Exploring the old town of Bern

photo by Marcus Hansson on Flickr

Switzerland has more lovely old towns than probably any other country in Europe, and but even in this treasure trove of beautiful architecture, Bern stands out as the jewel of Switzerland’s tourist scene. The old town of Bern is nothing short of remarkable, which earned it a rightful title as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Despite its small town feel (Bern is the fourth largest city in Switzerland), Bern is the capital of Switzerland, but it’s different from what one would expect from a typical capital city. Bern is friendly, culturally diverse and not too stuffy with official looking buildings. In fact, Bern is one of the most exciting travel destinations in Switzerland, despite the glamor of Zurich and the charm of Geneva. Find the best sights of these amazing place by exploring the old town of Bern.

History of the old town

photo by eGuide Travel on Flickr

Bern is very old city, and the old town was established at the end of the 12th century by Duke Berthold V von Zähringen. At the time, Switzerland was part of the Holy Roman Empire, and Bern became a free imperial city after the Duke’s death. Initially, Bern fit on the peninsula formed by a bend in river Aare, but it gradually outgrew its bounds. In 1405, the city was swallowed up by a fire that destroyed the wooden buildings, but the town rose from its ashes and was rebuilt, this time with half-timebred and sandstone buildings.The old city of Bern became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.

Sights in the Old City

photo by Bern on Flickr

The entire old town is a world heritage site, so simply walking around it is a great experience, but even so there are several points of interest that you might want to see. The most famous landmark in the old town is the Munster of Bern, or the Berner Münster, a Gothic Protestant cathedral built over the course of several centuries. The huge belltower of the cathedral is a distinctive sight in the old town’s skyline, and the tallest tower of its kind in Switzerland.The Gothic sculptures of the cathedral are stunning, and the stained glass windows are thought to be the most beautiful in Switzerland. Zytglogge is another prominent landmark in Bern – it is a medieval clocktower dating back to the 13th century. The tower also has an astronomical clock, and quaint mechanical figures (knight, a piper, a lion, bears, a rooster and a fool among others) put on a delightful show.The Parliament Building with its domed roofs is also an interesting sight, and while exploring the old town of Bern keep an eye out for the equally interesting hundred or so public fountains topped with colorful figures. Don’t miss the Untertorbrücke, the Lower Gate Bridge, the oldest bridge in Bern.

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