travelgrove Travel Guides

Bern History, Switzerland

Bern has quite interesting chapters in its historical book of events. Bern history starts with a place named Nydegg. Here stood a castle to the East of Bern’s peninsula.

Bern History – The 12th -16th Century

In 1191, Berchtold V, Duke of Zähringen, chose this location on the River Aare to found a brand new city. To do so, he had to cut down several oak forests that were all over the peninsula, and with their timber, the very first houses were made. It is also said that the duke went hunting and decided to name his new city after his very first kill: a bear. This is why the coat of arms of Bern has a bear on it, though this didn’t appear until 1224. To this day, bears are greatly associated with this city.

Under the rule of the duke, Bern ended up expanding quite fast, thanks to being so close to Burgundy. After the duke’s death in 1218, the Roman Emperor Frederick II turned Bern into an Imperial Free City since there was no heir left behind. A brand new wall was constructed in 1256 called the Käfigturm, which would later be known as Christoffelturm.

In 1339, Bern won against the unity of Burgundy and became independent as a very important member of the Swiss Confederation in 1353. By 1415 it had not only invaded but completely taken over Aargau and in 1523, the Swiss reformation began in Zurich. Several other small territories were also taken over during the course of Bern history. This is how it came to be the biggest city-state that can be found to the North of the Alps.

The entire city of Bern, which was made completely from timber, had to be entirely rebuilt after a fire broke out in Brunngasse. The local sandstone that was used during this reconstruction is what has given Bern its character today, such as the town’s plan, the arcades on the street, and the important public buildings.

Bern History – The 17th – 19th Century

Through Bern history from then on, nobility kept rising and it looked as if the future was nothing but fright. And then, the French invaded in 1798 while the French revolutionary wars were taking place, and they took over Bern’s treasury, as well as the majority of its territory.

Before the French revolution, the Vienna conference of 1815 tried to bring back Europe’s political structures. The cantons of Neuchatel, Valais and Geneva became individual members of the Swiss confederation and were annexed by the French.

However, Bern still kept its legendary prestige and became the capital of the Bern Canton in 1831, and the federal capital of Switzerland in 1848. Bern has continued to grow outside its borders at the Aar River.

Bern History – The Wars

While the Thirty Years’ War was going on, Bern constructed two brand new fortifications, known as the small and the big entrenchments. They were constructed as optimum protection for the peninsula, which was enough to let Bern grow prosperously until the 19th century.

During the First World War, several congresses consisting of the First and Second Internationals of congress were done in Bern, during the time that Switzerland was still neutral. Hermann Hesse actually also spent a significant time in Bern during the First World War.

Ask our travel experts a question about Bern

Things about Bern you may be interested in


Read our members' reviews about Bern

  • bicskaShort vacation in Oradea
    review by bicska posted more then 30 days ago
    I was home for 5 and half day, it was beatiful, and I need to thank for all of my friends for the many nice meetings, parties, talks. It was a very good almoust 6 days long short-week. Everybody knows how much I really love travelling, but Home is the best. Next time I can go home in 17th of...
  • bicskaTraveling to Bern
    review by bicska posted more then 30 days ago
    I'm living at the moment in Bern (Switzerland). It is really interested to live in here, are happening some strange, but positive strange things what I wasn't expected in my life. I want to go in this year all around west and south Europe. I started to book the tickets, the hotels, hostels,...
  • bicskaBern experience
    review by bicska posted more then 30 days ago
    Yesterday night, after I arrived home from Bern(from the old car festival) and I uploded the pictures, I realised how much I love making pictures. Is not just my work, is not just my hobby, it's much more than that... it is a vision, an illusion or much more than I could circumscribe, the truth...
view all

Read our members' travel tips about Bern

No travel tips have been added yet for this category. Be the first to add a new one.


Members Who Have Been to Bern

Community Galleries About Bern

Browse our members' Bern galleries to get a better impression of the place
show alladd gallery
the best travel deals provided by TravelZoo...

Bern City Ratings

  • Ratingunrated
    City Rankunrated
  • History & Culture: not rated
  • Night Life & Entertainment: not rated
  • Family & Fun: not rated
  • Outdoors Activities: not rated
  • Food: not rated
  • Sightseeing: not rated
  • Shopping: not rated
  • Public Transportation: not rated
  • Must visit this place: not rated
   Welcome to Travelgrove  register tell a friend bookmark it