Old Town of Bern (World Heritage)

According to thesciencetutor, the capital of Switzerland was founded in 1191 and, with its almost completely preserved old town, is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. The alleys and arcades as well as the ornate town houses are typical.

Old town of Bern: facts

Official title: Old town of Bern
Cultural monument: Medieval city layout in a loop of the Aare with the late Gothic St. Vinzenz Minster (1421), the Munstergasse with the Munsterplatz (original form around 1545), the bear pit, where bears, the heraldic animals of Bern, have been kept since the 15th century Gerechtigkeitsgasse with its arcades and the Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen (1543), the late Gothic town hall and the clock tower as well as the Käfigturm
Continent: Europe
Country: Switzerland, Canton of Bern
Location: Bern
Appointment: 1983
Meaning: a very well preserved medieval town complex that was restored in the 18th century

Old town of Bern: history

1191 Construction of a settlement under Duke Berchtold V.
1218 Free imperial city
1218-20 Fortifications on the west side
1270 Loops of Nydegg Castle
1405 Destruction of the city by fire
1622-34 Hill construction
1834-45 partial grinding of the military installations and the city gates such as the upper gate
1848 capital of Switzerland
1919 City expansion in a westerly direction
since 1971 Women’s suffrage and voting rights in Bern

Of civil equality and constancy

“It’s the most beautiful we’ve seen, (the houses) built one like the other in civil equality, all of a soft gray sandstone. The equality and cleanliness in it is very good for you, especially since you feel that nothing is empty decoration or the average of despotism. «Germany’s poet prince Goethe wrote these lines to Frau von Stein after a visit to Bern. That was a long time ago, and indeed, it was 1779 when these words of praise were written. And yet there is something special about it. In contrast to most historical descriptions of the city, which capture memories of what is long past, this quote is filled with a timeless description. Hardly any other large city in the heart of Europe has been able to preserve so much of its former origins.

The historic old town of Bern, founded in 1191 on a peninsula in the Aare and bordered on three sides by the waters of this river, is one of the few cities of the Middle Ages that was deliberately planned. Starting from an old fortress on the river, wide streets were laid out right from the start, extending parallel to the west like the fingers of a hand, where they once ended at a city wall. This basic structure of town planning has been preserved to this day, even the great town fires of the 14th to 17th centuries were unable to change anything fundamentally. Only the facades were sometimes given a new face, be it in the Baroque or Renaissance style.

The farsightedness and consistency of medieval planning can be seen very well in Gerechtigkeits- und Kramgasse, the original main street of medieval Bern. The paved alley reached a width of 25 meters, a dimension that is more familiar today from motorways. In the 15th century, arcades were placed in front of the houses on both sides, and the workplaces and stalls for traders and craftsmen were protected in this way. They are popularly known as “the pipe”, and like communicating pipes they still link the city center over a length of several kilometers. As presumably already then, they are the pulsating lifeline of the city today: haute couture and antiques, jewelry and shoe shops are lined up closely; Cafes and restaurants, which take you into cellars and backyards, corners, nooks and crannies and benches that invite you to linger for a chat. Strolling for hours under protective arcades is possible and enjoyable in Bern, even in rainy weather. On hot summer days, the arcades create a shady refuge.

What would Bern’s old town lanes be without their fountains! These elaborate structures from the Middle Ages, which with their colored figures and column shafts set lively contrasts to the rather gray house facades and are among the most remarkable traffic obstacles that a city can offer, proclaim something about the power of the bourgeoisie at that time. Well-fortified figures such as those at the Schützen- and Vennerbrunnen reveal that the craft of war had contributed not a little to Bern’s prosperity. And the four earthly powers of the Well of Justice – Pope, Emperor, Sultan and the mayor of Bern – do not exactly testify to the lack of self-esteem of the old Bernese.

You get a special feeling for the structure of the old city when you look from above. The Bern Minster is best suited for this, the filigree tip of which clearly towers above the tangled roofs of the old town. The more than 250 steps to the first gallery at a height of 50 meters, and even more the additional 90 steps to the second gallery, open up a wonderful view of the maze of houses. The Zytgloggeturm protrudes from it, Bern’s first western city gate. At that time all clocks had to be adjusted according to his bell. In his gate passage, the then valid length measurements, cubits and fathoms, were attached as standard measurements for public control. Today it is the figure play and the astronomical clock that are why visitors to Bern arrive here four minutes before the hour strikes.

Old Town of Bern (World Heritage)