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An alpine backdrop and medieval architecture characterise Bern, the capital of Switzerland. The city follows the curves of the Aare River, which you can wander along before going for a stroll through the cobbled streets of the UNESCO-listed Old Town. Bern was once the home of Albert Einstein, and you can visit the museum now located at his house (aptly named Einsteinhaus), as well as spotting works by world-renowned artists at one of the many contemporary art galleries.
You can stay in a Bern hostel that's within the city's UNESCO World Heritage quarter or one in a listed building with views of the river. For a fresh glimpse of the city's past, choose a hostel that was once a hospital, sitting at the foot of Gurten mountain. Stream a film at a hostel that includes free Wi-Fi with your stay or opt for one that offers a free breakfast. Bern hostels with self-catering facilities mean you can cook dinner yourself and save your Swiss francs for souvenirs.
In the Altstadt neighbourhood (Bern's Old Town), you have the main sights within easy reach. It's surrounded by the Aare River on three sides, giving peaceful views all around. Here, you can explore the 6km stretch of shopping arcades and discover its beautiful old buildings. Kirchenfeld is a leafy district that has a tranquil vibe. Head here to check out the city's museums like the Bern Art Gallery (Kunsthalle Bern).
One of Bern's best-known sights is the Zytglogge clock tower, and people gather here on the hour to see the performance of its 16th-century mechanism. It sits in a gate tower that dates from the 13th century – the oldest monument in the city. Visit the Gothic Bern Cathedral to gaze up at its 100-metre high spire. For views, head over to the Rosengarten, a rose garden above the city. The Gurten mountain is just outside the city. You can hike up or take the train to the top, before braving the toboggan run back down. It also hosts a music festival every July, Gurtenfestival.
Bern has a small airport with a few international flights, while Zurich Airport is larger. Trains run from Zurich Airport to Bern Train Station every 30 minutes and the journey takes around an hour and a half. You can get to Bern by train from other major cities in Switzerland, including Geneva (just under an hour) and Basel (just over an hour). Get around town by hiring a bike or using the local trams or buses.