Out & About in Switzerland: Berne in the 15th century

Looking down on the old town from the cathedral spire Keystone

The Swiss capital, Berne, is offering guided tours of the city as it was in the 15th century. Costumed heralds take visitors around the exquisitely preserved old town, which was built in Berne's heyday as a powerful city-state.

This content was published on October 13, 2000 minutes

Berne was rebuilt in 1405 following a fire that destroyed the city. The buildings, which had been originally made of wood, were rebuilt in sandstone.

This 15th century city is what visitors still find today, and is known as the old town. It's considered one of the finest examples in Europe of medieval city planning and was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1983.

The heralds help to bring Berne's glorious century back to life. Their tour takes in city moats and medieval walls, and winds along narrow alleyways past late-medieval residences. Visitors can experience the contrast between patrician facades and refuse pits.

The 15th century saw the beginning of the building of the cathedral. It was a mammoth undertaking, which took 180 years to complete. Today, its 100-metre high spire - the tallest in Switzerland - is still lived in. Its construction is recreated during the tour.

The tour also includes a visit to the former Dominican church - the site of the pomp and ceremony that accompanied a visit by Pope Martin V and his entourage.

Group tours in English are available at any time for SFr160 ($95) and last about 90 minutes. At least three days notice is advisable. Tours in German cost SFr18 per person and are held every Wednesday and Sunday until the end of October.


Out & About in Switzerland is updated regularly to keep you informed of upcoming events, which may provide a different insight into the country and its people.

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