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Bear Park

What Is Bear Park?

Bear Park sounds like a strange name. What is it? The Barengraben, also called the Bear Pit or Bear Park, is a major tourist attraction in Bern, the Swiss capital. It is a bear pit. A bear pit is an enclosure with bears inside, and visitors can go and see the bears. It’s like a zoo, but it’s a miniature form thereof – and it just has bears. The Bear Pit is at the eastern edge of the medieval city center. It is adjacent to the River Aar and the Nydeggbruke. Even though it is still maintained, the Bear Pit has been helped for the last five years by the adjacent BarenPark - a bigger and simpler enclosure on the River Aar. 

The BarenPark and Barengraben are operated as a geographically unique part of the Dahlholzli Zoo. The Barengraben is designated as an official Swiss heritage site of important and national significance, and it is of special significance in the city of Bern because the animal is a symbol of Bern and the canton that surrounds it, and it is included in the city’s coat of arms.

History 

The bear has long served as a symbol of the city. There is a legend surrounding the use of the bear as a symbol in the coat of arms and for the city as a whole. Way back in time, in 1191, Duke Berthold V of Zahringen wanted to choose as a namesake whatever the hunting party first met in the forest that was to be cut down for Bern, his new city. The hunting party caught a bear first, and that is why the city is named Bern. 

The original records of bears being kept in the city are from 1513, when a chronicler noted how the Bernese came home victorious from an important battle, carrying both the living bear and captured standards as spoils of war. 

The very first bear pit was located at what is still referred to, to this day, as Bear Plaza.

Bear Park Photo Gallery

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