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Old City of Berne is the medieval heart of Berne, Switzerland, that has been recognized as a World Heritage Site. The core zone covers 84,684 hectares. It is a tongue of land surrounded on three sides by the River Aare. The streets and their buildings have remained essentially unchanged since their construction between the 12th to the 15th century.

The Old City of Berne has the tallest cathedral in Switzerland. It is also home to numerous churches, bridges and historical buildings. The seat of the federal government of Switzerland as well as the cantonal and municipal governments of Berne are located within this part of Berne. Many of the buildings in the Old City are designated Swiss Cultural Properties of National Significance.

Old City of Berne, Switzerland
Old City of Berne, Switzerland
WillYs Fotowerkstatt

The Old City of Berne was founded by Duke Berchtold V of Zähringen in around AD 1191. He chose a rocky promontory on a tight loop of the River Aare. The duke named the city after the first beast he would encounter, and that turned out to be a bear. Thus the bear has become both the name as well as mascot of Berne. The Old City of Berne has undergone three phases of expansion, in 1191, 1255 and 1344. It was severely damaged in the Great Fire of 1405, after which a coherent planning concept was put in place. The houses were rebuilt in similar medieval styles, with arcades added later, when the upper stories were extended into the street.

Old Berne from River Aare
Old Berne from River Aare

Today the Old City stands as an exceptional example of how the requirements of a modern world has been successfully incorporated into a medieval city.

Old City of Berne was inscribed as a World Heritage Site during the 7th session of the World Heritage Committee in Florence, Italy, on 5 - 9 December, 1983.

World Heritage Site Inscription Details

Location: N46 56 53.016 E7 27 1.008 in Berne, Switzerland
Inscription Year: 1983
Type of Site: Cultural
Inscription Criteria: III

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