transmission, development of knowledge and innovation – which include Switzerland – also joined UNESCO’s Register of Good Safeguarding Practices and falls within the agency’s Intangible Cultural Heritage.

READ MORE: The 13 world heritage sites in Switzerland you need to see