The city of Bern (German: [bɛrn]) or Berne (French: [bɛʁn]; Italian: Berna [ˈbɛrna]; Romansh: Berna ; Bernese German: Bärn [b̥æːrn]) is the de facto capital of Switzerland, referred to by the Swiss as their (e.g. in German) Bundesstadt, or "federal city". With a population of 141,107 (April 2016), Bern is the fourth most populous city in Switzerland. The Bern agglomeration, which includes 36 municipalities, had a population of 406,900 in 2014. The metropolitan area had a population of 660,000 in 2000. Bern is additionally the capital of the Canton of Bern, the second most populous of Switzerland's cantons.
The etymology of the name Bern is uncertain. According to the local legend, based on folk etymology, Berchtold V, Duke of Zähringen, the founder of the city of Bern, vowed to name the city after the first animal he met on the hunt, and this turned out to be a bear. It has long been considered likely that the city was named after the Italian city of Verona, which at the time was known as Bern in Middle High German. As a result of the find of the Bern zinc tablet in the 1980s, it is now more common to assume that the city was named after a pre-existing toponym of Celtic origin, possibly *berna "cleft". The bear was the heraldic animal of the seal and coat of arms of Bern from at least the 1220s. The earliest reference to the keeping of live bears in the Bärengraben dates to the 1440s.
No archaeological evidence that indicates a settlement on the site of today′s city centre prior to the twelfth century has been found so far. In antiquity, a Celtic oppidum stood on the Engehalbinsel (peninsula) north of Bern, fortified after the second century BC (late La Tène period), thought to be one of the twelve oppida of the Helvetii mentioned by Caesar. During the Roman era, there was a Gallo-Roman vicus on the same site. The Bern zinc tablet has the name Brenodor ("dwelling of Breno"). In the Early Middle Ages, there was a settlement in Bümpliz, now a city district of Bern, a few 4 km (2 mi) from the mediaeval city.
The mediaeval city is a foundation of the Zähringer ruling family, which rose to power in Upper Burgundy in the twelfth century. According to fourteenth century historiography (Cronica de Berno, 1309), Bern was founded in 1191 by Berthold V, Duke of Zähringen.
Old Swiss Confederacy
In 1353 Bern joined the Swiss Confederacy, fitting one of the eight cantons of the formative period of 1353 to 1481. Bern invaded and conquered Aargau in 1415 and Vaud in 1536, as well as additional smaller territories; thereby fitting the largest city-state north of the Alps, by the eighteenth century comprising most of what's today the canton of Bern and the canton of Vaud.
The city grew out towards the west of the boundaries of the peninsula formed by the river Aare. The Zytglogge tower marked the western boundary of the city from 1191 until 1256, when the Käfigturm took over this role until 1345. It was, in turn, succeeded by the Christoffelturm (formerly located close to the site of the modern-day railway 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.
After a major blaze in 1405, the city's original wooden buildings were gradually replaced by half-timbered houses and subsequently the sandstone buildings which came to be characteristic for the Old Town. Despite the waves of pestilence that hit Europe in the fourteenth century, the city continued to grow: mainly due to immigration from the surrounding countryside.
Bern was occupied by French troops in 1798 throughout the French Revolutionary Wars, when it was stripped of parts of its territories. It regained control of the Bernese Oberland in 1802, and following the Congress of Vienna of 1814, it newly acquired the Bernese Jura. At this time, it once again became the largest canton of the confederacy as it stood throughout the Restoration and until the secession of the canton of Jura in 1979. Bern was made the Federal City (seat of the Federal Assembly) within the new Swiss federal state in 1848.
The city's population rose from about 5,000 in the fifteenth century to about 12,000 by 1800 and to above 60,000 by 1900, passing the 100,000 mark throughout the 1920s. Population peaked throughout the 1960s at 165,000, and has after decreased slightly, to below 130,000 by 2000. As of October 2015, the resident population stood at 140,634, of which 100,634 were Swiss citizens and 40,000 (30%) resident foreigners. A further estimated 350,000 people live in the immediate urban agglomeration.
