Bern Switzerland City Facts
Bern Switzerland is one of my favorite European cities because they have a
wonderful museum there with postage stamps from Switzerland. Infact they claim
to have one of the largest stamp collections of anywhere in the world with half
a million items.
Here with more about the museums of Bern Switzerland. SOURCE
Most of Bern’s museums are clustered together around Helvetiaplatz,
on the south side of the Kirchenfeldbrücke. Some, like the Bernisches
Historisches Museum, shouldn’t really be missed; others have less going for
them. Trams #3 (direction Saali) and #5 (direction Ostring) shuttle from the
train station and the Zytglogge
Bernisches Historisches Museum
You could spend a long time exploring the fascinating Bernisches Historisches
Museum (Bernese Historical Museum; Tues–Sun 10am–5pm; Fr.5, free on Sat;
SMP), a grandiose turreted castle purpose-built in 1894. With seven floors of
diverse bits and pieces, it’s a good idea to pick up a floor plan before you
start. Information is generally very good, with the scholarly German labelling
nearly always given in English and French translation in leaflets kept in wall
The ground floor is given over to temporary exhibitions,
which tend not to have English explanations, and it’s worth heading straight
down to the basement (taking in, if you’ve time, the extensive porcelain and
silver collection on the lower mezzanine on the way). At the bottom, to the left
side of the staircase, is perhaps the highlight of the whole museum, a
collection of extraordinary and macabre paintings showing “The Dance of
Death”; these are 1649 copies of originals painted in 1516–17 on the
wall of Bern’s Dominican monastery and now lost. The sequence of 24 vivid
images, showing a hideously grinning and fooling skeleton leading kings,
prostitutes, nuns and lawyers alike to their inevitable fate, is enough to send
a chill down your spine – as, no doubt, it was intended to. Equally impressive
is the pillared room directly opposite, filled with the original sandstone
figures from the Last Judgement portal of the Münster and fascinating
for the chance to view their details up close. Through in another part of the
basement are several rooms featuring rural and urban interiors from the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, reconstructed down to the chamber pots and
From the ground floor all the way up the main staircase is a
series of rather unflattering portraits of 280 Swiss peasants and
craftspeople in traditional dress, made late in the eighteenth century as a kind
of ethnographic record. The mezzanine is devoted to a spectacular Islamic
collection, with daggers galore, a mounted Turkestan warrior in full armour,
jewellery, ceramics and a reconstructed Persian sitting room. Stairs to the
first upper floor bring you to an intricate scale model of Bern in 1800
(made in 1850). Nearby in the same room, for some unknown reason, sits a bust of
Brigitte Bardot. Halls left and right display extremely impressive wall-sized
medieval Flemish tapestries; the Burgundian Hall holds the Caesar
Tapestries, telling the story of Caesar’s life in Burgundian-style dress, and,
highlight of the collection, the Thousand Flowers Tapestry, the only one
surviving of a set of eight made in Brussels in 1466, which was looted by Bern
during the Burgundian wars of 1474–77. Rooms further on with coins and medals
include a mesmerising 1828 three-way portrait of Calvin, Luther and Zwingli. On
the other side of the stairs is the Trajan Hall, with suits of armour,
weapons, cavalry standards and heraldic tapestries galore.
The second upper floor features more military uniforms from
different periods, and a series of overwhelmingly meticulous rooms devoted to
“Changes in Daily Life”, covering everything from reconstructed shops
and schoolrooms from different periods to ephemera, old vending machines and
musical instruments. The top floor has a small archeological collection,
and above is a belvedere offering bird’s-eye views of the Bundeshaus and the
Schweizerisches Alpines Museum
Beside the Historical Museum, the Schweizerisches Alpines Museum (Swiss
Alpine Museum; May–Oct Mon 2–5pm, Tues–Sun 10am–5pm; Nov–April Mon
2–5pm, Tues–Sun 10am–noon & 2–5pm; Fr.5; SMP) is surprisingly good,
taking an intelligent, sensitive look at all aspects of life in the mountains,
from tourism, the history of mountaineering and the social identity of mountain
dwellers to surveys of Alpine flora and fauna and the impact of industry on the
mountain environment. There’s plenty to play with and read up on (in English).
