City of Fountains

Colourful figures, skillfully crafted pillars and detailed decorations – those are the characteristics of Bern’s fountains. The medieval works of art were once important meeting points for locals and still form an essential part of Bern’s image.

The world’s most charming traffic blocks

Be it fountains, cisterns, the subterranean stream or the Aare river – in Bern, water is omnipresent. There are over 100 public fountains in Bern’s Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Apart from their decorative character and interesting history, Bern’s fountains obviously also have a functional aspect. The cool water flowing from their spouts is drinkable and free for everyone. And the pragmatic locals have combined the useful with the beautiful, placing some of the fountains on busy streets and therefore making them – as people call it – the world’s most charming traffic blocks.

The history of Bern’s public water supply dates all the way back to the Middle Ages: in the 13th century, there were already several standpipes in the city of the Zähringen people. The water came from the city’s underground stream, wells and probably cisterns. The main supply was the city’s creek. It was used as sewage, transported water to fight fires and connected – and still connects – Bern’s fountains. Around 1550, the city replaced the then wooden fountains with elaborate stone ones.

Bernese Fountains – Centre of Everyday Life

The Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen (Justice Fountain)

In the past, the public fountain played an important role in the everyday hustle and bustle of the city. Apart from supplying water, it also had an important social role.

It was a watering hole where people met up, chatted, exchanged news, settled disputes, discussed politics and made deals. Women and maids carried large copper pots to the fountains to bring back water for household use, water carriers filled their containers and brought them to people’s homes for a small fee, and waggoners came to water their horses. The lower, smaller basins were built specifically for animals and are a reminiscence of the times when cows and horses were led through the streets and alleys of Bern.

Lenbrunnen (Len Fountain)

The Lenbrunnen (Len Fountain)

When the State Chancellery at 68/70 Postgasse was renovated in 1992, an important archeological site was unearthed: the tower-like cistern – Len Fountain – in the basement of the building is the capital’s oldest preserved historic monument.

In the past, the public would get safe and clean drinking water from the well chamber of the once three-storied building. In the Middle Ages, Len Fountain, with its holding capacity of 15,000 litres, carried enough water for all 3,000 of the city’s inhabitants – this was possible because people at the time used only around three to five litres a day. Today, the reservoir is open to guided groups, thanks to careful and elaborate restoration. There are plaques and a model on location to tell visitors about the history of Len Fountain.

Allegorical Fountain Figures, or: Lady Justice and the Ogre

Bern’s eleven historical fountain figures are eye-catchers. Be it in remembrance of heroes, historical events or social ideals: every fountain has its own history and special meaning. What most of them have in common is the creator: eight of the eleven figures were made by sculptor Hans Gieng from Freiburg, who seems to have lived and worked in Bern in the 1540s. The fountains remain the same as when they were constructed and are magnificent examples of Renaissance art. The designs and pompous figures are indications of the prosperity and wealth of the bourgeoisie at the time.

  • Kindlifresserbrunnen (Kornhausplatz)

    Kornhausplatz 18
    3011 Bern

    Directions

  • Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen (Gerechtigkeitsgasse)

    Gerechtigkeitsgasse
    3011 Bern

    Directions

  • Läuferbrunnen (Läuferplatz)

    Läuferplatz
    3011 Bern

    Directions

  • Vennerbrunnen (Rathausplatz)

    Rathausplatz
    3011 Bern

    Directions

  • Mosesbrunnen (Münsterplatz)

    Münsterplatz
    3011 Bern

    Directions

  • Simsonbrunnen (Kramgasse, mittlerer Teil)

    Kramgasse
    3011 Bern

    Directions

  • Zähringerbrunnen (Kramgasse, oberer Teil)

    Kramgasse
    3011 Bern

    Directions

  • Schützenbrunnen (Marktgasse)

    Marktgasse
    3011 Bern

    Directions

  • Anna-Seiler-Brunnen (Marktgasse)

    Marktgasse
    3011 Bern

    Directions

  • Ryfflibrunnen (Aarbergergasse)

    Aarbergergasse
    3011 Bern

    Directions

  • Pfeiferbrunnen (Spitalgasse)

    Spitalgasse
    3011 Bern

    Directions

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