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Hotel/Restaurant Goldener Schlüssel
Bern, Switzerland

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Hotel Restaurant Goldener Schlüssel Bern Switzerland The entrance to the Hotel Restaurant Goldener Schlüssel is in an arcaded passageway, not far from Bern's 16th Century Zytgloggeturm or Clock Tower.

by Durant Imboden

Bern is a compact city, so hotel location isn't as important as it is would be in Zürich, Geneva, or Vienna. Still, on my most recent trip to Bern, I wanted a hotel in the heart of the medieval center--preferably at a cheap, or at least reasonable, price. I decided to try the Hotel Goldener Schlüssel, which is located in an arcaded passageway on Rathausgasse between the Kornhausplatz and the Catholic church.

Since I was traveling alone, I reserved the cheapest possible room: a bathless single for 79 francs a day, including breakfast and taxes. I booked through the hotel's Web site (see page 2) and received confirmation by e-mail the same day.

The hotel itself turned out to be a mixed bag. The reception clerk was friendly, but the room was disappointing. The decor was austere, with an open-fronted wardrobe, a simple desk and hardbacked chair, a small TV on a stand (with cable channels, including CNN), and a bed. The view was of a large airshaft that could have been in New York or Chicago, and the hotel laundry was almost directly across the hall. Still, there were two WCs and a shower on the floor, and everything was impeccably clean. The shower even had a liquid soap dispenser.

The lobby had something I hadn't seen before: a do-it-yourself key rack. The clerk showed me how to insert my room key with its heavy fob on the appropriate hook, then turn a smaller key above it to lock the room key in place. I could then take the smaller key with me when I left the hotel.

Breakfast was the high point of my stay. It was served in the attractive restaurant just off the lobby (see page 2) and consisted of a generous buffet with three kinds of bread, croissants, butter, jams, cornflakes, müesli, juices, and two types of cheese. The chewy, seed-covered Vollkornbrot was my favorite part of the meal, and it almost made up for the dreariness of my admittedly inexpensive room.

Verdict: Don't stay at the Hotel Goldener Schlüssel if you're looking for a cozy honeymoon suite, but consider it if you want an unbeatable location and an excellent breakfast in the budget to moderate price category.

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