The heart of Switzerland
Set in a quiet and tranquil landscape, the Canton of Bern's natural surroundings are nothing less than dazzling. Strategically located between Geneva, Basel and Zürich, Bern is the gateway to the Alps. The canton is bilingual with two official languages, French and German. It is home to approximately one million people, most of whom live in the urban centers of Berne, Bienne, Berthoud, Interlaken and Thoune. The canton's capital is the city of Bern (Berne in French and Bern in German). The federal capital and fifth-largest city in Switzerland, Bern is the center of Swiss political life. The Bundeshaus, or Federal Palace, is the seat of government and the Swiss parliament.
The Canton of Bern is also a vibrant economic center. A very diverse range of companies representing all sectors of the economy enjoy ideal conditions: a central location, good rapid transport infrastructure with connections to all the main cities in Europe, relatively low corporate tax rates, as well as a qualified and bilingual workforce. Therefore, it will come as no surprise that many international companies have chosen to locate in Bern. Naturally, the watch industry is represented, with well-known brands, such as the multinational Swatch Group, together with technology and telecommunications firms like the pharma/biotech CSL Behring, the leading Swiss telecoms company Swisscom and e-commerce group Ebay. Bern is also a hub for the food industry: Tobloerone, Kambly and Ovomaltine are all headquartered here. Bern is also a center for organic farming and has the largest number of organic companies in Switzerland.
Gstaad and region are located in the south-west of the canton in the Berner Oberland.
Gstaad and region
Gstaad and the Saanenland in the Bernese Oberland attract a charming variety of visitors and residents. The chalet village of Gstaad is a magnet for celebrities from around the world, while the neighboring villages have plenty to offer families with children. In a magnificent alpine landscape, the entire region has retained its authentic charm, with a mix of luxury hotels, Michelin-starred restaurants, magnificent chalets and high-end shopping, side-by-side with agriculture, farming and a thriving craft industry. Saanen airport handles private planes and a few commercial flights.
Almost all languages are spoken in this German-speaking area of the canton, especially French, since the Canton of Vaud in the Pays-d'Enhaut region is so close by.
There are several villages in the Saanenland, including Saanen, Schönried, Saanenmöser, Zweisimmen, Gsteig, Lauenen, Feutersoey, Turbach and Abländschen, each with its own unique charms. Lake Lauenen is a nature reserve studded with waterfalls and moorland. Narrow cobbled streets are a feature of the historic center of Saanen. Schönried and Saanenmöser are ideally located for winter sports, while the mountain hamlet of Abländschen is the essence of pure Alpine tranquility and untouched nature.
Sporting and cultural life in Gstaad
The ski slopes and trails that make up the Saanenland and 'Gstaad Mountain Rides' are both easily accessible from many surrounding villages and well equipped with 53 ski lifts. The Montreux-Oberland railway and buses link Gstaad to other stations in the valleys, such as Saanenmöser, Schönried, Zweisimmen, Gsteig, Reusch and Lauenen, as well as Rougemont, Col-du-Pillon and Château-d'Oex in the neighboring francophone region of the Pays-d'Enhaut region.
There are sports opportunities aplenty in the Saanenland from hiking on a trail network stretching over 300 km and mountain biking to golf or paragliding. The tumultuous River Saane has plenty of excitement to offer kayaking fans. Eager cross-country skiers can practice their sport in summer in the Glacier 3000 ski area.
Come winter, the region boasts 220 km of ski runs at an altitude of close to 3,000 m, and 165 km of traditional cross-country skiing and skating. Some 200 km of trails are open to hikers in the winter months. Visitors could always indulge in the romance of a horse-drawn sleigh ride.
Some highlights among the activities available:
- Sommets Musicaux de Gstaad: an intimate festival of classical music held in February/March.
- Ride on Music: a three-day program of concerts on the ski slopes of Schönried and Saanenmnöser (March).
- FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour – Grand Slam Gstaad: beach-volleyball in the mountains (July).
- J. Safra Sarasin Swiss Open Gstaad:international ATP tennis tournament attracting some of the highest ranking players (July).
- Ladies Championship Gstaad: international WTA tennis tournament (July).
- Davidoff Saveurs Gstaad: a festival celebrating the best regional foods, wines and cigars (July).
- Suufsunntig: traditional Alpine festivals held on different mounts in the region during July and August. The highpoint is the crowning of the queen of the herd (July and August).
- Menuhin Festival Gstaad: a summer music festival in honor of the renowned violinist and conductor (July and September).
- Hublot Polo Gold Cup Gstaad: international teams face off for the Cup on thoroughbred Arab ponies (August).
- Country Night Gstaad: the major country music event featuring artists from across the country spectrum (September)
- New Year Music Festival: organized by Princess Caroline Murat during the holiday season, the program is wide-ranging, the atmosphere is congenial and the artists particularly enjoy the fellow feeling among the performers.