With approximately 54,000 inhabitants, Biel is the largest bilingual city in Switzerland. It is located in the canton of Bern at the north-eastern end of Lake Biel, and is regarded both as a university town and an important centre of the watch industry. The oldest known settlements in the city are stilt houses, some of whose remnants date back to 2970 BC. They are part of the prehistoric pile dwellings around the Alps, which were declared a UNESCO World Heritage in 2011. The city of Biel received its town charter in the 14th century. In 1798 it became part of the French Republic, and since the Congress of Vienna in 1815, it has belonged to the canton of Bern. Biel has a quaint, well-preserved old town, with beautiful buildings and squares, numerous fountains, street cafes and watch shops that invite visitors to stroll and linger. The “Old Town” is adjacent to the Neustadt, which was started around the turn of the century. In 1920, it was built in “Bauhaus” style. The headquarters of the Swatch Group and the production companies of Rolex and other well-known watch manufacturers are located here. Lake Biel is nestled in a beautiful landscape. Very popular with tourists is a boat trip past the vineyards on the steep, sunny slopes. Rare and endangered species of birds breed in the protected wetlands along the lakeshore. A special attraction is the idyllic St. Peter's Island. Jean-Jacques Rousseau stayed here for several weeks and called this period after his expulsion as the happiest in his life. Biel is also well worth a visit in the winter, when one of the nicest and largest Christmas market in the region takes place. Vacationers and business travellers will find numerous choices among the hotels, bed & breakfasts, apartments, rooms, and private accommodations in a central location (or even a little quieter outside the gates of the city).