Behind the traditional Bern façade of green/grey sandstone, this historical hotel was updated during a complete renovation between 2005 and 2011 and is part of the Burgenstock Selection of hotels. The hotel dates from 1857 (opening as the Hotel Fetzer, though it’s been known at the Schweizerhof since 1859).
Where is it?
On Bahnhof Platz, facing Bern’s main train station. Zurich is only 50 minutes away by high-speed train, and it is 70 minutes to Zurich’s International airport. Arriving at the station you can go directly to the hotel by foot using escalators from under the station to the corner of the hotel. All hotels in Bern offer a free travel card for the duration of your stay.
What’s it like?
This is very much a city hotel, though one where thankfully the design provides privacy to the reception and bar area, as the main doors open onto a vestibule area with the concierge desk to one side. To access reception you turn left and then into the lobby bar with its lounge.
The staff are excellent, helping with everything from directions for an early morning run (highly recommended – Bern is very picturesque) to scanning some documents I needed emailing for work.
Like the other hotels in the Burgenstock Selection, the recent renovation has retained the historical elements (much of the hotel is listed), but also brought it up to date. So the lounge, for instance, is lined with bookshelves with recent hardbacks, and has fashionable lighting, eclectic furniture and, in the evening, music and a DJ once a week. As seems to be the fashion in hotels nowadays, there are pictures of the locality in moody black and white in the corridors, but the rooms are more brightly furnished.
All floors are accessed via a lift famous, apparently, for being in the James Bond Film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. You can stay in the same room he stayed did – it’s not a suite, just a standard. The hotel corridors have large black-and-white prints of details of Bern.
The 99 rooms and suites are on floors two to six, ranging in size from 28 sqm up to 120 sqm. They start with the amusingly named Charming Queens (28m2), of which there are 24, and Charming Kings (same size), of which there are 21. There are then 27 Deluxe Boutique (46 sqm) and suites of various sizes – most numerous are the Boutique Junior Suites (11 of these). Around 50 per cent of rooms are outward facing (there is good double glazing to protect from noise) while 50 per cent look into the courtyard. You can open the windows for fresh air. A few rooms have balconies, most rooms are no smoking (though you can smoke in the Sky Lounge and the Cigar Lounge).
The lights and shutters for the windows are controlled from a master panel by the bed and I found my outward-facing room very quiet once these were closed for the night.
The rooms have hardwood floors with rugs, and feature minibar, Nespresso coffee machine, kettle, air conditioning, IP telephone, entertainment system, 40-inch flatscreen television, international power sockets (UK, EU), free wired and wireless Internet access. There is a good-size work desk and a complimentary mini-bar with soft drinks and beer is included, and a laptop-size safe with power socket inside.
The marble bathrooms have heated mirrors. The bathrooms have rain showerhead (some have a bath), hairdryer and heated towel rail.
Junior suites also have a bathroom television and a sound system with docking station. Larger suites have a separate living, dining and bedroom areas, and guest WC.
Food and drink
The main bar is in the lobby on the ground floor. To one side of the entrance is the well-known (in Bern, at least) Jack’s Brasserie serving French-style cuisine and breakfast. This remained open during the more than five year’s the hotel was otherwise closed for renovation.
The Sky Terrace is open from April until mid-October from 1100-2300, with views of the Bernese Alps, the rooftops of Bern, the local mountain, Gurten, and the old town. It serves lunch, dinner and, on summer weekends, breakfast, or you could just have drinks up there. Finally, there is a Cigar Lounge on the ground floor.
The hotel has extensive meeting facilities (800 sqm all on the first floor, called The Belle Etage). It culminates in an impressive 350 sqm ballroom, the Salon Trianon).
There is a large 500 sqm spa facility on the lower ground floor.
This is a very convenient hotel, minutes from the main station, yet once inside is a lovely calm place, with a vibrant bar and, in the summer months, a rooftop bar. It’s actually the service that marks it as excellent, however. The staff were friendly, knowledgeable, helpful and seemed genuinely keen to ensure our stay was successful and enjoyable.
Exemplary service and a fabulous position in the centre of town.
The Sky Terrace bar (admittedly only open in summer) or the cigar room (OK, only for smokers, but what a place to relax…).
Hotel Schweizerhof Bern, Bahnhofplatz 11, 3001 Bern, +41 31 326 80 80; schweizerhof-bern.ch