The official language in Bern is (the Swiss variety of Standard) German, but the most-spoken language is an Alemannic Swiss German dialect, Bernese German.
The etymology of the name "Bern" is uncertain. According to the local legend, based on folk etymology, Berchtold V, Duke of Zähringen, the founder of the city of Bern, vowed to name the city after the first animal he met on the hunt, and this turned out to be a bear. It has long been considered likely that the city was named after the Italian city of Verona, which at the time was known as Bern in Middle High German. As a result of the find of the Bern zinc tablet in the 1980s, it is now more common to assume that the city was named after a pre-existing toponym of Celtic origin, possibly *berna "cleft". The bear was the heraldic animal of the seal and coat of arms of Bern from at least the 1220s. The earliest reference to the keeping of live bears in the Bärengraben dates to the 1440s.
No archaeological evidence that indicates a settlement on the site of today′s city centre prior to the 12th century has been found so far. In antiquity, a Celtic oppidum stood on the Engehalbinsel (peninsula) north of Bern, fortified since the second century BC (late La Tène period), thought to be one of the 12 oppida of the Helvetii mentioned by Caesar. During the Roman era, a Gallo-Roman vicus was on the same site. The Bern zinc tablet has the name Brenodor ("dwelling of Breno"). In the Early Middle Ages, a settlement in Bümpliz, now a city district of Bern, was some 4 km (2 mi) from the medieval city.
The medieval city is a foundation of the Zähringer ruling family, which rose to power in Upper Burgundy in the 12th century. According to 14th-century historiography (Cronica de Berno, 1309), Bern was founded in 1191 by Berthold V, Duke of Zähringen.
In 1218, after Berthold died without an heir, Bern was made a free imperial city by the Goldene Handfeste of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II.
In 1353, Bern joined the Swiss Confederacy, becoming one of the eight cantons of the formative period of 1353 to 1481. Bern invaded and conquered Aargau in 1415 and Vaud in 1536, as well as other smaller territories, thereby becoming the largest city-state north of the Alps; by the 18th century, it comprised most of what is today the canton of Bern and the canton of Vaud.
The city grew out towards the west of the boundaries of the peninsula formed by the river Aare. The Zytglogge tower marked the western boundary of the city from 1191 until 1256, when the Käfigturm took over this role until 1345. It was, in turn, succeeded by the Christoffelturm (formerly located close to the site of the modern-day railway station) until 1622. During the time of the Thirty Years' War, two new fortifications – the so-called big and small Schanze (entrenchment) – were built to protect the whole area of the peninsula.
After a major blaze in 1405, the city's original wooden buildings were gradually replaced by half-timbered houses and subsequently the sandstone buildings which came to be characteristic for the Old Town. Despite the waves of pestilence that hit Europe in the 14th century, the city continued to grow, mainly due to immigration from the surrounding countryside.
Bern was occupied by French troops in 1798 during the French Revolutionary Wars, when it was stripped of parts of its territories. It regained control of the Bernese Oberland in 1802, and following the Congress of Vienna of 1814, it newly acquired the Bernese Jura. At this time, it once again became the largest canton of the confederacy as it stood during the Restoration and until the secession of the canton of Jura in 1979. Bern was made the Federal City (seat of the Federal Assembly) within the new Swiss federal state in 1848.
A number of congresses of the socialist First and Second Internationals were held in Bern, particularly during World War I when Switzerland was neutral; see Bern International.
The city's population rose from about 5,000 in the 15th century to about 12,000 by 1800 and to above 60,000 by 1900, passing the 100,000 mark during the 1920s. Population peaked during the 1960s at 165,000, and has since decreased slightly, to below 130,000 by 2000. As of November 2016, the resident population stood at 141,762, of which 100,000 were Swiss citizens and 41,762 (31%) resident foreigners. A further estimated 350,000 people live in the immediate urban agglomeration.
Bern lies on the Swiss plateau in the canton of Bern, slightly west of the centre of Switzerland and 20 km (12 mi) north of the Bernese Alps. The countryside around Bern was formed by glaciers during the most recent ice age. The two mountains closest to Bern are Gurten with a height of 864 m (2,835 ft) and Bantiger with a height of 947 m (3,107 ft). The site of the old observatory in Bern is the point of origin of the CH1903 coordinate system at 46°57′08.66″N 7°26′22.50″E.