Geography and climate
Bern lies on the Swiss plateau in the Canton of Bern, slightly west of the centre of Switzerland and 20 km (12 mi) north of the Bernese Alps. The countryside around Bern was formed by glaciers throughout the most recent Ice Age. The two mountains closest to Bern are Gurten with a height of 864 m (2,835 ft) and Bantiger with a height of 947 m (3,107 ft). The site of the old observatory in Bern is the point of origin of the CH1903 coordinate system at .
The city was originally built on a hilly peninsula surrounded by the river Aare, but outgrew natural boundaries by the nineteenth century. A number of bridges have been built to allow the city to expand beyond the Aare.
Bern is built on quite uneven ground. There is an elevation difference of several metres between the inner city districts on the Aare (Matte, Marzili) and the higher ones (Kirchenfeld, Länggasse).
Bern has an area, as of 2009, of 51.62 square km (19.93 sq mi). Of this area, 9.79 square km (3.78 sq mi) or 19.0% is used for agricultural purposes, while 17.33 square km (6.69 sq mi) or 33.6% is forested. Of the rest of the land, 23.25 square km (8.98 sq mi) or 45.0% is settled (buildings or roads), 1.06 square km (0.41 sq mi) or 2.1% is either rivers or lakes and 0.16 square km (0.062 sq mi) or 0.3% is unproductive land.
Of the developed, 3.6% consists of industrial buildings, 21.7% housing and additional buildings, and 12.6% is devoted to transport infrastructure. Power and water infrastructure as well as additional special developed areas made up 1.1% of the city, while another 6.0% consists of parks, green belts and sports fields. 32.8% of the total land area is heavily forested. Of the agricultural land, 14.3% is used for growing crops and 4.0% is designated to be used as pastures. The rivers and streams provide all the water in the municipality.
|Climate data for Bern / Zollikofen (1981–2010)|
|Average high °C (°F)||2.8|
|Daily mean °C (°F)||−0.4|
|Average low °C (°F)||−3.6|
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||60|
|Average snowfall cm (inches)||12.8|
|Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm)||9.6||9.0||10.6||10.4||12.6||11.1||10.8||10.7||8.9||10.4||10.2||9.9||124.2|
|Average snowy days (≥ 1.0 cm)||4.1||3.5||2.0||0.3||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||1.1||3.1||14.1|
|Average relative humidity (%)||84||79||73||71||73||71||71||73||79||84||85||85||77|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||64||87||137||159||182||205||236||217||165||113||68||49||1,682|
|Percent possible sunshine||29||35||41||42||42||47||53||53||49||38||30||23||42|
The municipality is administratively subdivided into six districts (Stadtteile), each of which consists of several quarters (Quartiere).
The City Council (Gemeinderat) constitutes the executive government of the City of Bern and operates as a collegiate authority. It is composed of five councillors (German: Gemeinderat/-rätin), each presiding over a directorate (Direktion) comprising several departments and bureaus. The president of the executive department acts as mayor (Stadtpräsident). In the mandate period 2013–2016 (Legislatur) the City Council is presided by Stadtpräsident Alexander Tschäppät. Departmental tasks, coordination measures and implementation of laws decreed by the City Parliament are carried by the City Council. The regular election of the City Council by any inhabitant valid to vote is held every four years. Any resident of Bern allowed to vote can be elected as a member of the City Council. The delegates are selected by means of a system of Majorz. The mayor is elected as such as well by public election while the heads of the additional directorates are assigned by the collegiate. The executive body holds its meetings in the Erlacherhof, built by architect Albrecht Stürler after 1747.
