Of all Swiss cities, Bern is the most immediately charming. Crammed onto a steep-sided peninsula in a crook of the River Aare, the city’s quiet, cobbled lanes, lined with sandstone arcaded buildings, have changed little in five hundred years. It’s sometimes hard to remember that this petite town of just 130,000 people is the nation’s capital.
The heart of Bern’s compact old town is Spitalgasse. Heading east from the Bahnhofplatz, this becomes Marktgasse, Kramgasse and then Gerechtigkeitsgasse, before crossing the river to the Bärengraben (bear pits). The main museums are on Helvetiaplatz, on the south bank of the river, across the Kirchenfeldbrücke.