Bern, Switzerland

History | Old Swiss Confederacy | Modern history | Geography | Economy | Religion | Tourist Industry | Heritage sites of national significance | Theatres | Cinemas | Film festivals | Festivals | Music events | Fairs | Sport | Education | Transport : Public | Road traffic | Transport : Air | Bicycle transport

🇨🇭 Bern or Berne is the de facto capital of Switzerland, referred to by the Swiss as their "federal city". Bern is the fifth-most populous city in Switzerland. The Bern agglomeration includes 36 municipalities. Bern is also the capital of the canton of Bern, the second-most populous of Switzerland's cantons. The official language is German, but the main spoken language is the local variant of the Alemannic Swiss German dialect, Bernese German. In 1983, the historic old town (Altstadt) in the centre of Bern became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

History No archaeological evidence that indicates a settlement on the site of today's city centre prior to the 12th century has been found so far. In antiquity, a Celtic oppidum stood on the Engehalbinsel (peninsula) north of Bern, fortified since the second century BC (late La Tène period), thought to be one of the 12 oppida of the Helvetii mentioned by Caesar. During the Roman era, a Gallo-Roman vicus was on the same site. The Bern zinc tablet has the name Brenodor ("dwelling of Breno"). In the Early Middle Ages, a settlement in Bümpliz, now a city district of Bern, was some 4 km (2 mi) from the medieval city.

The medieval city is a foundation of the Zähringer ruling family, which rose to power in Upper Burgundy in the 12th century. According to 14th-century historiography (Cronica de Berno, 1309), Bern was founded in 1191 by Berthold V, Duke of Zähringen.

In 1218, after Berthold died without an heir, Bern was made a free imperial city by the Goldene Handfeste of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II.

Old Swiss Confederacy In 1353, Bern joined the Swiss Confederacy, becoming one of the eight cantons of the formative period of 1353 to 1481.

Bern invaded and conquered Aargau in 1415 and Vaud in 1536, as well as other smaller territories, thereby becoming the largest city-state north of the Alps; by the 18th century, it comprised most of what is today the canton of Bern and the canton of Vaud.

The city grew out towards the west of the boundaries of the peninsula formed by the river Aare. The Zytglogge tower marked the western boundary of the city from 1191 until 1256, when the Käfigturm took over this role until 1345. It was, in turn, succeeded by the Christoffelturm (formerly located close to the site of the modern-day railway station) until 1622. During the time of the Thirty Years' War, two new fortifications – the so-called big and small Schanze (entrenchment) – were built to protect the whole area of the peninsula.

After a major blaze in 1405, the city's original wooden buildings were gradually replaced by half-timbered houses and subsequently the sandstone buildings which came to be characteristic for the Old Town. Despite the waves of pestilence that hit Europe in the 14th century, the city continued to grow, mainly due to immigration from the surrounding countryside.

Modern history Bern was occupied by French troops in 1798 during the French Revolutionary Wars, when it was stripped of parts of its territories. It regained control of the Bernese Oberland in 1802, and following the Congress of Vienna of 1814, it newly acquired the Bernese Jura. At this time, it once again became the largest canton of the Confederacy as it stood during the Restoration and until the secession of the canton of Jura in 1979.

On 28 November 1848, a majority of the new Swiss Federal Assembly deputies chose Bern as the Federal City (seat of the government) of the newly-created Swiss federal state, ahead of Zürich and Lucerne. Bern was chosen as not to concentrate all the power in the economic powerhouse of Zürich, while Catholic and conservative Lucerne had been part of the Sonderbund during the war a year before. In addition, Bern had a more central location and was supported by the French-speaking cantons due to proximity to them. However, the constitution doesn't define Bern as official capital of Switzerland, but as the seat of government.

A number of congresses of the socialist First and Second Internationals were held in Bern, particularly during World War I when Switzerland was neutral; see Bern International.

