Cultural institutions in Bern
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#1 Casino Bern
After its two-year renovation, the Casino Bern reopened in new splendour. Culture meets the culinary arts in the neoclassical limestone building on Casinoplatz (Casino Square): visitors can enjoy a symphony by Bruckner inside and end the evening with a drink or delicious meal on the beautiful terrace outside. The centre of attention is the impressive Grosser Saal (Great Hall), home of the Bernese symphonic orchestra. Here, as well as in the slightly smaller Burgerratssaal (Civil Council Hall), is where musical worlds meet, for example for the concert series “Über ds Chrüz” (“Criss-Cross”), which brought together the orchestra and the successful Bernese duo “Lo & Leduc”, among others. Not only music, but also cabaret, satire and vaudeville are very welcome at the Casino Bern. The onstage variety is mirrored on the plate: the Casino’s restaurant is divided into different culinary concepts and offers everything from snacks to entire menus. Host Ivo Adam makes eating at the Casino Bern an exclusive culinary experience.
Dampfzentrale neves ceases to surprise: it’s a stage for everything newfangled, autonomous and sometimes strange. The former hydroelectric power plant on the banks of the Aare river offers modern performances, dance recitals, and avantgarde pop concerts and is also a lively part of the clubbing scene. What used to be a power plant was transformed into a cultural meeting place in the 1980s. Dampfzentrale is a place for artists and their audience, for experiments, debates and exploring, for rehearsals and residencies. Sometimes, it even acts as co-producer for off-theatre projects. In November, it hosts the music festival Saint Ghetto, bringing internationally renowned musicians and new discoveries to Bern. The brick house contains two big halls, a foyer with a bar and a music cellar. And the Restaurant Dampfzentrale takes care of the visitors’ physical well-being, serving tasty dishes. In the summertime, the cozy garden terrace by the river is the perfect place to enjoy, eat, watch a soccer or tennis match or observe the “Aare swimmers” walking up to Eichholz, where they will hop into the cool river and let it take them back.
#3 Konzert Theater Bern
There’s fighting, arguing, dancing, loving: the stages of Stadttheater Bern (Bern City Theatre) and Vidmarhallen (Vidmar halls) offer everything the hearts of music, dance and theatre fans desire. There are some 400 performances, concerts and special events each season, and there’s something for everyone: each year, about 30 plays premiere on the stages of the neo-baroque Stadttheater on Kornhausplatz (Granary Square) and the Vidmarhallen, inaugurated in 2007. The Casino Bern, where the Bernese symphonic orchestra, 100 musicians strong, plays its way through musical history, is also part of Konzert Theater Bern. The four-part house, consisting of Stadttheater, Casino and Vidmarhallen – located in an old factory in the Liebefeld neighbourhood – is the largest concert theatre of the Mittelland, the swiss plateau, and fascinates visitors from near and far.
Konzert Theater Bern
#4 Mahogany Hall
It is Bern’s oldest music club: For over 50 years, concerts and dance events have been held at Mahogany Hall on Klösterlistutz (Convent Hill). Longstreet Jazz Club opened the location in 1968 in the former warehouse of a linseed oil producer. Year after year, Mahogany Hall becomes more famous, the concert programme more varied and international. Mick Jagger’s brother Chris has played on the “Mahog” stage, for example. Apart from concerts, there’s also a space for parties, private events and cultural performances and presentations. Mahogany Hall’s recipe for success: people of all ages feel comfortable and welcome in the listed building. And there’s something for everyone in the diverse concert programme that ranges from jazz to swiss pop all the way to hard rock. Watch out for the open mic evenings, an insider’s tip. On every second Wednesday of the month, unknown artists are given a platform. Free entry.
#5 Kulturhof Schloss Köniz (Kulturhof Köniz castle)
Above the rooftops of Köniz, a suburb of Bern, sits a castle, and where knights used to dine, cultural events now take place. Today, the versatile rooms and the courtyard are used for plays, concerts, book readings, exhibitions and culture festivals. The castle was built by Augustinians in the middle ages and later housed the Teutonic Order and Bernese “Landvogt” bailiffs, as well as different institutions and children’s homes in the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, amenities include a room for civil wedding ceremonies, a restaurant and the stages that are programmed and rented out by the association Kulturhof Schloss Köniz. The courtyard is also dedicated to culture: in the summertime, there are concerts underneath the mighty linden tree, and salsa dancers regularly go to shake to the beats. A place that makes you forget time (or century).
