Bern Europe Switzerland Travel

Bear Pits of Bern: Bärengraben and Bärenpark


Bern’s Bear Pit or Bärengraben in Switzerland has long been a tourist attraction that draws mixed reactions. The bear is the city’s mascot, an emblem that features prominently and is represented in the coat of arms.

In 1911, Berthold V, Duke of Zähringen founded Bern and named it after the first animal that was killed in a hunt. It turned out to be a bear and consequently, the animal became the symbol of the city.

From 1857 to 2009, the bears were kept in a bear pit, Bärengraben, a concrete enclosure that was more a hole in the ground than a place which represents the Swiss canton. Feeding the bears was allowed, provided you bought carrots from the store next door and threw them into the ground.

In reality, the bear pit was a pitiful enclosure in which the adorable animals were kept. Although they were looked after, we found it a sad site when we visited Bern on a day trip from Luzern.

In October 2009, Bärengraben was closed down and the bears were relocated to BärenPark, a more natural environment along the river Aare. Their new home is a lush 6000 m2 park where the ursine population can roam freely instead of being trapped in a concrete prison.

The photographs below were taken at the original bear pit, Bärengraben.

In the bear pit, waiting to be fed

Bear doing push ups

Bear gesturing people to be fed

BärenPark Berne


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About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is the Founder/Editor of popular online magazine Gourmantic and Cocktails & Bars, a website dedicated to cocktail culture and the discerning drinker. She is named in Australian Bartender Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential List since 2013, is a member of The Academy responsible for judging the World’s 50 Best Bars. She has also judged the inaugural Australasian Whisky Awards and various national cocktail competitions.