Bern, Switzerland

Bern is the capital city of Switzerland. It is also written as Berne in French, and Berna in Italian and Romansh. It terms of population, it is the fourth largest city in Switzerland behind Zurich, Geneva and Basel. Covering 51.6 sq km (19.9 sq mi), Bern has a population of 125,000 (2011 estimate) within a metropolitan area of 660,000 people.

German is the official language in Bern, however the locals speak a dialect called Berndeutsch or Bernese German. The city is located at an average elevation of 542 m (1,778 ft) with the lowest point at 480 m and the highest at 864 m.

Bärenplatz, with the Federal Palace of Switzerland
Author: Pierre Bona (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported)

Although there is no clear explanation of how Bern got its name, according to a local legend, it was named by its founder, Berchtold V, the Duke of Zähringen, who vowed to name it after the first animal he encountered. This turn out to be a bear, so according to the legend, that was how Bern got its name. A different explanation says that it was named after the Italian city of Verona, which is also known as Bern in the Mittelhochdeutsch or Middle High German that is spoken in souther Germany, Switzerland and Austria.

In any case, the area around Bern has been inhabited since the 12th century, comparatively late by European standard. It joined the Swiss Confederacy in 1353. It became the capital of the canton of Bern in 1831, and then in 1848, it was selected to be the capital of the Swiss Confederation.

The River Aar with the Church of St Peter & St Paul, Bern
Author: Andreas Praefcke (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported)

The city of Bern is located to the north of the Bernese Alps. Flowing through Old Bern is the Aar River, which makes a sweeping bend through the city. The old city area has been remarkably well preserved and is today inscribed as a

UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The warmest months in Bern are June to August, with July temperature regularly exceeding 23.5°C (74.3°F). The coldest month is January, when the average temperature may drop to -3.7°C (25.3°F).

Cathedral of Bern under restoration
Author: Wladyslaw (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported)

Visiting Bern, Switzerland

The Bern-Belp Airport (BRN) is a small airport serving the capital of Switzerland. It is connected by flight to

Paris, Munich, London Gatwick, among others. There is a bus service from the airport to downtown Bern.

It is probably more convenient to reach Bern by train, especially if you are arriving from another major Swiss city such as Zurich, Geneva or Basel. There are numerous trains connecting Bern to the major cities of Switzerland as well as across western Europe.

Places of Interest in Bern, Switzerland

  1. Berne Historical Museum
  2. Bundeshaus (Federal Palace of Switzerland)
  3. Einsteinhaus
  4. Kunstmuseum (Museum of Fine Arts)
  5. Swiss Alpine Museum
  6. Tierpark Dählhölzli (Bern Zoo)
  7. Zentrum Paul Klee
  8. Zytglogge

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