In what appears to be a monumental castle from the outside is actually the Bern Historical Museum (or Bernisches Historisches Museum in German) inside. More than half a million objects from different cultures around the world are housed at the Bern Historical Museum. In Switzerland, it is the second-largest historical museum after that in Zurich.
Bern Historical Museum displays a collection of cultural objects not just from Switzerland, but from around the world. This museum has a lot of exhibits, including Bern and its history, art and silver, and even Asian history (India, Tibet, China, Japan). In addition to that, it has a museum about Albert Einstein on the second floor.
Short History: Bern Historical Museum
The Swiss National Museum was originally planned for Bern, but the project was moved to Zurich where the current Landesmuseum stands today. So, a smaller cantonal project was funded by the city and canton of Bern without federal assistance.
The Bern Historical Museum’s building was finished after a two-year construction period in 1894. André Lambert and Eduard von Rodt designed the museum in the form of a castle after studying various structures. This museum is built on a small artificial hill and features 16th and 17th century architectural styles.
You’ll find this beautiful museum in the heart of Bern near Helvetiaplatz. The Kirchenfeld Bridge (Kirchenfeldbrücke) spans the Aare River just across the street from this building. Other museums nearby include the Natural History Museum of Bern, the Museum of Communication, the Alpine Museum of Switzerland, and the Art Museum (Kunsthalle Bern).
After 80 years, it was expanded to include Kubus, a more modern-looking building, to accommodate more exhibition halls.
What to Expect: Bern Historical Museum
During your visit to the Museum, you will be able to see artifacts from other parts of the world (Asia, Africa, Central America, and more). There are more than half a million items from all over the world in the museum. Compared to the Swiss National Museum in Zurich, this museum is smaller and exhibits Albert Einstein’s work and life.
In this museum, Bern’s history is explained through antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the modern era. The collections are located on several floors, each divided into themes or eras.
|Third Floor (3)||Bern and the 20th century|
|Second Floor (2)||Einstein Museum|
|First Floor (1)||Captured treasure – Court art in Bern (1250 to 1520)|
|Mezzanine||Treasures from Ancient Egypt|
|Ground Floor (0)||Cultures in Asia, Stone Age, Celts, Romans|
|Mezzanine||Glory and decline of the Ancien Régime, Bern’s silver treasure|
|Basement (-1)||Early Middle Ages to Ancien Régime|
Among the artifacts you can expect to find are weapons, costumes, antiquities, farming tools, coins, and artwork.
For Swiss Museum Pass holders, school groups (need to register), and Kultur-GA members, Bern Historical Museum is free.
Albert Einstein Museum
In case you were wondering what Albert Einstein had to do with Bern, Einstein lived and worked in Bern during the early 20th century. Einstein Museum covers his life, his works in Switzerland, Germany, and the United States, as well as Jewish Heritage documentaries, audio, and some images.
Albert Einstein developed his famous formula E = mc2 while he was living in Bern. There is a 1,000m2 exhibition space dedicated to this brilliant physicist. There are three languages available for the exhibition texts: German, French, and English. In addition, an audio guide is available in nine languages.
Although the Albert Einstein Museum started out as a temporary collection, it soon became a permanent part of the museum. For more information about Albert Einstein’s life, you may also visit the Einstein House located at Kramgasse 49 in the city center.
How to Get to the Bern Historical Museum
|Address||Helvetiapl. 5, 3005 Bern|
|By Tram||Bern, Helvetiaplatz|
|By Bus||Bern, Helvetiaplatz|
Final Thoughts: Bern Historical Museum
For travelers spending a day in Bern, the Bern Historical Museum is an ideal place to visit since it is located so close to the city center. While the collection continues to grow, the museum presents it in a clear and effective way.
For history, culture, and architecture lovers, the Bern Historical Museum is a must-see in Bern. You can easily spend a couple of hours learning about local history at the museum as well as learning more about Albert Einstein’s life.
If you have an opportunity to come in, I highly recommend it. Having been there twice, I enjoy exploring its treasures.
- Bern: Bernisches Historisches Museum. Abteilung für Völkerkunde. Ethnologica Helvetica, Band 2-3, 1979.
- Joanelly, Tibor. Enigma: Erweiterung des Historischen Museums Bern von :mlzd. Werk, Bauen + Wohnen, Band 96, 2009.
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Darla Uhl is the owner of TouringSwitzerland.com. Her home is in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. Having lived almost 20 years in Switzerland, she's traveled extensively all over the country.
Darla's favorite regions to visit in Switzerland include Engadin, Lake Geneva, Bernese Oberland, Ticino, and Valais. She loves spending time with her family, hiking, visiting museums, and reading books.