Kulturhof Schloss Köniz
#6 Kulturzentrum Reitschule (Reitschule cultural centre)
Concerts, movie screenings, plays, an in-house printing shop and woodshop, (open-air) festivals and all sorts of events – at Reitschule (riding school), creativity has no boundaries. The events and options at the cultural centre are as diverse as its artists and audience. Fans dance to the music of nationally and internationally renowned musicians at Dachstock (attic), 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 as well as cultural performances. The programme changes according to season and what they feel like doing – if you like it colourful, fun and “a bit different”, you should check it out!
#7 Berner Generationenhaus (Bern House of Generations)
A grand limestone building next to Bern’s main station is home to the House of Generations. And it lives up to its name: the building with the retirement home that was once called Burgerspital now also includes a day-care centre, a public playground as well as the parent counselling centre of the canton of Bern. Since its opening in 2014, the House of Generations has also established itself as a cultural events location. Participative theatre or music projects, exhibitions and events such as the open-air movie theatre in the pretty courtyard complete the range of options. The chapel of the former Burgerspital is regularly used as a rehearsal location for the Bernese Generations Choir, whose 80 participants are between 20 and 80 years old. A cultural meeting place for old and young.
Walking through the halls of the former schoolhouse, it smells of turpentine, you can hear percussions or a violin, watch art develop, marvel at or even buy finished works. 70 rooms serve as studios for some 150 artists of all kinds. The ground floor is open to the public and a popular meeting place for the locals, with its two café-bars Turnhalle (gym) and Lehrerzimmer (teacher’s lounge). The artists’ building has a lively past: at first, it was only supposed to be temporary, but the PROGR (formerly Progymnasium, high school) quickly made a name for itself in Bern’s cultural scene. In the end, the interim solution turned into a lasting house of culture. The Lehrerzimmer is a cozy place for coffee, the Turnhalle regularly hosts concerts and parties. The place where schoolchildren once played on the swings and did somersaults has turned into one of the hotspots of Bernese cultural life and nightlife.
#9 Kornhausforum (Granary Forum)
Which architectural features will define the future of our cities? How integrated are immigrants in Bern? How much money is art allowed to cost? When the city discusses sociopolitical and cultural questions, it often happens at Kornhausforum. The focal topic is the urban space – and Bern, of course. There are not only panel discussions at Kornhausforum, but also events like the Design Festival Bern. Furthermore, the forum is an important exhibition space for artistic, documentational and press photography. Built in the years between 1711 and 1718, the limestone building on Kornhausplatz (Granary Square) was originally the city’s granary. Through the years, it has housed the trade museum, an event location and the art school of Bernese artist Max von Mühlenen. Today’s Kornhausforum was opened on two storeys in 1998 and is located right next to Kornhausbibliothek (Kornhaus library) and Kornhauscafé.
Bars with Cultural Events
Musigbistrot Relaxed bistro and platform: many bands that now play the big stages had their Bernese premiere right here, when they were still unknown acts. ONO Be it music, literature, art or theatre: in the cozy basement bar with its impressive vaulted ceilings, all aspects of culture get their fair share. Wartsaal At Wartsaal, no one has to wait for regional food, intimate concerts, book readings or a pub quiz – they’re already on the menu. Heitere Fahne At Heitere Fahne, Integration is not only lived, but celebrated every day – with parties, cultural events and culinary delights for young and old.
Bierhübeli The iconic venue with its gallery, bar and garden has been a musical home for international and Swiss band for decades. Gaskessel With its concerts, parties and movie screenings, Gaskessel (gas tank) has been the creative playground of youth culture since the early 70s. Dachstock Under the historic roof of Bern’s Reitschule (riding school), there’s a concert venue where local heroes share the stage with international gems. ISC At the ISC Club, there are several storeys on which partygoers can attend hip concerts, sip drinks or have foosball matches.
Not the Usual Movie Theatre
Cinématte The movie theatre, located on the banks of the Aare river, offers movie classics, rare gems and regional productions, as well as a fantastic restaurant with a view of the locals’ favourite river. Kino Rex For once, an art-house movie theatre replaced a mainstream one: since its reopening in 2015, there are two auditoriums in which movie enthusiasts can enjoy themed movie screenings, author’s films and art-house movies.