What It's Like to Live in New Bern, N.C.
This historic town blends convenience with small-town charm.
"We love the combination of small-town charm with plenty of conveniences, including being only 20 minutes from the beach," says New Bern resident Sonja Babic, a European transplant who moved here 14 years ago. The Old World flavor of historic New Bern is part of what makes Babic feel right at home. Founded in 1710 by Baron von Graffenreid of New Berne, Switzerland (hence the name), this seaport town — once a cotton and tobacco export hub and later a lumber and shipbuilding center — is North Carolina's second-oldest and the original state capital. A rare four-faced Seth Thomas clock tower, a New Bern landmark, reigns over City Hall, a nod to the town's Swiss heritage. Whimsical bears ("Bern" derives from the German "bear") pop up in signs and on street corners, bearing tidbits of New Bern history.
But it's the pedestrian-friendly downtown, dotted with mom-and-pop restaurants, quaint storefronts and a popular river walk, that gives New Bern a welcoming all-American coziness. "It's a place where people do smile at each other. There's plenty to do but you don't get stuck in traffic," says Babic.