City History: Bern

You may have enjoyed our city review of Bern, the capital of Switzerland. As I mentioned there, Bern is World Heritage Site.

Bern, site of the World Heritage

Bern, site of the World Heritage

Being part of UNESCO heritage means that there’s a story behind which might be pretty interesting. So, I’ll give you an overview of the history of Bern.

First, one might wonder where the name Bern comes from. Let me tell you that this is uncertain, one can only speculate. Although there are many different attemps to explain the origin of the name Bern, I decided to tell you the legend.

Bern as a result of “Bear”

Bern was founded in 1191. The background of this was a task by Berchtold V, Duke of Zähringen. He commanded a nobleman called Cuno von Bubenberg to use a peninsula to build a city which would be covered by an oak forest.

During his works, Cuno von Bubenberg has killed a bear while he was hunting. Due to that, the coat of arms of Bern covers a bear. But don’t forget, that’s just the legend, there are many more conjectures.

The expansion of Bern

Bern went through three expansion phases. In the first, Bern underwent an expansion towards the west. As a result of the second, the main gate was formed by the Prison Tower. Those two phases were in the 13th century. The final one started in the 14th century and took up to the present railway station.

Increasing meaning of the city of Bern

If you have a closer look at the image below, you will recognize a certain date.

Year 1291, Independence of Bern

Year 1291, Freedom of Bern

This is a photo from a part of the Bundeshaus. The reason for the significance of the year 1291 is Bern’s gain of freedom: In the battle of Dornbühl against Fribourg and their rulers, the Habsburger, Bern was able to win and thus gain their final indepenence.

In the late middle ages, Bern was seen as one of the most powerful as well as biggest city-states north of the Alps after Bern became the 8th member of the Confederation in 1353.

Bern suffering from a heavy loss

After the city of Bern was burned down to the ground in 1405, reconstruction works began immediately. Thanks to that, most of the houses were already rebuilt in the material of sandstone in the 16th and 17th century.

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As a result, most of the original medieval cityscape remained up to today.

A few more milestones of Bern

1528: Reformation in Bern was introduced by followers of Zwingli

1798: French troops walked in, triggering the decline of the old city of Bern

1834: Bern became a university city

1848: Federal Capital of Switzerland


1848, Capital of Switzerland

1848, Capital of Switzerland

Nowadays, Bern is the capital of Switzerland and the seat of the Swiss government.


Interested in more history? Check out our other posts about the topic!


6 Comments on “City History: Bern”

  1. Pingback: Looking back on week 11 | travelux

  2. Bern looks interesting although it doesn’t look like there is much culture or history, was there much to do there? Just contemplating putting it on my European hit list and need some advice first! Jess x

    • I’m honest, Bern is an absolutely beautiful city and if I didn’t have made the mistake to not inform myself at all, I would have enjoyed it more to see the sides of the city though. But no, apart from the things I mentioned in the city review, there’s not much more. I hope you don’t get me wrong, Bern is a lovely and stunning city really worth a visit, but you won’t need more than a couple of days to discover it. If you wish to know more, there’s going to be an article about the culture this week!
      Hopefully, I could help you!

      • Hi Sabrina thanks for your response, it does look beautiful but it’s not on my bucket list as of yet! I’ve not really heard too much about it before so it’s not enthralling me too much, but I will keep an eye out for your next post! Thank you 🙂

  3. I live in a community called Taberna that has streets named after places in Switzerland which I’m writing articles about. I’m now writing about the name Taberna, but I can’t find any connection with Switzerland. Our community directory states it’s the original name for Bern, but I can’t confirm that. Does Taberna have any association with Switzerland?

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