Crowded all over the museum are dozens of examples of relief mapmaking gone
berserk, with mountains, whole valley systems and complete Swiss ranges rendered
in perfect scale detail, almost rock by rock, by enthusiasts whose energy and
patience can only be imagined.Other museums
There are plenty of other museums on or very close to Helvetiaplatz. The
porticoed Kunsthalle (Art Gallery; Helvetiaplatz 1; Tues 10am–9pm,
Wed–Sun 10am–5pm; Fr.6) has changing exhibits of contemporary art, usually
of very high quality. Behind the Historisches Museum, the Naturhistorisches
Museum (Natural History Museum; Bernastrasse 15; Mon 2–5pm, Tues, Thurs
& Fri 9am–5pm, Wed 9am–8pm, Sat & Sun 10am–5pm; Fr.5; SMP) has the
largest diorama exhibit in Europe – a somewhat fancy way to describe an array
of stuffed animals behind glass, including a rather threadbare “Barry”, the
famous St Bernard mountain-rescue dog. Its mineralogical displays are more
engaging, with meteorites and cut diamonds, but they’re scant recompense for
fighting the tide of schoolkids. The Museum für Kommunikation (Helvetiastrasse
16; Tues–Sun 10am–5pm; Fr.5; SMP) surveys media and communication from
postage-stamps and early telephones to the Internet and beyond.
Here are background details about living in Bern Switzerland. SOURCE
Automobiles of U.S. citizens entering Switzerland to establish a
residence are free of duty provided evidence can be shown that the car has
been in the applicant's possession and has been driven for at least six
months. A tourist, whose permanent domicile is outside Switzerland, can
temporarily import his motor vehicle without customs documents, provided it
is for his own personal use. Automobiles of temporary residents may be
imported duty-free upon application to the local customs authorities for
duty-free customs plates. Such plates are valid for a maximum period of one
year. Foreign plates may be kept on the car for one year provided that
proper liability insurance is maintained on the car. After this period,
Swiss plates must be obtained from the cantonal road traffic office (Strassenverkehrsamt/Service
Banks are open Monday through Friday from 08:00 - 18:00 in cities. In
suburbs, towns, and villages banks close for lunch. Banks throughout
Switzerland are closed on Saturdays, Sundays and Swiss holidays. Change
counters at airports and railway stations are usually open daily from 6:30 -
Of the total population of 6,908.000 (last census end of 1992), 49
percent are Catholic, 48 percent Protestant, 0.4 percent Jewish, with the
remaining percentage having various other religious affiliations or none.
English language services are held regularly in some churches in large
cities and tourist resorts.
Temperatures are about the same as in the northern United States, but
without extremes of heat and cold. During the winter it frequently snows. In
the cities the summer temperature rarely exceeds 80 Fahrenheit and the
humidity is low. Winter temperatures vary between 20 and 30. The southern
part of Switzerland has subtropical vegetation and a mild climate the year
Cost of Living
The general cost of living in Switzerland is higher than in the United
States and is, at the time of writing, approximately 15 percent higher than
that of Washington, DC (the difference varies in accordance with the
respective inflation rates and fluctuation of currency exchange rates).
The monetary unit in Switzerland is the Swiss Franc. The rate of
exchange varies but is usually between 1.60 and 1.79 Swiss Francs to the
dollar. There are no restrictions with regard to import, export and exchange
of Swiss Francs. Travelers checks and bank notes are exchanged by banks,
official exchange offices at airports, principal Swiss railway stations,
border stations and sometimes travel agencies. Personal checks are not
normally cashed by Swiss banks.
Persons entering Switzerland may import duty-free personal effects,
sports equipment, tools and a limited amount of food. Every person aged 17
and over is entitled to enter Switzerland with 2 liters of wine, one liter
of spirits, 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250 grams of pipe tobacco, as
well as gifts up to a total value of 100 Swiss francs.
More detailed information may be obtained from the:
The electric current used throughout Switzerland is 220 Volts,
alternating current (AC), 50 cycles. Prongs for outlets differ from those in
the United States. However, 110 Volt electrical equipment can be operated
with the use of a transformer. Lamps are easily converted by using 220 Volt
Swiss bulbs and changing of plugs, or by using inexpensive plug adapters.
A valid U.S. passport but no visa is required of an American citizen
entering Switzerland as a tourist for a period of three months maximum.
