Saturday, July 20, 2013

Hockey road trips: Swiss Hockey - Bern region

The Swiss capital of Bern is the fifth-largest city in Switzerland, located about halfway between Zürich and Genève.

Its beautiful and well-preserved medieval city center, surrounded on three sides by the Aare River, was declared a UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Site in 1983. The city is one of Switzerland's top cultural centers and has a variety of festivals throughout the year.

Bern is also an enthusiastic sports city, playing host each May to the annual Grand Prix von Bern, Switzerland's biggest running event. Other popular sports teams include soccer, baseball and softball, rugby, American-style football, and, of course, hockey. And if all that is not enough sports for you, check out the unique sport of Schwingen (Swiss wrestling)!


Five Swiss league teams are located in the region around Bern. NHL players Mark Streit (Flyers) and Roman Josi (Predators) are both from the Bern region, and both have played for local team SC Bern.

During the 2012 NHL lockout, eight NHL players played in the Bern region. The most high-profile among the lockout players were Tyler Seguin from the Boston Bruins and Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks. These two Biel teammates would go on to face each other in the Stanley Cup Final in June; Kane won the Cup with the Blackhawks.

Team: SCB Eishockey AG (SC Bern)
Twitter: @scbern_news 
Tier: National A
Stadium and address: PostFinance Arena, Mingerstrasse 12, 3014 Bern (this is largest hockey arenas in Switzerland, with a capacity of 17,131, including the world's largest standing room grandstand)
Public transportation stops/stations: PostFinance Arena is 3.5 km (2.2 miles) from the main Bern train station. Take the bus to Guisanplatz Expo and walk to the arena from there (about 4-5 blocks).
NHL players who played here during lockout: Roman Jusi (Predators), Mark Streit (Islanders/Flyers), John Tavares (Islanders)

Team: EHC Biel Sport AG (EHC Biel)
Twitter: @ehcbiel
Tier: National A
Stadium and address: Eisstadion Biel, Länggasse 71, 2504 Biel/Bienne
Public transportation stops/stations: Eisstadion Biel is just over 1 km from the Biel Mett train station (walk or get taxi). From the Biel/Bienne train station, take the NFB bus to the "Bözingen/Boujean" stop, then walk 2/5 mile to the stadium. (Biel is 45 minutes from Bern; 1:45 from Genève; 2 hours from Zürich.)
NHL players who played here during lockout: Patrick Kane (Blackhawks), Tyler Seguin (Bruins)

Team: HC Fribourg-Gottéron SA
Twitter: @HCFG
Tier: National A
Stadium and address: BCF Arena, Allée du Cimetière 1, 1700 Fribourg
Public transportation stops/stations: BCF Arena is about 1.5 miles from Fribourg's train station. Take bus #1 from the main train station ("Gare-CFF" stop) to "Stade-Patinoire" or "Cimetière" stop. (Fribourg is 21 minutes from Bern via train; 45 minutes from Lausanne; 1.5 hours from Zürich; 1.5 hrs from Genève.)

NHL players who played here during lockout: David Deharnais (Canadiens)

Team: SCL Tigers AG
Tier: National B
Stadium and address: Ilfis Stadium, Alleestrasse 6, 3550 Langnau im Emmental
Public transportation stops/stations: Ilfis Stadium is a 5 minute walk from the Langnau i.E. train station. (Langnau is 40 minutes from Bern; 2 hours from Zürich; 2.5 hrs from Genève.)
NHL players who played here during lockout: Tyler Ennis (Sabres), Jared Spurgeon (Wild)

Team: HC La Chaux-de-Fonds SA
Twitter: @OfficielHCC
Tier: National B
Stadium and address: Patinoire des Mélèzes, Ch. des Mélèzes 2-4, 2300 La Chaux-de-Fonds
Public transportation stops/stations: Patinoire des Mélèzes is approximately 1/3 of a mile walk (less than 10 minutes) from the train station. (La Chaux-de-Fonds is 1-1:45 hours via train from Berne; 2-2.5 hours from Zürich; 2 hours from Genève.)



