Quick, what's the capital of Switzerland? No, not Zurich, not Geneva, nor even Lucerne, Lausanne or Basel. In fact, most of the Federal government is based in the low-key, German-speaking city of Bern (the country's fourth largest, with a population around merely 134,00) on a mostly hilly plateau in east-central Switzerland between the Alps and the Jura Mountains. Founded in 1191 on a peninsula mostly surrounded by the swift, remarkably clean Aare River, it's a pleasant, charming city - so charming, in fact, that its Altstadt (Old Town), rebuilt in 1405 in greenish grey sandstone after a fire, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And as an easy drive or train ride from Iberia gateways Zurich and Geneva (an hour to 90 minutes, depending), it's definitely worth a day trip, and I'd say even an overnight or two.

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