Visiting Bundeshaus In Bern: What To See Inside and Outside

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When it comes to architecture, Bern is undoubtedly the most beautiful city in Switzerland. Its historic city center, a UNESCO heritage site, is filled with gorgeous buildings and picturesque streets that evoke a sense of time travel. The design and construction of the city’s medieval architecture impressed me. A lot.

Perched on a hilly peninsula overlooking the turquoise Aare River, the quaint skyline of the Old City of Bern is simply breathtaking. Visit the Rose Garden, its viewpoint, during sundown, and you’ll witness this spectacle. Amidst the magical panorama, three brightly lit landmarks should quickly catch your eye: the Bern Cathedral, Zytglogge, and Bundeshaus, also known as the Federal Palace of Switzerland.

Dominating the western district of Bern’s Old City, the Bundeshaus is more than just a sight from afar. This 60-meter tall edifice, with its imposing neoclassical design, is worth a quick visit on any trip to Bern, whether it’s a two-day stay in the city, a one-day journey, or just a half-day visit.

My Opinion. Why Should You See Bundeshaus When You Visit Bern.

As an old-world architecture enthusiast and as a wanderer, Bundeshaus is a must-see in simply it’s one the city’s most beautiful landmarks. By its size and style, combining elements of French and German Renaissance, it was something you’d also behold as you explore the Old City of Bern. While it it not as stunning as other palaces in Europe, it’s one of the most impressive that you’ll see in Switzerland.

The Bundeshaus is also a spot in the city with many picturesque scenes. There is its arcades that frame the view of the mountains, a charming fountain on one of its courtyard called Bernabrunnen, and more. And if you want to relax for a bit with a far away view of the Bernese Alps, the terrace behind the Bundeshaus is a nice place to be, although I think there are other places in Bern which offers more picturesque and breathtaking views.

For curious travelers and history buffs, the Bundeshaus is an insightful immersion to the history and interesting discovery regarding the country’s democracy. There’s a guided tour inside Bundeshaus which can be enjoyable if you’re interested. What’s nicer about the tour in Bundeshaus is that it’s free! However, tours may get postponed if there are important parliamentary sessions to also take place.

Where is Bundeshaus in Bern?

Specifically, Bundeshaus is located in the southwest portion of Bern’s downtown district. If you are familiar with the different quarters of Bern’s downtown, you can find Bundeshaus in both the Red Quarter and the Yellow Quarter’s southern area. Here are the distances and travel time between Bundeshaus (entry at Bundesplatz) and landmarks in Bern:

  • Bern Railway Station
    • Bundeshaus is located southeast of the railway station.
    • Walking time: 8 minutes.
    • Travel Time: 7 minutes using bus #12.
  • Museum of Fine Arts Bern
    • Bundeshaus is located south of the Museum of Fine Arts.
    • Walking time: 7 minutes.
  • Zytglogge
    • Bundeshaus is located southwest of Zytglogge.
    • Walking time: 5 minutes.
  • Bern Minster
    • Bundeshaus is located west of Bern Minster.
    • Walking time: 7 minutes.

When it comes to Bern’s historic center, or the downtown district, you’ll find that it’s quite compact. In fact, you can explore most of it on foot in just 2 to 3 hours! This makes getting to Bundeshaus, no matter where you are in Bern’s historic center, a relatively easy task Even if you’re at the farthest end of the downtown area, a straight walk to the Bundeshaus won’t take more than 20 minutes. So, exploring Bern and its significant landmarks is both convenient and enjoyable.

Outside Bundeshaus

When you arrive at Bundesplatz or Federal Square, where Bundeshaus is, I bet you’ll be even more surprised because more beautiful things await you there. For example, there is the Swiss National Bank. It is the building is to the east of Bundesplatz which also boasts marvelous architecture.

Depending on the season or weather, you may also find delightful scenes of children playing at the water fountains in the middle of the square. If you plan a short visit to Bern, a quick stop and sightseeing in Bundesplatz might be enough. However, I encourage you to explore more of the Bundeshaus, especially if you’re an architecture enthusiast, have a hobby in photography, or enjoy seeing beautiful views.

It shouldn’t take you longer than 30 minutes to discover the best parts of Bundeshaus from the outside.

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Parts of the Bundeshaus

Parliament Building

Among the three main buildings of Bundeshaus, the Parliament Building is the most impressive and has the most details and symbolism. You might want to come closer to the facade to see them better. The facade of the Parliament Building contains ornaments/figures representing the values of the Swiss people (according to my sources):

  • Two griffins symbolize strength and intelligence.
  • The three keystones (heads of men) depict courage, wisdom, and strength above the doors.
  • Four statues tell the allegory of freedom (left-hand niche), the allegory of peace (right-hand niche), the chronicler of the present (bronze statue on the left), and the chronicler of the past (bronze statue on the right).

Above these three, you’ll see the name of the building in Latin, ‘Curia Confoederationis Helveticae.’

When the sun is shining, step back until you can see the entire building. There is something on top of the turquoise dome of the Parliament Building that will capture your attention. It’s the cross, and it is gleaming gold. It’s another notable part of the Parliament Building. Believe it or not, approximately 50,000 gold leaf sheets (weighing 700 grams) were used to make it gold.

East Wing

Let’s say you’re currently standing in front of the Parliament Building at Bundesplatz. If you turn to your left, you’ll see the east wing of the Bundeshaus.

