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It is the county seat of Craven County and the principal city of the New Bern Metropolitan Statistical Area.
It is located at the confluence of the Trent and the Neuse rivers, near the North Carolina coast.
It lies 112 miles (180 km) east of Raleigh, 87 miles (140 km) northeast of Wilmington, and 162 miles (261 km) south of Norfolk. New Bern was settled in 1710 by Swiss and Palatine German immigrants.
The new colonists named the settlement after Bern, the capital of Switzerland and hometown of their leader Christoph von Graffenried.
The English connection with Switzerland had been established by some Marian exiles who sought refuge in Protestant parts of Switzerland.
It served as the capital of the North Carolina colonial government, then briefly as the state capital.
After the American Revolution, New Bern became wealthy and quickly developed a rich cultural life.
At one time New Bern was called "the Athens of the South," renowned for its Masonic Temple and Athens Theater. New Bern has four historic districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places; their numerous contributing buildings include residences, stores and churches dating back to the early eighteenth century.
Within easy walking distance of the waterfront are more than 164 homes and buildings listed on the National Register.
Also nearby are several bed and breakfasts, hotels, restaurants, banks, antiques stores and specialty shops.