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Old City of Berne

Old City of Berne

Founded in the 12th century on a hill site surrounded by the Aare River, Berne developed over the centuries in line with a an exceptionally coherent planning concept. The buildings in the Old City, dating from a variety of periods, include 15th-century arcades and 16th-century fountains. Most of the medieval town was restored in the 18th century but it has retained its original character.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Vieille ville de Berne

Fondée au XIIe siècle sur une colline ceinturée par l'Aare, Berne s'est développée selon un principe urbanistique exceptionnellement clair. Les bâtiments de la vieille ville, de diverses périodes, comprennent notamment des arcades du XVe siècle et des fontaines du XVIe siècle. La majeure partie de la ville médiévale a été rénovée au XVIIIe siècle mais a conservé son caractère original.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

مدينة برن القديمة

نمت مدينة برن التي أبصرت النور في القرن الثاني عشر على تلة يزنّرها نهر الآر وفقاً لمبدأ مدني شديد الوضوح. فأبنية المدينة القديمة المرتقية الى مراحل مختلفة تتضمن بشكل خاص قناطر من القرن الخامس عشر وعيون من القرن السادس عشر. وقد خضعت هذه المدينة العائدة الى القرون الوسطى للتجديد بجزئها الأكبر في القرن الثامن عشر من دون أن تتخلى عن طابعها الفريد.

source: UNESCO/CPE
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0


伯尔尼古城于公元12世纪建在阿勒河环绕的山丘上,古城几百年来不断发展进步,但城市的规划理念却始终如一。 伯尔尼古城保留有15世纪典雅的拱形长廊和16世纪的喷泉等建筑,这些建筑的历史可追溯到各个不同的历史时期。这座中世纪城镇的主体建筑在18世纪重新修建,并保留了原来的历史风貌。

source: UNESCO/CPE
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Старый город в Берне

Основанный в XII в. на холме в излучине реки Ааре, Берн развивался в течение столетий в соответствии с тщательно продуманной концепцией планировки. Постройки Старого города относятся к разным периодам: аркады - к XV в., фонтаны – к XVI в. Большая часть средневекового города была обновлена в XVIII в., однако Берну все же удалось сохранить свой изначальный облик.

source: UNESCO/CPE
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Ciudad vieja de Berna

Fundada en el siglo XII, Berna se edificó en lo alto de una colina rodeada por el río Aar. Su crecimiento urbano a lo largo de los siglos se ajustó a una concepción de la planificación urbana excepcionalmente coherente. La ciudad vieja posee edificios de diferentes épocas y toda una serie de arcadas del siglo XV y fuentes del siglo XVI. La mayor parte de la ciudad medieval fue restaurada en el siglo XVIII, pero ha conservado sus características primigenias.

source: UNESCO/CPE
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0


source: NFUAJ

Oude stad van Bern

Bern werd in de 12e eeuw gebouwd op een heuvel omringd door de rivier de Aar. De stad heeft zich door de eeuwen heen ontwikkeld volgens een concept van uitzonderlijke en samenhangende planning. De gebouwen in de oude stad dateren uit verschillende periodes en bevatten 15e-eeuwse arcades en 16e-eeuwse fonteinen. Het grootste deel van de middeleeuwse stad werd in de 18e eeuw gerestaureerd, maar het heeft zijn oorspronkelijke karakter behouden. Bern biedt vandaag de dag een contrast van oude monumenten en moderne gebouwen. In bepaalde gebieden zijn nog steeds traditionele oude straatjes met arcades te vinden, het merendeel daarvan is wandelpromenade.

Source: unesco.nl

Old City of Berne (Switzerland) © OUR PLACE The World Heritage Collection
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis 

The Old City of Berne, federal city of Switzerland and capital of the canton of Berne, is located on the Swiss plateau between the Jura and the Alps. Founded in the 12th century according to an innovative foundation plan, and located on a hill surrounded by the River Aar, Berne has experienced an expansion in several stages since its foundation. This development remains visible in its urban structure, mainly tributary to the medieval establishment and its clearly defined elements: well-defined wide streets, used for the market, a regular division of built sections, subdivided into narrow and deep parcels, an advanced infrastructure for water transportation, impressive buildings for the most part dating from the 18th century mainly built from sandy limestone, with their system of arcades and the facades of the houses supported by arches. Public buildings for secular and religious authorities were always located at the periphery, a principle also respected in the 19th century during the construction of the large public monuments confirming the function of Berne as the federal city from 1848.

Berne developed along the lines of exceptionally coherent planning principles. The medieval establishment of Berne, reflecting the slow conquest of the site by urban extensions from the 12th to the 14th century, makes Berne an impressive example of the High Middle Ages with regard to the foundation of a city, figuring in the European arena among the most significant of urban planning creations. The features of Berne were modified to reflect the modern era: in the 16th century, picturesque fountains were introduced to the city and restoration work was carried out on the towers and walls and the cathedral was completed. In the 17th century, many patrician houses were built of sandy limestone, and towards the end of the 18th century, a large part of the constructed zones underwent transformation. However, this continual modernization, right through to the present day, was carried out observing the need to conserve the medieval urban structure of the city. The Old City of Berne is a unique example demonstrating a constant renewal of the built substance while respecting the original urban planning concept, and presenting a variation of the late Baroque on a theme of High Middle Ages. 

Criterion (iii): The Old City of Berne is a positive example of a city that has conserved its medieval urban structure whilst responding, over time, to the increasingly complex functions of a capital city of a modern State.


The property comprises all the urban historical structures, with all the stages of its development from the 12th century to the 14th century, including the developments of the 19th century such as the well-preserved bridges and large public monuments. It therefore retains all the requisite elements to express its Outstanding Universal Value.


Although during the first decades of the 20th century, the safeguarding of the Old City was specifically concentrated on the appearance of the buildings (facades, roofs), the large majority of the historic buildings representing diverse periods have retained their interior structures, and the overall medieval plan has remained intact. The city today demonstrates a good state of conservation of the buildings and a very dynamic and contemporary urban activity.

Protection and management requirements

The property benefits from special legislation since 1908, which has been amended several times since then, and which clearly details the safeguarding of the urban landscape, strictly regulating any possible interventions. Development pressure involving potentially inappropriate transformations is controlled by this legal mechanism.

The management of the property is ensured by an administrative system that involves the authorities at all State levels according to their legal competences. The specialised service of the city for historic monuments is responsible for the conservation of the built heritage, in the strict sense, while other city and cantonal services ensure the more extensive urban management (planning and land use, public and private transportation regulations, security, arrangements and structures for risk management, notably as regards natural and environmental catastrophes, etc.). As a living urban centre, the site has the capacity to welcome a large number of visitors. There are two visitor information centres as well as numerous specialised offers. In accordance with sovereign democratic rights, the local population is called upon to vote on eventual changes to legal texts, as well as on investment and major urban projects. The non-governmental organizations have a right to challenge administrative decisions.

The long-term challenges include the maximum conservation of the original substance whilst taking into account the living character as an inhabited centre, place of work and commerce, as well as the strict control of the immediate boundaries, notably the slopes towards the Aar.