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.

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.
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.
Französischer 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.