Bern’s six most beautiful buildings

March 27, 2012, 7 Comments

Paul Klee Zentrum, 2005 - the building itself is a work of art

Which are the most beautiful buildings in Bern? Not an easy question to answer as the Swiss capital has countless candidates. The Unesco-protected Old Town has so many wonderful medieval treasures, such as the Rathaus and Münster, that it seemed unfair to include any of them.

Instead I’ve only chosen buildings that date from 1750, not only to give the past 250+ years are chance but also to show that there’s more to Bern than a ‘middle-aged’ (as one friend charmingly mis-translated it) city centre.

Here are six of my favourite Bern buildings, from 18th century splendour through Art Deco style to modern minimalism. The big question is: which is your favourite?

Erlacherhof, 1752 - grand residential seat of the Stadtpräsident

Bern University, 1903 - the university itself was founded in 1834

Meer-Haus, 1929 - Art Deco office building in Effingerstrasse

Waisenhaus, 1782 - former city orphanage, now the police station

Bundeshaus, 1902 - home of the Federal Assembly or parliament

7 Comments on "Bern’s six most beautiful buildings"

  1. Maja Tuesday March 27th, 2012 at 11:44 AM · Reply

    a bunch of old buildings and the paul klee centre… wow! Really sad that Bern doesn’t have anything better to offer…
    The paul klee centre is probably the most ugly building I have ever seen and in its purpose just a tax money wasting ugly monster. (And I’m an art lover. Architectonically the centre is not that bad, but totally in the wrong place from afar it just looks ugly.)

    • diccon Wednesday March 28th, 2012 at 08:18 PM · Reply

      I disagree completely. The Paul Klee Zentrum is a wonderful example of modern architecture, especially the way it mirrors the curving landscape and is a natural extension of the hillside. Certainly not an ugly monster! There are plenty of real candidates for the ugliest building in Bern but this isn’t one of them.

  2. Patrick Thursday March 29th, 2012 at 10:19 PM · Reply

    Indeed, I agree with Diccon. My top candidate for the ugliest building in Bern is the railway station, I think. Although the stark concrete architecture of 1974 is now improved with a somewhat nicer glass facade and a wider, better lighted entrance area, train passengers still arrive under a dark concrete ceiling instead of the airy glass and metal roofs of stations such as Zürich, Luzern, St. Gallen, Lausanne, or Basel. It’s not welcoming at all; the worst part is the RBS station for the trains from Solothurn, an overcrowded underground affair, now with some coloured lighting etc. as an attempt to lighten the mood, but still very ugly.

  3. Ninda Tuesday April 3rd, 2012 at 01:33 PM · Reply

    It’s really a tough choice between Paul Klee Zentrum — I looove modern architecture — and the Bundeshaus. If you took out Paul Klee Zentrum, Bern would be just a boring old fashion Swiss city. On the other hand, if you took out the Bundeshaus, Bern wouldn’t be… Bern! I can’t decide, really; I just love both =)

  4. lara Tuesday July 10th, 2012 at 08:23 PM · Reply


    Of course Bern is more a cozy town, meant for living in it rather then famous for its isolated buildings
    It is not Paris or Madrid etc etc, and of course one does not go for seeing particular “buildings”.
    Rather the town atmosphere.
    Including umpteen FOUNTAINS, wonderful windows (now with flowers everywhere) in the old town.
    An excellent and everyday lived old town.
    The Aare view, the manicured gardens overlooking the Aare, that one can see from the Muenster Garden etc etc.
    I lived in the heart of the old town and passing through it every evening coming home, was such a delightful experience. Including hearing the Muenster organ and bells.

    It would not even come to my mind to speak about isolate buildings

    • diccon Tuesday July 10th, 2012 at 09:20 PM · Reply

      Hi Lara
      I agree that Bern is a wonderful city but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pick out individual buildings. They don’t have to be tourist attractions in themselves, or even be famous, but just great examples of architecture. It would always come to my mind to look for particular buildings, especially in a city as special as Bern or otherwise you only see the big picture and not the detail.

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