Bern Tourist Attractions
Bern is the capital of Switzerland. The old town, dominated by the Minster (or basilica), is built on a sandstone ridge encircled on three sides by the Aare, flowing in a valley 35-40 m/115-131ft deep. High-level bridges link it with the high ground on the right bank and with the newer parts of the city. The charming older part of Bern still preserves its original layout. The houses, with their arcades on street level (6km/ 4mi of arcades altogether) and their projecting roofs, reflect the prosperity of the citizens of Bern in the 18th C. Most of the attractive fountains, painted in lively colors, were the work of Hans Gieng (1540-45).
The industries of Bern include textiles, machinery, chocolate, pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs, the graphic trades and electrical equipment, and it also has a considerable trade in agricultural produce. Over 12% of its working population are employed in administration, the highest proportion of all Swiss towns.
The town is believed to have been founded on its excellent defensive site by Berchtold V of Zähringen in 1191. The bear on the Bernse coat-of-arms, together with the bear-pit, commemorate the legend according to which a bear was the first animal to be killed by Berthold V in the year in which the city was founded. After the Zähringen dynasty died out the Emperor Frederick II granted Bern self-government and its own law court. In the Battle of Laupen (1339) the Bernse, led by Rudolf von Erlach, defeated the Burgundian nobility. In 1353 Bern became a member of the young Confederation, in which the military prowess of its citizens enabled it to play a leading role. In 1528 the Reformation came to the town and by 1536 Bern was the largest city state north of the Alps. Since 1848 Bern has been the seat of the Federal Council and Federal Assembly; it is also the headquarters of important organizations including the Universal Postal Union (since 1874) and the international copyright and railroad unions, and of an institute attached to the University for research into tourism.
Notable people born in Bern include the 18th C. scholar Albrecht von Haller, the writer Jeremias Gotthelf (1797-1854) and the painters Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918) and Paul Klee (1879-1940). The famous physicist Albert Einstein (1879-1955) published his Theory of Relativity in Bern. Bern was awarded the honor of being judged the best European City in Bloom by "Entente Florale".
Bern is rich in culture with year-round events such as the Summer and Winter Jazze Festivals, the Buskers Festival and the Gurtenfestival, held in mid-July. There are numerous museums and theaters covering a variety of interests.
The medieval city center in Bern has been recognised by UNESCO as a Cultural World Heritage Site including the Zytglogge, the notable medieval clock tower with moving puppets.