Ask a Local: What Should I Do/See/Eat in Bern, Switzerland?

Feb 04, 2019    /    ask a local

Photo credit.


Welcome back to Ask a Local, a series of posts in which I interview locals all over the world about what to see, where to go, what to eat, and how to fit in in their city or town. Please note that the food tour mentioned was complimentary in exchange for a review. It was so good and Levi was such a great guide that I asked if he’d do this interview instead and let us in on the secrets of his city.

Today, I’m happy to introduce you to Patrick Bolzli, a Bern native, tour guide, and developer who’s here to introduce us to his home: Bern, Switzerland.

Let’s dive in…

About Patrick

I was born and raised in Bern and have been here 34 years and counting. I am a software developer but use my free time to play in several orchestras (trumpet, cornet, flugelhorn) and to host free walking tours. I also travel as often as I can.

What to Do In Bern (The Basics)

The old town was founded in 1191 and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site today. Explore the 11 fountains from the 16th century with their beautiful statues, the minster (the tallest church in Switzerland), and the clock tower (with its astronomical clockwork and moving figures). Watch the bears at the bear park (a sort of mini zoo near the center). Have a coffee in front of the parliament building. Visit the Einstein exhibition in the history museum. And enjoy the sunset from Rosengarten (rose garden).

If you come in the summer, bring your swimsuit and join the locals for a refreshing swim in the crystal clear (but chilly) water of the Aare River.

And nightlife in Bern might not be the most exciting in Switzerland, but there are a lot of small bars, theaters, and the like hidden in the cellars of the old town. It’s very fun to explore them.

Hidden Gems for Seasoned Travelers

For something special, take a stroll through the Matte quarter—the old working-class area from medieval times. Or take in a concert at Reitschule (the old riding school), the most controversial place in town, which began with an illegal occupation in the ‘80s and is currently a graffiti-covered building that strikes some as art and others as an eye-sore.

Day Trips

As Switzerland is pretty small, you can reach all the bigger cities (Zürich, Geneva, Basel, Lucerne) in less than two hours. Thun, a beautiful city on a lake, known as the “gate to the Bernese Oberland,” is only 20 minutes away.

Another good option is a visit to the region of Emmental with its hilly landscape. Come learn how the famous cheese is made.


Switzerland - 100 locals tell you where to go, what to eat, and how to fit in Did I mention that I wrote a book full of these interviews?
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Where to Hike

Climb Gurten—the mountain in Bern’s backyard—and enjoy a fantastic view of the city and the Alps. Or visit the “glass fountain” in the middle of Bremgartenwald (Bremgarten forest). According to an old legend, its water has healing powers!

What to Eat & Drink

Aside from the typical Swiss specialties, there is also the haselnusslebkuchen—a special type of gingerbread made with hazelnut.

Where to Eat & Drink (Favorite Restaurants & Bars)

Kornhauskeller (at Kornhausplatz 18) is a beautiful restaurant and bar in the basement of the old granary. The Rock Garden restaurant and bar (at Christoffelunterführung 2) is right in the middle of the remaining foundations of the old city walls. Turnhalle Bar (at Speichergasse 4) offers live music in a former gym hall only a few minutes from the train station. And, finally, Altes Tramdepot (located next to the bear park) has great food and is famous for its home-brewed beer.

How to Fit In

Yes, Switzerland is an expensive place, but we don’t like people to mention it all the time. In general, it’s a good idea not to talk about money. And don’t ever say (or try to say) grüezi. Bernese people would never use that term. Use grüessech (pronounced groo-sah) instead.

How to Meet Locals & Make Friends

Most Swiss are a bit shy. The best way to start a friendship is to approach us; don’t wait until we make the first move.

Best Places to Take a Photo

Try the Rosengarten (rose garden). You get a perfect view over the old town, especially during the blue hour before sunset…Another good option is Gurten. There is a train to take you up.

Find Patrick at freewalkingtoursbern.ch.


Switzerland - 100 locals tell you where to go, what to eat, and how to fit in Did I mention that I wrote a book full of these interviews?
Get 100 interviews from top chefs, mountain guides, and locals all over Switzerland.

Bern, Switzerland, what to do

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2 Comments
  • Ali
    February 4, 2019

    Bern is a cute city! Definitely a few things here I haven’t seen. I do get a kick out of the giant eating children statue, which isn’t mentioned. Maybe it’s too cheesy/touristy!

    • gigigriffis
      February 7, 2019

      My other interviewee recommended it, so definitely gets the local seal of approval.

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