An interesting fact: Switzerland has no formal capitol. Instead the country has a federal city, the place where most of the federal governmental buildings (parliament, executive, administration) are located. That city is Bern.
Located on the top of a peninsula, the Old City of Bern sits above a horseshoe bend of the river Aare. Historically Bern’s geographical position maximized the value of its natural defenses. As the town grew to its current population of 132,000 it required more space than was available on the peninsula. Thus bridges were built high above the Aare and the city expanded to the far side of the river. Generally the “older” sections of Bern are on the peninsula and “newer” potions are on the “mainland.”
The river has been a natural buffer around Bern’s Old City that has saved its historic street plan and many of its old buildings. In 1983 UNESCO honored Bern by designating “Old City of Berne” as a World Heritage site. The city’s uniform architecture, large governmental buildings, and attractive positioning are captivating.
Bern is also a likable, though expensive city to live in. It is both youthful and dynamic while being staid, organized, and, well, Swiss. Bern’s affluence hasn’t tempered its vibrancy.
Much of the Old City has been pedestrianized. With abundant bike paths and an efficient streetcar and bus system car traffic in the green city is minimal and getting around is easy. For us the lack of cars in the old town was a big plus. Perhaps it is for others too. In 2014 Bern ranked number 10 in Mercer Quality of Living Survey. Bern is both a livable city for residents and an interesting city for visitors.