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Bern and Environs (articles index)

Bern

Bear Pits of Bern
The Swiss capital is named after bears (Bären), and bears are featured on the city's flag and coat of arms. After 500 years, the city's mascots have a spacious new home.

Bern Airport (Flughafen Bern-Belp)
If you're headed for Bern or the Bernese Oberland from London, Amsterdam, or a handful of other European cities, the Swiss capital's airport is worth investigating.

Marzili
When the weather turns hot in Bern, grab your bathing suit and catch the funicular to a riverside swimming area below Switzerland's Parliament.

Münster (Cathedral)
After you've seen the remarkable carvings and stained-glass windows, climb the tower for a panoramic view of Bern.

Swiss Parliament, Bern
When it's raining outside, the Federal Assembly chamber offers the best alpine view in Switzerland.

Bern Onion Market
Come for the onions, stay for the confetti battle at the Zibile-Märit on the fourth Monday of November.

Towns

Biel/Bienne
A 16th Century old town and a bilingual culture enliven a city of watchmakers.

Brienz
This pretty town near Interlaken has woodcarvers, an antique steam cogwheel railway, and the Swiss Open-Air Museum. It's easy to reach by train or, better yet, by lake steamer.

Interlaken
Excerpts from Joel Cook's Switzerland: Picturesque and Descriptive, with photos, excursion tips, and Web links.

Thun
This medieval city isn't just a gateway to the Bernese Oberland. It's also worth visiting for its castle and other attractions.

Villages and Mountain Resorts

Beatenberg
On a mountainside just minutes from Interlaken, you'll find an unspoiled paradise for hikers and skiers

Gimmelwald
Is this bucolic village really off the beaten path? Many fans of the Rick Steves Europe Through the Back Door guidebooks think so, but Gimmelwald's backwoods charm has attracted tourists (and travel writers) for a century or more.

Lauterbrunnen
The valley setting is beautiful, and there are 72 waterfalls--including the Trümmelbach Falls, which you view by descending deep into a mountain gorge by funicular.

Ringgenberg
Interlaken's lakeside neighbor is just minutes away by train, bus, car, footpath, or lake steamer.

Wengen
You won't find any cars at this mountain resort near Interlaken, but you will find the Jungfrau, the Eiger, and some of the best hiking in the Swiss Alps. The setting is unbeatable: Wengen lies on a steep shelf overlooking the Lauterbrunnen Valley. Accommodations range from grand hotels to youth hostels.

Mürren (winter resort report)
There are no cars here--just plenty of great skiing near Interlaken and the Jungfrau, including the world's longest downhill race for amateur skiers. In the summer, hiking opportunities abound, and you can ascend the Schilthorn via aerial cablecar. (The revolving restaurant at the top was featured in a James Bond movie, On Her Majesty's Secret Service.)

Excursions

Jungfraujoch Railway
It's high in elevation, popularity, and price. We tell you what makes it unique and how to trim your ticket costs by up to 50%.

Firstbahnen Grindelwald
Europe's longest gondola lift serves tourists, hikers, and skiers. The upper station offers spectacular mountain views.

Niesenbahn
This 90-year-old funicular leads to spectacular views, hikes, and a mountain inn overlooking Lake Thun.

Stockhornbahn
Ride a cable car, hike a nature path, or try a 100m bungee jump.