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Bern or Berne: What is the Difference?

Last Updated on May 21, 2024 by Darla Uhl

Bern and Berne are both names for the same city in Switzerland. The names Bern and Berne also refer to the Canton of Bern. It is considered the federal city of Switzerland.

Bern is a big canton situated in the heart of Switzerland. Surrounding it are the cantons of Solothurn, Jura, Neuchâtel, Fribourg, Valais, Uri, Obwalden, Lucerne, and Aarau.

  • Bern is the German and English name for the city of Bern.
  • Berne is the French name for the city of Bern.
  • Berna is the Italian and Romansh name for the city of Bern.

According to legend, the name came from a bear that the Duke of Zähringen, Berchtold V, encountered on a hunt. The name may also be related to Verona in Italy, which was also called Bern in Middle High German. 


City of Bern

Image of a Bear in the Bear Pit, Bern by TouringSwitzerland

In the very heart of Switzerland lies the lovely city of Bern. Whatever your interests, Bern has something for you, whether you’re into history, art, animals, or just relaxing in a beautiful setting.

Bern is Switzerland’s federal city. Nestled along the banks of the Aare River, the city is surrounded by mountains. When you take the time to explore this city, you’ll find it’s got a lot to offer.

If you are interested in more information, we have an article describing how you could spend one day in Bern.


Canton Bern

Image by TouringSwitzerland.com

Bern is divided into 10 political districts, but Interlaken-Oberhasli is where most of the canton’s best tourist spots are. 

There are a lot of beautiful places to visit in canton Bern, but here are a few of the most notable ones: 

  • Interlaken-Oberhasli District – Lauterbrunnen Valley, which is filled with waterfalls, picturesque car-free villages like Wengen and Mürren, and mountains galore, is part of this district. 
  • Emmental Valley – Home of the famous Swiss cheese with holes, Emme’s valley is a hilly area around the rivers of Emme and Ilfis. Dairy farming is a big part of the area. The medieval city of Burgdorf is located in this valley.
  • Bernese Jura – Located in the north of canton Bern, Bernese Jura is a French-speaking area near Basel. You can find the beautiful medieval village of La Neuveville in this region.
  • Thun – The gorgeous town of Thun is on the shores of Lake Thun with castles, an old town, and fantastic mountain views.
  • Obersimmental-Saanen– This district includes the spa town of Lenk im Simmental. There are tons of traditional wooden houses and lots of untouched nature. It is home to the Siebenbrunnen waterfalls.

Bern and Berne are both correct and can be used interchangeably. The name Bern is what is known internationally, but if you are in that place, you might also see the name Berne occasionally.

You don’t need to worry since both words refer to the same city and the locals will understand both.

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.

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