Another "theme" hotel. The motif here is Jugendstil (a.k.a. Art Nouveau or Secessionist), a style of art and architecture that became popular in the late 19th century through about 1915—the "Belle Epoque."

Those who choose this unique little hotel near some of Bern's most interesting shops and cafés, will be beneficiaries of the magnificent turn-of-the-century art and antiques accumulated by Marina and Dr. Phillippe D. Ledermann-Puigvents.

From this collection, said to be the world's most extensive of its kind, the couple have placed dozens, possibly hundreds of pieces throughout their hotel. In the tiny bar hangs an original poster by Toulouse Lautrec. In one guestroom (Number 33) is a painting by Hodler, a renowned Swiss artist (you can see more Hodlers at Bern's Kunstmuseum), and in another (Number 51) the painting "Spring on the River" by Emile Jean Patoux hangs above the bed. We ask about a simple guestroom light fixture and are told it is original and worth "several thousand Swiss francs." Even more valuable are the objets d'art exhibited in glass cabinets in the tiny public rooms.

The nine-year-old Belle Epoque consists of only 16 guestrooms, the small bar, a snug little reception area and a downstairs gallery whose exhibits change monthly.

Guestrooms are a little small but beautifully furnished and equipped with sparkling modern bathrooms with complimentary cosmetics. Also in each room are the usual amenities such as TV, radio, minibar and phone, and some that aren't so usual. For example, at the bedside of Number 32, a small streetside double, is a control which lowers and raises the exterior window shutters.

Probably the best room in the house is Number 51, on the top floor under the eaves with sloping ceiling. However, since the lift doesn't go that high, occupants must walk up one flight of stairs.

Those who remain unmoved by Art Nouveau will enjoy the Belle Epoque's personal service and intimate atmosphere. Devotees of the style who choose to stay elsewhere should stop by for a refreshment in the Toulouse Lautrec bar.

Contact: Belle Epoque-Garni, Gerechtigkeitsgasse 18, CH-3011, tel. +41/31/311 43 36, fax 311 39 36

Daily Rates: Double rooms from about CHF 240

Rating: Quality 15/20, Value 11/20