Rathaus Bern

Town Hall in Bern

Rathaus Bern
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Nemo bis

The Rathaus Bern or Bern Town Hall is a significant landmark in Bern, Switzerland, housing the Grand Council of Bern (German: Grosser Rat, French: Grand conseil), the Executive Council of Bern (German: Regierungsrat, French: Conseil-éxecutif), and the Grand Council of the City of Bern. This building is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Old City of Bern and is recognized as a Swiss heritage site of national significance.

The Grand Council of the Canton of Bern convenes in the town hall five times a year for about two weeks per session, marked by the cantonal flag flying above the building. The Executive Council of the Canton of Bern meets here weekly, while the Grand Council of the City of Bern meets every other Thursday. Guided tours of the town hall are available, and many rooms can be rented by the public when not in use by the government.

History of Rathaus Bern

The first town hall was built at Nydeggstalden and was known as the Burger Hus. This was replaced around 1355. The second town hall was constructed on Junkerngasse near the Bern Minster choir. It was used as a school until 1468 when it was demolished to expand the Bern Minster. Following the great fire of 1405, which destroyed much of the city, a new, larger town hall was planned to symbolize Bern’s growing power and to host foreign visitors.

The current building was begun in 1406–07 by Heinrich von Gengenbach, though he died shortly after construction began. Completed around 1415 to 1417, the town hall saw several additions, including a grand external staircase and council chambers. Over the centuries, various government entities, including the cantonal archives and treasury, moved into the building.

A staircase tower and gallery wing were added in 1664–66 by Abraham and David Edelstein. Plans for a new building by Parisian architect Jacques-Denis Antoine in 1788 were canceled due to costs. Instead, the building was renovated several times, with major overhauls in 1865–68 by Friedrich Salvisberg, and again in 1940–42 under Martin Risch, which restored its medieval appearance and modernized its interior.

Building Exterior

The main building is a three-story sandstone structure with a symmetrical south facade centered around a grand staircase and entrance loggia. The 20th-century renovation restored the medieval appearance of the staircase. The statues adorning the clock pavilion are copies of the original polychrome statues by Master Hariman of Prague. The shield with the Bern coat of arms was originally an imperial eagle. The iron gates below the stairs are original treasure chamber doors by Michel Müller.

The west facade, simplified during the 1940–42 renovation, reveals a line traditionally believed to be from an earlier fortification. The north facade was also simplified during this renovation, retaining nine large cross-windows from the original construction. The slender northeast tower, Baroque oriel windows, and octagonal bell tower were removed.

The east side features a Louis XIII-style staircase tower. The Staatskanzlei (cantonal administration building) is connected to the town hall by a wing built in 1664–66 by the Edelsteins. In the courtyard between the buildings is a fountain topped with a Hermes sculpture made by Max Fueter in 1953.

Building Interior

The ground floor of the town hall is a large, single room measuring approximately 22 by 22 meters and 5.5 meters high. Originally serving as a market hall and courtroom, the 1940–42 renovation restored its medieval appearance. The room is supported by nine free-standing columns and six wall columns, each made from seven sandstone cylinders topped with large sandstone capitals that support the oak beams forming the foundation of the council chambers above.

Experience the rich history and stunning architecture of the Bern Town Hall on your visit, and explore this cornerstone of Bern’s political and cultural heritage.

The Rathaus Bern appears in our Complete Guide to Visiting Bern!

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Visiting Rathaus Bern


08:00-12:00 & 13:30-17:00 (Mon-Thur) & 08:00-12:00 (Fri)


Public tours are free

Address: Rathauspl. 2, 3011 Bern, Switzerland
Duration: 20 minutes

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