As of 2015, Bern's City Council is made up of two representatives of the SP (Social Democratic Party, of whom one is additionally the mayor), and one each of CVP (Christian Democratic Party), GB (Green Alliance of Berne), and FDP (FDP.The Liberals), giving the left parties a majority of three out of five seats. The last election was held on 25 November 2012.
|Party||Head of Directorate (Direktion, since) of||elected since|
|Alexander Tschäppät||SP||Mayor's Office (Präsidialdirektion (PRD), 2005)||2005|
|Reto Nause||CVP||Security, the Environment and Energy (Direktion für Sicherheit, Umwelt und Energie (SUE), 2009)||2009|
|Franziska Teuscher||GB||Education, Social Welfare and Sport (Direktion für Bildung, Soziales und Sport (BSS), 2013)||2013|
|Ursula Wyss||SP||Civil Engineering, Transport and Green Spaces (Direktion für Tiefbau, Verkehr und Stadtgrün (TVS), 2013)||2013|
|Alexandre Schmidt||FDP||Finances, Personnel and IT (Direktion für Finanzen, Personal und Informatik (FPI), 2013)||2013|
- Mayor (Stadtpräsident), additionally member of the National Council after 2011
- Vice-Mayor (Vizepräsident)
Dr. Jürg Wichtermann is State Chronicler (Staatsschreiber) after 2008. He has been elected by the collegiate.
The City Parliament (de: Stadtrat, fr: Conseil de ville) holds legislative power. It is made up of 80 members, with elections held every four years. The City Parliament decrees regulations and by-laws that are executed by the City Council and the administration. The delegates are selected by means of a system of proportional representation.
The sessions of the City Parliament are public. Unlike members of the City Council, members of the City Parliament aren't politicians by profession, and they're paid a fee based on their attendance. Any resident of Bern allowed to vote can be elected as a member of the City Parliament. The parliament holds its meetings in the Stadthaus (Town Hall).
The last regular election of the City Parliament was held on 25 November 2012 for the mandate period (German: Legislatur, French: la législature) from 2013 to 2016. Currently the City Parliament consist of 23 members of the Social Democratic Party (SP/PS), 11 Swiss People's Party (SVP/UDC), 8 Green Alliance of Berne (GB), 8 Grüne Freie Liste (GFL) (Green Free List), 7 The Liberals (FDP/PLR), 7 Conservative Democratic Party (BDP/PBD), 7 Green Liberal Party (GLP/PVL), 2 Christian Democratic People's Party (CVP/PDC), 2 Evangelical People's Party (EVP/PEV), 1 Junge Alternative (JA!) (or Young Alternatives), 1 Grüne Partei Bern - Demokratische Alternative (GPB-DA) (or Green Party Bern - Democratic Alternative), 1 Swiss Party of Labour (PdA), 1 Alternative Linke Bern (AL) and finally one independent. The following parties combine their parliamentary power in parliamentary groups (German: Fraktion(en)): Independent and AL and GPB-DA and PdA (4), SP (23), GB and JA! (9), GFL and EVP (10), GLP (7), BDP and CVP (9), FDP (7), and SVP (11). This gives the left parties an absolute majority of 46 seats.
In the 2015 federal election for the Swiss National Council the most popular party was the PS which received 34.3% of the vote. The next five most popular parties were the Green Party (17.4%), the UDC (12.4%), and the FDP/PLR (9.9%), glp/pvl (9.4%), and the BDP/PBD (7.0%). In the federal election, a total of 48,556 voters were cast, and the voter turnout was 56.0%.
Twin and sister cities
Bern has a population (as of April 2016) of 141,107. About 34 percent of the population are resident foreign nationals. Over the 10 years between 2000 and 2010, the population changed at a rate of 0.6%. Migration accounted for 1.3%, while births and deaths accounted for −2.1%.
Most of the population (as of 2000) speaks German (104,465 or 81.2%) as their first language, Italian is the second most common (5,062 or 3.9%) and French is the third (4,671 or 3.6%). There are 171 people who speak Romansh.
