The city of Bern or Berne is the de facto capital of Switzerland, referred to by the Swiss as their Bundesstadt, or federal city. With a population of 141,762, Bern is the fourth-most populous city in Switzerland, the Bern agglomeration, which includes 36 municipalities, had a population of 406,900 in 2014. The metropolitan area had a population of 660,000 in 2000, Bern is also the capital of the canton of Bern, the second-most populous of Switzerlands cantons. The official language in Bern is German, but the language is an Alemannic Swiss German dialect. In 1983, the old town in the centre of Bern became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Bern is ranked among the top ten cities for the best quality of life. The etymology of the name Bern is uncertain and it has long been considered likely that the city was named after the Italian city of Verona, which at the time was known as Bern in Middle High German. As a result of the find of the Bern zinc tablet in the 1980s, it is now common to assume that the city was named after a pre-existing toponym of Celtic origin. The bear was the animal of the seal and coat of arms of Bern from at least the 1220s. The earliest reference to the keeping of bears in the Bärengraben dates to the 1440s. No archaeological evidence that indicates a settlement on the site of city centre prior to the 12th century has been found so far. In antiquity, a Celtic oppidum stood on the Engehalbinsel north of Bern, fortified since the second century BC, during the Roman era, a Gallo-Roman vicus was on the same site. The Bern zinc tablet has the name Brenodor, in the Early Middle Ages, a settlement in Bümpliz, now a city district of Bern, was some 4 km from the medieval city. The medieval city is a foundation of the Zähringer ruling family, according to 14th-century historiography, Bern was founded in 1191 by Berthold V, Duke of Zähringen. In 1218, after Berthold died without an heir, Bern was made an imperial city by the Goldene Handfeste of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. In 1353, Bern joined the Swiss Confederacy, becoming one of the eight cantons of the period of 1353 to 1481. The city grew out towards the west of the boundaries of the peninsula formed by the river Aare, the Zytglogge tower marked the western boundary of the city from 1191 until 1256, when the Käfigturm took over this role until 1345. It was, in turn, succeeded by the Christoffelturm until 1622, during the time of the Thirty Years War, two new fortifications – the so-called big and small Schanze – were built to protect the whole area of the peninsula
The construction of the Untertor-bridge in Bern, Tschachtlanchronik, late 15th century
Bern in 1638
View of Bern from the ISS: The Old City is in the lower, right hand side.