Read about the city

The Swiss capital of Bern is a wonderful and charming city located in the hilly landscape north of the country's high Alps. The old town is located on an elongated peninsula in the winding run of the River Aares, and its almost endless arcades bring you through the fine medieval town's streets and sights.

You can easily see why Bern's old town is inscribed as a UNESCO world heritage site. Here is a unique, homogeneous atmosphere from a time that most places is history and revitalized city centers. Old city gates and towers, churches and townhouses are located throughout the city, and as an extra thing, Bern's many Renaissance figure fountains are preserved in the streets.

The figureheads of the fountain are almost in themselves worth the trip to Bern. They are located in many streets and on squares in the center of Bern, and among the best known is the somewhat quirky Kindlifresser. Walking around between the fountains will automatically lead you around the pleasant streets of Bern's old town.

As the capital, Bern holds a number of institutions for the democracy and the state administration. First and foremost, the country's parliament building, which stands as a castle and thrones over the city along with the cathedral, Berner Münster, whose tower gives a magnificent view of the city and to the surrounding countryside, where in clear weather you can see the Alps in the Bernese Oberland to the south.

Other attractions

Bern Art Museum

  • Bern Art Museum/Kunstmuseum Bern: At Kunstmuseum Bern you can enjoy a number of paintings from the 15th century to the present day. You can see works by local artists, but also internationally renowned artists such as Paul Cézanne and Henri Matisse.
  • Ryffli Fountain/Ryfflibrunnen: In Bern you can see some renaissance fountains in the streets, and Ryfflibrunnen from 1545 is one of them. The well shows the shooter Ryffli with his crossbow, which comes from the stories of the Battle of Laupen in 1339.

Marzili Funicular

  • Marzili Funicular/Marzilibahn: The Marzilibahn is a cable car that connects the Marzili district on the banks of the Aare river with the old district of Bern. On the 105 meter/345 foot line length, there is a height difference of 32 meters/104 feet.
  • Prison Tower/Käfigturm: Käfigturm is a city gate that was built 1641-1644 as part of Bern's fortifications. Throughout time and until 1897, the tower was a prison, while today it is used for various exhibitions.

Federal Terrace, Bern

  • The Federal Terrace/Bundesterrasse: The Bundesterrasse is an area behind the Federal Palace/Bundeshaus government and parliament building. From the square there is a nice view towards the hilly terrain to the south as well as over parts of the Bern and the river Aare.
  • Bern City Theater/Stadttheater: This is Bern's city theater, which was inaugurated on September 25, 1903 as a stage for ballet, opera and plays. The premiere was a staging of Richard Wagner's Tannhäuser.

City Hall, Bern

  • City Hall/Rathaus: The City Hall in Bern is the political center of both the city and the canton of the same name. Here, politicians have met since the 15th century for gatherings and decisions. The city hall building was built 1406-1415 in late Gothic style.
  • Cathedral Terrace/Münsterplatform: Münsterplattform is the name of the large terrace located south of the city's cathedral. The place has had different uses, one of them being a cemetery once. Today it is a small park with a formidable view of the city and the area.
  • Erlacherhof: When the Swiss federal state came into being in 1848, one of the tasks was to select and develop a federal capital. Bern was chosen, and the country's Federal Council housed itself in the beautiful 18th-century palace, Erlacherhof.

Untertorbrücke, Bern

  • Untertor Bridge/Untertorbrücke: The Untertorbrücke is Bern's oldest preserved bridge, and it crosses the river Aare at the eastern end of the old town. The first bridge was completed in 1256, but it was destroyed during high tide in 1460. The current bridge was built the following year.
  • Kramgasse-Gerechtigkeitsgasse: This street is one of Bern's cozy streets, where you can see three of Bern's renaissance fountains. If you go from the east, you can see Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen, Simsonbrunnen and Zähringerbrunnen.
  • Nydegg Church/Nydeggkirche: Nydeggkirche is located in the neighborhood where the city of Bern started. It was here from the tip of the peninsula in the Aare River that the settlement spread to the west. Nydeggkirche was built 1341-1346.

Helvetiaplatz, Bern

  • Helvetia Square/Helvetiaplatz: Helvetia Square is a central square in the Kirchenfeld district, and the monument Welttelegrafen-Denkmal stands here. There are a number of museums in the area; you can for example see the interesting city museum built in historicist style.
  • Bern Rose Garden/Rosengarten Bern: This is a garden that was opened as a park in 1914 and planted with roses from 1917. Today, more than 200 kinds of roses grow in the garden, which also offers large lawns and many kinds of iris and rhododendron.
History overview

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    The founding
    The area of ​​Bern has been inhabited for a long time before the history of modern Bern began in founding in 1191. At that time, a large part of the current Swiss area constituted southern Burgundy, and it was governed by the von Zähringen house.

