Every summer thousands of tourists come to Bern to visit Switzerland’s capital. Whether they are part of a tour or travelling on their own, they probably visit the main tourist attractions such as the Berner Münster, the Clock Tower or the Bear Park. These are beautiful sights and should be at the top of everyone’s list who is coming to Bern. But there is a different side to this city. Bern is known for its laidback and down to earth culture and slow way of talking. Some would even go as far as to say the Bernese are slow… I don’t know about that but there is definitely a uniqueness to Switzerland’s capital that cannot entirely be experienced through the main attractions. But maybe, if for one day you follow the footsteps of a local, you will feel the true vibe of Bern.
Here is my guide on how to experience Bern like a local in the summer:
Visit the market in the morning
The market stretches from the Bundesplatz all the way to the Waisenhausplatz and offers a mixture between fresh goods such as vegetables, meat and cheese, and accessories and clothes. Especially the morning market which takes place every Tuesday and Saturday on the Bundesplatz, is very popular among the locals. Most of the merchants come from the surrounding areas and there is a strong focus on sustainable and locally produced goods. Another aspect that makes this market unique is the fact that it takes place directly in front of the Parliament Building, only separated from it by a road. The Bernese don’t make a big fuss about shielding their government building. Instead, the area in front of it is used as an open space, where people can sit and talk, sometimes concerts take place and on Tuesdays and Saturdays between 8 am and 12 noon it’s a marketplace.
Experience Bern like a local at the morning market in front of the Parliament Building
Have a coffee at Adriano’s Café & Bar
People from Bern love to sit in one of the many small cafés and restaurants, chat with friends and drink coffee or beer. They would typically do this on a Saturday after going to the market. Adriano’s Café & Bar, located close to the Clock Tower, is a café in the Old Town, where you can either sit inside or at one of the tables outside facing the street. This place is known for its in-house coffee roasting and beer specially brewed for them. And this is what Bern is all about. Of course you can find Starbucks and the like but the Bernese love cafés with a local and personal feel to them. It is no wonder, you might have troubles finding a table at this hip café. But if I were you, I would give it a try. It is worth it.
Experience Bern like a local at Adriano’s Café & Bar
Swim in the Aare River
From Adriano’s Café & Bar, you are only a few steps away from the Aare River. This is where the Bernese hang out during the summer. Swimming in the river is one of the most typical things about Bern and it is usually the most unforgettable experience for tourists when visiting Switzerland’s capital. On a warm day, thousands of people take a dip in the river and cool down while floating downstream. There are two main areas where this is done: One is the Marzili bathing area, with a view of the Parliament Building. This place gets crowded as it is very popular among the youngsters. The other area is north of Bern’s Old Town, a neighbourhood called Lorraine. I would recommend this one, as it is much quieter there and has a very local feel to it. There is a bathing area with a pool and a restaurant, the Lorraine Bad. This is a great place to have lunch. Whether you are looking for a healthy salad, a hamburger or a locally produced ice cream, this restaurant offers good quality for affordable prices. Further upstream is another locality, the Restaurant Altenberg, which serves Turkish specialities.
Experience Bern like a local and swim in the Aare River
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Enjoy the view at the Rose Garden
The Rose Garden is probably the only sight in Bern, that is equally popular among tourists as locals. This small park offers a simply spectacular view, overlooking the Aare River and the Old Town of Bern. As the name suggests, it has a huge range of different flowers, mostly roses. Many locals go there after work or on the weekend, grab a beer at the bar and sit on the wall facing the city and enjoy the view. The Rose Garden is the perfect place for a drink after an afternoon at the river. Don’t forget to bring your camera, you will want to take pictures.
The view from the Rose Garten
Experience Bern like a local while hanging out at the Rose Garden
Eat dinner at the Restaurant Löscher
From the Rose Garden, it is a 10-minute walk towards Bern’s North Area until you reach the Restaurant Löscher. This is a fairly new restaurant and bar and it has quickly emerged as one of Bern’s most happening places. The Restaurant is set in a building which used to be home to the fire department. In 2015, the fire department moved out and the premises have since been used for things such as an asylum centre, a restaurant, a boxing school and various shops. What you find in this building is what Bern is all about: A very laidback and warm atmosphere, support for sustainable and local production, open-mindedness towards multiculturalism and an innovative and creative generation of entrepreneurs and workers, who enjoy a beer in the sun after work. This place is not glamorous, instead it is down to earth and welcomes all types of people. The Restaurant Löscher is at the centre of it all and has evolved to be the social meeting place of the North Area of Bern. Besides delicious and freshly produced meals, it offers a fresh market every Thursday evening and events such as concerts and game nights.
The bar is open Tuesday-Thursday until 11.30 pm and Friday and Saturday until 00:30 am.
Experience Bern like a local at the Restaurant Löscher
The Restaurant Löscher
Go out and mingle with the locals
In the summer, going out in Bern is all about staying outdoors, while having a few drinks and chatting with friends. The two best places to do this are located directly in the city centre, only a five-minute walk from the train station. The first one is the Reitschule Bern, an autonomous cultural and meeting centre. And as you might have guessed, this place is the heart of Bern’s political left wing culture. But don’t worry, you don’t have to be a hippie to feel comfortable there but if you want to fit in, I suggest you leave your designer bag at home. This locality is very popular among young people in Bern as it has a huge area outside, where people can sit around and talk, without having to pay entrance or buy drinks. There is a bar inside as well as a restaurant in the back and countless other rooms that turn into party venues depending on the occasion.
If the Reitschule is a bit too extreme for you, you might feel more comfortable in the Turnhalle, a cosy bar located in the “Progr”, a centre for cultural productions. It is designed in a gym and has a big courtyard, where students and other youngsters hang out during the summer, drink, flirt and talk. Most of the time it is an open bar, free for all. Sometimes there are concerts or parties and you have to pay an entrance fee. If you like going out and you want to do it the local way, this is where you need to go.
There are numerous other bars and clubs in the area. My favourite bar in the winter is the Burgunder Bar, located across the street from the Turnhalle. This is a tiny bar, beautifully decorated and with a great vibe. Just around the corner is the Club Bonsoir, where Bern’s hipsters party.
Enjoy Bern like a local and party at the Reitschule
The courtyard at Turnhalle fills up with hundreds of people on a summer night
Do you have any questions aber Bern or do you have suggestions of places to see or things to do? Let us know and leave a comment.
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