Information on residence, student visas, etc. should be obtained from the
Embassy in Washington or one of the Swiss Consulates General located in
Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco.
Switzerland has no vaccination requirements.
The following are legal holidays observed throughout Switzerland:
New Year, St. Bartholomew
Swiss National Day
Christmas Day and St.Stephen
Various other holidays may be observed by individual cantons. For a
complete current list of American and Swiss holidays please check the Holiday
Like many other countries, Switzerland experiences a shortage of housing
in most larger cities. Moderately-priced living quarters are usually
difficult to find. Rents are higher than in most U.S. cities and vary
according to location, neighborhood and type of building. Both houses and
apartments are usually smaller than their U.S. counterparts and contain
A furnished house is rare and very expensive: furnished apartments are
seldom available. On the whole, it is easier to find an apartment in a
suburb than in the downtown area of a city. Purchase of a house or apartment
by foreigners is restrictively regulated in Switzerland.
Light fixtures, draperies and closets are an added expense, since these
items are not included in Swiss apartments and houses when rented. Newer
apartments may have a small deep freeze and dishwasher. Stoves are almost
always furnished. Almost all also have washing machines, rarely dryers, and
these must often be shared with other tenants. Hot water is not always
unlimited, so check on your hot water supply.
Apartments and houses can be found either through advertisements in
newspapers or through rental agencies. The following agencies can assist you
in choosing the proper newspaper to advertise for vacant apartments
Further information is available from local tourist offices and real
estate agents. Also the official Swiss tourist offices below have a list of
608 Fifth Ave.
New York, NY 10020
150 N. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60601
Switzerland Tourism (Los Angeles)
222 N. Sepulveda Blvd.
El Segundo, CA 90245
Of inestimable importance is a basic working knowledge of the language
of the region in which you plan to work and/or reside. No one will expect
you to speak the Swiss dialect, but a crash course in German, French or
Italian or, once in the country, enrollment in one of the many language
courses offered, will help you to feel more a part of the community in which
The national languages of Switzerland are German (Central and Eastern
Switzerland), French (Western Switzerland), Italian (Southern Switzerland)
and Romansch (Southeastern Switzerland). German is spoken by 69 percent of
the Swiss population, 20 percent speak French, 10 percent Italian and 1
English is spoken in most hotels, restaurants, shops, etc. in all larger
cities and resort areas.
Even though you are an American citizen, in Switzerland you are under
its laws and jurisdiction, not those of the United States. Where American
citizens are involved in private disputes (with foreign nationals or
business enterprises) and the controversy cannot be settled amicably between
them, the normal recourse is to the remedies provided by law of the
appropriate jurisdiction. American diplomatic and consular officers may not
act as attorney, agent or in a fiduciary capacity in private matters. The
Embassy does, however, furnish a list of English-speaking attorneys. Only
attorneys licensed to practice at the courts in Switzerland may officially
represent a client.
List of Personal Records
While living overseas, it is generally a good idea to have important
documents and/or records at hand in case of an emergency or an evacuation.
It is suggested that you keep the following items easily available:
Signed and notarized general power of attorney executed by each
spouse on behalf of the other spouse;
Joint checking account;
Current copy of will(s);
List of family members' Social Security numbers, bank account
numbers, insurance policies, passport numbers along with the date of
Medical records, prescriptions needed by family members,
immunization records and eyeglass prescriptions;
Up-to-date household inventory;
Prior tax year records and other records necessary for filing the
List of credit card numbers (separate cards for each spouse is also
a good idea);
Copies of birth and marriage certificates and passport biographical
Employment records, resumes, and letters of recommendation;
Children's school records;
List of doctors, dentists, lawyers and other professional providers
Mortgage records, deeds, bonds, etc.;
Updated address books, both business and personal;
Travelers' checks, bank books, check books, cash - both local and
List of assets and liabilities.
Excellent medical assistance is offered in all larger cities. Many
physicians and dentists also received training in the United States.
Emergency medical assistance may be obtained by calling number 144 from any
phone anywhere in Switzerland.
There are no fixed fees for doctors and dentists. Customary charges for
consultations at the office of an internist/ specialist are about SFr.
80.00, and for a professor up to about SFr. 120.00. Where dentists are
concerned it is customary, after examination, to ask for an estimate for the
work to be done.
