The Bernerhof – once a luxury hotel, now the headquarters of the FDF

The history of the Bernerhof began in the 19th century – the former noble hotel is now the headquarters of the Federal Department of Finance FDF.

The Federal Department of Finance (FDF) has its headquarters in the Bernerhof. Formerly a luxury hotel, it is now a modern building for public services and representation in Switzerland's capital city. The building's history is closely bound up with that of the Swiss Confederation. But not in the way that you might think.

Video: The Bernerhof - Once a prestigious hotel – today a building for public services and representation

A luxury hotel for Bern

In 1848, Bern was designated as the seat of government. Parliament would convene here four times a year. The city thus had to provide a seat for the government and its administration. The Federal State House, now the west wing of the Federal Palace, was finished in 1857. The Bernese hotelier Jean Kraft suspected that members of parliament and state guests would soon be needing appropriate accommodation in Bern. Between 1856 and 1858, he therefore built a luxury hotel, the Bernerhof, on the western side of the State House. It was designed by the same architects who were responsible for the State House, Friedrich Studer and Johann Carl Dähler. It had 123 rooms.

Famous guests

Up until 1870, the Bernerhof was the only luxury hotel in Bern. When it opened, it was considered the best hotel in Europe. Royalty and prominent figures stayed there: Napoleon III, the Emperor of France; the Empress of Russia, the Queens of Sweden and the Netherlands, the King of Siam, the Maharaja of Jodhpur in India, Baron Rothschild, the writer Carl Spitteler, the composer Jacques Offenbach, the polar explorer Roald Amundsen and many more.

A few years after the Bernerhof opened, a competitor also attracted well-heeled guests. On the eastern side of the State House, the Hotel Bellevue was built, and to this day it continues to welcome guests from around the world.

Photos of the Bernerhof

Source: Burgerbibliothek, Bern

The Bernerhof becomes a building for public services and representation

World War I saw an economic slump: from one day to the next, guests were few and far between. The hotel business never quite recovered from this. When the hotelier passed away in 1923, his widow sold the Bernerhof to the Confederation. It underwent modifications and in 1924, the Federal Department of Finance moved in.

Major renovation work also took place in 2004-2005: representation rooms were fitted out on the ground floor and the banqueting hall for state receptions was removed. At the same time, the office space was modernised. Since 2021, the fifth floor has been home to the Skylounge – a cafeteria and a space for modern ways of working.

Setting the standard in hotel architecture

The Bernerhof plays an important role in the history of hotel architecture. It served as the model for the Hotel Victoria in Interlaken, which was built between 1864 and 1866, and was the first large hotel in the budding Bernese Oberland tourist destination.

"The Bernerhof in Berne"

You can find additional information on the Bernerhof in the Swiss art guide "The Bernerhof in Berne". This is published by the Swiss Confederation together with the Society for the History of Swiss Art (SHSA). The guide can be ordered in English, French, German and Italian from the SHSA website.

The Bernerhof in Berne