Berne – The City of Fountains
Berne is situated just west of the center of Switzerland and is the Bundesstadt or de facto capital city of the country and the capital of the Canton of Berne.
Covering a total area of 51.62 km2 (19.93 sq mi), Berne had an estimated population in 2018 of 133,791 and a density of 2,600/km2 (6,700/sq mi). In terms of population, Switzerland’s fifth-largest city and home to 13% of all the country’s citizens. The official language of Bern is German, but the primary spoken language is Alemannic, a local Bernese German dialect.
Due to its highly cosmopolitan composition, French and English are also widely spoken.
As the capital, Berne is the government’s seat and home to the federal ministries and federal institutions, including the National Bank. The municipality is divided into six administrative districts, each of which has several quarters, all of which are governed by the Gemeinderat, an executive council that comprises five members and includes the elected Mayor. Berne also has an 80 member parliament with 18 different political parties representatives.
World cultural charm
With its time-honored sandstone buildings, historic towers, and 11 unique fountains, Bern is one of the most outstanding witnesses of medieval urban development in Europe. The cityscape has remained virtually unchanged for centuries. That is why Bern has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Thanks to the UNESCO World Heritage designation, the city with the much-visited Bear Pit (Bärengraben) – Bern’s heraldic animal – is now par with Rome, the Egyptian pyramids, or the Taj Mahal. Bern is also the seat of the Swiss government.
Thanks to 6 km of arcades, Bern has one of the longest-covered shopping promenades in Europe. Under the arcades, on the squares, and in the alleys, dozens of restaurants invite you to linger, and every Tuesday and Saturday morning, you will find colorful markets with fresh vegetables, flowers, and meat.
A park without end
Bern’s green vein is called the Aare and invites you to swim in summer. It meanders tightly around the old town and offers many recreational areas. Just a few minutes walk from the train station. You can stroll along the banks under the trees and find yourself surrounded by nature.
Bern is a world heritage site and open to modern trends in architecture and design. The art museum houses the world’s most extensive collection of the painter Paul Klee. Einstein developed his theory of relativity in Bern and Tobler, the world-famous Toblerone chocolate. The Kulturcasino and the Stadttheater are only a few steps apart. In addition, a lively cabaret scene, modern dance performances, and jazz concerts ensure a rich cultural life at a world-class level.
In the heart of Europe
You can get to Bern quickly. The city is at the same time close to the European centers and the Alps. It is an ideal starting point for many popular excursion destinations such as Zermatt, Lucerne, Jungfraujoch, Lake Geneva, and many more.
Bern History Overview
Bern was founded in 1191 by Duke Berchtold V of Zähringen as a bulwark of his empire towards the west and expanded in several construction stages. In 1353 Bern became the eighth city to join the Confederation of the Swiss Confederates. After the fire of 1405, the town was rebuilt in sandstone. The medieval townscape created at that time is still essentially unchanged today. In the 14th to 16th centuries, Bern peaked its power. Most powerful city-state north of the Alps. 1528 Reformation. 1798 Napoleonic troops invaded, and old Bern fell. In 1834 Bern became a university city and, in 1848, a Swiss federal city. The city is also the capital of the Canton of Bern.
BERN is included in UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE – One of the most significant witnesses to medieval urban development in Europe
Bern’s old town – the only one in Switzerland – is just as much a part of this as, say, the pyramids of Giza, the ancient towns of Rome or Florence, or the Forbidden City in Beijing.
It is no coincidence that 30 years ago, Bern was included in the inventory of the world’s most important cultural monuments: surrounded by the Aare and on clear days overlooked by an overwhelming Alpine panorama, Bern has a compact medieval cityscape. This unity with the unique roofscape, the astonishingly wide alleys, the arcades over six kilometers long, the figural fountains from the Renaissance, and the primarily preserved sandstone facades to which the romantic federal city owes its charm.
The distinction as a World Heritage Site is determined above all by the uniqueness of the foundation plan from the 12th century. Foresighted in its creation and taut in its form, this foundation plan has been successfully carried forward to the present day. A consistent preservation policy is maintained with clear regulations for the protection of alley and courtyard facades, roofs, firewalls, interior structural elements, and provisions for the preservation of residential uses.