    The Von Zähringen leaders were not rulers in, for example, a duchy, but ruled in much the same way on decrees from the German-Roman emperor, who also granted von Zähringen the right to be emperor's local representatives. With that status, the family founded mage cities; besides Bern it is, for example, Freiburg.

    In 1190, Berchtold V von Zähringen founded the castle of Nydegg Burg on the knee of the elongated peninsula in the river Aare, which today forms the old town of Bern. The castle was to protect the river crossing, and with the strategically good position, von Zähringen founded an actual town the following year. The name was Bern, which comes from the founder's first hunting boot in the area. According to history, it was a bear that has since become the symbol of the city. The bear has, for example, been part of the city coat of arms from 1224.

    The free state city
    Huset von Zähringen had no more descendants in the early 1200s, after Berchtold V, and the city's status therefore changed in 1218. With the Golden Charter / Golden Charter, the German-Roman Emperor Friedrich II Bern granted city rights and a status as a free state city, which in fact meant that Bern became an independent city state. In 1274, Rudolf I of Germany confirmed the document, which is considered Bern's first constitution. The word Golden in the fortification originates from the document's bun, which is a hanging seal of gold.

    Time was marked by expansion, and Nydegg Burg was looped1268-1270 to give way to a new neighborhood for real urban development. Throughout the 13th century and the first half of the 1300s, Bern also fought for his outer territory and entered into, among other things, an agreement with the Savoy in defense of the Counties of Kyburg, who saw themselves as the heirs of von Zähringen. The Battle of Laupen in 1339 was also a crucial historical drama in which Bern and other cities, with the help of the established Swiss oath of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden, overcame several counties, Austrian duchies, Freiburg and other opponents.

    Membership of the Federation
    With the victory at the Battle of Laupen, Bern consolidated its position in the region, and relations with the Federation became so much closer that in 1353 Bern became a member of the federation, the beginning of present-day federal Switzerland.

    After joining the League of Eds, Bern continued to grow and became one of the most significant cities and states in the region. Through federations, agreements, purchases, pledges and conquests, the area grew, Bern ruled, and from the 15th century the city had become a state; among others with conquests from the Waadt area in the years 1474-1477.

    During this time, Bern's population grew, and rich merchant families, successful craftsmen and the land part characterized better and ever richer citizenship. The city had also extended to the west, with the city's defense being continuously moved further to make room for more houses and citizens of the peninsula that remained Bern. In time, the city reached the fourth chain of defense, which is a clear symbol of the expansion. Another expression of the size of the city was the fire on May 14, 1405, when more than 600 houses became prey to flames. The houses were mainly made of wood, which is why the fire was so devastating.

    The modern old town
    After the fire in 1405, large parts of Bern had to be rebuilt, and the result was largely the city you are experiencing today. The local Bernese sandstone provided more solid buildings so that a major fire should not recur. It was also here that the famous and mile-long arcades began as part of all ordinary town houses. The streets of the city plan also stem from this reconstruction, just as larger buildings such as the town hall and the cathedral were adopted and erected.

    In the first part of the 16th century, it was the turn of the Renaissance, and Bern grew steadily to the west, expanding the street scene. The houses were also expanded, and in the street picture a number of figure wells were established, mainly from Hans Gieng's hand. These wells are today one of Bern's landmarks.

    Continued expansion and decline
    The rich Bern had undergone the Reformation in 1528, and in the same and following century the expansion of the city continued. Over time, the nobility gained more power and the ongoing revolts of the population were wiped out. By 1648, with the Westphalian peace, Bern had finally disbanded from the German Empire and achieved complete sovereignty. Wealth increased, and towards the end of the 18th century Bern was the leading state in the region.

    That development stopped abruptly in 1798 when French troops invaded the city and plundered the riches. After the Napoleonic Wars, the Vienna Congress came in 1814, which was also a severe blow to the state of Bern, forced to surrender large territories to the east and west of the state. As a result, the cantonments of Aargau and Waadt were formed, and despite the acquisition of the Jura area, Bern's strength was slightly reduced, but it had to quickly rise again.

    The capital is chosen
    The Swiss federation was formed in 1848, and among the many states that joined were Bern. The city's traditional power and influence was strong enough that it was chosen as the new federal capital that year, thus starting a new era for the alpine town.

    New government and parliament buildings were to be erected, and in stages the big Bundeshaus emerged as Switzerland's political stronghold. With the status of federal capital also followed many connected activities such as settlement, establishment of ministries and the like; all of which contributed positively to the further development of Bern.

    In 1864, one of the old city towers had to give way to development. With a narrow majority in the city council of 415-411, it was decided to demolish the Christoffelturm from Bern's fourth defense ring in favor of the modern railroad's coming and expansion. The city's railway station was established immediately west of the old town, and over time it has become one of Switzerland's busiest hubs.

