New Bern, North Carolina’s second oldest town, was founded in 1710 by a Swiss nobleman who named it after his native city of Berne, Switzerland. Bern means “bear” and the “Bern Bear” symbol is seen on the flag. Commemorative cast-iron bear heads decorate the historic City Hall and Central Fire Station.
Named by Buzzfeed as one of the "15 Stunning North Carolina Towns You Absolutely Need To Visit," the town of New Bern has a rich character and history that extends more than 300 years. From an Indian uprising in the early 18th century to becoming the capital of the British province of North Carolin, New Bern has been a witness to revolution and a victim of war; in fact, it was occupied by Union troops during much of the Civil War. New Bern’s historic importance as a strategic riverside port and its tradition of being a center of culture earned it the nickname “The Athens of North Carolina” in the 19th century. Today, New Bern welcomes visitors with a blend of European cachet and a rich tradition of true Southern hospitality.
The city is scenically situated on a peninsula at the confluence of the Neuse and Trent Rivers. The town is itself a historical treasure with more than 150 buildings listed as contributing to the National Register Historic District. A stroll through the town’s tree-lined streets reveals a virtual cornucopia of American architectural styles ranging from 18th-century vernacular houses to dignified Federal townhouses to magnificent Victorian mansions.
Many of these homes have been lovingly restored by an ever-increasing influx of new residents who have been attracted by the town’s beauty and gentle pace of life. As a result, New Bern today serves as a reminder of the way life was in America, and of the way it still can be. Residents like to say that although New Bern retains its small-town charm, it has big-town spirit. The town boasts a number of interesting museums and small art galleries. Virtually every month of the year is marked by a special festival or event, making New Bern an excellent year-round travel destination.
New Bern is centrally located near the Carolina coast and is easily accessible by car. An airport is located just ten minutes from downtown. When planning a visit to New Bern, be sure to allow enough time to truly enjoy all that the town has to offer.
Accommodations in New Bern are varied and plentiful. They fit all budget categories and range from charming bed-and-breakfast inns to full-service hotels, as well as a great deal of dining that ranges from elegant dinners in restored historic buildings to down-home cooking at spots. Several restaurants are also in the historic downtown area near Tryon Palace.