Biel City Breaks
Biel/Bienne is the 10th largest city in Switzerland and is located on the northern edge of the canton of Berne. It is famous for watchmaking and home to Rolex, Omega and Swatch, among other famous makers.
The city lies at the foot of the first mountain range of the Jura Mountains, guarding the only practical connection to Jura in the area. It's also on the north-eastern shores of Lake Biel (Bielersee, Lac de Bienne), sharing the eastern tip of the lake with its sister city, Nidau.
- Flight time from London: 1 hour 35 min
- EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg: 98km from the city centre; transfer time about 1 hour 30 min
- Nearest railway station: Bahnhof Biel/Bienne
- Currency: Swiss Franc
The Ring is the historic centre of Biel/Bienne, with a fountain dating back to 1546. From here, it's only a few steps to the Ruhe de Bourg, where you'll find the Town Hall (1534), a theatre that once served as an armoury (1591) and the Fountain of Justice.
Once you've explored the old town, you might want to visit some of Biel/Bienne's museums, such as the Schwab Museum (archaeological relics) and the Omega Museum (clocks and watches). The lake itself is another attraction, with steamer cruises from late spring through to early autumn. And if you're partial to views, try the two funicular railways that climb the local hills.
Biel/Bienne's sizeable student population ensures plenty of bars around the centre, including the grungy Rock Café and the trendy bar of the La Rotonde brasserie. Also, check out the impromptu happenings and weekend dance nights at the Gaskessel/Coupole, a youth centre under a dome in a car park off Zentralstrasse.
The main shopping district is in the middle of the city. The main streets being the Bahnhofstrasse and the Nidaugasse. Both are car-free! The perfect souvenir from a trip to Biel/Bienne is a watch from Omega, Swatch, Rolex, Candino or one of the many other brands made in the area.
There are inexpensive places to eat all through the centre, including self-service meals at the huge Migros supermarket . Caffè Spettacolo is opposite the station, with plenty of coffees and focaccia-style snacks, while round the corner at Bahnhofstrasse is Café Hasard, a small and attractive little daytime nook.
The best place for restaurants, though, is in the Old Town. St Gervais, is a lively, friendly, alternative-style joint with quality nosh. In Nidau, a pleasant little town contiguous with Biel/Bienne to the south, you'll find Kreuz, a wonderfully relaxed co-operative-run café and restaurant, serving excellent organic and veggie food.
The restaurant at the Villa Lindenegg hotel has gourmet evening menus with or without meat, using market-fresh produce inventively and attractively. La Poissonière, in the train station, is celebrated as a classy formal restaurant, but L'Amphitryon, in Hôtel Elite, takes the biscuit as one of the highest star-rated restaurants in the country.