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BernBernBärn - Top left: Historical Museum, Top right: Federal Palace, Bottom: Aerial view of Bern
Top left: Historical Museum, Top right: Federal Palace, Bottom: Aerial view of Bern
Country Switzerland Coat of Arms of BernBernBärn
Canton Bern
District Bern-Mittelland adminstrative district
46°57′N 7°27′E / 46.95°N 7.45°E / 46.95; 7.45Coordinates: 46°57′N 7°27′E / 46.95°N 7.45°E / 46.95; 7.45
Population 122,658 (2007-12-31)
  - Density 2,377 /km2 (6,157 /sq mi)
Area 51.6 km2 (19.9 sq mi)
Elevation 542 m (1,778 ft)
  - Highest 864 m - Gurten, Bern
  - Lowest 480 m - Aare
Postal code 3000
SFOS number 0351
Mayor (list) Alexander Tschäppät SPS/PSS
Demonym Berner
Surrounded by
(view map)
Bremgarten bei Bern, Frauenkappelen, Ittigen, Kirchlindach, Köniz, Mühleberg, Muri bei Bern, Neuenegg, Ostermundigen, Wohlen bei Bern, Zollikofen
SFSO statistics
BernBernBärn [zoom] is located in Switzerland
Bärn [zoom]

The city of Bern or Berne (German: Bern, pronounced [ˈbɛrn]  ( listen); French: Berne [bɛʀn]; Italian: Berna [ˈbɛrna]; Romansh: Berna [ˈbɛrnə]; Bernese German: Bärn [b̥æːrn]) is the Bundesstadt (federal city, de facto capital) of Switzerland, and, with about 130,000 people [1], the fourth most populous city in Switzerland. The Bern agglomeration, which includes 43 municipalities,[2] has a population of 349,000.[3] Bern is also the capital of the Canton of Bern, the second most populous of Switzerland's cantons.

The official language of Bern is German, but the main spoken language is the Alemannic dialect called Bernese German (even though it does in fact have nothing to do with the German language)[citation needed]. Most people speak both.

The historic center of Bern has been featured in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1983, and Bern is among the world’s top ten cities for the best quality of life.[4]



Bern in 1638

Duke Berchtold V of Zähringen founded the city on the River Aare in 1191 and allegedly named it after a bear (Bär in German) he had killed. It was made an Imperial Free City by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in 1218 after Berthold died without an heir. In 1353 Bern joined the young Swiss Confederation, becoming a leading member of the confederation. It 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. It was occupied by French troops in 1798 during the French Revolutionary Wars, when it was stripped of parts of its territories. In 1831 the city became the capital of the Canton of Bern and in 1848 it additionally became the Swiss capital.

The city grew out towards the west of the boundaries of the peninsula formed by the river Aare. Initially, the Zytglogge tower marked the western boundary of the city from 1191 until 1256, when the Käfigturm took over this role until 1345, which, in turn, was then succeeded by the Christoffelturm (located close to today's train 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.

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 Berne International.)


Aare river in Bern. Background shows the high incline of the riverbank.

Bern lies in the Swiss plateau within the Canton of Bern, somewhat west of the centre of Switzerland and 20 km (12 mi) north of the Bernese Alps. The landscape around Bern was formed by glaciers in the last Ice Age. The two mountains closest to Bern are the Gurten with a height of 958 and the Bantiger with a height of {947 m (3,106.96 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 / 46.9524056°N 7.439583°E / 46.9524056; 7.439583.

The city was originally built on a hilly peninsully surrounded by the river Aare but outgrew these natural boundaries in the 19th century. A number of bridges were built to allow the city to grow beyond the Aare.

Bern is built on very uneven ground. There are several dozens of meters in height difference from the quarters on the Aare (Matte, Marzili) to the higher ones (Kirchenfeld, Länggasse).

Bern has an area of 51.6 square kilometers (19.9 sq mi). Of this area, 20.2% is used for agricultural purposes, while 33.5% is forested. Of the rest of the land, 44.2% is settled (buildings or roads) and the remainder (2.1%) is non-productive (rivers or glaciers).[5]



Climate data for Bern
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 2.2
Daily mean °C (°F) -1.2
Average low °C (°F) -3.7
Precipitation mm (inches) 66
Avg. precipitation days 10 9.8 11.3 11.6 13.7 11.8 10 10.9 8.1 8 10.1 10.2 125.5
Source: MeteoSchweiz [6] 8 May 2009


The municipality is administratively subdivided into six districts (Stadtteile), each of which consists of several quarters (Quartiere).


