Old City of Berne

Bern, Switzerland

The Old City of Berne, federal city of Switzerland and capital of the canton of Berne, is located on the Swiss plateau between the Jura and the Alps. Founded in the 12th century according to an innovative foundation plan, and located on a hill surrounded by the River Aar, Berne has experienced an expansion in several stages since its foundation. This development remains visible in its urban structure, mainly tributary to the medieval establishment and its clearly defined elements: well-defined wide streets, used for the market, a regular division of built sections, subdivided into narrow and deep parcels, an advanced infrastructure for water transportation, impressive buildings for the most part dating from the 18th century mainly built from sandy limestone, with their system of arcades and the facades of the houses supported by arches. Public buildings for secular and religious authorities were always located at the periphery, a principle also respected in the 19th century during the construction of the large public monuments confirming the function of Berne as the federal city from 1848.

Berne developed along the lines of exceptionally coherent planning principles. The medieval establishment of Berne, reflecting the slow conquest of the site by urban extensions from the 12th to the 14th century, makes Berne an impressive example of the High Middle Ages with regard to the foundation of a city, figuring in the European arena among the most significant of urban planning creations. The features of Berne were modified to reflect the modern era: in the 16th century, picturesque fountains were introduced to the city and restoration work was carried out on the towers and walls and the cathedral was completed. In the 17th century, many patrician houses were built of sandy limestone, and towards the end of the 18th century, a large part of the constructed zones underwent transformation. However, this continual modernization, right through to the present day, was carried out observing the need to conserve the medieval urban structure of the city. The Old City of Berne is a unique example demonstrating a constant renewal of the built substance while respecting the original urban planning concept, and presenting a variation of the late Baroque on a theme of High Middle Ages. 

References:

Comments

Your name



Address

Kramgasse 39, Bern, Switzerland
See all sites in Bern

Details

Founded: 12th century
Category: Historic city squares, old towns and villages in Switzerland

More Information

whc.unesco.org

Rating

4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Elissar Linder (7 months ago)
The Altstadt, or the Old City in Bern. I love it, cannot get enough of it, and whenever I go for a walk I somehow end up passing by. A must see. Cheers
Ognian Dimitrov (9 months ago)
The old town of Bern is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is compact and very suitable for walking. Very interesting, exciting and well preserved.
stuart marshall (9 months ago)
Visited Bern from Geneva for the day via train.Bern needs more then a day to explore.A must see is The "Zytglogge Clock Tower"especially at 12pm with your video camera ready to go,we didn't but we heard it.The prices in the shops seemed cheaper then Geneva.
Eken (9 months ago)
Really nice old town well worth a visit. Take a walk and enjoy the lovely buildings and views.
Gabriel (9 months ago)
Bern gets one star for the picturesque surroundings. From afar it is a pleasant city, although not any more special than other cities with rivers running through then. The old town is incredibly overrated. I keep reading comments that the old city is 'beautiful' or 'like a fairytale' - are you kidding me??? These people have not been to any other European historic centers. The architecture in Bern's old city is a monochrome wash of khaki coloured diarrhea, reminiscent of some communist military city where spirits are crushed and happiness is left to die. The only fairytale in Bern is experienced by getting in your car and leaving (and even that is soured by the reminder that you had to pay 15 euros for parking because nothing there is free).
Powered by Google

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Kirkjubøargarður

Kirkjubøargarður ('Yard of Kirkjubøur', also known as King"s Farm) is one of the oldest still inhabited wooden houses of the world. The farm itself has always been the largest in the Faroe Islands. The old farmhouse dates back to the 11th century. It was the episcopal residence and seminary of the Diocese of the Faroe Islands, from about 1100. Sverre I of Norway (1151–1202), grew up here and went to the priest school. The legend says, that the wood for the block houses came as driftwood from Norway and was accurately bundled and numbered, just for being set up. Note, that there is no forest in the Faroes and wood is a very valuable material. Many such wood legends are thus to be found in Faroese history.

The oldest part is a so-called roykstova (reek parlour, or smoke room). Perhaps it was moved one day, because it does not fit to its foundation. Another ancient room is the loftstovan (loft room). It is supposed that Bishop Erlendur wrote the 'Sheep Letter' here in 1298. This is the earliest document of the Faroes we know today. It is the statute concerning sheep breeding on the Faroes. Today the room is the farm"s library. The stórastovan (large room) is from a much later date, being built in 1772.

Though the farmhouse is a museum, the 17th generation of the Patursson Family, which has occupied it since 1550, is still living here. Shortly after the Reformation in the Faroe Islands in 1538, all the real estate of the Catholic Church was seized by the King of Denmark. This was about half of the land in the Faroes, and since then called King"s Land (kongsjørð). The largest piece of King"s Land was the farm in Kirkjubøur due to the above-mentioned Episcopal residence. This land is today owned by the Faroese government, and the Paturssons are tenants from generation to generation. It is always the oldest son, who becomes King"s Farmer, and in contrast to the privately owned land, the King"s Land is never divided between the sons.

The farm holds sheep, cattle and some horses. It is possible to get a coffee here and buy fresh mutton and beef directly from the farmer. In the winter season there is also hare hunting for the locals. Groups can rent the roykstovan for festivities and will be served original Faroese cuisine.

Other famous buildings directly by the farmhouse are the Magnus Cathedral and the Saint Olav"s Church, which also date back to the mediaeval period. All three together represent the Faroe Island"s most interesting historical site.