Lists of English-speaking doctors, dentists and veterinarians for the
Bern and Geneva areas are available at the Embassy.
Driving in Switzerland
You may drive in Switzerland with your valid U.S. license for up to one
year after your arrival; then you must obtain a Swiss permit. Swiss licenses
are only issued on the basis of valid U.S. licenses. Holders of expired U.S.
licenses must take the Swiss driving test when applying for a Swiss license.
The minimum age for driving or learning to drive is 18. Liability insurance
on motor vehicles is compulsory in Switzerland and must be provided by a
Swiss insurance company.
There are two kinds of gasoline in Switzerland, both unleaded
Premium gasoline ("Super Bleifrei").
Regular gasoline ("Bleifrei")
Diesel fuel is also available.
Prices average somewhat higher in mountain regions.
Gas stations are normally open from 08:00 to 22:00 but may close earlier
on Sundays. U.S. gasoline credit cards are generally not accepted at
European gas stations but most major credit cards are accepted.
Newspapers and Magazines
Swiss newspapers represent various political viewpoints and are
published in the four language-areas of Switzerland. French, German, and
Italian periodicals are available at local newsstands. The International
Herald Tribune and international editions of Time, Life, and Newsweek are
available at local newsstands or by subscription. Other U.S. and British
magazines are also sold locally. Prices are somewhat higher than in the U.S.
or the UK.
Dogs and cats brought into Switzerland from abroad will require a
veterinary certificate stating that the animal has been vaccinated against
rabies and is in good health. The pet must be vaccinated at least 30 days
but not more than one year before being brought to Switzerland. The
certificate is accepted in the following languages: English, French, German,
Italian. Information on importing other kinds of pets can be obtained from
A small duty charge for your pet is paid on arrival, and a dog license
must be obtained upon reaching your final destination. Most veterinarians
can sell you one. In some areas you must obtain your dog license from the
local authorities. The fee varies, but is around SFr. 50.00.
"Die Post" is the federal postal company. Most post offices
are open from 07:30/08:00 - 12:00 and from 13:30/14:30 - 18:00, Saturday
07:30/08:00 - 11:00.
Letters to or from the United States by international airmail usually take
about 5 days. Surface mail takes approximately 20 days but may take as long
as six weeks for parcel post. Airmail postcards and airmail letters weighing
up to 20 grams cost SFr. 1.80 to mail to the United States; airmail letters
from 20 grams to 50 grams SFr. 3.00.
The postal check is the most common method used to pay bills. This
system allows you to pay bills through the post office by filling out green
or white postal payment cards which are normally enclosed with your bills
(electricity, phone, insurance, etc.). Holders of a postal check account can
effect their, usually, monthly payments by mail; others go to the post
office and make their payments at the appropriate counter.
Radio and TV
Swiss radio broadcasts in the three principal languages. Programming is
of good quality with more talk programs than in the U.S. Broadcasts from
other European countries - such as AFN Frankfurt, VOA Munich, Luxembourg,
and BBC - are fairly good but reception varies. As in most of Europe, radio
and TV are run by a public corporation. Broadcasting is in German, French
and Italian. Special programs are sometimes relayed from the U.S. by
satellite. News and sports coverage on both radio and TV is good. There are
several private radio and TV stations as well. There is a radio and TV tax
charged on your quarterly bill. It must be noted that the TV system is
different in central Europe; American TV sets do not function satisfactorily
on the Swiss system, nor can turntables without adjustment.
Swiss schools maintain high scholastic standards. There are boarding and
day schools in Switzerland offering British and/or American schools,
For more detailed information on particular schools, you may wish to write
to the Swiss
Federation of Private Schools (FSEP, Fédération Suisse des Écoles
Privées/Verband Schweizerischer Privatschulen), Advisory Office,
Christoffelgasse 3, CH-3011 Bern, tel. 031-328-4050 and fax 031-328-4045.
Publications on private schools, summer schools and camps, universities,
children's homes and specialized schools are available from the Swiss
National Tourist Office.
Quality is the byword in Switzerland. You may be sure that anything you
buy will stand up, if you can afford it. Prices are rigid, no bargaining.