I believe you should take a moment to appreciate it up close because it’s also quite stunning. You’ll need to take a few steps to the left to find the perfect viewing angle of the building. I recommend you position yourself so that you’re facing directly across from the central door of the building. This vantage point allows you to appreciate the building’s nearly “perfect symmetry” design.

The only elements that disrupt this symmetry are the marble reliefs on either side of the entrance.

The marble reliefs depict: On the right — The Swiss military. You can see images of the Swiss military-general staff, artillery cavalry, military bands, and more. On the left — The economic strength of Switzerland. You can find reliefs showing a potter, carpenter, blacksmith, surveyor, and more.

West Wing

If you’ve already seen the east wing, you can skip viewing the facade of the Bundeshaus’ west wing. They look pretty similar.

The last time I checked, the west wing had fewer decorations than the east. However, the west wing does have an elegant fountain in the center of its courtyard. It’s a few yards tall and features a column with a statue of Berna, the patron goddess of Bern, on top. Therefore, it’s referred to as the Berna fountain.

Bundesterrasse

There are a few ways to get to Bundesterrasse or Federal Terrace, but I suggest you take the passageway between the Parliament Building and the Bundeshaus’s west wing. To me, it’s the most picturesque part of the Bundeshaus. I love how the arcaded footbridges above the passageway frame the view of Bern’s outskirts!

In Bundesterrasse, you can:

  1. See the imposing south facade of the Bundeshaus. The Parliament Building’s south facade is rounded and flanked by towers that are about 150 feet high. It reminds me of a modern castle!
  2. Enjoy an overlooking view of the Aare River. You might see people kayaking and playing in the river’s turquoise water during the summer.
  3. Experience one of the most scenic views in Bern. From the viewing platform in Bundesterrasse behind the Bundeshaus’s west wing, you can see a panorama that includes the Bernese Oberland. Jungfrau, Monch, and Eiger are visible during clear weather…

You can find a ramp leading down to the Aare River from Bundesterrasse. If you’d like, you can use this to get to the vantage points of Bundeshaus from the bridges and parks beside the Aare River. The walk takes about 7 to 10 minutes, depending on your pace.

Inside Bundeshaus (Tour Summary)

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A glimpse to the interiors of Bundeshaus

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As far as I know, you cannot wander and explore the building alone. It is only possible if you join a guided tour offered by the parliament’s office. The guided tours are only available when the parliament is not in session. Once again, the nice thing about the tour is that you can join for free! The visitor’s entrance is located on Bundesterrasse.

The tour is a 60-minute educational tour, providing insights into Switzerland’s history, politics, and culture. You can check the links at the end of this post for the schedule and other visiting information. I recommend joining the tour of the Parliament Building, especially if you’re like me (curious and an architecture enthusiast).

Should you decide to visit the Bundeshaus and want to discover more of its architecture, purpose, and history, but find there are no available tours inside the Bundeshaus, your alternative is to hire a guide to have everything explained to you. You can also ask the guide to tour you around other parts of Bern, not only the Bundeshaus.

Did you know you can already find some interesting things at the visitor’s entrance? The domed hall is jaw-dropping! The most interesting item I found at the visitor’s entrance is the exact copy of Switzerland’s original Federal constitution (1848) and the first original map of Switzerland behind the reception desk. As far as I know, the map dates back to the 19th century and has a scale of 1:100,000.

When you enter the Dome Hall, you’ll immediately see the 24-ton monument of the three confederates. It depicts the mythical alliance that formed the first Swiss Confederacy. It is only the first of many fascinating symbolisms inside the Domed Hall. In front of the mythical alliance monument, four statues of mercenaries stand. They symbolize the four language regions of Switzerland.

More interesting objects await, like the glass dome and the images embellishing it.  To maintain an element of surprise, I’ll refrain from detailing them all. But, again, I recommend you join the tour because you’ll also visit the Council of States Chamber and the National Council Chamber.

More Information

That’s all I can share with you about the Bundeshaus. If you want to learn more about the Bundeshaus, this is where you can find facts and important information to use when visiting the landmark.

  1. Numerical facts about Bern
  2. Facts about Bundeshaus
  3. General visiting information/contact for Parliament Building tours
  4. FAQs Parliament Building tours

If you’re planning a trip to Bern soon to see the Bundeshaus and other attractions, and you’re still looking for accommodations, please consider using my partner’s hotel search and booking platform. They offer some of the best hotel deals in Europe, and their map browser makes it easy to find a hotel in the most convenient location for you. Please be aware that this is an affiliate link. I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you when you book through this platform. It’s a wonderful way to support me in creating more content like this. Your support is greatly appreciated!

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In addition to the Bundeshaus and what I’ve already mentioned, there are more interesting landmarks to be found in other beautiful cities in Switzerland. Take Lucerne for example, it’s home to the Chapel Bridge, the most iconic bridge in all of Switzerland. Lucerne also boasts the Jesuit Church, arguably the most stunning Baroque church in Switzerland. Be sure to check them out, especially if you’re on an architecture tour of Switzerland. If adventure and nature are more your style, the Jungfrau Region is a must-visit! Lastly, if you’re wondering how to explore Bern, Lucerne, and the Jungfrau Region in an extended weekend trip or a week-long journey, consider following a 4-day or 6-day Switzerland itinerary.

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