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The picture shows a panel discussion in a busy event room. A speaker is standing in front of the audience, which is listening attentively. The atmosphere is serious and engaged, reflected by the interested audience and the focussed panel participants.
The picture shows female visitors on a guided tour of the Käfigturm Political Forum. Their interested gaze and attentive posture indicate an in-depth engagement with the content. There is an atmosphere of reflection and learning in a historical context.

Käfigturm (Prison Tower)

In the past, Käfigturm was where criminals were interrogated and locked up, today it is a space for political discussions. The former city gate at the upper end of Marktgasse is an important landmark of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Bern and home of the Polit-Forum Bern (Political Forum Bern).

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  • City of Bern
  • Historic sites

Whether Ferdinand Hodler, one of Switzerland’s most famous painters of the 19th century, was really born in Käfigturm, is not completely sure. Fact is: before he was born, his mother worked there as a cook. She would go and fetch water from the nearby Seilerbrunnen (Anna Seiler Fountain), where she met her future husband and Ferdinand’s father.

But the Käfigturm was not known as a romantic place in the past: it was built in 1256 and was initially a defence tower and Bern’s city gate, but when the city expanded in the 14th century, its use changed. After the devastating fire in 1405, Käfigturm took over the functions of the destroyed Zytglogge (Clock Tower) and, from then on, served as a prison. In the rooms of the tower, suspects were interrogated and locked up. Today, scribbles on the dungeon doors remind us of the inmates’ fates.

By the way: the murders, thefts and other crimes as well as interrogations, confessions and verdicts were documented in the so-called “Tower Books”.

In 1641, a commission of the Bernese Council decided to tear down the 400-year-old, run down tower and rebuild it in the same spot. The extended tower now had more space for prisoners and served as a prison for another two centuries. After the new district prison was completed in 1897, the prisoners were transferred and the tower was used as an archive for the canton of Bern.

Käfigturm today: Politics and Culture

Today, the Käfigturm stands for democracy, participation and exchange. It has been the home of the country’s political forum since 1999 and hosts many exhibitions and events on various political topics. The association “Polit-Forum Bern” (Political Forum Bern) has been running the forum since 2017 and is made up of the city and the canton of Bern, the Civic Community Bern, the Roman-Catholic Central Conference and the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches.

The Käfigturm as a political forum

Discussions, debates on current votes or exhibitions on political topics: the Polit-Forum Bern in the Käfigturm offers the public easy access to politics.

Careful: don’t confuse the forum with the “Theater am Käfigturm” (Theatre by the Käfigturm): it is not located, as one might assume, by the Käfigturm, but on the second basement floor at Spitalgasse 4 (a few metres away from Käfigturm in the direction of the main station). 

Bear liberation in Bern

When the fools are out and about in Bern, it's carnival time. During three colourful and noisy days, Guggen, Schnitzelbänkler, tambourine and whistling groups as well as costume fans celebrate in the alleyways of the Lower Old Town. A special experience and an integral part of Bern's carnival is the bear release: during this spectacle, the carnival bear is woken from its slumber and freed from its cage in the cage tower. After this official opening of the festivities, the colourful parade makes its way through the streets of the Old Town.


Käfigturm (Prison Tower)
Marktgasse 67
3011 Bern

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