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The Medieval City of Burgdorf, Switzerland

(Last Updated On: October 20, 2023)

Burgdorf is the gateway to the Emme’s Valley (Emmental in German), a hilly region in the heart of Switzerland best known for its cheese of the same name, the Emmental Cheese.

With its Gothic houses and cobblestone streets, Burgdorf is an attractive little city. Nearby are beautiful views and rolling hills; the Emme River is a great place to swim in summer.

Burgdorf: A Brief Overview

Image of Burgdorf by TouringSwitzerland.com

Although Burgdorf is a small city, it’s the largest in the Emmental region of Switzerland. This charming yet compact town has a population of almost 15,000 people. Located approximately 25 kilometers northeast of Switzerland’s federal city of Bern, Burgdorf is well worth a visit. 

Due to its importance, both economically and geographically, it was the center of livestock trade back then.

Burgdorf still has all its Gothic houses, as well as the 1490 local church. There are pretty guild houses and colorful buildings in the lower part of the city. Also worth visiting is the Wynigen Bridge from 1776.

Nowadays, Burgdorf has several engine factories as well as several branches of the University of Applied Sciences in Bern.


History of Burgdorf

Image of Burgdorf Village by TouringSwitzerland.com

Burgdorf, Switzerland has been inhabited since the Neolithic Age. Yet Burgdorf would rise to prominence in the High Middle Ages.

Once, it was ruled by the Kingdom of Burgundy, then by the Dukes of Zähringen. Burgdorf was passed to the Kyburg Counts after the Zähringen line died out in 1278.

Due to debt and civil unrest, the Kyburgs sold Burgdorf and Thun to Bern in 1384. The subsequent mayors of Bern made the castle their residence. Burgdorf is still part of Bern today.

Burgdorf has always had a unique autonomy in Bern due to its history as a separate town with its own mayor, council, and courts. Burgdorf had its own guilds, craftsmen, and trades. So, it was able to prosper and build public buildings, maintain its infrastructure (church, city hall, market), and strengthen fortifications.

After new trade routes were built and fires ravaged the town, Burgdorf eventually lost its former economic significance.


Emmental Region

Emmen Valley. Image by Martin Abegglen from flickr

Emmental Valley (or Emme’s Valley) and the Emmental River are separate geographical areas in Bern. Emmental is a hilly region in Bern, further north than Diemtigtal or Brienz and at a lower elevation.

It’s got a milder terrain that’s good for farming compared to the other nearby regions. In fact, the region is known for its famous cheese – the Emmental cheese.

Emmental cheese is a medium-firm Swiss cheese. Its yellow color and many eyes make it stand out.

Emmental cheese is made in the Emmental valley in the canton of Bern, and it has been made since the 13th century. Emmental, Emmentaler and Emmentaler cheese are the same thing. It’s one of the most popular Swiss cheeses and deserves a permanent spot in your fridge and on your cutting board.


Places to Visit in Burgdorf

Burgdorf Castle

Image of Burgdorf Castle by TouringSwitzerland.com

Burgdorf Castle, which sits majestically on a hill above the city, was built in 1175. 800 years old, the Burgdorf Castle is a Swiss heritage site of national significance.

The Burgdorf Castle was first mentioned in 1080 as castellum Bertoldi ducis. The castle now houses a museum.

As a museum, the castle shows a myriad of treasures in 20 different rooms totaling 1500 m2. In the museum, you’ll learn about the history of the castle, the region, and the city. There is also a knight’s collection, a gold collection, and more. 

If you would like to learn more about Burgdorf Castle, you can visit their website at https://schloss-burgdorf.ch/en/.

Old Town of Burgdorf

Image of Burgdorf Town by TouringSwitzerland.com

These days, the old town is a popular place for entertainment, culture, shopping, strolling, and market-going. There are two parts to Burgdorf’s Old Town: the upper town and the lower town.

  • The upper town between the castle and the church hill was a feudal town.
  • The lower town was a commercial area in which all the trades and shops were located.

Church

Image of Burgdorf Church by TouringSwitzerland.com

The Burgdorf Reformed Church is a late Gothic building built under Niklaus Birenvogt between 1471 and 1490. The church has a 72-meter-high tower and a historic main organ. It also has six bells, of which 5 were cast in 1865 by the Rüetschi bell foundry in Aarau.

Final Thoughts: Burgdorf, Switzerland

With great transport links, Burgdorf in Bern, Switzerland is easy to reach. The city isn’t just charming and romantic; it’s also got a long history and a beautiful setting. You can stroll around the old city center, visit the Burgdorf castle, bike around the valley, and more.

So, if you haven’t been here, you should definitely add it to your list.

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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.

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