The Bärengraben, or Bear Pit, is a well-known tourist attraction, an enclosure housing bears at the eastern edge of the Old City of Bern, next to the Nydeggbrücke and the Aare River. The bear is a symbol of Bern, both the city and canton, and is featured in Bern's coat of arms.
The first records of the bears existing in the city come from 1441. This particular site is the fourth such enclosure and was first opened in 1857. In 1925, a smaller pit was added to raise the young bear cubs. Today, the Bärengraben is part of the city zoo (Dählhölzli) and a heritage site of national significance.
Currently, the historical Bärengraben is empty. Its last two bears were put down in 2008 and 2009 due to old age and ill health. As a replacement, the nearby BärenPark (bear park), an open-air park next to the Aare river have been opened in october 2009.
The Mary Plain series of fourteen children's books are partly set in the Bear Pits At Bern, with the story's main character, Mary Plain and her family living in the pits.