Tower in Bern

Zytglogge Bern
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Daniel Schwen

The Zytglogge, literally “time bell”, is a medieval tower in Bern, Switzerland, renowned for its historical significance and its 15th-century astronomical clock. Constructed in the early 13th century, the Zytglogge has served multiple roles, including a guard tower, prison, clock tower, and civic memorial. Despite numerous renovations over its 800-year history, it remains one of Bern’s most recognizable symbols and the city’s oldest monument. The tower is a heritage site of national significance and part of the Old City of Bern, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Initially built around 1218-1220, the Zytglogge functioned as the gate tower of Bern’s western fortifications. It was originally 16 meters (52 ft) tall but was raised by 7 meters (23 ft) in the late 13th century to provide a better vantage point over the city. By the mid-14th century, the tower had become a women’s prison, housing women convicted of sexual relations with clerics.

In the great fire of 1405, the tower suffered significant damage but was subsequently repaired. It received its first clock in the early 15th century, which included an astronomical clock and a musical mechanism. The tower was further embellished in the late 15th century, receiving a lantern, decorative corner towerlets, and the current astronomical clock.

Architectural Features

The Zytglogge stands 54.5 meters (179 ft) tall, with its main body divided into a two-story plinth made of alpine limestone and a three-story tower shaft sheathed in sandstone. The tower’s appearance reflects its 1770 renovation, though Gothic elements like the cornice below the roof and the stair tower remain visible.

The tower houses two bronze bells in its cupola: the great hour bell, cast in 1405, and a smaller quarter-hour bell, cast in 1887. The great bell rings every full hour, struck by a large clockwork-operated hammer, and is accompanied by a gilded figure of Chronos, the personification of time.

Astronomical Clock

The Zytglogge’s astronomical clock is a major attraction, featuring a dial designed as an astrolabe. It includes a Julian calendar dial, a moon phase indicator, and a principal hand that shows the time of day. The clock’s frieze above the dial depicts classical deities representing the days of the week and planets according to Ptolemaic cosmology.

Interior and Uses

The Zytglogge’s interior has evolved over time, reflecting its changing functions from a guard tower to a city prison and later to a clock tower. The tower’s rooms have been used for various administrative purposes, including archives and storerooms. Today, the interior is accessible only through guided tours, offering visitors a glimpse into its storied past.


The name Zytglogge translates to “time bell” in English, derived from the early public timekeeping devices that rang a bell at the full hour. The tower was first recorded by this name in 1413.

The Zytglogge remains a key cultural and historical symbol of Bern, attracting tourists with its rich history, architectural beauty, and intricate astronomical clock.

The Zytglogge appears in our Complete Guide to Visiting Bern!

This website uses affiliate links which may earn a commission at no additional cost to you!

Visiting Zytglogge


Monday to Sunday, 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM


CHF 15.00

Address: Zytglogge, Bim Zytglogge, Bern, Switzerland
Duration: 20 minutes
Powered by GetYourGuide

Nearby Attractions