The Old Town of Bern, the capital of Switzerland, was first settled on the peninsular land surrounded by the Aare river in the 12th century, and since then has been a city of many firsts. From one of the first cities to have plumbing, to rebuilding the entire city with sandstone in 1405 to prevent further fires from destroying the traditional wooden buildings, Bern has used ingenuity to provide its citizens with little luxuries. Bern placed an emphasis on design to create some of the earliest European “life hacks,” such as the city’s six kilometers of arcades so inhabitants can avoid walking in the rain.
Another contribution: cellars for every townhome in the Old Town. This meant that every Bernese city dweller had their own space to store their own food and wine during the winter months. Even today, the city’s design has withstood the test of time and has been transformed for modern culture. The cellars are still one of the best ways to see and experience the city as a glimpse into the past while enjoying the tradition of the cellar or something entirely new and unique. These eight former cellars are among the best to visit while traveling in Bern, though wandering and exploring will surely provide its own delightful surprises.
Kornhauskeller is a frescoed bar and Swiss restaurant in a former cellar with a vaulted ceiling. Though the café is at street level, visitors descend into the large basement to find the more elegant dining room. Naturally, the restaurant and vinoteca includes a massive menu of wines—more than 500 bottles.
2. Serge and Peppers Records
This small record shop is something straight out of High Fidelity. The subterranean store features nothing but albums hand-selected by the owner, Serge Berthoud. This is definitely a music store worth whiling away an hour or two.
3. CraftGallery Bern
CraftGallery is a microbrew haven in a vaulted cellar that once held grain in the Middle Ages. Stop by to order a flight, but check the calendar to attend a Brewer’s Eve to meet the brewers themselves. It’s the perfect time to geek out over craft beer.
This former cellar rose from the ashes to become a cultural stage for musicians and poets alike. Whether visitors want to take in a show or perhaps perform themselves, the legendary figures to have graced this joint is reason enough to visit. One former patron: Pablo Picasso, who performed here in 1954.
This cellar has been storing and aging cheeses since 1894. While the cheese cellar itself is not regularly open to the public, it is worth visiting the shop to taste and souvenir shop. If one of the owners is around, it is quite possible to get a peek inside.
6. äss bar
The café and health food store fights food waste from its underground location. Any food the store does not sell each day is donated to local charity organizations. Get your mind out of the gutter and help support this progressive store front.
KellerKino was founded in 1970 as Switzerland’s first independent cinema. Those who take a seat in one of the cozy chairs will find independent films are the only movies to light
up the single-screen hall.
8. Zytglogge Theater
This cellar-turned-intimate performance center only holds 46 seats. Inside is an open stage, and the joint is aptly named for its location on the same square in which the Zytglogge clock is found.
Molly Harris is a freelance journalist. You can often find her on the highway somewhere between Florida and North Carolina or taking life slow in Europe.