Switzerland’s capital city, the fourth most populous in the country, has attracted tourists for centuries. It’s famous not only for the amazing medieval architecture of the old town surrounded by the River Aare, but also for the surrounding countryside, so beautiful you'll want to yodel. Most people speak German as their first language, with Italian or French being the mother tongue of most others. English is widely spoken too, and the majority of cinemas screen Hollywood films in original English, with German subtitles.
Many people visit from other European cities by way of the excellent train service. Swiss Federal Railways has frequent trains from Geneva, Zurich, Basel, and other cities. A rail pass is a shockingly affordable way to get around, even in first class.
Walking is the best way to see Bern. If you are headed to far-flung sights, there’s an good network of buses and trams. Bern Info has information in many languages on how to get around on the city's transit system.
Currency and Money
The Swiss Franc (CHF) is the local currency for Switzerland (and neighboring Liechtenstein). Many businesses also accept euros, but don’t count on it. Using local bank ATMs usually gives better rates than currency exchanges found in airports and around train stations. Check with your home bank before departure, in case they have a tie-in with local banks, to save on withdrawal fees.
Media & Resources
For party dates and other local updates see Gay Bern, and GayAgenda entertainment magazine, published by the HAB services and advocates group; also with cultural events, readings, theater, dinners, discos, concerts and more. Swissgay/Berne is another web resource, in French and English. Mannschaft Magazin is a locally-based monthly glossy for gay men, covering Bern, Basil, Zurich and the world, in German, with an online reader.
MySwitzerland.com, an official Swiss Tourism website, has gay page along with lots of general information for visitors.
Berner Fasnacht, the pre-Lenten carnival, dates from medieval times, but was banned during the 16th century. Only recently restored it's a big affair spanning three days, with parades, food and festivities.
Major gay events include: GAYWEST, the early August all-day queer street party at Bundesplatz, with big after-parties going all night at the clubs; and Queersicht, Bern's annual GLBT film festival, in early November.
Bern is the perfect place to begin a hiking trip through the famed Bernese Oberlands. If you want to hook up with other outdoorsy types, head to the website of Gay and Lesbian Sport Bern.
For bars, clubs, baths, restaurants and hotel listings, with locations and web links, see our map & listings tab.
Aux Petits Fours (Kramgasse 67) small gay cruise and conversation bar, nookie room in the back, international mix, mostly men.
Blue Cat (Gerechtigkeitsgasse 75) downtown cafe/bar/bistro, long a gay favorite in Bern.
Cinématte (Wasserwerkgasse 7) gay-friendly restaurant and bar with small cinema, interior garden.
Comeback Bar (Rathausgasse 42), gay cellar cocktail bar, bears, snacks and games, intimate Saturday night dance floor.
Du Théatre Club (Hotelgasse 10), dressy lounge club, bar and restaurant, occasional gay parties, hip hop and urban dance music Saturdays.
ISC (Neubrückstrasse 10) dance club and concert venue near University. Tolerdance gay dances and shows 4th Saturdays, plus other afterhours nights.
Julius @ Du Nord (Lorrainestrasse 2) each first Saturday gay disco party, camp Roman theme, young cutting-edge DJs.
Samurai (Aarbergergasse 35), classic Bern gay bar near train station above ground floor, behind long covered promenade. Small weekend disco, popular drag shows.
Sous Soul (Junkergasse 1) smokers bar, trendsetter live music nightclub.
CLOSED recently: Form Bar (Saindrainstrasse 10) where diehard party people came to dance until sunrise.
Aqualis (Brunnmattstrasse 21) sauna open daily to 11pm, large steamroom, power showers, overnight rooms, cubicles with videos, sling room, large-screen cinema, bar.
Studio 43 (Monbijoustrasse 123) bathhouse open daily 2-11pm.
Sun Deck (Längasstrasse 65, rear), fragrant dark grotto, secret nooks, bio-sauna, jacuzzi, videos, TV room. Maze bed for group activity, workout area, bar, mini-restaurant, nude sunning on roof deck, tanning bed.
Loveland (Gerechtigkeitsgasse 39) center of the historic town, sex shop, video DVDs, leather, video cabins, active cruising during the day.
Hotel Allegro (Kornhausstrasse 3), modern business hotel, 171 rooms, suites and penthouse, fitness center, cigar lounge bar; Grand Casino, and Liquid Club free admissions; business center, secure parking, free biking.
Belle Epoque Boutique Hotel (Gerechtigkeitsgasse 18), very central 500-year-old Old Town building near the Aare River with 14 distinctly furnished rooms, Art Nouveau works, TV and safe. Le Chariot restaurant, Swiss/International cuisine and fine wines; large breakfast buffet, afternoon tea and cakes. Old-world style elegant bar for cocktails, wine, and cigars.
Berne Youth Hostel (Weihergasse 4), bargain rate prices, 177 beds, double occupancy rooms and dorms with 4 to 6 rooms each, open all-year, breakfast included, lunch and dinner optional, fireplace, games, garden terrace, washing machine, internet access.
Hotel La Pergola (Belpstrasse 43), modern tourist and business hotel, 55 comfortable singles and doubles with showers, TV/radios, WiF access, buffet breakfast, parking. Special: 3 nights for the price of 2 bargain weekend rates. Pets welcome.
The National Bern (Hirschengraben 24), grand old building, distinctive hotel rooms, breakfast buffets, Wi-Fi, spa and hamman sauna, 3 nights for 2 weekend special rates; fine dining restaurant, concert hall events, Latin-style nightclub entertainment.
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