Swiss Capital of Bern Has a Unique Connection to Bears

If you ever find yourself in the Swiss capital of Bern, you’ll notice bear symbols on its coat of arms and many places throughout the city. Bern is known as “the city of bears” for a reason, but have you ever wondered how it earned this famous nickname?

There’s a lot of mystery surrounding the true etymology of Bern’s name, but one legend has it that the founder of the city named it after the first animal he encountered while hunting—which just happened to be a bear.

This account was often disputed but bears still remained the symbol of this city, and they were made the heraldic animal of the seal and coat of arms of Bern all the way back in the 13th century.

Bear motifs are now scattered all around the Swiss capital, from fountains and façade decorations to some of the city’s top attractions, such as the clock tower Zytglogge. You can also buy many souvenirs and even food shaped like bears, such as chocolate and gingerbread cookies!

It’s also possible to see bears in person if you ever find yourself in Bern. Most famously, they can be found at Bärengraben aka Bear Pit, and the adjacent BärenPark and you can visit them all year round, free of charge.