Canton of Bern

Flag of the canton
Area:5,959 km²
Languages:German, French

The Swiss canton of Bern (German: Kanton Bern; French Canton de Berne) has a population of about 947,000. It is located in west- central Switzerland and the city of Bern is its capital. People speak a local Swiss German dialect called Bärndüütsch and French in the area of Biel/Bienne.

Table of contents
1 Geography
2 History
3 Politics
4 Economy
5 Demographics
6 External links


The canton of Bern is the second largest of all Swiss cantons. It borders the Canton of Jura and the Canton of Solothurn to the north. To the west lie the Canton of Neuchâtel, the Canton of Fribourg and Vaud, to the south lies the Valais. East of the canton of Bern lie the cantons of Uri, Nidwalden, Obwalden, Lucerne and Aargau.

The canton of Bern is mainly drained by the River Aare and its tributaries. The area of the canton is commonly divided into three areas. The Bernese Highlands (Berner Oberland) lie in the south of the canton and are part of the Alps. The highest elevation in the Bernese Highlands is the Finsteraarhorn with 4274 m. The famous resorts around Interlaken and the Jungfrau (4158 m) are located within this area. Other resrorts in the Bernese Highlands are Thun, Meiringen and Aareschlucht, Grindelwald, Mürren and Kandersteg. The whole area is very mountainous and renowed for its scenic beauty. As a result of this tourism is one of the main sources of income in the Bernese Highlands.

Location of the canton
The Bernese Midlands (Berner Mittelland) is made up of the valley of the rivers Aare, the river Emme, some of the foothills of the Bernese Alps, as well as the plain around the capital Bern. In the north of the canton of Bern lies the third region: the Lake Region (Seenland) concentrated around Lake Biel.

The area of the canton is 5959 km².


The area of the canton of Bern consists of lands acquired by its capital, mostly between the 14th and the 16th century, both by conquest and purchase. Acquired districts include (with dates of acquisition):
  • Laupen (1324)
  • Hash and Meiringen (1334)
  • Thun and Burgdorf (1384)
  • Unterseen and the Upper Simme valley (1386)
  • Frutigen, etc. (1400)
  • Lower Simme valley (1439 - 1449)
  • Interlaken, with Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen and Brienz (1528, all the suppression of the Austin Canons of Interlaken)
  • Saanen or Gessenay (1555)

  • Koniz (1729)
  • the Bernese Jura with Bienne (1815, from the bishopric of Basel).

Some regions previously won left the canton in 1798: Aargau (1415), Aigle and Grandson (1475), Vaud (1536), and the Pays d'En-Haut including Chateau d'Oex (1555). From 1798 to 1802 the Oberland formed a separate canton of the Helvetic Republic called canton of Thun with Thun as its capital. Certain French-speaking portions of the canton of Bern broke away from the canton only in the late 20th century and since 1979 comprise the Canton of Jura.

Bern joined the Swiss Confederation in 1353 and was between 1803 and 1814 one of the six direcorial cantons of the Swiss Confederation.


The current cantonal constitution dates from 1893. In 1906 the constitution was amended to introduce direct popular election of the executive (Regierungsrat) which consists of nine members.


Tourism is the main source of income in the Bernese Highlands. Other important sectors are agricultures, especially cattle breeding, cheese making and hydroelectric power generation. The Bernese cheese Emmental is known around the world.

In the Bernese Midlands the lands are more fertile. Agriculture is of great importance, but this part of the canton is also the most industrialized. Small and middle-sized businesses are important emplyers in this part of the canton of Bern. There is a nuclear power plant at Mühleberg.

The area around the Lake Biel is renowed for its wine production.


The population of the canton is mainly German speaking and protestant.

External links