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...

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

  • Historic District/Site

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

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

  • Arts/Performance Venue

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...

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

  • Building/Architectural Site

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

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...

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)...

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