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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Bern Sights

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BearPark

  • Zoo/Aquarium

Bern almost certainly gets its name from the local contraction of the German Bären, due to Berchtold V's supposed first kill in the...

Bernisches Historisches Museum

  • Museum/Gallery

Indonesian shadow puppets, Japanese swords, Polynesian masks, Indian figurines, and Celtic jewelry fill the ground floor. The Islamic...

Bundeshaus

  • Government Building

Conceived as a national monument and the beating heart of the Swiss Confederation (the seven-member Federal Council, the 46-member Council...

Christoffelturm

  • Transportation Site (Airport, Bus, Ferry, Train)

The 14th-century maps, 19th-century photographs, and St. Christopher's huge limewood head give context to the thick stone foundations...

Einsteinhaus

  • House/Mansion/Villa

This genteel little apartment has been lovingly re-created to evoke the world of 1905, the miracle year in which then-tenant Albert Einstein...

Gurten

  • Park/Playground

Bern's very own hill rises 1,000 feet above the city and presents a delightful alternative to the city on clear afternoons. The view...

Heiliggeistkirche

  • Religious Building/Site/Shrine

Built in the shadow of the huge Christoffelturm on the site of a disused monastery hospital, this baroque church, laid out like a Huguenot...

Kornhaus

  • Building/Architectural Site

Wine stocked the cellar and grain filled the top three floors of this granary for 100 years during Bern's golden age. Then the 1814 Vienna...

Kunsthalle Bern

  • Museum/Gallery

A completely different animal from the Kunstmuseum across town, this groundbreaking contemporary art venue built in 1918 by and for artists...

Kunstmuseum

  • Museum/Gallery

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

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