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At the heart of this central region lies Bern, the laid-back city that few realise is Switzerland's capital. Most mistakenly assume that title belongs to Geneva or Zürich. Incorrect.

When in 1848 politicians had to settle on a capital for the troubled Swiss Confederation, little Bern-in-the-middle seemed the obvious choice – Geneva was too French, Zürich too German. Bern was just right. It still is, with its fairy-tale 15th-century, World Heritage–listed Old Town of terraced stone buildings, covered arcades, clock towers, cobbled streets and a remarkably easygoing vibe.

If you can tear yourself away from Bern's wealth of historical and cultural attractions, you'll find the surrounding countryside to be as beautiful as the capital is charming, from the villages and farms of Emmental, producing the cheese that couldn't be more Swiss if it tried, to Solothurn, Switzerland's most alluring baroque town. Plan to linger.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Mittelland.