Packed with history, charm, and lots of character, Bern is a quintessential a Swiss city, and the Alpenblick Hotel offers a lodge-style design to match!
Like most people, we were visiting Switzerland to ski. With its high mountain peaks, it is of course, a global hotspot for winter sports. We were finding that the country was growing us, and that it had a lot more to offer than just snow. After spending a couple of days in Geneva and being charmed, we were curious to see what else Switzerland had going for it.
While Geneva and Zurich are perhaps the most well know Swiss cities, the capital is actually Bern (technically Switzerland has no capital for complicated political reasons that we won't go into, but in practice Bern is considered by most to be the capital). The pictures looked nice and the old town is a UNESCO world heritage site, so we thought why not make a stop there and see what it was like? It was only a short train ride away and we had read that it was small enough to see in a day, so it seemed like a good idea to go and have a look.
The old city center is built on a peninsula which juts out into a sharp bend in the river Aare. It makes for a picturesque setting but also means that there was no space to built a modern city between the old buildings, river, and surrounding hill. As a result, like much of Bern, our hotel was outside the old center, and about a twenty minute walk away. This wasn't too much of a hardship for us however, as the walk was scenic, and the hotel was well designed and comfortable.
We had chosen Hotel Alpenblick as our base for our time in Bern. It is part of the Welcome Hotel Group which was formed in 1974 and owns nine different hotels across Switzerland. Alpenblick is housed in a pretty red brick building which dates back to the early 1900s. Outside are quiet, leafy streets and the windows are framed by green shutters. It looks like a typical European city building, however when you step inside the atmosphere is quite different.
It has a ski-lodge feel to it, and wood is used liberally throughout. The reception desk, is made from unfinished timber beams, and most of the floors are wood as well. Another cool feature of the reception area is the black and white photo which covers the whole of one wall. It depicts a group of people looking off into the distance and is a quirky and interesting design choice. I liked the feel of the hotel instantly, and there were plenty of things to look at. From the hanging light fixtures with filament bulbs, to the pictures of mountaineers climbing alpine peaks, there were lots of little knick-knacks which all helped to give the place character.
We stayed in a double room which, while a little on the small side, was smartly designed with function in mind. The white walls made it feel bigger than it was, and the matching white furniture gave it a slightly minimalist feel. The bed was very comfortable which scored the hotel points, as did the fact that the windows opened fully - it was great to be able to let the fresh mountain air in.
Unfortunately the restaurant was closed during our visit so we were unable to see what they had on offer. Breakfast was served in the space however, and the decoration matched the rest of the hotel. It consisted of a continental buffet of fruits, cold cuts, and cheese, as well as a selection of pastries, cereals, and drinks.
When not out and about, we spent most of our time in the communal areas of the hotel.The main common room was very spacious and we enjoyed spending our evenings there. One wall was completely taken up by books which sat alongside cool little illuminated letters on the enormous bookshelf. Another wall was home to a floor to ceiling window, which gave you plenty of light to read by. There was a comfy sofa or a rocking chair to sit on, or if you wanted to get some work done – a long wooden table. The design in this room was fun, with bits of ski paraphernalia scattered around and lightbulbs hanging from ropes wrapped around an old wooden beam. The final nice little touches were the movable steps to help you reach the higher books, and the tree stump stools and coffee tables.
It was these fun little features which made Hotel Alpenblick a bit cooler than your average hotel and there were more of them to be found elsewhere. In the lobby they had a photo booth which allowed you to print polaroid style pictures on the spot. Fitness rooms are a common facet of modern hotels, but this one had a quirky style thanks to the wooden equipment. Even the exercise bike was made from timber – and it all felt very alpine and trendy.
We had two nights in Bern, and this was plenty of time to see the city. We would walk down to the old town which is one of the cutest European cities I have seen. The medieval streets and buildings are adorable and the setting – surrounded by the river with green hills overlooking it – only helped to exaggerate its quaintness. Our route from the hotel took us down from the top of these hills, so we got to see the city’s beauty from above whenever we walked down.
Bern is certainly worthy of its UNESCO status and pretty much every building in its center has the chocolate box look. There are a couple of buildings that stand out however, such as the gothic Münster cathedral with its imposing spire and flying buttresses. Another must see is the Zytglogge clock tower which dates back to the 15th century. At various points in time it has been used as a prison and a guard tower, and its astronomical clock face is covered with intricate zodiac symbols.
Our detour to Bern had turned out to be a good idea, as did our choice of hotel. Despite being slightly further out than we normally choose, the scenic walk more than made up for it, and the hotel itself was full of character. The wooden ski-lodge decoration got us excited for our upcoming trip to the mountains, and all things considered we would definitely recommend it if you ever find yourself visiting the city.
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