Bern, Switzerland

By | November 13, 2021

According to abbreviationfinder, Bern is the federal capital of Switzerland and the canton of the same name. Its historic center, known as the old city, has been a World Heritage Site since 1983. In its metropolitan area we find a population close to 350,000 residents. Most of its population speaks German.


Located on the Swiss plateau, it borders the communes of Frauenkappelen, Wohlen bei Bern, Kirchlindach, Bremgarten bei Bern, Zollikofen and Ittigen to the north, to the east it borders Ostermundigen and Muri bei Bern, to the south with Köniz and Neuenegg, and to the west with Mühleberg and is situated in the administrative district of Bern-Mittelland. Bern’s neighborhoods are: Engeried, Felsenau, Neufeld, Länggasse, Stadtbach, Muesmatt, Holligen, Weissenstein, Mattenhof, Monbijou, Weissenbühl, Sandrain, Kirchenfeld, Brunnadern, Murifeld, Schosshalde, Beundenfeld, Breitenrainfeld, Breitrainfeld, Lorrainefeld Bümpliz, Oberbottigen, Stöckacker, Bethlehem. To the west of the communal territories are large wooded areas.


Since time immemorial, Bern’s place has been on the north-south communication axis that runs from Alsace towards the Alpine passes through the Jura and the Oberland. But the most important east-west cross-section was at the foot of the Jura and the lakes, north of the central region, leaving aside the Bernese region.

Its foundation dates back to the 12th century, specifically in 1191 when the powerful Zähringen family built the city with the aim of reinforcing its position in the pre-Alpine space. Around the name of the city arose a whole series of founding legends. It may be that it derives from Brenodor, the name of an ancient Celtic settlement that was on the site. However, the most popular legend holds that the toponym “Bern” has to do with the German name for bear (Bär), supposedly the first animal hunted by the founders of the city, when they went hunting in the surroundings of the city. The bear was associated for a long time with the city that has had a bear pit since the 15th century.

The city was founded on the lands of the Holy Roman Empire, so Duke Bertoldo V (its founder) must have received franchise rights. When he died in 1218, the city passed into the hands of the empire and obtained from Frederick II a letter, called Goldene Handfeste, which most historians consider a forgery from the second half of the 13th century. The Constitution was modified in 1294: the people elect the Sixteen, who designate the new Council of Two Hundred or Great Council. The Sixteen and the Two Hundred control the Small Council and the representative to the Empire.

Kings and emperors would confirm this Constitution from the fourteenth century, Carlos IV and Wenceslao grant additional privileges. The city became a center of commerce in the central Plain and, subsequently, it was acquiring more and more political and military power that it used to bring several subject territories under its control, so much so that in time the construction of the Church of Nydegg, on the ruins of the fortification of the same name, between 1341 and 1346, many claimed that “Building a church is a way of saying ‘above us there is no emperor, but only God. In 1353, Bern becomes the eighth canton of the Helvetic Confederation, being one of its most powerful members.

In 1798 the French invasion ended Bernese hegemony, but Bern managed to maintain a privileged position within the Confederacy. After the restoration, a federal commission proceeded in 1803 to distribute the fortune. The dowry attributed to the city generated some disputes with the canton, which would last until 1841. The Restoration managed to conserve a Great Municipal Council of 200 members, that together with the thirteen corporations elected an administration of 35 members. The 1831 Constitution removes all preponderance of the city of Bern over the canton. A political commune was established in 1832 ; Every domiciled citizen who had a certain fortune had the right to vote. The number of voters was growing thanks to the strong immigration and the federal and cantonal laws enacted in 1852, 1859 and 1861, which extended the right to vote. Women obtained political equality in 1968 and the majority of the Communal Council from 1993 to 1996. The voting age was increased from 20 to 18 in 1988.

Bern became the federal capital in 1834 of the Swiss state. It is the seat of the executive and legislative branches of the Confederation, the cantonal authorities and a large part of the federal and cantonal administrations. In 2010 it ceased to be the district capital of Bern after its dissolution and integration into the new administrative district of Bern-Mittelland.