The city's population rose from about 5,000 in the 15th century to about 12,000 by 1800 and to above 60,000 by 1900, passing the 100,000 mark during the 1920s. Population peaked during the 1960s at 165,000 and has since decreased slightly, to below 130,000 by 2000. As of September 2017, the resident population stood at 142,349, of which 100,000 were Swiss citizens and 42,349 (31%) resident foreigners. A further estimated 350,000 people live in the immediate urban agglomeration.

Geography Bern lies on the Swiss plateau in the canton of Bern, slightly west of the centre of Switzerland and 20 km (12 mi) north of the Bernese Alps. The countryside around Bern was formed by glaciers during the most recent ice age. The two mountains closest to Bern are Gurten with a height of 864 m (2,835 ft) and Bantiger with a height of 947 m (3,107 ft). The site of the old observatory in Bern is the point of origin of the CH1903 coordinate system at 46°57′08.66″N 7°26′22.50″E.

The city was originally built on a hilly peninsula surrounded by the river Aare, but outgrew natural boundaries by the 19th century. A number of bridges have been built to allow the city to expand beyond the Aare.

Bern is built on very uneven ground. An elevation difference of up to 60 metres exists between the inner city districts on the Aare (Matte, Marzili) and the higher ones (Kirchenfeld, Länggasse).

Bern has an area, as of 2013, of 51.62 km² (19.93 sq mi). Of this area, 9.42 km² (3.64 sq mi) or 18.2% is used for agricultural purposes, while 17.21 km² (6.64 sq mi) or 33.3% is forested. Of the rest of the land, 23.76 km² (9.17 sq mi) or 46.0% is settled (buildings or roads), 1.08 km² (0.42 sq mi) or 2.1% is either rivers or lakes, and 0.14 km² (0.054 sq mi) or 0.3% is unproductive land.

Of the developed area of Bern, 3.1% consists of industrial buildings, 22.3% housing and other buildings, and 12.9% is devoted to transport infrastructure. Power and water infrastructure, as well as other special developed areas, made up 1.2% of the city, while another 6.5% consists of parks, green belts, and sports fields.

Of Bern's total land area, 32.8% is heavily forested. Of the agricultural land, 13.3% is used for growing crops and 4.4% is designated to be used as pasture. Local rivers and streams provide all the water in the municipality.

Economy As of 2008, there were 259 people employed in the primary economic sector and about 59 businesses involved in this sector. 16,413 people were employed in the secondary sector and there were 950 businesses in this sector. 135,973 people were employed in the tertiary sector, with 7,654 businesses in this sector.

In 2008 the number of jobs in the primary sector was 203, of which 184 were in agriculture and 19 were in forestry or lumber production. The number of jobs in the secondary sector was 15,476 of which 7,650 or (49.4%) were in manufacturing, 51 or (0.3%) were in mining and 6,389 (41.3%) were in construction. The number of jobs in the tertiary sector was 109,358. In the tertiary sector; 11,396 or 10.4% were in wholesale or retail sales or the repair of motor vehicles, 10,293 or 9.4% were in the movement and storage of goods, 5,090 or 4.7% were in a hotel or restaurant, 7,302 or 6.7% were in the information industry, 8,437 or 7.7% were the insurance or financial industry, 10,660 or 9.7% were technical professionals or scientists, 5,338 or 4.9% were in education and 17,903 or 16.4% were in health care.

Religion From the 2000 census, 60,455 or 47.0% belonged to the Swiss Reformed Church, while 31,510 or 24.5% were members of the Catholic Church. Of the rest of the population, there were 1,874 members of an Orthodox church (or about 1.46% of the population), there were 229 persons (or about 0.18% of the population) who belonged to the Christ Catholic Church, and there were 5,531 persons (or about 4.30% of the population) who belonged to another Christian religion. There were 324 persons (or about 0.25% of the population) who were Jewish, and 4,907 (or about 3.81% of the population) who were Muslim. There were 629 persons who were Buddhist, 1,430 persons who were Hindu and 177 persons who belonged to another religion. 16,363 (or about 12.72% of the population) belonged to no religion, are agnostic or atheist, and 7,855 persons (or about 6.11% of the population) did not answer the question. On 14 December 2014 the Haus der Religionen was inaugurated.

