Bern or Berne, Switzerland, the federal capital and the capital of Bern canton. The city lies on the Aare River in west-central Switzerland, about midway between Zürich and Geneva. To the south, within sight of the city, rise the majestic Bernese Alps. Bern's Old Town, occupying a hill nearly surrounded by the river, has arcaded streets and an almost medieval appearance. High bridges across the river provide access to newer sections of the city.

Bern is primarily a government center, with federal and cantonal offices, foreign embassies, and several international organizations. It is also a thriving tourist attraction as well as a manufacturing, commercial banking, transportation, and educational center. The University of Bern, founded in 1834, is one of the nation's largest institutions of higher learning.

Among Bern's old buildings are the cathedral, built largely between 1421 and 1573, and the town hall, 1406–17. Probably most famous are the 16th-century Clock Tower, which features a comic parade of figures before striking the hour, and the brightly colored street fountains. Museums of natural history, fine arts, local history, and the Alps house valuable collections. The Bear Pits have been the home of the city's mascots for more than 500 years. (Bern's name comes from the German word for bears and its coat of arms features the bear.)

Bern was founded in 1191 as a fortified town and made a free imperial city by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in 1218. The city prospered and extended its realm, mainly at the expense of Burgundy. Bern joined the Swiss Confederation in 1353 and became its most powerful member. The city adopted Protestantism in 1528. Bern's power declined after occupation by the French during the Napoleonic era. In 1848 the city was made the federal capital.

Population: 134, 393.