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The picture shows a concert scene in the Great Hall of the Casino Bern, where the audience is bathed in violet light from the stage and the glowing chandelier. The architecture of the hall creates an impressive and elegant atmosphere that emphasises the musical performance.

Cultural venues in the city of Bern

Published: 10.05.2024

Plays, music and dance, cabaret, book readings, exhibitions – in Bern, culture is way more than a visit to the museum. These fifteen places are an absolute must for culture aficionados.

Bühnen Bern

The stages of Stadttheater Bern (Bern City Theatre) and Vidmarhallen offer everything the hearts of music, dance, and theatre fans desire: there are countless performances, concerts, and special events each season. The Casino Bern, where the Bernese Symphonic Orchestra plays its way through musical history, is also part of Bühnen Bern. The four-part house – consisting of Stadttheater, Casino and Vidmarhallen, which are located in an old factory in the Liebefeld neighbourhood – is the largest concert theatre of Switzerland’s Central Plateau and inspires visitors from near and far. The same goes for the restaurant “Vierte Wand”, which sits on the stage of the original Stadttheater from 1903 and attracts gourmets and culture aficionados alike.

Dampfzentrale

This venue on the Aare river hosts contemporary performances, dance recitals and avant-garde pop concerts. In the 1980s, the former hydroelectric power station started establishing itself as a culture and performance centre. Today, Dampfzentrale is a meeting place for creative minds and their audience with room for experiments, debates, and discoveries. Every November, the music festival “Saint Ghetto” takes place here, bringing international stars and newcomers to Bern. And your physical wellbeing is taken care of, too: the Dampfzentrale’s elegant restaurant serves delicious treats.

Casino Bern

Culture meets the culinary arts in this neoclassical sandstone building on Casinoplatz square: every Thursday, guests have the opportunity to enjoy the music of jazz musicians and then head outside to end the evening with a drink on the beautiful terrace. The heart of the building is the impressive Grosser Saal (Great Hall): here and in the slightly smaller Burgerratssaal is where musical worlds meet, for example, as part of the concerts of the Bern Symphony Orchestra, which take place at the Casino Bern. In addition to music, cabaret, satire, and vaudeville are also very welcome. By the way: the onstage variety is mirrored on the plates at the restaurant.

Mahogany Hall

Sie ist der älteste Musikclub Berns: Seit über 50 Jahren werden in der Mahogany Hall am Klösterlistutz Konzerte und Tanzveranstaltungen durchgeführt. Die Longstreet Jazzband eröffnete 1968 das Lokal, in welchem bis heute rund 5’000 Konzerte stattfanden. Darunter Musiker:innen wie Marc Sway, Ira May oder The Pedestrians. Das Erfolgsrezept der Mahogany Hall: In den denkmalgeschützten Räumen fühlen sich alle wohl, von Jung bis Alt. Und mit dem vielseitigen Konzertprogramm von Jazz über Mundartpop bis Hardrock ist für jeden Geschmack etwas dabei. Ein Geheimtipp sind die Open-Mic-Abende: Jeweils am zweiten Mittwoch im Monat wird noch unbekannten Künstler:innen eine Plattform geboten.

Kulturhof Schloss Köniz

Above the rooftops of Köniz, a suburb of Bern, sits a castle. In the Middle Ages, it was home to the Teutonic Order and Bernese “Landvogt” bailiffs, and to different institutions and children’s homes in the 19th and 20th centuries. Nowadays, it’s a venue for all kinds of cultural events. Amenities include a room for civil wedding ceremonies, a restaurant, and the stages that are used and rented out by the association Kulturhof Schloss Köniz. The versatile rooms and the small courtyard are used for plays, concerts, book readings, exhibitions, and culture festivals. The large courtyard is dedicated to culture, too: in the summertime, there are concerts underneath the mighty linden tree.

Kulturzentrum Reitschule

Concerts, movie screenings, plays, festivals, and all sorts of events: at the Reitschule, creativity knows no boundaries. What this cultural centre has to offer is as diverse as its artists and audience. Nationally and internationally renowned musicians play in the Dachstock, there are parties in the Great Hall, the Tojo shows contemporary plays and at Sous le Pont, there’s tasty food from all over the world – and delicious Schnipo”, schnitzel and fries as well as cultural performances. The programme changes according to season and what the organizers feel like doing. If you like things to be a bit different, you should check it out!

