The city of Biel in the canton of Bern is the largest bilingual city in Switzerland. The two languages, which can be heard in every street, give the city its own, friendly flair. Hallo/Grüezi and bonjour, auf Wiedersehen and au revoir – in Biel/Bienne a dictionary is superfluous, as most of the inhabitants are fluent in both languages.
Swiss watch metropolis
The city of Biel is the watch metropolis of Switzerland. Rolex, Swatch, Omega or Tissot – all world-famous brands are at home here. If you want to follow in the footsteps of the traditional Swiss watchmaking craft, Biel is the place to be.
Modernity in the Middle Ages
Most people think Biel is a pure industrial city. Yet the city on the lake of the same name impresses with its medieval, charming old town centre. With its charming terraces, picturesque squares and small shops, the old town invites you to stroll around. During an extensive walk through the city centre, one has the feeling of coming across two worlds here. On the one hand, the cozy old town shows its medieval charm and at the same time, one is amazed by a very modern city center with numerous, glamorous buildings.
Three Lakes Land
But Biel has even more to offer, because the landscape of Biel is a real gem. The city is located in the middle of the Three Lakes Land, around which lie Lakes Biel, Neuchâtel and Murten. The people of Biel live where others like to spend their holidays. In the midst of beautiful, unspoilt nature, you will find pure peace and relaxation.
Historic old town with its own charm
The heart of the historic old town is the gothic town church from the 15th century. Around it, the many small alleys with their typical cobblestone pavement and colourful house facades radiate their charm.
A special feature of the old town are the numerous, well-preserved fountains from which one can enjoy clear drinking water from the Roman spring.
Fountains with lots of symbolism
- The Venner Fountain, which is located on the ring of the old town, is the oldest fountain in the city and stands for defensiveness and the right to own troops. The base was already built in 1546 and the standard-bearer followed in 1557.
- The fountain of justice at the castle square was built in 1535. It owes its name to Juistita, but it was not until 1714 that it was designed by the Frenchman Jean Boyer. It symbolizes the own jurisdiction.
- The Angel Fountain is located in the Obergasse. It is the symbol for the protection of the human soul from evil and was built in 1563.
Modern New Town – Style of “New Building”
The new town of Biel/Bienne cannot be compared with the old town. Here a completely different facet is revealed. Around the railway station and the central square of the city there are incredible buildings in the Bauhaus style from the 1920s and 1930s. At that time, the houses were uniformly built of white or beige Jurassic stones and were created in the style of the “New Building”.
In 2004, the people of Biel were even awarded the Swiss Wakker Prize for special handling of the sometimes outstanding building fabric of the 20th century. However, ultra-modern new buildings, luxurious high-rise buildings and chic company buildings are also to be found in this part of the city.
Meeting place: Bieler “Mushrooms”
And there is something else you discover during a walk through the city of Biel/Bienne: “mushrooms” are everywhere.
The well-preserved tram shelters from the 1930s are affectionately called mushrooms by the locals because of their shape. Nowadays, they often serve as bus shelters or simply as a common meeting place and are a beloved feature of Biel/Bienne for the locals.
For art and culture lovers
The Centre PasquArt is one of the most beautiful art museums for sculpture, graphics and photography. It was extended in 2000 by a whole new complex of buildings, where exciting changing performances take place again and again. Whether you are a lover of new art or would like to be inspired by extraordinary photographs, a visit to the Centre PasquArt is definitely worthwhile.
If you want to follow the traces of watchmaking, a visit to the Omega Museum is not to be missed. Here, one does not only find the first workbench with which Louis Brand founded his company, but also very special timepieces that have been worn, for example, on a royal wrist or that have already had a trip into space.
A city full of life
A glance at the event schedule of the city of Biel proves that this city is full of life. Every year a colourful art, culture and sports programme is presented. The Bieler Fasnacht, the Bieler Lauf-Tage, the Bieler Braderie or the traditional International Chess Festival – the calendar of events in the city of Biel is again full to bursting with great events this year.
Another highlight in Biel is the Tissot Arena, which is the perfect venue for numerous major events due to its modern construction. A shopping centre, an ice stadium, a football stadium and much more are all under one roof here.
Pure relaxation on St. Peter’s Island
If you simply want to enjoy a little time out, you will find recreation on St. Peter’s Island near Biel. After a short boat trip across Lake Biel, you reach the car-free St. Peter’s Island with its breathtaking, unspoilt natural landscape. After a short walk from the shore, you reach the enchanting monastery hotel, where you can enjoy the peace and quiet of nature with a cosy cup of tea.
A famous visitor of the island was Jean Jacques Rousseau, who did not want to leave from here. Those who want to learn more about the exciting history of the St. Peter’s Island should not miss a special guided tour through the island.
All in all
Biel is certainly not the largest or most glamorous city in Switzerland. But the numerous aspects mentioned make a visit worthwhile. The two-language society mentioned above is a phenomenon that we Swiss encounter time and again. It is not for nothing that we have had French lessons at school since we were small children. The beautiful Swiss German was already in our cradle and we would like to pass it on to you – Let’s go!
Better Swiss German than French
You speak French? No? Then register today for our online course so that the next time you visit Biel, you will at least speak Swiss German.