Where The Locals Go In Bern
Bern is the capital of Switzerland, and with its central location, it is perfectly primed to be an ideal stop if you’re visiting one of Europe’s highest mountain ranges. You might think you already know what to expect from this alpine city, but follow these tips by Bern locals and you will find that there’s a whole lot more to be surprised by!
How to get to Bern by train: As the country’s capital, Bern is well-connected to other cities in Switzerland. You can easily travel to Bern from Basel, Zurich, Interlaken, and Brig in an hour. And even get here from Geneva in under 2 hours. Explore the rest of this scenic country with a Global Pass or an Interrail Switzerland Pass.
For beer connoisseurs
This restaurant used to be where Bern’s trams would go to sleep – now, the Altes Tramdepot, or Old Tram Depot, serves beer which they actually produce themselves. The local sommeliers create more than 30 new kinds of beer every year – wheat, pale, cloudy, dark, and much more. Enjoy the view over the Old Town together with a local dish or some warm, homemade bretzels!
The ultimate alternative hub
For some it is the single most important hotspot for alternative culture in the city, probably the country, maybe even the continent; for others, it is an eyesore, a legal vacuum, a marketplace for illegal drugs.
No matter which point of view you might ascribe to, Reitschule, an old riding school, is one of the most interesting spots in Bern. With a club in the attic, a cinema in the stables, a restaurant, a theatre, a bookstore, and a printing facility… take a deep breath, step inside, and you will have entered Bern’s wild side.
Lightshows on the parliament
Every year in autumn, there is a new 3D-mapping light show that is projected nightly on the Swiss parliament. The light and sound show at Bundeshaus, called Rendez-vous Bundesplatz, has a different theme each year. For instance, a few years back, the show told the story of the moon landing through the eyes of Tintin and Neil Armstrong, created by 8 projectors and exhibited in 23 million pixels.
Along with the performance, there are food trucks in the area, so grab a snack and enjoy the show, and music, by many popular artists such as the late David Bowie, Pink Floyd, Ludovico Einaudi, and many others.
Cross the river Aare by boat
Here’s an idea for a refreshing way to explore town: travel a bit up the river, preferably by bike or on foot, and reach the ferry Fähre Bodenacker, that will take you to the other side. It can’t fit more than a few dozen people and a couple of bikes, and the voyage only lasts around 40 seconds. But this is a unique opportunity to be close to the serene waters, there’s a nice family restaurant next to the ferry, and one of the ferrymen sometimes gives concerts in the middle of the river!
Also, if the season’s right, you can just jump in the water and swim back to the city for the return trip – yes, the river Aare is perfect and popular for swimming in the summer months!
A peculiar watering hole in town
Now that you’re a tried and true traverser of Swiss waters, you can level up and enter a true sailor’s universe – in a city without a port, no less. Behind an unassuming door in the old town, lies the Bern branch of the Swiss sailor’s club (Seemanns-Club). The small and elongated room resembles a ship and the maritime atmosphere is further enhanced by all kinds of sailor memorabilia. And, even if you’re not a member, you can still join in and listen to old seafarer tales. Note: the club is only open on Friday nights.
A public bathroom in a revered monument
Zytglogge tower is probably Bern’s most recognisable landmark and tourist attraction. It has served the city as a guard tower, prison, (astronomical) clock tower, and a centre of urban life and civic memorial since the 13th century. It also offers a less celebrated but no less significant service – a walkthrough pissoir for men, built on the base of the tower, that is open 24/7. You might think this tip is a bit redundant, but you never know when it might save you in the early morning or late night hours. Plus, where else can you legally relieve yourself on a medieval UNESCO world heritage site?
A bakery that fights food waste
Ässbar sells perfectly fine bread, sandwiches, pastries, and more, either near the expiry date or just beyond it, for a reduced price. This way, around 40 tonnes of food are saved from the bins of bakeries in and around Bern each year.
“Since I discovered Ässbar”, writes Bern local Katrin Hiss, “I haven’t been to any other bakery!” She notes that everything remaining in the evening is then passed on to charity organisations. Ässbar is centrally located in a cellar in the heart of the old town, and the staff is very helpful and well informed about the ingredients in each product. We highly recommend trying out this sustainable bakery for a pastry or croissant while you walk around exploring the city.
Ultra-intimate music venue
Bern is the musical capital of Switzerland, with plenty of memorable and cozy venues for you to discover, hang out with locals, and enjoy up-and-coming bands. However, ISC (International Students Club) is extra special as there’s only half a metre or so separating the musicians from the crowd. So, if you’re looking for a casual club with eclectic music, where the atmosphere can get hypnotically intimate, look no further.
For more local favorites across Europe, check out Spotted by Locals.
Edited by Sukriti Kapoor, Eurail.
Header image by Felix_Broennimann (pixabay.com)
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