National capital and chief city of the Canton of Bern
Old City of Bern
Political and industrial
Location and site
Situated between Geneva and Zurich and across from the Alps, Bern was constructed on a promontory at the inside of a bend in the Aare River.
The plan of the old city of Bern, which was fortified during the Middle Ages, was adapted to its site. Starting at the Nydegg Bridge, its network of streets spreads out along the bend of the Aare River. Its medieval character has endured.
The ensemble was constructed in cut stone that is grey and sometimes almost greenish (molasses) in tone. The streets are bordered with arcades. Steeples and bell towers, fountains with blossoms, houses with corner towers, tile roofs and public gardens make up a harmonious architectural landscape which, for the most part, dates to the 17th and 18th centuries.
Criterion (iii): The Old City of Berne is a positive example of a city that has conserved its medieval urban structure whilst responding, over time, to the increasingly complex functions of a capital city of a modern State.
- After its foundation by Duke Berchtold V of Zähringen in 1191, Berne became a free city in 1218 and experienced the first expansion of its urban territory.
- Under the protectorate of Peter II of Savoy (1255-1265), the city underwent a second expansion.
- In 1291, after the death of the Emperor of Habsburg, a covenant led to the constitution of the Swiss Confederation. After experiencing the third expansion of its territory, the free city of Berne joined the Confederation following the victory of Laupen in 1339.
- During the 14th and 15th centuries, Berne, at the centre of a powerful state, played a prominent role in the state’s rule over a vast territory.
- Its alliance with the Reform, after 1528, was followed by a period of prosperity. In the 18th century, Berne was at the peak of its power.
- In 1848, it became the capital of Switzerland.