As of 2008, the population was 47.5% male and 52.5% female. The population was made up of 44,032 Swiss men (35.4% of the population) and 15,092 (12.1%) non-Swiss men. There were 51,531 Swiss women (41.4%) and 13,726 (11.0%) non-Swiss women. Of the population in the municipality, 39,008 or about 30.3% were born in Bern and lived there in 2000. There were 27,573 or 21.4% who were born in the same canton, while 25,818 or 20.1% were born somewhere else in Switzerland, and 27,812 or 21.6% were born outside of Switzerland.
As of 2000, children and teenagers (0–19 years old) make up 15.1% of the population, while adults (20–64 years old) make up 65 percent and seniors (over 64 years old) make up 19.9%.
As of 2000, there were 59,948 people who were single and never married in the municipality. There were 49,873 married individuals, 9,345 widows or widowers and 9,468 individuals who're divorced.
As of 2000, there were 67,115 private households in the municipality, and an average of 1.8 persons per household. There were 34,981 households that consist of only one person and 1,592 households with five or more people. In 2000, a total of 65,538 apartments (90.6% of the total) were permanently occupied, while 5,352 apartments (7.4%) were seasonally occupied and 1,444 apartments (2.0%) were empty. As of 2009, the construction rate of new housing units was 1.2 new units per 1000 residents.
As of 2003 the average price to rent an average flat in Bern was 1108.92 Swiss francs (CHF) per month (US$890, £500, €710 approx. exchange rate from 2003). The average rate for a one-room flat was 619.82 CHF (US$500, £280, €400), a two-room flat was about 879.36 CHF (US$700, £400, €560), a three-room flat was about 1040.54 CHF (US$830, £470, €670) and a six or more room flat cost an average of 2094.80 CHF (US$1680, £940, €1340). The average flat price in Bern was 99.4% of the national average of 1116 CHF. The vacancy rate for the municipality, in 2010, was 0.45%.
The historical population is given in the following chart:
|Historic Population Data|
|Year||Total Population||German Speaking||French Speaking||Protestant||Catholic||Jewish||Christian Catholic||Other or no religion given||No religion given||Swiss||Non-Swiss|
From the 2000 census, 60,455 or 47.0% belonged to the Swiss Reformed Church, while 31,510 or 24.5% were Roman Catholic. Of the rest of the population, there were 1,874 members of an Orthodox church (or about 1.46% of the population), there were 229 persons (or about 0.18% of the population) who belonged to the Christian Catholic Church, and there were 5,531 persons (or about 4.30% of the population) who belonged to another Christian church. There were 324 persons (or about 0.25% of the population) who were Jewish, and 4,907 (or about 3.81% of the population) who were Muslim. There were 629 persons who were Buddhist, 1,430 persons who were Hindu and 177 persons who belonged to another church. 16,363 (or about 12.72% of the population) belonged to no church, are agnostic or atheist, and 7,855 persons (or about 6.11% of the population) didn't answer the question. On 14 December 2014 the Haus der Religionen was inaugurated.
The structure of Bern's city centre 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 mediaeval clock tower with moving puppets. It additionally has an impressive fifteenth century Gothic cathedral, the Münster, and a 15th-century town hall. Thanks to 6 km (4 miles) of arcades, the old town boasts one of the longest covered shopping promenades in Europe.
Since the sixteenth century, the city has had a bear pit, the Bärengraben, at the far end of the Nydeggbrücke to house its heraldic animals. The currently four bears are now kept in an open-air enclosure nearby, and two additional young bears, a present by the Russian president, are kept in Dählhölzli zoo.
The Rose Garden (Rosengarten), from which a scenic panoramic view of the mediaeval town centre can be enjoyed, is a well-kept Rosarium on a hill, converted into a park from a former cemetery in 1913.
There are eleven Renaissance allegorical statues on public fountains in the Old Town. Nearly all the sixteenth century fountains, except the Zähringer fountain which was created by Hans Hiltbrand, are the work of the Fribourg master Hans Gieng. One of the more interesting fountains is the Kindlifresserbrunnen (Bernese German: Child Eater Fountain but often translated Ogre Fountain) which is claimed to represent a Jew, the Greek god Chronos or a Fastnacht figure that scares disobedient children.
