This is one of the famous landmarks of the city of Berne. Many visitors try to be there at the full hour to see how the old clock work is set into motion. The best time would be at 12 noon!
It’s beginning dates back to 1220 where it was the guard tower and entrance to the newly founded city. Since the city of Berne is surrounded by the Aare river on the North, East and South side the Zytglogge tower was a formidable guard house and entrance to the newly built city.
The city however kept expanding, and there was only one direction to go – to the West, past the Zytglogge. So the function of the tower was changed and before the big city fire in 1405 the tower was turned into a prison. Later the tower was turned into the clock work tower (in Swiss German: Zytglogge). At that stage it was rebuilt using the local sandstone, which was the main building material used for all the city houses. The clock audibly regularly rang the time for the whole city. The Zytglogge tower was the center from which distances were measured. For instance to walk from the Zytglogge across to Gümligen took one hour. At a specific spot in Gümligen an old stone is marked with the indicator: 1 hour.
In the 16th century the Zytglogge got is square shape and and new clock was installed. The tower clock work is one of the oldest in the country. 4 minutes before every hour a golden cock on top of the tower crows. At the full hour quite a complicated mechanism is set into gear and starts working different parts revealing information such as the present position of the moon.
Make sure to be there at least 5 minutes before the full hour so as not to miss the age old show. By modern standards it isn’t all that spectacular. However if you consider that the mechanism is 500 years old the Zytglogge is really quite amazing!