There is plenty to explore within the Old Town area of Bern, including: the Münster (Cathedral) and several historical churches, the medieval Zytglogge clock tower, the Untertorbrücke (the oldest bridge in Bern, dating to 1490), a variety of statue-crowned fountains dating to the 16th century, Parliament buildings, and the historic Bärengraben (bear pits) and BearPark. You can wander through the Rose or Botanic Gardens, or one of the many museums that dot the city. Visit on the 4th Monday of November to experience the Zibelemärit (onion market) or February to see the Bernese Fassnacht (Carnival). 

Bern's Old City - photo courtesy of Martin Abegglen/Flickr

Where to stay in/around Bern 
‡ Hotels marked with this were awarded Prix Bienvenu 2013 from the Swiss tourism board for being one of Switzerland's Top 100 "most welcoming hotels". 
≈ Hotel is in the historic Old Town district
* Hotel is within walking distance (within 1/2 mile) to arena 
Luxury ($225+)
Bellevue Palace ‡ ≈ | Hotel Allegro Bern | Schweizerhof Hotel Bern (by main train station)   
Business/tourist class ($100-$225+)
Hotel Goldener Schlussel Bern ≈ | Hotel Ibis Bern Expo * | Hotel La Pergola ‡ | Bern Hotel Nydeck ≈ | Hotel-Restaurant Jardin 
Budget/hostel ($99 or less)
Bern Youth Hostel ≈ | Etap Hotel Bern Expo * | Hotel Glocke Backpackers Bern ≈ | Hotel Continental ≈ | Hotel Pension Marthahaus  

Bern is centrally located for these regional teams, and Swiss trains run at all hours of the day and night. However, if you prefer the comfort of staying close to a particular stadium to avoid late trains back to Bern, here are some hotel suggestions.


Biel (45 minutes from Bern) also has a well-preserved medieval city center. The city is in the midst of Swiss wine country and is known for its watch-making industry. Unique attractions include the Omega watch museum and the National Bicycle Museum.
Elite Swiss Quality (3 blocks from Biel/Bienne train station)Hotel Artus  (5-6 blocks from Biel/Bienne train station)


Fribourg (21 minutes from Bern) is the French-speaking part of Switzerland; the area is very agricultural and is known for its chocolates, beers, cheeses, and other luxury foods. Like Bern and Biel, Fribourg also has a well-maintained Old City; the skyline is punctuated by the spire of the Cathedral of St. Nicholas. You may want to rent a car for a day or two to explore the many attractions in the area, including wineries, the Cailler chocolate factory, the Gutenberg Museum, the Château de Gruyères (castle), and the Moléson Observatory. Science fiction aficionados will love the H. R. Giger Museum (Alien fans will want to dine in the museum's restaurant!
Fribourg Youth HostelHotel Alpha  (close to train station) | Hôtel du Faucon | 
Hotel-Restaurant Elite | NH Fribourg 

Lovely Langnau i.E. - photo courtesy Kurt Zwahlen/Flickr

La Chaux-de-Fonds (40 minutes from Bern) is just a few miles from the French border, so naturally, the dominant language is also French here. The city was destroyed by fire in 1794; and its new city plan (1835) called for the city streets to be placed in a grid pattern, one of the few cities in Europe to follow a "modern" street plan. Like Biel, La Chaux-de-Fonds is also known for its watch-makers such as Movado; you can find the Musée International d'Horlogerie (International Museum of Watch Making) here. 
Hôtel AthmosHôtel de France 


The picturesque small town of Langnau im Emmental (1 hour+ from Bern) and may best be known for being one of the sunniest villages in Switzerland. If you are an outdoor enthusiast or interested in seeing some of Switzerland's traditional rural culture, Langnau i.E. is a great place to start. 
Hotel Garni EmmentalHotel Hirschen 

The Swiss hockey series will wrap up with the Genève region in a couple days!

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