Bern's most recent sight is the set of fountains in front of the Federal Palace. It was inaugurated on 1 August 2004.
The Universal Postal Union is situated in Bern.
Heritage sites of national significance
Bern is home to 114 Swiss heritage sites of national significance.
It includes the entire Old Town, which is additionally a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a large number of sites within and around it. Some of the most notable in the Old Town include the Cathedral which was started in 1421 and is the tallest cathedral in Switzerland, the Zytglogge and Käfigturm towers, which mark two successive expansions of the Old Town, and the Holy Ghost Church, which is one of the largest Swiss Reformed churches in Switzerland. Within the Old Town, there are eleven 16th century fountains, most attributed to Hans Gieng, that are on the list.
Outside the Old Town the heritage sites 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.
- Bern Theatre
- Narrenpack Theatre Bern
- Schlachthaus Theatre
- Tojo Theater
- The Theatre on the Effinger-Street
- Theatre am Käfigturm
Bern has several dozen cinemas. As is customary in Switzerland, films are generally shown in their original language (e.g., English) with German and French subtitles. Only a small number of screenings are dubbed in German.
- Shnit international shortfilmfestival shnit International Shortfilmfestival, held annually in early October.
- Queersicht – gay and lesbian film festival, held annually in the second week of November.
- BeJazz Summer and Winter Festival
- Buskers' festival
- Internationales Jazzfestival Bern
- Zibelemärit – The Zibelemärit (onion market) is an annual fair held on the fourth Monday in November.
- Bernese Fassnacht (Carnival)
Bern was the site of the 1954 Football (Soccer) World Cup Final, a huge upset for the Hungarian Golden Team, who were beaten 3–2 by West Germany. The football team BSC Young Boys is based in Bern at the Stade de Suisse Wankdorf, which additionally was one of the venues for the European football championship 2008 in which it hosted 3 matches.
SC Bern is the major ice hockey team of Bern who plays at the PostFinance Arena. The team has ranked highest in attendance for a European hockey team for more than a decade. 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.
The PostFinance Arena was additionally the host of the 2011 European Figure Skate Championships.
Bern Grizzlies is the American football club in Bern and plays at Athletics Arena Wankdorf.
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 wasn't supported by locals. Those games were eventually awarded to Vancouver, Canada.
RC Bern is the local rugby club (since 1972) and plays at the Allmend. The ladies team was founded in 1995.
Bern Bears is an NGO Basketball Club after 2010 in city of Bern.
As of 2010, Bern had an unemployment rate of 3.3%. As of 2008, there were 259 people employed in the primary economic sector and about 59 businesses involved in this sector. 16,413 people were employed in the secondary sector and there were 950 businesses in this sector. 135,973 people were employed in the tertiary sector, with 7,654 businesses in this sector.
In 2008 the total number of full-time equivalent jobs was 125,037. The number of jobs in the primary sector was 203, of which 184 were in agriculture and 19 were in forestry or timber production. The number of jobs in the secondary sector was 15,476 of which 7,650 or (49.4%) were in manufacturing, 51 or (0.3%) were in mining and 6,389 (41.3%) were in construction. The number of jobs in the tertiary sector was 109,358. In the tertiary sector; 11,396 or 10.4% were in wholesale or retail sales or the repair of motor vehicles, 10,293 or 9.4% were in the movement and storage of goods, 5,090 or 4.7% were in a hotel or restaurant, 7,302 or 6.7% were in the information industry, 8,437 or 7.7% were the insurance or financial industry, 10,660 or 9.7% were technical professionals or scientists, 5,338 or 4.9% were in education and 17,903 or 16.4% were in health care.
