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Bern, Switzerland

Panoramic view of the Old Town of Bern, Switzerland. Photo © Sacred Destinations.

Bern (or Berne, the official English spelling) is the capital of Switzerland. It is a smallish city with a population of about 130,000, surrounded on three sides by the meandering River Aare. Bern has long been a firmly Protestant city. The main language spoken is Swiss-German. English is supplanting French as the favorite second language of the Bernese, but both are widely spoken, especially as the Bern canton is officially a bilingual canton (German and French), and Bern itself is only 12 km from the nearest French-speaking village. The remarkably harmonious design of the Bern's old town, brimming with beautifully preserved 14th- to 16th-century architecture, has earned it a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The old town features four miles of pleasant arcaded walkways along streets dotted with fountains and clock-towers. Bern's 15th-century Gothic Cathedral of St. Vincent is magnificently decorated inside and its tower provides a sweeping vista of the city.

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Sacred Sites and Religious Attractions in Bern

  • Französische Kirche
    The oldest church in Bern (1270) and originally part of a Dominican monastery, the French Church has welcomed French-speaking Protestants since 1623. It is especially notable for its rare frescoed rood screen.
  • Heiliggeistkirche
    This church near the train station is acclaimed as Switzerland's finest example of Protestant church building. Dating from the 1720s, the church has a fine Baroque interior.
  • Bern Münster
    The Berner Münster (formerly Cathedral of St. Vincent) is a late-Gothic church with magnificent carved portals. Its spire is the tallest in Switzerland.