Tourist Industry The structure of Bern's city centre is largely medieval and has been recognised by UNESCO as a Cultural World Heritage Site. Perhaps its most famous sight is the Zytglogge (Bernese German for "Time Bell"), an elaborate medieval clock tower with moving puppets. It also has an impressive 15th century Gothic cathedral, the Münster, and a 15th-century town hall. Thanks to 6 km (4 miles) of arcades, the old town boasts one of the longest covered shopping promenades in Europe.

Since the 16th century, the city has had a bear pit, the Bärengraben, at the far end of the Nydeggbrücke to house its heraldic animals. The four bears are now kept in an open-air enclosure nearby, and two other young bears, a present by the Russian president, are kept in Dählhölzli zoo.

The Federal Palace (Bundeshaus), built from 1857 to 1902, which houses the national parliament, government and part of the federal administration, can also be visited.

Albert Einstein lived in a flat at the Kramgasse 49, the site of the Einsteinhaus, from 1903 to 1905, the year in which the Annus Mirabilis papers were published.

The Rose Garden (Rosengarten), from which a scenic panoramic view of the medieval town centre can be enjoyed, is a well-kept Rosarium on a hill, converted into a park from a former cemetery in 1913.

There are eleven Renaissance allegorical statues on public fountains in the Old Town. Nearly all the 16th-century fountains, except the Zähringer fountain, which was created by Hans Hiltbrand, are the work of the Fribourg master Hans Gieng. One of the more interesting fountains is the Kindlifresserbrunnen (Bernese German: Child Eater Fountain), which is claimed to represent a Jew, the Greek god Chronos, or a Fastnacht figure meant to frighten disobedient children.

Bern's most recent sight is the set of fountains in front of the Federal Palace. It was inaugurated on 1 August 2004.

The Universal Postal Union is situated in Bern.

Heritage sites of national significance Bern is home to 114 Swiss heritage sites of national significance.

It includes the entire Old Town, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and many sites within and around it. Some of the most notable in the Old Town include the Cathedral which was started in 1421 and is the tallest cathedral in Switzerland, the Zytglogge and Käfigturm towers, which mark two successive expansions of the Old Town, and the Holy Ghost Church, which is one of the largest Swiss Reformed churches in Switzerland. Within the Old Town, there are eleven 16th-century fountains, most attributed to Hans Gieng, that are on the list.

Outside the Old Town the heritage sites include the Bärengraben, the Gewerbeschule Bern (1937), the Eidgenössisches Archiv für Denkmalpflege, the Kirchenfeld mansion district  (after 1881), the Thunplatzbrunnen, the Federal Mint building, the Federal Archives, the Swiss National Library, the Historical Museum (1894), Alpine Museum, Museum of Communication and Natural History Museum.

Theatres • Bern Theatre • Narrenpack Theatre Bern • Schlachthaus Theatre • Tojo Theater • The Theatre on the Effinger-Street • Theatre am Käfigturm

Cinemas Bern has several dozen cinemas. As is customary in German Switzerland, films are generally in German. Some films in select cinemas are shown in their original language with German and French subtitles.

Film festivals • shnit International Shortfilmfestival, held annually in early October. • Queersicht – gay and lesbian film festival, held annually in the second week of November.

Festivals • BeJazz Summer and Winter Festival • Buskers Bern Street Music Festival • Gurtenfestival • Internationales Jazzfestival Bern • Taktlos-Festival

Music events The Musikpreis des Kantons Bern is an annual musical event where "Outstanding musicians which styles shape the Bern music scene" are honored.

Fairs • Zibelemärit – The Zibelemärit (onion market) is an annual fair held on the fourth Monday in November. • Bernese Fasnacht (Carnival)

Sport Bern was the site of the 1954 FIFA World Cup Final, in which West Germany upset the Hungarian Golden Team 3–2. The football team BSC Young Boys is based in Bern at the Stade de Suisse Wankdorf, which also was one of the venues for the 2008 UEFA European Championship, in which it hosted three matches.