The city was originally built on a hilly peninsula surrounded by the river Aare, but outgrew natural boundaries by the 19th century. A number of bridges have been built to allow the city to expand beyond the Aare.
Bern is built on very uneven ground. An elevation difference of several metres exists between the inner city districts on the Aare (Matte, Marzili) and the higher ones (Kirchenfeld, Länggasse).
Bern has an area, as of 2009, of 51.62 km2 (19.93 sq mi). Of this area, 9.79 km2 (3.78 sq mi) or 19.0% is used for agricultural purposes, while 17.33 km2 (6.69 sq mi) or 33.6% is forested. Of the rest of the land, 23.25 km2 (8.98 sq mi) or 45.0% is settled (buildings or roads), 1.06 km2 (0.41 sq mi) or 2.1% is either rivers or lakes, and 0.16 km2 (0.062 sq mi) or 0.3% is unproductive land.
Of the developed, 3.6% consists of industrial buildings, 21.7% housing and other buildings, and 12.6% is devoted to transport infrastructure. Power and water infrastructure, as well as other special developed areas, made up 1.1% of the city, while another 6.0% consists of parks, green belts, and sports fields; 32.8% of the total land area is heavily forested. Of the agricultural land, 14.3% is used for growing crops and 4.0% is designated to be used as pastures. The rivers and streams provide all the water in the municipality.
According to the Köppen Climate Classification, Bern has a humid continental climate (Dfb) closely bordering with a temperate oceanic climate (Cfb), as the coldest month on average holds a mean temperature of −0.4 °C (31.3 °F), but when using the −3 °C (27 °F) isotherm, Bern has a temperate oceanic climate (Cfb).
The closest weather station near Bern is located in the municipality of Zollikofen, about 5 kilometres (3 mi) north of the city centre. The warmest month for Bern is July, with a daily mean temperature of 18.3 °C (64.9 °F), and a daily maximum temperature of 24.3 °C (75.7 °F). The highest temperature recorded at Bern / Zollikofen is 37.0 °C (98.6 °F), recorded in August 2003. On average, a temperature of 25 °C (77 °F) or above is recorded 40.7 days per year, and 6 days per year with a temperature of 30 °C (86 °F) or above at Zollikofen, and the warmest day reaches an average of 32.1 °C (89.8 °F).
There are 103.7 days of air frost, and 22.3 ice days per year at Bern (Zollikofen) for the period of 1981-2010, as well as 14.1 days of snowfall, 36.7 days of snow cover per year and the average amount of snow measured per year is 52.6 centimetres (20.7 in). On average, January is the coldest month, with a daily mean temperature of −0.4 °C (31.3 °F), and a daily minimum temperature of −3.6 °C (25.5 °F). The lowest temperature ever recorded at Bern (Zollikofen) was −23.0 °C (−9.4 °F), recorded in February 1929, and typically the coldest temperature of the year reaches an average of −12.8 °C (9.0 °F) for the period of 1981-2010.
The municipality is administratively subdivided into six districts (Stadtteile), each of which consists of several quarters (Quartiere).
The Municipal Council (Gemeinderat) constitutes the executive government of the City of Bern and operates as a collegiate authority. It is composed of five councillors (German: Gemeinderat/-rätin), each presiding over a directorate (Direktion) comprising several departments and bureaus. The president of the executive department acts as mayor (Stadtpräsident). In the mandate period 2017–2020 (Legislatur) the Municipal Council is presided by Stadtpräsident Alec von Graffenried. Departmental tasks, coordination measures and implementation of laws decreed by the City Council are carried by the Municipal Council. The regular election of the Municipal Council by any inhabitant valid to vote is held every four years. Any resident of Bern allowed to vote can be elected as a member of the Municipal Council. Contrary to most other municipalities, the executive government in Berne is selected by means of a system of Proporz. The mayor is elected as such as well by public election while the heads of the other directorates are assigned by the collegiate. The executive body holds its meetings in the Erlacherhof, built by architect Albrecht Stürler after 1747.