Bern has a population (as of 31 December 2008) of 122,925.[7] As of 2007, 21.7 % of the population was made up of foreign nationals. Most of the population (as of 2000) speaks German (81.2%), with Italian being second most common (3.9%) and French being third (3.6%).

52.7 % of the population are female, 47.3 % are male. The average age is 41 years and nine months. As of 2000 children and teenagers (0–19 years old) make up 15.1%, adults (20–64 years old) 65% and seniors (over 64 years old) 19.9%.

The Swiss population is generally well educated. In Bern about 72.8% of the population (between age 25-64) have completed either non-mandatory upper secondary education or additional higher education (either University or a Fachhochschule).

Bern has an unemployment rate of 3.2%. As of 2005, there were 773 people employed in the primary economic sector and about 104 businesses involved in this sector. 16,484 people are employed in the secondary sector and there are 1,094 businesses in this sector. 131,659 people are employed in the tertiary sector, with 7,638 businesses in this sector.[5]



Bern is governed by the Gemeinderat, an executive council with five members, one of them the elected mayor (Stadtpräsident). The parliament has 80 members and is called Stadtrat. Both the legislative and the executive are elected in general elections for a term of four years. The last elections were held in November 2008 with a 43.48% participation.


The executive council has a left-green majority with two representatives, including the mayor Alexander Tschäppät, of the Social Democratic Party of Switzerland (SPS) and one representative of the leftist Green party Grünes Bündnis (GB). It also has a majority of three woman against two men.

The seat of the Gemeinderat is the Erlacherhof.

The 80 members of the legislative council belong to 18 different political parties, the strongest being the Social Democratic Party with 20 representatives, followed by the conservative Free Democratic Party of Switzerland (FDP) with 10 and the moderate Green party Grüne Freien Liste (GFL) with 9 seats. Both the far right Swiss People's Party (SVP) and the leftist Green party Grünes Bündnis have 8 seats each.

The Stadtrat meets on Thursday evenings at the Rathaus (Town Hall).

The representatives of the Social Democratic Party and of the Green Parties, collectively referred to as "Red-Green-Center" (Rot-Grüne-Mitte), hold a majority in both councils and mostly determine City policy, although no formal coalition agreement exists and, under the system of direct democracy that prevails in Switzerland, most important issues are settled by general vote.

Main sights

The Zytglogge clock tower and the city's medieval covered shopping promenades (Lauben).
Albert Einstein house

The structure of Bern's city center 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 kilometers 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). The current pit off the far end of the Nydeggbrücke no longer contains any bears, the last being put down in 2009,[8] shortly before the opening of the new bear pit later in the year.

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 an apartment at the Kramgasse 49, the site of the Einsteinhaus, from 1903 to 1905, the year in which the Annus Mirabilis Papers were published.

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

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

Bern features many heritage sites of national significance.[9] Apart from the entire Old Town and many sites within it, these 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.

The Universal Postal Union is situated in Bern.

View of the city.



Movie theaters

Bern has several dozen movie theaters. As is customary in Switzerland, movies are generally shown in their original language (e.g., English) with subtitling in German and French. Only a small number of screenings are dubbed in German.

  • Queersicht - gay and lesbian film festival, held annually in the second week of November.


  • BeJazz Summer and Winter Festival
  • Buskers festival
  • Gurtenfestival
  • Internationales Jazzfestival Bern
  • Queersicht - Queer Filmfestival, annually held second week of November.
  • Taktlos-Festival


  • Zibelemärit - The Zibelemärit (onion market) is an annual fair held on the fourth Monday in November.
  • Berner Fassnacht (Carnival)


The football team BSC Young Boys is based in Bern at the Stade de Suisse Wankdorf, which also is one of the venues for the European football championship.

The Stade de Suisse hosted three matches during the 2008 UEFA Euro Cup tournament.

SC Bern is the major ice hockey team of Bern who plays at the PostFinance Arena.

The PostFinance Arena was the main host of the 2009 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, including the opening game and the final of the tournament.

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 at Sportanlage Schonau.

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, Canada.


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


Tram station on the Bahnhofplatz

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

Public transport works well in Bern, with tram, S-Bahn and bus lines which connect the different parts of the City. Bern Rail Station connects the City to the national and international train network. A funicular leads from the Marzili quarter to the Bundeshaus. This funicular is, with a length of 106 m (347.77 ft), the second shortest public railway in Europe after the Zagreb Funicular. Several Aare bridges connect the old parts of the city with the newer quarters outside of the peninsula.

Bern is served by Bern Airport, located outside the city near the town of Belp. The regional airport, colloquially called Bern-Belp or Belpmoos, is connected to several Swiss and European cities.

Notable people

External links



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