The Parliament Building in Bern: History & Politics

Parliament Building from Bundesplatz

The Parliament building in Bern is an imposing presence that helps to dominate the skyline when you view it from over the Aare river. It is one of the most imposing and impressive landmarks in Bern, and is definitely worth a visit if you are in town.

Dating from 1902, the large green dome rises high above the Bundesplatz square in Bern old town. The building is incorporated into the larger 300m long Federal Palace, which dates back to 1857.

The Parliament building is home to the two chambers of parliament: the National Council and the Council of States. There are also party offices and places to eat in the building.

The Federal Palace is home to various ministries, the Federal Chancellery and Federal Council. There are further departments in the eastern side wing.

Parliament Building History

With Switzerland’s constitution being enacted in 1848 a capital city was soon chosen and obviously, it was Bern. The authorities then had to find a location for the Parliament building, and the current location was chosen. At the time it was a lumber yard next to a casino. Today, it is a work on art!

The Zurich architect Hans Wilhelm Auer was asked to design and construct the current Parliament building late in the 19th century. Completed in 1902, it is indeed a landmark building in the skyline of Bern.

Auer was a great choice for the Parliament building. He recognised the need to include all the Swiss cantons and included materials from over 13 of them in its construction. This includes marble, sandstone, gneiss, granite, and serpentinite rocks, as well as a few minor inclusions of Italian and Belgian rock for some sculptures. Only Swiss companies were hired for the project too, which included sculptors, glass artists and painters from around the country.

Parliament building over the Aare river

Visiting The Parliament Building

You can actually visit the Parliament building in Bern on a free guided tour of the building itself. You have to book a ticket at least 3 days ahead of your visit. And you can also book at maximum of six months in advance.

A valid ID or passport is required upon arrival, as well as a valid ticket. It is not possible to just turn up and visit the Parliament building.

Guided tours of the building are available on the following days and times:

  • Tuesday & Thursday: French – 11.30 am, German 3 pm
  • Wednesday & Friday: German – 11.30 am, German 3 pm
  • Saturday: French 11.30 am, Italian – 1.30 pm, English – 2 pm, German 3 pm

Written by Ashley Faulkes
As a twenty-year resident of Switzerland, I am passionate about exploring every nook and cranny of this beautiful country, I spend my days deep in the great Swiss outdoors, and love to share these experiences and insights with fellow travel enthusiasts.

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