As of 2017, Bern's Municipal Council is made up of two representatives of the SP (Social Democratic Party), and one each of CVP (Christian Democratic Party), GFL (Grüne Freie Liste a.k.a. Green Free List, who is the newly elected mayor since 2017), and GB (Green Alliance of Berne), giving the left parties a very strong majority of four out of five seats. The last regular election was held on 27 November 2016/15 January 2017.
Dr. Jürg Wichtermann is State Chronicler (Staatsschreiber) since 2008. He has been elected by the collegiate.
The City Council (de: Stadtrat, fr: Conseil de ville) holds legislative power. It is made up of 80 members, with elections held every four years. The City Council decrees regulations and by-laws that are executed by the Municipal Council and the administration. The delegates are selected by means of a system of proportional representation.
The sessions of the City Council are public. Unlike members of the Municipal Council, members of the City Council are not politicians by profession, and they are paid a fee based on their attendance. Any resident of Bern allowed to vote can be elected as a member of the City Council. The parliament holds its meetings in the Stadthaus (Town Hall).
The last regular election of the City Council was held on 27 November 2016 for the mandate period (German: Legislatur, French: la législature) from 2017 to 2020. Currently the City Council consist of 24 members of the Social Democratic Party (SP/PS) including 2 members of the junior party JUSO, 9 Green Alliance of Berne (GB), 9 The Liberals (FDP/PLR), 9 Swiss People's Party (SVP/UDC), 8 Grüne Freie Liste (GFL) (Green Free List), 8 Green Liberal Party (glp/pvl) including one member of its junior party jglp, 3 Conservative Democratic Party (BDP/PBD), 2 Christian Democratic People's Party (CVP/PDC), 2 Evangelical People's Party (EVP/PEV), 2 Junge Alternative (JA!) (or Young Alternatives), 2 Alternative Linke Bern (AL), 1 Grüne Partei Bern - Demokratische Alternative (GPB-DA) (or Green Party Bern - Democratic Alternative), and 1 Swiss Party of Labour (PdA).
The following parties combine their parliamentary power in parliamentary groups (German: Fraktion(en)): AL and GPB-DA and PdA (4), SP and JUSO (24), GB and JA! (11), GFL and EVP (10), glp und jglp (8), BDP and CVP (5), FDP (9), and SVP (9). This gives the left parties an absolute majority of 49 seats.
In the 2015 federal election for the Swiss National Council the most popular party was the PS which received 34.3% of the vote. The next five most popular parties were the Green Party (17.4%), the UDC (12.4%), and the FDP/PLR (9.9%), glp/pvl (9.4%), and the BDP/PBD (7.0%). In the federal election, a total of 48,556 voters were cast, and the voter turnout was 56.0%.
The Municipal Council of the city of Bern decided against having twinned cities except for a temporary (during the UEFA Euro 2008) cooperation with the Austrian city Salzburg
Bern has a population (as of December 2016) of 133,115. About 34% of the population are resident foreign nationals. Over the 10 years between 2000 and 2010, the population changed at a rate of 0.6%. Migration accounted for 1.3%, while births and deaths accounted for −2.1%.
Most of the population (as of 2000) speaks German (104,465 or 81.2%) as their first language, Italian is the second most common (5,062 or 3.9%) and French is the third (4,671 or 3.6%). There are 171 people who speak Romansh.
As of 2008, the population was 47.5% male and 52.5% female. The population was made up of 44,032 Swiss men (35.4% of the population) and 15,092 (12.1%) non-Swiss men. There were 51,531 Swiss women (41.4%) and 13,726 (11.0%) non-Swiss women. Of the population in the municipality, 39,008 or about 30.3% were born in Bern and lived there in 2000. There were 27,573 or 21.4% who were born in the same canton, while 25,818 or 20.1% were born somewhere else in Switzerland, and 27,812 or 21.6% were born outside of Switzerland.
As of 2000, children and teenagers (0–19 years old) make up 15.1% of the population, while adults (20–64 years old) make up 65% and seniors (over 64 years old) make up 19.9%.
As of 2000, there were 59,948 people who were single and never married in the municipality. There were 49,873 married individuals, 9,345 widows or widowers and 9,468 individuals who are divorced.
