Bern, Switzerland: Information on the city and sights.
Bern (Switzerland) – the most detailed information about the city with photos. Bern’s main sights with descriptions, guides and maps.
The city of Bern (Switzerland).
Bern – the capital of Switzerland and the center of the German-speaking canton of the same name. It is located in the central part of the country on the hills in the picturesque valley of the river Aare. The old town of Bern has preserved its unique historic atmosphere and is included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The medieval core of the city consists of charming narrow streets, old sandstone houses, beautiful fountains, historic towers and ancient churches. Bern is also known for its arcades, boutiques, bars and restaurants.
Bern is the seat of the Swiss government (Bundeshaus). In the squares of the old town there are weekly street markets.
Things to do (Switzerland):
€180 per tour.
Walking in the center of Zurich
Explore the city and learn about its past and present on a sightseeing tour
€300 for the tour
To the fairytale city of Lucerne
Travel from Zurich to the open air museum city and admire the beauty of the lake.
Geography and climate
Bern is located in the southern part of the Swiss plateau in the Aare valley north of the Alps. The old town is built on a high hill. The climate is temperate continental. Summers are warm and fairly rainy. Winter is cool with light frosts and frequent thaws.
Winter in Bern
- Population – more than 130 thousand people.
- Area – 51.6 km².
- Language: German.
- Currency – Swiss franc.
- Time – Central European UTC +1, in summer +2.
- The city has a Schengen visa.
- Onion Market (Zibelemärit) takes place every fourth Monday in November.
- In summer in Aare you can swim. The best places for swimming are between Kornhausbridge and Lorraine, as well as Eichholz and Marzili.
- The famous Bernese arcades (Lauben) include numerous stores. Traditional goods can be found in the charming stores in the Rathausgasse area.
- The mode of operation of stores in Switzerland is strictly regulated. Almost all of them are closed on Sundays. From Monday to Friday, the stores are closed from 7:00 to 7:30 pm. On Thursday, some are open until 9 p.m.
- Food in Bern is quite expensive. Find an inexpensive restaurant with traditional Swiss cuisine is a very difficult task. Most locals prefer cheaper Italian and Asian cuisine.
- Bern is a fairly safe city. You should only be wary of drunken companies.
- Bern has an excellent public transport system, represented by streetcars, trolleybuses and buses.
- The Swiss capital hosts the Jazz Festival, which is considered one of the most important jazz events in the world.
Bern was founded in 1191 by Duke Berthold V of Burgundy. The new city grew rapidly thanks to its advantageous location. After Berthold’s death, Bern became part of the Holy Roman Empire and received the status of an imperial city.
There are several versions of the origin of the name of the city. The first version is that Berthold V decided to name the city after the first animal killed in the surrounding forests during the hunt. This animal, as is not difficult to guess, was a bear. The second version – the city’s name is an altered name of the Italian Verona, as the local nobility was related to the nobility of Verona. A third version is that the city’s name comes from the Celtic bren (“mountain”).
Winter in Bern
Bern became part of the Swiss union in 1353 and was one of eight cantons. As such it remained until 1481. After a big fire in 1405 the wooden houses were gradually replaced by half-timbered houses, and then by sandstone buildings, which now prevail in the old town.
It is interesting that in the middle of 13th century Bernese monks forged a document, which on behalf of Emperor Frederick II granted the city wide autonomous rights. This charter was later presented to Rudolph II, and he declared it valid.
Panorama of the old town
Bern was occupied by French troops for a time in 1798. During this period the canton lost some of its territories. Bern became the capital of Switzerland in 1848, when it was made the seat of the federal assembly (parliament).
How to get there
Bern has a small international airport that connects the Swiss capital with Munich, London, Barcelona and Paris. The largest Swiss air port, Zurich Airport, is a 75-minute drive away.
Bern is conveniently located at the crossroads of railway routes and has regular connections to Zurich, Geneva, Basel. It is easy enough to get to the capital of Switzerland by bus. The city has access to the A1, A12, and A6 highways.
The main attraction of Bern is the stunning old town, which is located on a hill and is surrounded by the emerald waters of the Aare. The historic center of the Swiss capital has preserved its unique historical atmosphere and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The old town has preserved much of its medieval character: narrow cobblestone streets and old houses. Bern’s most famous monuments are located here: old churches, bridges, fountains and historic towers.
Münster (St. Vincent’s Cathedral) is the cathedral and one of the most famous historical buildings in Bern. It is the largest religious building in Switzerland during the late Middle Ages and was built in the Gothic style. Construction of the cathedral began in 1421. Interestingly, the tower was finished only in 1893. Features of Münster: western portal with sculptures (copies), vaults with coats of arms of the 16th century, Gothic font (1524) and beautiful stained glass (1441-50) in the apse, monument to the founder of the city (1601) in the southern part, baroque organ, beautiful chapels.
The French Church is the oldest religious building in Bern with beautiful frescoes. The church was built in the 13th century on the foundations of a much older structure that was part of a Dominican monastery. At the time of the Reformation, it sheltered French-speaking Protestants.
Clock Tower (Zytglogge) is one of the symbols of Bern. It was built 800 years ago and has a height of 23 meters. Originally it was the tower of the west gate. A huge astronomical clock was added in 1530.
Three minutes before the expiration of each hour, you can see a small show here.
The historic center of Bern is known for its arcades, which are now occupied by stores and restaurants. Their total length is more than 5 km. The residents themselves say that it is the largest indoor shopping center in Europe.
Prison Tower – This historic tower was once part of the city gates. The first structure was built in 1256 and was used as a prison in the 15th century. The old tower was demolished and replaced with a new structure in 1644.
There are many ancient fountains in the old town of Bern. They were built in the late Middle Ages and replaced the old wooden ones. The fountains are decorated with various sculptures of biblical scenes and urban legends. Eleven of them have original statues.
There are more than 100 fountains in Bern. At one time they played an important role in the city’s water supply. The water in the fountains is still suitable for drinking.
Parliament, a historic late Renaissance building from the 19th century. Within its walls the Swiss parliament meets. The building is located on the edge of a hill above the river Aare. Parliament adjoins the Bundesplatz, where every Tuesday and Saturday there is a spectacular farmers’ market.
The town hall is a historic public building, built between 1406 and 1416. The town council and the parliament of the canton meet here.
Other sights and interesting places in Bern:
- The Paul Klee Center, an impressive permanent exhibition of the outstanding avant-garde artist’s work. Exhibition halls are located in unusual modern structures.
- Historical Museum – One of the largest museums in Switzerland with exhibits from antiquity to the present.
- Kornhaus – one of the main examples of baroque architecture in Bern.
- Albert Einstein House – the building where the great physicist lived from 1903 to 1905. It is believed that he began to develop the theory of relativity here.
- Botanical Garden in the center of Bern. It has an area of 2 hectares and includes about 6000 plants from all over the world.
- The Bear Park – about 6,000 square meters of land along the Aare River, which is home to a family of bears.
- The Rose Garden is a beautiful place with a stunning view of Bern.
- Art Museum – the oldest art museum in Switzerland, including more than 50 thousand exhibits.
€150 per tour
First encounter with Geneva!
The largest alpine lake and other points of interest of the city.