Clock tower

The tower that currently occupies the famous clock, an almost obligatory visit for tourists from all over the world, served as a prison until it was converted into a bell tower in 1405, after a devastating fire. Under the large clock is the astronomical clock with the solar time. Next to it are the mechanical figures (1527-1530).

Three minutes before the hour, the rooster crows for the first time and it does so three times in relation to the phrase that Jesus Christ said to Saint Peter: ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.’ Afterwards, the jester rings the bells and the bears – at the feet of Kronos – also turn. The rooster crows again and at the hour Cronos turns the hourglass in his hand, counts the chimes moving his mouth and the scepter he carries in the other hand. A great merit that is conferred on it is that it preserves the original mechanism from the 16th century.


The city is home to several cultural institutions of the Confederation (Federal Archives and the Swiss National Library) and of the canton (University of Bern and court), as well as international organizations (Universal Postal Union and the International Association for Rail Transport).

Events (edit)

  • Zibelemärit – once in November, the streets of Bern are completely covered in confetti. Onion braids as well as onion cakes (November) are offered at the many stalls.
  • Gurtenfestival – Every summer tens of thousands flock to Bern’s home mountain, where this multi-day festival is held with artists from the international music scene (July).
  • Berner Jazzfestival – the jazz festival attracts visitors from within and from abroad who flock to the country’s capital; meanwhile it is considered one of the most traditional shows in the jazz world (March to May).
  • Berner Tanztage – performances, workshops, discussions and exhibitions about dance (June).
  • Buskers Bern Strassenfestival – Cabaret shows feature in the foreground at Buskers Bern. According to a fixed program and the principle of rotation, artists are presented in about 20 squares in the old town (August).

Museums and monuments

Museums and Monuments located in Bern
Historic museum Cathedral (Münster)
Museum of Natural History. Old city with its arcades.
AlbertEinstein’s house. Clock tower.
Museum of communication. Town Hall (Rathaus).
Museum of Fine Arts. Federal Palace.
Museum of psychiatry. Castles of Bümpliz.
Swiss alpine museum. Paul Klee Center.
The Kunsthalle.


The city has been the organizer of several tournaments of some international scope, including: the World Ice Hockey Championships in 1971, 1990 and 2009, and the European Figure Skating Championships in 2011. The city also hosts the World Cup in 1954 and the Euro 2008. Among other things, the city was a candidate to host the 2010 Winter Olympics, but a referendum ended the project.


The railway fever of the 1850s protected Bern, which allowed itself to passively join the Central-Suisse, a Basilian company. Originating in Olten, the line ended in 1857 at Wylerfeld for lack of a bridge. The Thun line was opened to traffic in 1859, the Freiburg line in 1860. The Swiss State Railways (SBB-CFF-FFS), which had to integrate the bankrupt East-West company, successfully inaugurated the Biel / Bienne lines and Langnau.

Some routes:

  • Urban bus and tram system (Bernmobil).
  • Zurich-Olten – Bern- Freiburg – Lausanne – Geneva railway line.
  • Basel- Olten – Bern- Thun – Brig – Milan railway line.
  • Railway line Bern – Zofingen – Lucerne.
  • Bern – Burgdorf – Solothurn railway line.
  • Bern – Lyss – Biel / Bienne railway line.
  • Bern – Neuchâtel – Paris railway line.
  • The Märzili funicular – City.
  • Highway A1 Lausanne – Zurich, exit 33-37.
  • A12 Vevey – Friborg – Bern motorway, exit 12.
  • A6 Lyss – Bern – Spiez motorway, exits 11 and 12.


If since 1831 the city has lost its political preponderance, its demographic and economic weight has not ceased to increase. Its share in the canton’s population went from 6% in 1850 to 13% in 1910, 20% in 1960 and 35% in 1990 (the entire agglomeration). Only in 1870 did the birth rate exceed the death rate, although immigration continues to be an important growth factor. See population of Switzerland.

Bern, Switzerland