As of 2000, there were 67,115 private households in the municipality, and an average of 1.8 persons per household. There were 34,981 households that consist of only one person and 1,592 households with five or more people. In 2000, a total of 65,538 apartments (90.6% of the total) were permanently occupied, while 5,352 apartments (7.4%) were seasonally occupied and 1,444 apartments (2.0%) were empty. As of 2009, the construction rate of new housing units was 1.2 new units per 1000 residents.
As of 2003 the average price to rent an average apartment in Bern was 1108.92 Swiss francs (CHF) per month (US$890, £500, €710 approx. exchange rate from 2003). The average rate for a one-room apartment was 619.82 CHF (US$500, £280, €400), a two-room apartment was about 879.36 CHF (US$700, £400, €560), a three-room apartment was about 1040.54 CHF (US$830, £470, €670) and a six or more room apartment cost an average of 2094.80 CHF (US$1680, £940, €1340). The average apartment price in Bern was 99.4% of the national average of 1116 CHF. The vacancy rate for the municipality, in 2010, was 0.45%.
The historical population is given in the following chart:
From the 2000 census, 60,455 or 47.0% belonged to the Swiss Reformed Church, while 31,510 or 24.5% were Roman Catholic. Of the rest of the population, there were 1,874 members of an Orthodox church (or about 1.46% of the population), there were 229 persons (or about 0.18% of the population) who belonged to the Christian Catholic Church, and there were 5,531 persons (or about 4.30% of the population) who belonged to another Christian church. There were 324 persons (or about 0.25% of the population) who were Jewish, and 4,907 (or about 3.81% of the population) who were Muslim. There were 629 persons who were Buddhist, 1,430 persons who were Hindu and 177 persons who belonged to another church. 16,363 (or about 12.72% of the population) belonged to no church, are agnostic or atheist, and 7,855 persons (or about 6.11% of the population) did not answer the question. On 14 December 2014 the Haus der Religionen was inaugurated.
The structure of Bern's city centre is largely medieval and has been recognised by UNESCO as a Cultural World Heritage Site. Perhaps its most famous sight is the Zytglogge (Bernese German for "Time Bell"), an elaborate medieval clock tower with moving puppets. It also has an impressive 15th century Gothic cathedral, the Münster, and a 15th-century town hall. Thanks to 6 kilometres (4 miles) of arcades, the old town boasts one of the longest covered shopping promenades in Europe.
Since the 16th century, the city has had a bear pit, the Bärengraben, at the far end of the Nydeggbrücke to house its heraldic animals. The currently four bears are now kept in an open-air enclosure nearby, and two other young bears, a present by the Russian president, are kept in Dählhölzli zoo.
The Federal Palace (Bundeshaus), built from 1857 to 1902, which houses the national parliament, government and part of the federal administration, can also be visited.
Albert Einstein lived in a flat at the Kramgasse 49, the site of the Einsteinhaus, from 1903 to 1905, the year in which the Annus Mirabilis Papers were published.
The Rose Garden (Rosengarten), from which a scenic panoramic view of the medieval town centre can be enjoyed, is a well-kept Rosarium on a hill, converted into a park from a former cemetery in 1913.
There are eleven Renaissance allegorical statues on public fountains in the Old Town. Nearly all the 16th century fountains, except the Zähringer fountain which was created by Hans Hiltbrand, are the work of the Fribourg master Hans Gieng. One of the more interesting fountains is the Kindlifresserbrunnen (Bernese German: Child Eater Fountain but often translated Ogre Fountain) which is claimed to represent a Jew, the Greek god Chronos or a Fastnacht figure that scares disobedient children.
Bern's most recent sight is the set of fountains in front of the Federal Palace. It was inaugurated on 1 August 2004.
The Universal Postal Union is situated in Bern.
Bern is home to 114 Swiss heritage sites of national significance.
It includes the entire Old Town, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and many sites within and around it. Some of the most notable in the Old Town include the Cathedral which was started in 1421 and is the tallest cathedral in Switzerland, the Zytglogge and Käfigturm towers, which mark two successive expansions of the Old Town, and the Holy Ghost Church, which is one of the largest Swiss Reformed churches in Switzerland. Within the Old Town, there are eleven 16th century fountains, most attributed to Hans Gieng, that are on the list.
