Bern Sights

From the time it was built on a high, narrow peninsula above the rushing Aare, Bern's streets have followed the river's flow. The original town began by what is now the Nydegg Bridge—it controlled the ferry crossing there—and spread westward, uphill to the Zeitglockenturm (known locally as the Zytglogge), a clock tower constructed in 1191 to mark Bern's first significant western

gate. Further expansion in 1256 stretched the city to where the Käfigturm now stands; one last medieval growth spurt, hot on the heels of a resounding victory over the Burgundians in 1339, moved the city walls west yet again to the present-day train station, the Hauptbahnhof.

The bustling, commercial city center radiates out from that train station. To get to the Altstadt, follow the trams across Bärenplatz and through the Käfigturm. Marzili and Matte, former working-class and still flood-prone neighborhoods, lie together along the riverbed of the Aare. All these areas are easily explored on foot, but in Marzili and Matte you may want to take your cue from the locals: walk down, ride the funicular up. The cluster of museums in Kirchenfeld, on the south side of the river, is a short (spectacular) walk or tram ride away.

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Altstadt (Old Town) and City Center 12

Museum District 5

Greater Bern 2

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Bern Sights

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Kunstmuseum

  • Museum/Gallery

The permanent collection here, one of the largest and most diverse in Switzerland, begins with the Italian Trecento (notably Duccio and...

Käfigturm

  • Jail

This tower, completed in 1643, served as the city's prison until 1897. Reconfigured as the Confederation's Political Forum in 1999, it...

Museum für Kommunikation

  • Museum/Gallery

This resolutely interactive museum keeps its focus on the act of communication rather than the means. Exhibits examine body language...

Münster

  • Religious Building/Site/Shrine

Master builder Matthäus Ensinger already had Strasbourg's cathedral under his belt when he drew up plans for what became the largest...

Naturhistorisches Museum

  • Museum/Gallery

The biggest draw here is the stuffed body of Barry, a St. Bernard who saved more than 40 people in the Alps between 1800 and 1812. But...

Nydeggkirche

  • Religious Building/Site/Shrine

A plaque on the outside wall of the church indicates where vestiges of Duke Berchtold's 12th-century Nydegg Castle (destroyed about 1270)...

Rosengarten

  • Garden/Arboretum

The lower Altstadt's hilltop cemetery was converted into a public park in 1913. Today, its lawns, arbors, playground, and formal gardens...

Schweizerisches Alpines Museum

  • Museum/Gallery

This is the place for an in-depth look at the world of mountaineering and its passionate participants and followers. Regularly changing...

Zentrum Paul Klee

  • Museum/Gallery

Engaged creativity are the watchwords in this undulating, light-filled complex inspired by the life and art of Paul Klee and designed...

Zytglogge/Zeitglockenturm

  • Historic District/Site

Though its exterior dates from 1771, the internal walls of Bern's first western gate reach back to the 12th century and represent the...

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