Bern, in my opinion, is Switzerland’s most beautiful city when it comes to architecture. Its historic city center, a UNESCO heritage site, is filled with picturesque houses and streets that seem to transport you back in time. I’ve seen numerous European towns, but Bern stands out as a prime example of medieval architecture done right.
Situated on a hill overlooking the Aare River, the city offers quaint, stunning streets and breathtaking scenery. However, there’s one building that’s sure to catch your eye as you wander through Bern’s historic center — the Bundeshaus, or the Federal Palace of Switzerland.
The Bundeshaus, with its towering height of over 60 meters and imposing neoclassical architecture, is a sight to behold. But it’s not just about the aesthetics! The Bundeshaus has much more to offer and many beautiful aspects waiting to be discovered. Let me share with you what I’ve found.
While it may seem apparent, it’s worth noting that the Bundeshaus is located in Bern, which is the “capital of Switzerland.”
This fact alone makes Bern an essential stop on any Swiss itinerary: for tourists, there’s no better place to gain a firsthand understanding of Swiss democracy than Bern. Visiting the Bundeshaus offers a wealth of knowledge about Switzerland’s history and its governmental operations.
Save to Pinterest
Where is Bundeshaus?
It’s a common assumption that a country’s capital is also its largest city, but that’s not the case with Switzerland. When it comes to Bern’s historic center, or the inner-city 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 reaching the Bundeshaus, no matter where you are in Bern’s historic center, a relatively simple task. Even if you’re at the farthest end of the city center, 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.
Specifically, Bundeshaus is located in the southwest portion of Bern’s inner city district. If you are familiar with the different quarters of Bern’s inner city, you can find Bundeshaus in both Rotes Quartier and Yellow Quartier’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.
- Bundeshaus is located southwest of Zytglogge.
- Walking time: 5 minutes.
- Bern Minster
- Bundeshaus is located west of Bern Minster.
- Walking time: 7 minutes.
Here’s the exact location of Bundeshaus (opens Google Maps).
Things To See Outside Bundeshaus
When you arrive at Bundesplatz, I bet you’ll be even more surprised because more beautiful things await you there.
Aside from the Bundeshaus, another notable building you can find in the square is the Swiss National Bank. The building is to the east of Bundesplatz and has marvelous architecture. Depending on the season or weather, you may also find lovely scenes of kids 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 can be enough. However, I encourage you to see more parts of the Bundeshaus, especially if you’re an enthusiast of architecture, have a photography hobby, or enjoy seeing beautiful views. It should not take you longer than 30 minutes to find the best parts of Bundeshaus outside the building.
Exteriors of Bundeshaus
Bundeshaus has three parts:
- Parliament Building
- East Wing
- West Wing
And I’m gonna tell you what interesting things you can see from them when you explore the Bundeshaus from the outside. I will also discuss where you can find them.
Among the three main buildings of the Bundeshaus, the Parliament Building is the most impressive and has the most details and symbolism. You might like to come closer to the facade to see them better.
The facade of the Parliament Building contains ornamentations/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, move 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.
For me, it’s another notable part of the Parliament Building. Believe it or not, approximately 50,000 leaf gold sheets (weighing 700 grams) were used to make it gold.
Federal Palace’s East Wing
Let’s say you are currently facing the Parliament Building from Bundesplatz. If you turn to the left, you’ll see the east wing of the Bundeshaus. I think you must give it a quick closer look because it also looks gorgeous.
You need to walk a few steps to the left to get to the perfect viewing angle of the building. I suggest you go to a point facing perpendicular to the central door of the building. That vantage point lets you see the building’s almost “perfect symmetry” design. The two things which made the view asymmetrical are the marble relief at both sides of the entrance. The marble relief depicts:
- Right — The military of Switzerland. You can see images of the Swiss military-general staff, artillery cavalry, military bands, and more.
- Left — The economic strength of Switzerland. You can find relief showing a potter, carpenter, blacksmith, surveyor, and more.
Federal Palace’s West Wing
If you have seen the east wing, you can skip seeing the facade of the Bundeshaus’ west wing. They look pretty much the same. The last time I saw it, the west wing had less ornamentation than the east.
However, the west wing has an elegant fountain in the middle of its garden square. It is a few meters tall and has a column with the statue of Berna, the patron goddess of Bern, on top. Hence, it is called the Berna fountain.
There are a few ways to get to Bundesterrasse, but I suggest you use the passageway between the Parliament Building and the Bundeshaus’s west wing.
For me, it is the most picturesque part of the Bundeshaus. I love how the arcaded footbridges above the passageway serve as frames for the overlooking view of Bern’s outskirts.
In Bundesterrasse, you can:
- See the imposing south facade of the Bundeshaus. The Parliament Building’s south facade is rounded and flanked by 45-meter-high towers. It looks like a modern castle to me!
- Have an overlooking view of the Aare River. You may see people kayaking and playing in the river’s turquoise water during summer.
- See 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 pleasant weather.
You can find a ramp going down to the Aare River from Bundesterrasse. If you like, you can use this to get to the vantage points of Bundeshaus from the bridges and parks beside the Aare River. Walking time is 7 to 10 minutes, depending on how fast you walk.
Tour Inside Bundeshaus
Did you know that you can also go inside the Parliament Building of the Bundeshaus? The visitor’s entrance is located in Bundesterrasse.
However, 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 office of the parliament. The guided tours are only available when the parliament is not in session.
The nice thing about the tour is that you can join for free! 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). 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. I don’t want to spoil you, so I won’t mention 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.
Here’s a quick look inside the Parliament Building:
Should You Visit the Bundeshaus?
Let’s say you are planning your trip to Bern and wondering if you should include Bundeshaus on your itinerary. If you ask me whether you should visit Bundeshaus, my answer is:
Bundeshaus is one of the most beautiful buildings in Bern and is one of the places in Bern where you can see panoramic views. For me, it is well worth a stroll and sightseeing. Visiting the Bundeshaus can be more worthwhile if you can join the free tour inside the parliament building.
Are you looking for ways to visit Bern? Do you want to know how much time you must spend in Bern? My posts below can help! (Links open in a new tab)
Not sure how many days to visit Bern? Check my article How Long To Spend In Bern
If you want to learn more about Bundeshaus in Bern, here is where you can find facts and important information that you can use when visiting the landmark.
- Numerical facts about Bern
- Facts about Bundeshaus
- General visiting information/contact for Parliament Building tours
- FAQs Parliament Building tours
Save to Pinterest