Restaurant Cinématte

It doesn't get much closer to the rippling waters of the Aare: the Cinématte restaurant in the Matte quarter, Bern's oldest district, is located directly on the banks of the river and offers culinary delights and pure cinema enjoyment. The menu features seasonal dishes made from regional produce, freshly prepared with great attention to detail – after all, you eat with your eyes. If you are “only” a little hungry or would like to fortify yourself before the film screening, you will find smaller dishes such as cheese platters, salad plates or soups on the bar menu. Add to this a fine Swiss wine to toast, followed (or preceded) by a gem of Swiss or European cinema - and the evening is perfect.

Heitere Fahne

It’s definitely cheerful here - because the name says it all. The inviting Heitere Fahne restaurant is located below the Gurten. After a walk up the local mountain, a colourful hodgepodge of sofas, garden chairs and who would have thought it – a flag, invites you to linger. The programme is, as the “Heitere” describes itself, wild. Pizza evening every Wednesday, an extensive Sunday brunch with still-warm “Züpfe” and concerts that melt hearts. A little bird also chirped to us about the “Räuber:innenrunde”, where they discuss a morning together. So unique, so loving and so creative. We’d say it's time to discover this fantastic place with the dedicated people behind the stage.

Theater am Käfigturm

Multifaceted entertainment in the heart of Bern’s Old City: that’s what the Theater am Käfigturm offers. As its name suggests, it is located near one of Bern’s landmarks – the Käfigturm (Prison Tower). Before becoming a theatre in 1967, the building served as a studio stage for the Stadttheater, but now it is open exclusively to guest companies and artists and is a popular anchor point in Bern’s theatre agenda. The programme includes theatre and magic as well as children’s theatre and dance performances. And if you’re a fan of comedy, you can go and see the latest shows of Swiss comedians such as Stefan Büsser and Helga Schneider.

Polit-Forum Käfigturm

Like most medieval towers, the Käfigturm (Prison Tower) had many different functions over time. It was erected in the mid-13th century as part of the outer city wall and later served – as the name suggests – as a prison. Since 1999, the listed building has been housing the Polit-Forum, which informs visitors about politics. In panel discussions and lectures, the concept of democracy is questioned and rethought, upcoming votes are discussed, and politicians take on the critical questions of the audience. A forum as diverse and multifaceted as Swiss politics.

Berner Generationenhaus

The grand sandstone building next to Bern’s main station is home to the Berner Generationenhaus (Bern House of Generations). The name says it all: the Generationenhaus includes a retirement home, a day-care centre, a public playground, and the parent counselling centre of the canton of Bern. Since its opening in 2014, it has also established itself as a cultural events location with participative theatre and musical projects, exhibitions, and other events. And the in-house chapel is regularly used as a rehearsal location for the Bernese “GenerationenChor” (Generations Choir), whose 80 participants are between 20 and 80 years old.

Progr

About 70 of Progr’s rooms serve as studios for some 150 artists of all kinds. Initially, the building was meant to be temporary, but the Progr (a former “Progymnasium”, high school) quickly made a name for itself in Bern’s cultural scene. The ground floor is open to the public and a popular meeting place for the locals, with its galleries and two café-bars Turnhalle (the former gym) and Lehrerzimmer (the former teacher’s lounge). The Lehrer:innenzimmer is a cozy place for coffee, the Turnhalle regularly hosts concerts and parties: the place that used to serve as a gym for schoolchildren has turned into one of the hot spots of Bernese cultural and nightlife.

La Cappella

Be it pop concerts, classical performances, or chanson and a cappella evenings: Bern is a city of music, and the intimate, familiar venue in a former chapel in Bern’s Breitenrain neighbourhood proves it. The audience comes to La Cappella to have a good laugh, too, as it is one of the best places in Bern for revues and poetry slams. After its inauguration in 1998, Bernese troubadours Irmgard Knef and Franz Hohler were among the first to perform on its stage. Uta Köbernick, Christoph Simon, Esther Hasler and Joachim Rittmeyer followed in their footsteps and fill the ranks today. Also a favourite: the iconic “Theatersport” evenings, which the audience can shape by shouting cues or voting on outcomes.

Kornhausforum

Which architectural style will define our cityscapes in the future? How integrated are immigrants in Bern? How much money is art allowed to cost? When the city discusses socio political and cultural questions, it often happens at Kornhausforum. The focal topic is the urban space – and Bern, of course. There are always different panel discussions going on at Kornhausforum, but it also hosts events like the Design Festival Bern. Furthermore, the forum is an important exhibition space for artistic, documentational and press photography. Today’s Kornhausforum was opened on two storeys in 1998 and is located right next to Kornhausbibliothek (Kornhaus library) and Kornhauscafé.