With a few furry friends by my side, I was ready to explore a new corner of Bern.
Everything is coming up roses in Bern! Switzerland's capital city might be less visited than its popular neighbors, like Geneva, Zurich, and the ski resorts of the Alps, but it's a prime travel destination that stands tall on its own. The city's small size is ideal for walking (translation: doing a chocolate shop crawl) yet big enough to offer days worth of exploration and encourage multiple trips.
My first trip to Bern was over 15 years ago and I fell in love with the city. Back then, I enjoyed long walks along the river - and a few swims too! - and had a wonderful time exploring the medieval city center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But there were many corners that beckoned me to explore further and I finally had the opportunity recently to return to Bern, making it my final destination of a 13 country trip. It was the perfect destination to cap off an incredible journey and a visit to Bern's Rose Garden was just the thing to end the trip on a high note. Here's what I loved about our adventure.
A rewarding hike.
It's a good thing that hiking and enjoying the great outdoors is as much a part of travel in Switzerland as cheese fondue and milk chocolate. Are you walking to work up an appetite or walking to negate the consequences of said appetite? It's hard to tell!
The walk up to the Rose Garden is a steep trek up a well maintained cobblestone path. I'm not going to lie - there were several moments when I felt it was imperative that I "stop to take a picture". I know, I know - pitiful! Fortunately, I didn't have to fake interest in the gorgeous view. It really is a lovely walk.
Putting me to shame was a nimble orange cat, who politely rebuffed all offers of petting in favor of darting in and out of the gardens that lined the path and occasionally executing a vertical pounce on a tree. I couldn't determine if Kitty was a permanent fixture of the Rose Garden or a resident of a nearby home. Regardless, it seemed utterly at home and completely unphased by the steep path.
If the walk isn't for you - take heart. The number 10 city bus (which also goes to the train station) goes up and down a parallel street. Be sure to ask your hotel for aFREE city transit pass, the Bern Ticket, during your stay - all accommodations provide them and they're an invaluable travel tool.
A reward by any other name would smell as sweet.
It may sound redundant but the best reward for the challenging walk was the beautiful roses. On the day of my visit, it was mid August and the roses had just endured some rain and wind. While they weren't at their peak, they were still exquisite. There are over 220 rose bushes, as well as iris, rhododendron, and water lilies to explore and I loved the vibrant colors and striking planting arrangements and happily admired the many varieties and styles.
The Rose Garden is a very popular spot for families - I saw plenty of parents and young children enjoying a picnic on the grounds. So if you have little ones, this is the place to let them burn off some energy. (But no word on how they managed to lug the strollers up the path!)
Come for the roses, stay for the scenery.
The roses are beautiful but they're not the only view to enjoy. The Rose Garden, which is built upon a cemetery that dates to the mid 1700's, offers spectacular panoramic views of Bern, including some of the city's most famous sites. Keen eyes will easily see the Aare River (my favourite swimming spot in the entire world - really, swimming in the river is a thing here), bridges, church spires, the clock tower, the city's famous red roofs, and, on a clear day, the surrounding countryside.
A meal with a view.
Exhuberant urban adventures deserve hearty meals and the Restaurant Rosengarten doesn't disappoint. It offers a seasonally focused menu of Mediterranean and Swiss inspired meals. What I loved most about the menu was how fresh it was. After eating a lot of heavy dishes in the region, it was refreshing to have meals accompanied by local produce and a nice balance of Bernese favorites and Mediterranean classics.
Ryan enjoyd a local roast sausage with root vegetables and sauteed zucchini, peppers, and celery while I had a herb roasted spatchcock chicken with a barley pilaf. Our meals were succulent and savory and hit all the right notes and we were impressed by the good value of the prices (especially the specials), the availability of vegetarian choices, and the nice selection of Swiss wines on offer.
When a spattering of rain hit just as we were concluding our meal, we moved from the open terrace to the covered veranda and warmed up with some hot chocolate - the perfect conclusion to our meal and oh-so very Swiss!
Saying hello to a fine, furry friend.
Kitty was not the only furry friend we encountered around the Rose Garden. The mascot of Bern is the bear - the very word "bern" means "bear"! You'll see bears on the city's coat of arms, hidden in the logo of the Toblerone chocolate bar (which calls Bern home), and you can see the real thing in the Barengraben.
"Barengraben" translates to "bear pit" and, for much of history, the city's beloved bears really did reside in a bear pit - not exactly the kind of environment that animals thrive in. Today, the Barengraben is part of the BarenPark, a much more spacious and natural park by the river, including a special swimming enclosure.
The Bargengraben is located at the base of the path that goes up to the Rose Garden and it's a perfect fit to visit the two at the same time.
Everything is coming up roses in Bern.
Visiting Bern's Rose Garden was the perfect ending to a month of exploration throughout Europe. It was the perfect mix of all the things we love best about the continent - natural beauty, fantastic views, wonderful food, and, yes, even a hearty walk. Since my first visit to the city, over 15 years ago, I've been recommending Bern as a travel destination and this trip only reinforced my love of Bern. I hope you get there soon!
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Our visit to Bern was facilitated in part by the local tourism board and we thank them for their support. All research, writing, and opinions remain our own.