Bern : orientation, arrival and information
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The huge train station is centrally situated at the western edge of the Old Town, within a few minutes’ walk of practically all the hotels and sights. Trains arrive at the lower level, postbuses on the uppermost level. The Old Town stretches to the east, occupying the central high ground of a thin finger-like peninsula: three long, parallel cobbled streets (which all change their names along their length) define the Old Town area: Aarbergergasse/ Zeughausgasse/Rathausgasse/Postgasse is the northernmost; Spitalgasse/Marktgasse/ Kramgasse/Gerechtigkeitsgasse is in the centre; Schauplatzgasse/ Amthausgasse/Münstergasse/Junkerngasse is to the south. The Zytglogge clocktower is bang in the centre of the Old Town; the Bärengraben (bear pits) are to the east; and the main museums are clustered around Helvetiaplatz to the south.

If you’re on one of the few flights to operate into Bern’s tiny airport, 9km southeast of the city in Belp, you can take the shuttle to nearby Belp station, from where trains cover the twenty minutes to Bern every half-hour (Fr.10.40 for shuttle and train). It’s far easier, however, to take the airport bus (often just a roomy car), which meets all incoming flights to ferry passengers into town (Fr.14), dropping you in front of the tourist office at the train station. A taxi into Bern shouldn’t cost more than Fr.35.

With your own transport, you’d do well to take advantage of the free “park-and-ride” facilities on the fringes of the city – parking in the centre is very expensive (Fr.30/day). Coming from Fribourg on the N12, take the Bümpliz exit for the P+R at Ausserholligen (bus #12 or #13 into the city); coming from Neuchâtel or Basel/Zürich on the N1, head for the P+R at Neufeld (bus #11); or coming from Interlaken on the N6, exit at Wankdorf for the P+R at Guisanplatz (tram #9).

Bern’s super-friendly tourist office is on the upper level of the train station (June–Sept daily 9am–8.30pm; Oct–May Mon–Sat 9am–6.30pm, Sun 10am–5pm; 031/328 12 12, www.bernetourism.ch). They have information on everything, including free maps of both the Old Town and the whole city (including a street-index), and they can reserve hotel rooms for a Fr.3 commission (even though there’s a complimentary hotel-phone just outside). Pick up a free copy of the fortnightly Bern aktuell, which has English listings of mainstream cultural events in the city and some useful information on the city’s attractions. There’s also a smaller tourist information booth at the Bärengraben (daily: June–Sept 9am–5pm, March–May & Oct 10am–4pm).

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