World at a Glance: The fountains of Bern

The fountains of Bern

Bern is one of Europe’s more unassuming capital cities. Like Canberra is overshadowed by Sydney and Melbourne, all the attention here goes to big sisters Zurich and Geneva. In fact, if asked What is the capital of Switzerland? in a pub quiz, I’ll bet many would shout out one of the two.

Despite numerous visits in Switzerland, Bern remained one of the few European capitals I hadn’t seen. I’m sure I’m not alone; most visitors to the Alpine country skip Bern altogether. That’s a shame: the Swiss capital is a very pretty city with lots to offer, as I found out this summer when I finally decided enough as enough.

One of the most striking features – and one of the first things you’ll notice – is the Renaissance fountains of Bern. Just as soon as you walk out of the railway station and turn a corner, there they are, one after another. More than 100 fountains grace the streets of Bern: in city squares, in front of Medieval churches and in the middle of busy streets with trams rambling by on either side; elaborate fountains in vivid colours, with intricate details. It’s a bit like wandering through a fairytale: here’s Schützenbrunnen (the Marksman), there’s Moses with the 10 commandments, over there is Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen (the blind-folded Lady Justitia), incredibly detailed and artistic. For centuries, these fountains provided the good citizens of Bern with drinking water.

The prize for the most beastly fountain in Bern goes to Kindlifresserbrunnen, the child eater fountain – depicting an ogre about to wolf down a baby, with a bag of additional ones ready for dessert. Others are much more pleasant, such as the Anna-Seiler-Brunnen, portraying one of Bern’s good denizens. (Anna Seiler founded the city’s first hospital in 1354. Today, 660 years later, the hospital is still in operation.)

Most of the fountains of Bern are created by Hans Gieng, who lived and worked here in the 1540s. Pfeiferbrunnen (The Piper, in the photo above) is located on Spitalgasse, just 2-3 minutes from the railway station.

World at a Glance is a series of short articles here on Sophie’s World, with a single photo – portraying curious, evocative, happy, sad or wondrous, unexpected little encounters.

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  1. Muza-chan 4 December 2014 at 0841 - Reply


    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 18 December 2014 at 0730 - Reply

      … and unusual.

  2. Lisa Goodmurphy 9 December 2014 at 0215 - Reply

    Bern sounds like quite an interesting city to visit although I have to admit that it hasn’t been on my radar. We have been to Geneva and would love to visit more of Switzerland so I’ll have to add it to our list.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 18 December 2014 at 0730 - Reply

      I love traveling in Switzerland, specially outside the major cities.

  3. Molly @Green Global Travel 9 December 2014 at 0216 - Reply

    What an elaborate fountain! You’re right – I’ve heard so much more about Zurich and Geneva, but Bern look beautiful.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 18 December 2014 at 0731 - Reply

      Well worth a closer look Bern is.

  4. marlys 9 December 2014 at 0703 - Reply

    Sounds interesting enough to visit just for these fountains. Basically, I’m not a big fan of Switzerland.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 18 December 2014 at 0731 - Reply


  5. Freya 10 December 2014 at 1540 - Reply

    I have to admit that I’ve never visited Bern yet. I love fountains so you just gave me an additional reason to put it on my list.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 18 December 2014 at 0732 - Reply

      Next time in Switzerland, then 🙂

  6. Leigh 10 December 2014 at 2243 - Reply

    Many years ago I lived in Neuchtel for a short time so I used to go to Bern. Unfortunately I didn’t appreciate architecture or photography at the time.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 18 December 2014 at 0733 - Reply

      I seem to have memories of a time when I didn’t much appreciate architecture or nature, took it all for granted.. Comes back to haunt me a bit now.

  7. Agata 15 December 2014 at 0647 - Reply

    What a nice story! And – obviously – although I visited Switzerland I have never been to Bern. Zurich, Geneva and Lausanne did not impress me that much. The sense of discipline and order was somehow overwhelming so perhaps I should go back and visit Bern this time? I like fountains and your story made it intriguing!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 18 December 2014 at 0734 - Reply

      I like both the Northern European sense of order and the southern, what to call it… more haphazard attitude.

  8. Mary {The World Is A Book} 16 December 2014 at 0707 - Reply

    Beautiful photo, Sophie! I haven’t heard much of Bern either but did know it was the Swiss capital 🙂 That fountain is just beautiful. We love fountains and this sounds like an interesting and charming city to visit.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 18 December 2014 at 0736 - Reply

      Hope your top by some time, Mary 🙂

  9. Jade 26 January 2015 at 0750 - Reply

    I have only passed through Switzerland, never properly visited. When I finally do I will have to put Bern on the hit list.

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