12 Great Reasons for Shopping in Bern’s Old City
Under the arcades
In the mood for some “lädele” (leisurely shopping) on a rainy fall day? Leave your umbrella at home and head outside! With its six kilometres of arcades, the Swiss Federal City boasts one of the longest covered shopping streets in all of Europe. This allows you to stroll from Bern’s main station all the way to the Nydegg Bridge and still be protected from the weather almost all the way. It also means there are much better chances of having a good hair day – not necessarily due to any product or styling, but rather thanks to the clever medieval architects (thank you very much for that!). The arcades are also a godsend on hot summer days, providing much-needed shade and pleasant cool temperatures. Now that’s what we call convenient!
Gems of the lower Old City
In the upper part of Bern’s Old City, you’ll find stores from international chains such as Zara, Mango or The Body Shop. The real fun, however, begins when you pass the Zytglogge (Clock Tower) and head into the lower part, where you’ll find countless boutiques and studios with local designs, culinary treats and other gems that can’t be found in any other Swiss city. If you’re looking for something original, unique, and maybe even a bit peculiar, you’re sure to find it here. Many of these shops can only be found in Bern, for example Bernese perfume maker Brigitte Witschi’s atelier “Art of Scent”, where visitors can choose from 34 different essences to put together their very own, personalized scent.
Discover Bern’s Treasures
Instagrammer Anna Stump (see image) shows us how it’s done. She posted a photo taken in Bern’s Marktgasse alley, proving that shopping in Bern is "very instagrammable". And she’s not the only one who thinks so: in an evaluation by London’s “Evening Standard”, Bern took the title of "the most Instagrammable winter city" – surpassing even places like Aspen or Zermatt! The quaint alleys, medieval sandstone buildings and charming vaulted cellars of the UNESCO-listed Old City definitely make for a more Hollywood-worthy backdrop than huge shopping centres or modern promenades. Perfect for amateur photographers, selfie queens and all those who want to snap a new WhatsApp profile picture while on their shopping spree.
“Nume nid gsprängt”
Stressful shopping? Not in the “capital of relaxedness”! In Bern, times goes by just a little bit slower than in other places – and that’s a scientifically proven fact: According to a study conducted by ETH Zurich, the average walking speed of the Bernese is 1.354 metres per second. In Zurich, it’s 1.442, getting the people there 5.3 metres further per minute than the inhabitants of the federal city. This probably has to do with the famous Bernese motto “Nume nid gsprängt” – slow down and take it easy. It is often joked that the Bernese are slow movers, but that’s not all there is to it – they just enjoy taking their time. That’s also why shop owners and vendors are almost always up for a little chat. Unwinding with some slow shopping – sounds wonderful to us.
Heaven for beer fans
Having a hard time convincing someone to go shopping with you? Try mentioning this: Bern is the beer capital of Switzerland! The love of (craft) beer is celebrated everywhere. In the beautiful vaulted cellar of the beer bar "OnTap" at 53 Rathausgasse, twelve different craft beers are on tap at any given time. Just a few metres away, the beer café "Au Trappiste" invites visitors to sample beers and talk shop. And the Altes Tramdepot near the BearPark, a restaurant and brewery in one, serves beer creations with a fantastic view of the Old City. Combining shopping with beer sounds like a win-win to us.
More beer places in Bern
Made in Bern
Where is my product from? Who made it? And under what conditions? In Bern, you’ll find the answers to these questions. The products sold in the shops that you’ll find from the Zytglogge (Clock Tower) downwards especially are often manufactured, created, repaired, and designed directly on site. For example: You’ll be able to hear the sewing machine rattle in the back room of the fashion store ooonyva (35 Münstergasse). The cheese that is sold at the Chäshütte (82 Rathausgasse) is matured and stored in the vaulted cellar below the store. And bag designer Fiona Losinger (see photo) lets people watch as she makes her leather bags in her store at 48 Münstergasse, which is both a saddlery and a retail store. Taking a look behind the scenes and shopping sustainable products made in Bern – we like!
In our opinion, taking a breather and lingering for a bit comes easy in the “capital of relaxedness”. Cozy, charming, inviting, quaint, authentic, and sometimes simply "small and cute" – the words used on TripAdvisor by visitors from all over the world to describe the numerous arcade and cellar cafés in Bern’s Old City. A nice cappuccino or delicious snack can be enjoyed on every corner, sat in between elegant boutiques and quaint shops. A big plus compared to other large Swiss cities: the atmosphere is wonderfully relaxed thanks to the combination of the characteristic Bernese relaxedness and the "savoir vivre" mentality that we get from the nearby French-speaking part of Switzerland! A coffee break that feels like a mini vacation? It’s possible in Bern.
Our favourite cafés
Why does it always have to be Paris, Milan or New York? What many people don’t know: Bern’s fashion scene is surprisingly creative, diverse, and innovative. This is proven, for example, by the Laufmeter, a unique outdoor fashion show: every May, the red carpet is rolled out in the lower part of Bern’s Old City, chairs are set up on both sides, and some 40 models present the local designers’ spring collections – 75 minutes of fashion bliss in the centre of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visiting Bern’s Old City is a must for fashionistas!
What does Bern’s Old City have in common with the Taj Mahal, Machu Picchu, and the Giza pyramids? It, too, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Strolling through the medieval alleys, you’ll feel a bit like you’ve stepped into a huge, bustling open-air museum. Sandstone facades, old vaulted cellars, narrow alleys, historic towers, well-preserved patrician houses and numerous fountains: much still looks as it did in the 12th century. On your shopping trip, you’ll pass sights such as the Bern Minster, the Zytglogge (Clock Tower), or the Einstein House. Most of the boutiques are also in buildings that were built in the Middle Ages and are now listed monuments.
In the Middle Ages, the city’s architects built a storage cellar under each of the houses in the wide alleys. Today, these characteristic sandstone cellars turn a leisurely stroll through Bern’s Old City into a unique experience: What was once storage space for grain, vegetables and wine now houses countless charming stores, boutiques and studios waiting to be explored. Most people are amazed when they pass the inconspicuous wooden flaps and descend the stairs to find a whole new universe. Discover them for yourself!
Discover Bern’s vaulted cellars
Bringing home Swiss flags, cowbells and refrigerator magnets is fine, but sooner or later, they usually end up in the attic, the thrift shop, or even the trash. Bernese souvenirs are that extra bit more creative and original. The spicy Matte Gin, for example, is hand-distilled directly on the Aare river in Bern’s oldest neighbourhood. The light and airy Mandelbärli (almond bears) come in every flavour from pistachio to blueberry. The Berner Seifenbärli (Bernese soap bears) are lovingly created by Simone Mosimann in her soap manufactory blubb. And the "aarewasser” is a Bernese perfume inspired by the crystal clear, greenish-blue Aare river. Wrap your Bernese gift in a bow and your mother-in-law around your finger.
Bernese gifts and souvenirs
What many people don’t know: Bern is the birthplace of chocolate! In 1879, chocolate history was written at 2 Wasserwerkgasse when Rudolf Lindt, son of a Bernese pharmacist, invented the conching method and, with that, the smooth and creamy chocolate that we know (and love!) today. Ovomaltine, Camille Bloch and Toblerone, the world’s most famous chocolate, also originated in Bern. And until this day, every single Toblerone – no matter where in the world it’s sold – is produced in the factory in Bern. So where better to buy the sweet delicacy than in the city where it was invented?
Bernese chocolate tips
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