But just as crucial as declared goals and codified regulations is the love of the Bernese for their city. It is partly thanks to this love that the medieval complex, mainly the late baroque appearance, has been preserved as a unique urban monument to this day. And let’s not forget the Aare arch, which wraps itself protectively around the old town and separates it from its newer surroundings.
Bern’s old town’s actual value and beauty can best be grasped by looking over it in its entirety: from the Kirchenfeld Bridge, from the Muristalden, from the Rose Garden, or the Kursaal. The buildings that mark the gradual expansion of the city towards the west can be quickly recognized: First the extension of an existing settlement in the area of the Nydegg up to the Zeitglockenturm (1191), then the extension of the superstructure up to the Käfigturm (1256) and finally the fixing of the western end of the city at the level of the Heiliggeistkirche and the railroad station. The protective ditches that once closed off the peninsula to the west at these points have been filled in today and are still partly recognizable as elongated squares (Kornhausplatz-Theaterplatz, Waisenhausplatz-Bärenplatz-Bundesplatz, Bollwerk-Christoffelgasse).
Berne enjoys a dynamic and robust economy shaped by small and medium-sized enterprises. The majority of the city’s businesses are in the services sector, and due to its significant number of attractions and its proximity to the Alps, tourism is the main driving force.
The canton is also renowned for precision technology with expertise in various industries, including watchmaking, medical, IT, automotive, and engineering industries. Not far from the city are the flourishing farmlands of Emmental that produce significant quantities of crops and dairy products, most notably Emmental Cheese that is exported all across the globe.
Several prestigious financial, information technology, and automobile businesses are located in the region. Big names include Swisscom, T-Systems, Haag & Streit, ZLB Behring, Berna Biotech, and eBay. Swiss Post, The Swatch Group, Galenica Group, and Fenaco all have headquarters in the city. The region is also home to more financial advisors, lawyers, and trustees than any other area in Switzerland.
Berne’s location makes it an important trade route, and it has a well-developed infrastructure to meet domestic and international demand. The region’s extensive road network links Berne with all major Swiss cities and neighboring countries. The A1 motorway is one of the most important in Switzerland and runs through Berne alongside the A12 and A6.
Trains are operated by the Swiss Federal Railways and offer intercity and international transport. Berne is the only capital city in Europe on the route of three high-speed trains, the TGV, ICE, and Cisalpino, taking passengers to many destinations, including Geneva, Basel, Milan, and Paris.
Berne’s other primary transport system includes an S-Bahn, trams and buses which are all known as the Stadtische Verkehrsbetriebe (SVB). Established in 1987, the S-Bahn is the oldest in Switzerland, has over twelve routes and numerous station stops, and forms the cornerstone of public transport.
Berne Regional Airport is the city’s largest airport and is located near the town of Belp. The airport offers daily flights to major cities in Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Greece, moving over 151,621 passengers each year.
Government statistics estimated the canton of Berne’s labor force at around 500,000. The majority of the workers (65%) are employed in the services sector, with over 7,000 businesses, followed by industry 35% and agriculture.
Although almost a quarter of foreign nationals, the labor force is predominantly Swiss, including Italians, Germans, Ex-Yugoslavians, Austrians, and Turks. German is the most widely spoken language (81%), followed by 4% Italian and French 4%.
Berne enjoys a highly skilled and educated workforce resulting from a well-developed education system with an outstanding national and international reputation. The city has numerous public education facilities ranging from kindergartens to secondary schools. Education is compulsory for nine years and is free for all children.
The city also has a long tradition as a university town, home to several institutes, business, and vocational schools, including The University of Berne, Berne University of Applied Sciences, Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Educational and Training, and the University of Rochester.
Berne Business Costs
Persons living in Switzerland are subject to federal taxes, but cantons also have tax jurisdiction over residents and levies from income and capital taxes or minimum taxes on real estate.
There is significant variation between Swiss cantons and communes, but Berne is known for its moderate rates and often works hard to accommodate foreign investors.
Switzerland’s individual net income tax rates work 8.5%, increasing to between 13% and 22% depending on the cantonal tax.
The total effective rates in the Canton of Berne are between 10% (domicile companies) and 22% (limited companies), including federal taxation.
Swiss labor laws are liberal and similar to those found in the USA. The usual working week is 40-42 hours long, with total hours worked across the year being higher than those in Germany and France.
Social security costs are low, with Social insurance costing the employer around 12.7% per year, lower than Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, and the UK.