Outside the Old Town the heritage sites include the Bärengraben, the Gewerbeschule Bern (1937), the Eidgenössisches Archiv für Denkmalpflege, the Kirchenfeld mansion district (after 1881), the Thunplatzbrunnen, the Federal Mint building, the Federal Archives, the Swiss National Library, the Historical Museum (1894), Alpine Museum, Museum of Communication and Natural History Museum.Bern Theatre
Narrenpack Theatre Bern
The Theatre on the Effinger-Street
Theatre am Käfigturm
Bern has several dozen cinemas. As is customary in Switzerland, films are generally in German. Some films in select cinemas are shown in their original language with German and French subtitles.Shnit international shortfilmfestival shnit International Shortfilmfestival, held annually in early October.
Queersicht – gay and lesbian film festival, held annually in the second week of November.
BeJazz Summer and Winter Festival
Internationales Jazzfestival Bern
Zibelemärit – The Zibelemärit (onion market) is an annual fair held on the fourth Monday in November.
Bernese Fassnacht (Carnival)
Bern was the site of the 1954 Football (Soccer) World Cup Final, a huge upset for the Hungarian Golden Team, who were beaten 3–2 by West Germany. The football team BSC Young Boys is based in Bern at the Stade de Suisse Wankdorf, which also was one of the venues for the European football championship 2008 in which it hosted 3 matches.
SC Bern is the major ice hockey team of Bern which plays in the PostFinance Arena. They compete in the National League (NL), the highest league in Switzerland. The team has ranked highest in attendance for a European hockey team for more than a decade. The PostFinance Arena was the main host of the 2009 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, including the opening game and the final of the tournament.
The PostFinance Arena was also the host of the 2011 European Figure Skate Championships.
Bern Cardinals is the baseball and softball team of Bern, which plays at the Allmend
Bern Grizzlies is the American football club in Bern and plays at Athletics Arena Wankdorf.
Bern was a candidate to host the 2010 Winter Olympics, but withdrew its bid in September 2002 after a referendum was passed that showed that the bid was not supported by locals. Those games were eventually awarded to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
RC Bern is the local rugby club (since 1972) and plays at the Allmend. The ladies team was founded in 1995.
Bern Bears is an NGO Basketball Club since 2010 in city of Bern.
As of 2010, Bern had an unemployment rate of 3.3%. As of 2008, there were 259 people employed in the primary economic sector and about 59 businesses involved in this sector. 16,413 people were employed in the secondary sector and there were 950 businesses in this sector. 135,973 people were employed in the tertiary sector, with 7,654 businesses in this sector.
In 2008 the total number of full-time equivalent jobs was 125,037. The number of jobs in the primary sector was 203, of which 184 were in agriculture and 19 were in forestry or lumber production. The number of jobs in the secondary sector was 15,476 of which 7,650 or (49.4%) were in manufacturing, 51 or (0.3%) were in mining and 6,389 (41.3%) were in construction. The number of jobs in the tertiary sector was 109,358. In the tertiary sector; 11,396 or 10.4% were in wholesale or retail sales or the repair of motor vehicles, 10,293 or 9.4% were in the movement and storage of goods, 5,090 or 4.7% were in a hotel or restaurant, 7,302 or 6.7% were in the information industry, 8,437 or 7.7% were the insurance or financial industry, 10,660 or 9.7% were technical professionals or scientists, 5,338 or 4.9% were in education and 17,903 or 16.4% were in health care.
In 2000, there were 94,367 workers who commuted into the municipality and 16,424 workers who commuted away. The municipality is a net importer of workers, with about 5.7 workers entering the municipality for every one leaving. Of the working population, 50.6% used public transport to get to work, and 20.6% used a private car.
The University of Bern, whose buildings are mainly located in the Länggasse quarter, is located in Bern, as well as the University of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschule) and several vocations schools.
In Bern, about 50,418 or (39.2%) of the population have completed non-mandatory upper secondary education, and 24,311 or (18.9%) have completed additional higher education (either university or a Fachhochschule). Of the 24,311 who completed tertiary schooling, 51.6% were Swiss men, 33.0% were Swiss women, 8.9% were non-Swiss men and 6.5% were non-Swiss women.
