The city grew out towards the west of the boundaries of the peninsula formed by the River Aare. Initially, the Zytglogge tower marked the western boundary of the city from 1191 until 1256, when the Käfigturm took over this role until 1345, which, in turn, was then succeeded by the Christoffelturm (located close to today's train station) until 1622. During the time of the Thirty Years' War two new fortifications, the so-called big and small Schanze (entrenchment), were built to protect the whole area of the peninsula.
As with most other cities in Switzerland, store opening and closing hours in Berne are strictly regulated. All stores, including grocers, close by 7PM or 7.30pm from Monday to Friday, except on Thursdays when they remain open until 9.30PM. Aldi supermarkets are an exception, closing at 8PM during the week. On Saturdays everything must close by 5PM. On Sundays, all stores are closed, except for those in the main railway station, which are open 7 days a week until about 10PM, and which include Migros and Coop supermarkets. Rathausgasse and the streets parallel to it have any number of cute shops with an amazing range of handicraft and luxury goods. This is not the normal range of swiss souvenir stuff, but really interesting things.
- The Bern Minster (German: Berner Münster) is a Swiss Reformed cathedral, (or minster) in the old city of Bern. Built in the Gothic style, its construction started in 1421. Its tower, with a height of 100.6 m (330 ft), was only completed in 1893. It is the tallest cathedral in Switzerland and is a Cultural Property of National Significance. The Minster of Bern is located on the southern side of the Aare peninsula. The cathedral is oriented east and west like the rest of the Old City of Bern. To the north, Münstergasse runs along the side of the building. The west façade of the Münster dominates Münsterplatz. On the south side of the cathedral is the Münsterplattform. Over the main portal is one of the most complete Late Gothic sculpture collections in Europe. This collection represents the Christian belief in a Last Judgment where the wicked will be separated from the righteous. This sculpture shows the wicked naked on the right, while the righteous stand clothed in white on the left. In the centre is Justice, with Saints and the wise and foolish virgins around her. In the centre stands Michael the Archangel with a raised sword.
- The Federal Palace is the name of the building in Bern in which the Swiss Federal Assembly (federal parliament) and the Federal Council are housed. It consists of a central parliament building and two wings (eastern and western) housing government departments and library. The building was designed by the architect Hans Auer and its inauguration took place on 1 April 1902. The total cost, at the time, was 7,198,000 Swiss Francs.
- The Einsteinhaus (Einstein House) is a museum and a former residence of Albert Einstein. It is located on Kramgasse No. 49. A flat on the second floor of the house was occupied by Albert Einstein, his wife Mileva Marić and their son Hans Albert Einstein from 1903 to 1905. The Annus Mirabilis papers, which contributed substantially to the foundation of modern physics, were written by Einstein in 1905, while he worked at the Federal Institute of Intellectual Property. The living conditions of Einstein and his family are shown accurately in the apartment on the second floor with furniture from that time. Einstein’s biography and his life’s work are presented on the third floor.A larger permanent exhibition is located at the Historical Museum of Bern.
- The Church of the Holy Ghost is a Swiss Reformed Church. The Swiss heritage site of national significance building is located at Spitalgasse 44 in the Old City of Bern. It is one of largest Swiss Reformed churches in Switzerland. The first church was a chapel built for the Holy Ghost hospital and abbey. The chapel, hospital and abbey were first mentioned in 1228 and at the time sat about 150 meters (490 ft) outside the western gate in the first city wall. This building was replaced by the second church between 1482 and 1496. During the 15th century, the Holy Ghost Abbey began to slowly decline. In 1528 the church was secularized by the reformers and the last two monks at the Abbey were driven out of Bern. During the following years it was used as a granary. In 1604 it was again used for religious services, as the hospital church for the Oberer Spital. At that time the church had a maximum capacity of about 750. The second church was demolished in 1726 to make way for a new church building.
- The Zytglogge tower is a landmark medieval tower. Built in the early 13th century, it has served the city as guard tower, prison, clock tower, centre of urban life and civic memorial. Despite the many redecorations and renovations it has undergone in its 800 years of existence, the Zytglogge is one of Bern's most recognisable symbols and, with its 15th-century astronomical clock, a major tourist attraction. It is a heritage site of national significance, and part of the Old City of Bern, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site.