Bern, the capital city of Switzerland, is built around a crook in the Aare River. It traces its origins back to the 12th century, with medieval architecture preserved in the Altstadt (Old Town). The Swiss Parliament and diplomats meet in the Neo-Renaissance Bundeshaus (Federal Palace). The Französische Kirche (French Church) and the nearby medieval tower known as the Zytglogge both date to the 13th century.
Berne developed along the lines of exceptionally coherent planning principles. The medieval establishment of Berne, reflecting the slow conquest of the site by urban extensions from the 12th to the 14th century, makes Berne an impressive example of the High Middle Ages with regard to the foundation of a city, figuring in the European arena among the most significant of urban planning creations. The features of Berne were modified to reflect the modern era: in the 16th century, picturesque fountains were introduced to the city and restoration work was carried out on the towers and walls and the cathedral was completed. In the 17th century, many patrician houses were built of sandy limestone, and towards the end of the 18th century, a large part of the constructed zones underwent transformation. However, this continual modernization, right through to the present day, was carried out observing the need to conserve the medieval urban structure of the city. The Old City of Berne is a unique example demonstrating a constant renewal of the built substance while respecting the original urban planning concept, and presenting a variation of the late Baroque on a theme of High Middle Ages.