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Moving to Bern

Bern is a popular choice for expats: 34% of the population is resident foreign nationals. Switzerland was ranked number one in the World Happiness Report 2015 and those who make their home in Bern enjoy a good quality of life. Read more about the city, the climate and the visas in our Expat Guide.

The surrounding alpine scenery, varied flora and fauna (the city itself is home to 130 parks), and fresh mountain air make it a popular place for families, who also benefit from a top education system, first-class sporting facilities and excellent employment prospects. German is the main language spoken in Bern, though Italian, French and Romansh are also official languages. Many local residents speak English but expats looking to move to Bern should have a good grasp of German and be prepared to learn the local dialect, known as Bernese German. 

About the City

Bern is the country’s Bundesstadt, or federal city, home to the national parliament and the capital of the canton (region), also called Bern. It has a population of about 139.000, making it the fourth most populous in the country. The city is situated in the west of Switzerland, 19 kilometers north of the Bernese Alps and on a bend of the River Aare. It is well connected to the neighboring countries of France, Germany, Liechtenstein, Italy and Austria, and has excellent transport links to places further afield. Bern has a thriving economy and a very low rate of unemployment – 3.3% as of April 2015 - one of the lowest in Europe. 

The Climate in Bern

Bern’s western location in Switzerland means it has higher than average rainfall, which sweeps in from the Atlantic. It enjoys warm and often sunny weather in the spring and summer, and mild winters, when sports enthusiasts make the most of snow-covered mountains and crisp sunny days. The average temperature in July is 72°F (22°C) and in December 37°F (3°C), falling to 26°F (-3°C) at night. 

Visas for Switzerland

No visa is required for citizens of EU (European Union) or EEA (European Economic Area) countries, except Croatia. Expats residing in Bern must register at the city’s migration office within 14 days of arrival, with a residence permit application, passport, confirmation of address or tenancy agreement, passport photos and marriage certificate, if applicable. Citizens from non-EU and non-EEA countries and Croatia should enquire about visa regulations at the Swiss embassy in their home country. Swiss embassies are located across the world and there is a full list here.

Jose Carreira

"Living in Bern, the tiny capital city of Switzerland, felt very hemmed in at first. But through InterNations I met the expat community and many nice locals."

Marina Salgado

"I was amazed by the variety of people that I got to meet through InterNations Bern: diplomats, CEOs, artists and expats from all nations."

Global Expat Guide