In 2000, there were 94,367 workers who commuted into the municipality and 16,424 workers who commuted away. The municipality is a net importer of workers, with about 5.7 workers entering the municipality for every one leaving. Of the working population, 50.6% used public transport to get to work, and 20.6% used a private car.
In Bern, about 50,418 or (39.2%) of the population have completed non-mandatory upper secondary education, and 24,311 or (18.9%) have completed additional higher education (either university or a Fachhochschule). Of the 24,311 who completed tertiary schooling, 51.6% were Swiss men, 33.0% were Swiss women, 8.9% were non-Swiss men and 6.5% were non-Swiss women.
The Canton of Bern school system provides one year of non-obligatory kindergarten, followed by six years of primary school. This is followed by three years of obligatory lower secondary school where the pupils are separated according to ability and aptitude. Following the lower secondary pupils might attend additional schooling or they might enter an apprenticeship.
During the 2009–10 school year, there were a total of 10,979 pupils attending classes in Bern. There were 89 kindergarten classes with a total of 1,641 pupils in the municipality. Of the kindergarten pupils, 32.4% were permanent or temporary residents of Switzerland (not citizens) and 40.2% have a different mother language than the classroom language. The municipality had 266 primary classes and 5,040 pupils. Of the primary pupils, 30.1% were permanent or temporary residents of Switzerland (not citizens) and 35.7% have a different mother language than the classroom language. During the same year, there were 151 lower secondary classes with a total of 2,581 pupils. There were 28.7% who were permanent or temporary residents of Switzerland (not citizens) and 32.7% have a different mother language than the classroom language.
Bern is home to 8 libraries. These libraries include; the Schweiz. Nationalbibliothek/ Bibliothèque nationale suisse, the Universitätsbibliothek Bern, the Kornhausbibliotheken Bern, the BFH Wirtschaft und Verwaltung Bern, the BFH Gesundheit, the BFH Soziale Arbeit, the Hochschule der Künste Bern, Gestaltung und Kunst and the Hochschule der Künste Bern, Musikbibliothek. There was a combined total (as of 2008) of 10,308,336 books or additional media in the libraries, and in the same year a total of 2,627,973 items were loaned out.
As of 2000, there were 9,045 pupils in Bern who came from another municipality, while 1,185 residents attended schools outside the municipality.
Public transport works well in Bern, with the Bern S-Bahn, Bern tramway network, Bern trolleybus system and a bus network forming an integrated all-four style scheme connecting the different parts of the city.
A funicular railway leads from the Marzili district to the Bundeshaus. The Marzilibahn funicular is, with a length of 106 m (348 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 districts outside of the peninsula.
Bern railway station connects the city to the national and international railways network.
Bern is additionally 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 European cities. Additionally Zürich Airport, Geneva Airport and EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg additionally serve as international gateways, all reachable within two hours by car or train from Bern.
- Mikhail Bakunin died in Bern on 1 July 1876
- Peter Bieri, philosophy professor and novelist
- Louise Elisabeth de Meuron, a famed eccentric and noble lady
- Albert Einstein worked out his theory of relativity while living in Bern, employed as a patent examiner at the patent office
- Paul Emmert, painter
- Christoph von Graffenried, founder of New Bern in the US state of North Carolina
- Albrecht von Haller
- Lukas Hartmann, novelist and children's literature writer
- Ferdinand Hodler, painter
- Roman Josi, ice hockey player
- Michael Kauter, fencer
- Emil Theodor Kocher, recipient of 1909 Nobel Prize
- Vladimir Lenin resided in Bern from 1914 until 1917
- Mani Matter, songwriter
- Algirdas Paleckis, diplomat and politician, was born in Bern
- Regula Rytz (born 1962), politician, sociologist and historian
- Léon Savary, Swiss writer and journalist
- Mark Streit, ice hockey player
- Aimé Félix Tschiffely, Famous equestrian
- Hans Urwyler, Christian minister
- Adolf Wölfli, visual artist
- Ursula Wyss, economist and politician