The canton of Bern school system provides one year of non-obligatory kindergarten, followed by six years of primary school. This is followed by three years of obligatory lower secondary school where the pupils are separated according to ability and aptitude. Following the lower secondary pupils may attend additional schooling or they may enter an apprenticeship.
During the 2009–10 school year, there were a total of 10,979 pupils attending classes in Bern. There were 89 kindergarten classes with a total of 1,641 pupils in the municipality. Of the kindergarten pupils, 32.4% were permanent or temporary residents of Switzerland (not citizens) and 40.2% have a different mother language than the classroom language. The municipality had 266 primary classes and 5,040 pupils. Of the primary pupils, 30.1% were permanent or temporary residents of Switzerland (not citizens) and 35.7% have a different mother language than the classroom language. During the same year, there were 151 lower secondary classes with a total of 2,581 pupils. There were 28.7% who were permanent or temporary residents of Switzerland (not citizens) and 32.7% have a different mother language than the classroom language.
Bern is home to 8 libraries. These libraries include; the Schweiz. Nationalbibliothek/ Bibliothèque nationale suisse, the Universitätsbibliothek Bern, the Kornhausbibliotheken Bern, the BFH Wirtschaft und Verwaltung Bern, the BFH Gesundheit, the BFH Soziale Arbeit, the Hochschule der Künste Bern, Gestaltung und Kunst and the Hochschule der Künste Bern, Musikbibliothek. There was a combined total (as of 2008) of 10,308,336 books or other media in the libraries, and in the same year a total of 2,627,973 items were loaned out.
As of 2000, there were 9,045 pupils in Bern who came from another municipality, while 1,185 residents attended schools outside the municipality.
The public transport in and around Bern is operated by BERNMOBIL, which is integrated into the fare network libero with coordinated timetables, which in itself covers the area of canton of Bern and Solothurn. The fare network includes any mode of public transport, such as any kind of train (including the urban S-Bahn), PostAuto buses, trams, buses (either trolleybuses or motorized buses) and others. Fares are based on the number of zones crossed during a specified time and are independent of the mode of transport or the number of connections. The central part of Bern, excluding Bümpliz, Betlehem, Bottingen, Brünnen, and Riedbach in the west of the municipality, is part of the fare zone 100.
Bern's central railway station Bahnhof Bern) (formerly known as Hauptbahnhof Bern) is not only the central network nucleus of Bern, but also of the whole urban and inter-cantonal region. It connects the city to the urban, national and international railways network and is Switzerland's second most busy railway station (202,600 passengers per working day in 2014).
A funicular railway leads from the Marzili district to the Bundeshaus. The Marzilibahn funicular is, with a length of 106 m (348 ft), the second shortest public railway in Europe after the Zagreb funicular.
Several Aare bridges connect the old parts of the city with the newer districts outside of the peninsula.
Bern is well connected to other cities by several motorways (A1, A12, A6).
Bern is also served by Bern Airport, located outside the city near the town of Belp. The regional airport, colloquially called Bern-Belp or Belpmoos, is connected to several European cities. Additionally Zürich Airport, Geneva Airport and EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg also serve as international gateways, all reachable within less than two hours by train or car from Bern.Mikhail Bakunin, died in Bern on 1 July 1876
Peter Bieri, philosophy professor and novelist
Louise Elisabeth de Meuron, famed eccentric and noble lady
Albert Einstein, worked out his theory of relativity while living in Bern, employed as a patent examiner at the patent office
Paul Emmert, painter
Christoph von Graffenried, founder of New Bern in the U.S. state of North Carolina
Albrecht von Haller
Lukas Hartmann, novelist and children's literature writer
Ferdinand Hodler, painter
Roman Josi, ice hockey player
Sven Baertschi, ice hockey player
Michael Kauter, fencer
Emil Theodor Kocher, recipient of 1909 Nobel Prize
Vladimir Lenin, resided in Bern from 1914 until 1917
Mani Matter, songwriter
Algirdas Paleckis, diplomat and politician, born in Bern
Regula Rytz (born 1962), politician, sociologist and historian
Léon Savary, Swiss writer and journalist
Mark Streit, ice hockey player
Aimé Félix Tschiffely, famous equestrian
Hans Urwyler, Christian minister
Adolf Wölfli, visual artist
Ursula Wyss, economist and politician