Clothing is more expensive that in the United States, but there is a good
selection. Shopping hours vary (Monday through Friday from 08:00 - 18:30;
Saturdays from 08:00 - 16:00 is common in cities). In suburbs, towns, and
villages, shops close for lunch. In some cities, stores close on Monday
mornings. All stores are closed on Sundays and national and local holidays
except for food stores in the larger train stations, which are in most cases
open late at night as well.
Any person residing or working in Switzerland must pay tax at local,
cantonal and federal levels. Since the tax structure varies from canton to
canton, it is not possible to give a general estimate what various taxes may
There is a treaty between the United States and Switzerland to avoid double
taxation on income, which means that taxes paid to Switzerland by a resident
of this country must not necessarily be paid to the United States.
In general, an American employed in Switzerland can expect to pay at least
as much tax to the various Swiss government levels as he would have to if he
were paying tax in the United States. Specific inquiries can be directed to
the local tax office or to the following federal authority:
Swiss Federal Tax
Section for International Fiscal Law and Double Taxation Matters
An English language copy of the Swiss/American double taxation agreement
can be obtained from the Swiss Government Printing Office:
Eidg. Drucksachen-und Materialzentrale
"Swisscom" is the
semi-federal Telephone Company. The rate for a call to the United States is
0.12 Swiss francs per minute Monday-Friday, and 0.10 Swiss francs Saturday
and Sunday. For calls made at hotels, substantial service charges may be
levied. The telephone code for Switzerland to the United States is 001; from
the United States to Switzerland it is 01141. There are also a number of
private long distance carriers operating in Switzerland.
A service charge of 15 percent is included in the bill in Swiss hotels
and restaurants, also in taxi fares and hairdressers prices. Additional
tipping is allowed.
Switzerland's intercontinental airports of Zurich and Geneva can be
reached in approximately 7 hours from the East Coast of North America.
The train and postal bus systems in Switzerland are excellent and reliable,
as are local (in-city) transportation systems.
Should you need information about countries that you are planning to
visit, ACS can provide you with a copy of the State Department's current
travel warnings and public announcements. The Embassy in Bern only receives
information sheets for Europe; these can be requested in person or by mail.
This information is easily available at no cost if you consult the Department
of State's Consular Affairs Bureau website.
This site contains, among other information, the following:
Also, if you wish, you can subscribe to an Internet service that
provides State Department travel information free or charge. To do this,
send an e-mail and
write "subscribe" in the body of the e-mail message. To cancel the
service, write e-mail
again writing "unsubscribe" in the the body of the message.
U.S. Consular Availability
While it is not mandatory for U.S. citizens residing or visiting abroad
to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy/consulate, it is advisable to do
so in order that the consulate can better assist in cases of lost passports,
serious illness, accidents, death, disappearance, etc. It is important and
strongly recommended that persons report to their consulate or consular
agency as soon as possible the birth, death or arrest of a U.S.
U.S. citizens residing abroad should not only have a valid U.S.
passport, but they should also have in their possession several certified
true copies of birth and marriage certificates, divorce or annulment
decrees, etc. for use as the need may arise. See separate list of such
Welcome to the official website of Bern
Tourism. Succumb to the magic of Bern,
capital of Switzerland and UNESCO Cultural
World Heritage Site. The diversity and unique
beauty of the city are sure to delight you. We
look forward to your visit!
The final of this year's Swisspower
Cup will be held on Bern's own
mountain, the Gurten. Come and enjoy
the spectacle on 27
and 28 August 2005. >>
year: Pretty relative
Centenary of the Theory of Relativity.
Major exhibitions at the Historisches
Museum Bern. 16
June 2005 - 17 April 2006. >>
The final of this year's Swisspower Cup will be held on
Bern's own mountain, the Gurten. Come and enjoy the
spectacle on 27 and 28 August 2005.
year: Pretty relative
Centenary of the Theory of Relativity. Major exhibitions
at the Historisches Museum Bern. 16
June 2005 - 17 April 2006. >>
There is no less way to discover Bern. Free unlimited
travel on the public transportation system in the City of
Bern. Free admission to all museums of the Bern Museums
Association. More attractions >>
Bern3: Bern flies high
Bern looks ahead, Bern pulsates. Three new highlights
introducing accents on a cultural and sports level provide
a perfect proof that this capital city is full of life. >>
Paul Klee: Waves through Bern
Three waves for Bern - dedicated to one of the greatest
20th century artists. Just opened: 20
June 2005. >>
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