What makes the capital of Switzerland such a special place? A few quotes from our amazing team of Bern Spotters:
Isabelle: “I love Bern, because it is dynamic, close to nature and historical. It is a rather small town, but it never fails to amaze me with all the cultural events happening and the pop-up projects that spring up like mushrooms.”
Sebastian: “Bern is known as the slowest city in the world, the music capital of Switzerland, it has the best urban swimming river I know, a giant anarchist culture temple in the middle of the city and – yes – it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site. I find that quite impressive for a town of 140,000 people…”
Katrin: “For its size, there are SO MANY different places to discover: from illegal makeshift hidden bars to places in the old town that have been hosting get-togethers for centuries.”
We picked some of the most unique, local gems in Bern. Here they are, in random order!
A 30 room art installation – where you can meet the artist
The vintage market is only a piece of a bigger project. Brückenkopf Bern is a temporary project by the charismatic Swiss artist Chantal Michel. She installed her art works in 30 rooms, using different kind of media such as photography, videos, perfumes, sounds, etc. As you walk through the spaces all your senses will be touched. This place is surreal, poetic, eerie, romantic and nostalgic at the same time. — Isabelle Thürlemann
Live music on a budget – in Switzerland!
Every Tuesday night from October to May a Jazz jam session takes place at 5ème Etage Bern. In the beginning, there is a band playing and spontaneous acts jam afterwards (often music students). At the same time, they serve tasty risotto for only CHF 5. Entry is free, but they pass a hat collecting the money, so you can decide how much you want to pay. — Isabelle Thürlemann
Micro brews at the local mountain’s foot
I love to ring in my weekends in Wabräu. It has a very laid-back comfortable ambiance. Wabräu is one of those places where you can show up in your casual clothes without feeling out of place. It is definitely more about beer watching and drinking than people watching. — Isabelle Thürlemann
One of the oddest watering holes in town
Seemanns-Club is one of the oddest watering holes in town. Actually I have never come across anything remotely similar in Bern or anywhere else. It is quite a hidden spot and not many locals know about it.
If you’re up to discovering a sailor’s universe in a city without a port, this is the place to visit. Behind an unassuming door in the old town lies the Bern branch of the Swiss sailor’s club. The small and elongated room already reminds visitors of a ship. Its maritime atmosphere is further enhanced by all kinds of sailor memorabilia covering the walls and the smell of diesel. — Isabelle Thürlemann
The closest thing to a beach Bern has to offer
Firewood is available for free at Eichholz Bern (in the little hut at the parking) and you’re officially allowed to start a fire wherever you want between the walkway and the river.
That brings us to the greatest thing about most beaches – there is water to swim. As soon as the water temperature is above 17 degrees thousands of people walk upstream from the marzili pools to Eichholz to float back the two most scenic swimming kilometers you can imagine. — Sebastian Meier
A restaurant & bar in a former firefighters garage
Even before the boxing school, the bicycle shop and the restaurant moved in, before Radio Blind Power built a studio on site and Adriano’s started roasting its coffee in the micro roasting establishment and before artistes moved into the hose-drying-tower, Alte Feuerwehr Bern place had been turned into a refugee camp. In the midst of the “refugee crisis” in 2015 the top floor was inhabited by Syrians and Afghans, Sri Lankis and Eritreans. But other than in some rural communities where refugees have been “welcomed” with fear and anger, at Alte Feuerwehr Viktoria they were soon part of an urban testing field for new ideas of cooperation and cultural exchange. — Sebastian Meier
A walk on the wild side in Bern
Reitschule is a place with a thousand names and a million faces. For some it is the single most important hotspot for alternative culture in the city, probably the county, maybe even the continent — a rare space without an urge for consumption and with the much needed proof that young people still care for politics and a refuge for people in need. — Sebastian Meier
Public chess with a team of boozy coaches
Of course I’ve never dared challenge one of the guys that play chess at Schachspiel Bärenplatz for hours each and every day. But if you are a confident chess player and dare to join in, be prepared for two dozen of (more or less drunk) people knowing every move better – and not keeping this for themselves. So good luck!
And by the way: If this spot is too crowded for you – there are more that three dozen public chess and merel boards in all parts of the city. — Sebastian Meier
THE place for beer lovers!
Altes Tramdepot, a huge restaurant, used to be the place where the trams in Bern went to sleep. I really like the architectural style of the 1890ies which is well noticeable on its façade. For 20 years now, the Altes Tramdepot has proven to be the perfect place for connoisseurs of the hoppy brew. — Katrin Hiss
Finnish sauna tradition in cozy Bern
The friendly hosts of Sauna Lorrainebad in Bern will take their time to explain a procedure to you that has been proven to relieve symptoms of the common cold for centuries. You may enjoy yourself in your birthday suit or show off the latest swimsuit fashion, just don’t forget to bring a towel.
At this time of the year, the Aare is bloody cold, but I definitely recommend a short dip in the clear river before you relax on one of the divan beds in the chill-out yurt where I use to observe the birds through the roof-light and where complimentary tea is served. — Katrin Hiss
A gym that pays off (polenta or oil!)
I was actually contemplating this idea for a long time myself… What if the energy I put into fitness training would be transformed into something tangible? This is what they do at Gmüesesel Bern.
The same idea had a guy called Tom and started to tinker around. The result is a gym where you don’t pay any entrance fees, instead you get paid in natural produce!
You can row for polenta, run for sunflower oil or cycle for semolina. In the end you get to keep one third of what you produced yourself, Tom is selling the rest on the local farmers market. — Katrin Hiss
For more great local spots check out our Bern city blog!