    20th century to Today
    Bern had evolved through the growth of the old city over the centuries, but with new bridges from the center across the river Aare it provided new opportunities. New suburbs quickly sprang up, and through the first decades of the 20th century several large neighborhoods such as Kirchenfeld in the south emerged, where distinguished villas housed the growing and wealthy population.

    In the early 1900s, Bern also distinguished himself in other ways. For example, the German theoretical physicist, Albert Einstein, lived in the city, and in his apartment in Kramgasse he devised the theory of relativity, which was a milestone in the field. Several international organizations have also been founded in Bern, which with its status as the Swiss capital as well as the country's neutrality policy was attractive as a place of establishment.

    Since then, Bern has continued its growth; among other things in large new residential areas to the west, and at the same time the centuries-old streets, wells and arcade-filled sandstone houses are intact and a special experience for tourists. One of the more recent occasions for many visits was the European Football Championships in 2008, which was played in Switzerland and neighboring Austria. Part of the matches were played at the stadium in Wankdorf, and in connection with that event, further investments were made in the city, where modern trams, for example, bind the city together.
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Bern, Switzerland

Top attractions

Bundeshaus, Bern

  • Federal Palace/Bundeshaus: The impressive Bundeshaus is home to the Swiss government and parliament. The house consists of three connected buildings that together measure more than 300 meters/980 feet in width. The Bundeshaus was built in the 19th century.
  • Marktgasse: Marktgasse is one of Bern's central streets in the Old Town. It is quite typical of the city's old streets, where there are many sandstone buildings, fine arcades and beautiful renaissance fountains.

Kindlifresserbrunnen, Bern

  • Child Eater Fountain/Kindlifresserbrunnen: This is the most famous of Bern's distinguished Renaissance fountains from the 16th century. The well figure is a ogre that is a big and scary troll from folklore.
  • Bern Cathedral/Berner Münster: This is Bern's impressive cathedral, with its 100 meter / 328 foot high tower being Switzerland's tallest cathedral. The interior of the church is bright and worth seeing with old mosaic windows, and it is also worth going for a walk up the tower.

Bären Park, Bern

  • Bear Park/Bären Park: The bear is the symbol of Bern, and the animal adorns the arms of both the capital and the canton. The first facility for bears in the city was built in 1441, and since 2009 the bear park in Bern has been located on the slopes towards the river Aare.

Zytglogge, Bern

  • Clock Tower (Zytglogge)/Zeitglockenturm (Zytglogge): This tower was built 1218-1220 as part of Bern's defense at the western end of the city. Today, the tower stands in the middle of Bern, and it is known for its large astronomical clock.
Trips in the area

Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

  • Lauterbrunnen: There are many opportunities to see beautiful mountains in the countryside around Bern, and the town of Lauterbrunnen is one of the best starting points. The town is located in the valley Lauterbrunnental with an unforgettable nature. The mountains tower up around the town and the valley, and in several places you can get up into the mountains and enjoy the view.
  • Neuchâtel: Neuchâtel is a French-speaking city that has a history as part of both the German-Roman Empire and Prussia. The town is beautifully situated on Lake Neuchâtel and offers a cozy town center with several churches, museums and the Château de Neuchâtel.
  • Fribourg: The city of Fribourg is located on the cultural border between German and French Switzerland. In Fribourg you can see one of the largest and best preserved old town districts in the country. You should see the Gothic cathedral and the city’s preserved fortifications are also interesting.

Montreux, Switzerland

  • Montreux: Montreux is a famous city located at the eastern end of Lake Geneva. The view over the lake and to the mountains is excellent and you can enjoy it on walks in the fashionable city known for its TV festivals. You can also visit the magnificent hotel, Le Montreux Palace, and see the beautifully situated Chillon Castle just south of the city.
  • Thun: The town of Thun is one of the most cozy in Switzerland with its old center, fine sights and scenic location, where the river Aare flows into the Lake Thun/Thunersee. Some of the most important things to see are Schloss Thun Castle and the 16th century town hall.

Jungfraujoch, Switzerland

  • Jungfraujoch: The Alps are beautiful, and if you want to get high up in the Bernese Oberland, a trip to Jungfraujoch is a good idea. You can take the Jungfrau railway from Kleine Scheidegg to the top station, located at 3,454 meters / 11,332 feet. There are views of glaciers, mountains and ice caves.
  • Entlebuch Biosphere/Biosphere Entlebuch: The Biosphere Entlebuch is a beautiful natural reserve in the area east of Bern. It was the second natural reserve in Switzerland to be included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. There are lots of beautiful sceneries in the varied nature of the area.

Basel, Switzerland

  • Basel: Basel is Switzerland's third largest city. It is located on the borders of both France and Germany and has a very international ambience. There are many things to see in Basel, where the sights range from the city's old cathedral to many modern works by famous architects such as Renzo Piano and Frank Gehry. There are also several interesting museums in the city.
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