FC Breitenrain Bern, founded in 1994, also play in Bern.

SC Bern is the major ice hockey team of Bern which plays in the PostFinance Arena. They compete in the National League (NL), the highest league in Switzerland. The team has ranked highest in attendance for a European hockey team for more than a decade. PostFinance Arena was the main host of the 2009 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, including the opening game and the final of the tournament.

PostFinance Arena was also the host of the 2011 European Figure Skate Championships.

Bern Cardinals is the baseball and softball team of Bern, which plays at the Allmend.

Bern Grizzlies is the American football club in Bern and plays in the top level Nationalliga A (American football) at Athletics Arena Wankdorf.

Bern was a candidate to host the 2010 Winter Olympics, but withdrew its bid in September 2002 after a referendum was passed that showed that the bid was not supported by locals. Those games were eventually awarded to Vancouver, British Columbia.

RC Bern is the local rugby club (since 1972) and plays at the Allmend. The ladies team was founded in 1995.

The locality of Bremgartenwald was home to the Bremgarten Circuit, the Grand Prix motor racing course that at one time hosted the Swiss Grand Prix.

Bern Bears is an NGO Basketball Club since 2010 in city of Bern.

The Swiss Grand Prix was held on the Circuit Bremgarten street track from 1950 to 1954, with MotoGP also running their Swiss motorcycle Grand Prix from 1949 to 1954. The circuit eventually fell into disrepair after Switzerland banned motorports after the 1955 Le Mans Disaster, but they made an amendment in 2015 to host electric racing, which is how the Swiss ePrix happened in 2019.

Education The University of Bern, whose buildings are mainly located in the Länggasse quarter, is located in Bern, as well as the University of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschule) and several vocations schools.

In Bern, about 50,418 or (39.2%) of the population have completed non-mandatory upper secondary education, and 24,311 or (18.9%) have completed additional higher education (either university or a Fachhochschule). Of the 24,311 who completed tertiary schooling, 51.6% were Swiss men, 33.0% were Swiss women, 8.9% were non-Swiss men and 6.5% were non-Swiss women.

The canton of Bern school system provides one year of non-obligatory kindergarten, followed by six years of primary school. This is followed by three years of obligatory lower secondary school where the pupils are separated according to ability and aptitude. Following the lower secondary pupils may attend additional schooling or they may enter an apprenticeship.

During the 2009–10 school year, there were a total of 10,979 pupils attending classes in Bern. There were 89 kindergarten classes with a total of 1,641 pupils in the municipality. Of the kindergarten pupils, 32.4% were permanent or temporary residents of Switzerland (not citizens) and 40.2% have a different mother language than the classroom language. The municipality had 266 primary classes and 5,040 pupils. Of the primary pupils, 30.1% were permanent or temporary residents of Switzerland (not citizens) and 35.7% have a different mother language than the classroom language. During the same year, there were 151 lower secondary classes with a total of 2,581 pupils. There were 28.7% who were permanent or temporary residents of Switzerland (not citizens) and 32.7% have a different mother language than the classroom language.

Bern is home to 8 libraries. These libraries include; the Schweiz. Nationalbibliothek/ Bibliothèque nationale suisse, the Universitätsbibliothek Bern, the Kornhausbibliotheken Bern, the BFH Wirtschaft und Verwaltung Bern, the BFH Gesundheit, the BFH Soziale Arbeit, the Hochschule der Künste Bern, Gestaltung und Kunst and the Hochschule der Künste Bern, Musikbibliothek. There was a combined total (as of 2008) of 10,308,336 books or other media in the libraries, and in the same year a total of 2,627,973 items were loaned out.

As of 2000, there were 9,045 pupils in Bern who came from another municipality, while 1,185 residents attended schools outside the municipality.

Transport: Public Bern is served by a dense network of trains, trams, trolleybuses, and conventional motorbuses. The Bern S-Bahn is Switzerland's second busiest.

Bern is the centre of the Libero tariff network, which covers the cantons of Bern and Solothurn and includes the towns of Biel/Bienne, Solothurn, and Thun. The network allows easy and coordinated travel on all modes of public transport, such as trains, PostAuto buses, trams, buses (trolleybuses and motorbuses) and others, regardless of transport operator. Fares are based on the number of zones in a journey. The central part of Bern, (excluding Bümpliz, Betlehem, Bottigen, Brünnen, and Riedbach in the west of the municipality), is part of the fare zone 100.

The city is well served by railways, with the extensive S-Bahn network and many regional and international connections. Bern's central railway station (Bahnhof Bern) is Switzerland's second busiest station (202,600 passengers per working day in 2014), and is the main transport hub in the region.

A funicular railway called the Marzilibahn leads from the Marzili district to the Federal Palace. With a length of 106 m (348 ft), it is the second shortest public railway in Europe after the Zagreb funicular.

Road traffic Several Aare bridges connect the old parts of the city with the newer districts outside of the peninsula.

Bern is well connected to other cities by several motorways (A1, A12, A6).

Transport: Air Bern Airport (colloquially called Bern-Belp or Belpmoos) located outside the city near the town of Belp, as of March 2021 mostly serves general aviation and charter flights. Zurich Airport, Geneva Airport and EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg serve as gateways for air traffic, all reachable in less than two hours by train or car from Bern.

Bicycle transport The city has made efforts to make Bern the "bicycle capital" of Switzerland through the creation of better infrastructure, such as dedicated cycle paths. PubliBike  operates a bike-sharing system.

Bern, Switzerland 
<b>Bern, Switzerland</b>
Image: Adobe Stock nikitamaykov #328015145

Bern is rated Sufficiency by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network (GaWC) which evaluates and ranks the relationships between world cities in the context of globalisation. Sufficiency level cities are cities that have a sufficient degree of services so as not to be overly dependent on world cities.

Bern was ranked #951 by the Nomad List which evaluates and ranks remote work hubs by cost, internet, fun and safety. Bern has a population of over 125,700 people. Bern also forms the centre of the wider Bern metropolitan area which has a population of over 660,000 people. Bern is ranked #224 for startups with a score of 1.673. It is estimated there are around 8,663 businesses in Bern.

To set up a UBI Lab for Bern see: https://www.ubilabnetwork.org Twitter: https://twitter.com/UBILabNetwork

Twin Towns, Sister Cities Bern has links with:

🇨🇭 Thun, Switzerland

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Antipodal to Bern is: -172.556,-46.948

Locations Near: Bern 7.44416,46.9482

🇨🇭 Ostermundigen 7.489,46.955 d: 3.5  

🇨🇭 Burgdorf 7.617,47.05 d: 17.3  

🇨🇭 Thun 7.633,46.767 d: 24.8  

🇨🇭 Biel/Bienne 7.25,47.133 d: 25.3  

🇨🇭 Fribourg 7.15,46.8 d: 27.8  

🇨🇭 Delémont 7.35,47.367 d: 47.1  

🇨🇭 Langenthal 7.783,47.217 d: 39.4  

🇨🇭 Neuchâtel 6.933,47 d: 39.2  

🇨🇭 Arlesheim 7.617,47.483 d: 60.9  

🇨🇭 Willisau 8,47.117 d: 46.1  

Antipodal to: Bern -172.556,-46.948

🇹🇴 Nuku'alofa -175.216,-21.136 d: 17134.9  

🇦🇸 Pago Pago -170.701,-14.279 d: 16378.4  

🇼🇸 Apia -171.76,-13.833 d: 16332.1  

🇵🇫 Papeete -149.566,-17.537 d: 16126.2  

🇺🇸 Hilo -155.089,19.725 d: 12397.1  

🇺🇸 Maui -156.446,20.72 d: 12319  

🇺🇸 Maui County -156.617,20.868 d: 12306.5  

🇺🇸 Wailuku -156.505,20.894 d: 12301.3  

🇺🇸 Kahului -156.466,20.891 d: 12300.7  

🇺🇸 Honolulu -157.85,21.3 d: 12283.9  

Bing Map

Option 1