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Exploring Bern: Your Gay Guide to Switzerland’s Enchanting Capital

Exploring Bern: Your Gay Guide to Switzerland’s Enchanting Capital

Exploring Bern: Your Gay Guide to Switzerland’s Enchanting Capital

Delve into the finest accommodations, must-visit locales, and culinary delights.

Nestled in the heart of Switzerland, Bern, the nation's capital, is a testament to time and beauty. Home to nearly 140,000 residents, this picturesque city captivates visitors with its harmonious blend of medieval architecture, modern amenities, and the peaceful embrace of the Aare River. Wandering its cobbled lanes, one discovers charming boutiques, vibrant markets, and historical treasures—all set against a backdrop that has earned the Old Town of Bern, its’ medieval city center, a prestigious spot on the UNESCO World Heritage. From the city's iconic clock tower to the lush Rosengarten, travelers to Bern, year after year, immerse themselves in a world where past and present fuse with unmatched elegance. The city’s thoughtfully designed streets are adorned with archways, providing a delightful respite from the scorching summer sun or an unexpected rain shower, while its culinary scene surprises as an underrated gem.


In Switzerland, the LGBTQ+ community flourishes in an embracing environment, highlighted by vibrant cultural events throughout the year. This reflects the nation's progressive stance on queer rights and inclusivity, and as the capital, Bern wholeheartedly embodies this ethos.

Regularly ranked among the world's top ten cities for quality of life, Bern stands out for its sustainable initiatives, endearingly dubbed "Swisstainable." One notable practice includes harnessing hydraulic energy from its rivers for decades. The city's affinity for nature is unmistakably Swiss, whether indulging in skiing, cycling, enjoying tranquil parks, or a refreshing swim in the Aare River. Complementing its urban charm, Bern's nearby photogenic hiking trails offer a blend of picturesque landscapes and fresh air, creating a kaleidoscope of colors for every adventurous explorer.

Getting There

For travelers from the U.S. heading to Bern, the most convenient option is to fly into one of Switzerland's major international airports: Zurich or Geneva. Swiss Airlines have direct flights from many major U.S. cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Miami to Zurich or Geneva, ensuring a smooth and hassle-free journey and allowing you to savor the best of Switzerland even before you arrive. From either of these cities, Bern is easily accessible via the efficient Swiss Federal Railways (SBB), offering a scenic journey that takes under two hours.

Where to Stay: Bellevue Palace


With a history that unfolds over 150 years, Bellevue Palace is not only the Swiss government's official guesthouse but also a testament to regal hospitality. Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill, and Queen Elizabeth II have all stayed at the hotel. Yet, at this palace, every guest is treated with a touch of royalty, regardless of their title. Located in the beating heart of the Swiss Capital, this structure is so much more than just a hotel; it's the epitome of Swiss legacy. A single gaze out of its luxurious rooms reveals the majestic Bernese Alps, a sight that speaks of nature's grandeur intertwined with Swiss elegance.

Bellevue Palace epitomizes luxury by offering 126 rooms, including 25 opulent suites and an exclusive presidential suite. Its stature and prime location amidst the UNESCO-awarded Old Town, a stone's throw away from the Parliament and vibrant shopping arcades, ensures guests are always close to Bern's vibrant energy. And for those on a tight schedule, the train station is conveniently a mere 5-minute walk.


However, the palace's magnificence isn't confined to just its rooms and views. The Brasserie VUE tantalizes with its contemporary brasserie cuisine, while Noumi Grill & Bar thrills with its modern world food concept, enhanced by a live DJ. The historical Le Lobby bar invites you for a delightful cocktail creation (they also offer 99 different types of gin!), and Bellevue Bar & Le Fumoir, which opened in 1913 as the first American bar in Switzerland, serves delicious premier cocktails. For the fitness enthusiast, the hotel's gym awaits with a splendid Finnish sauna and an unmatched 360° view of the old town.

Where to Stay: Swissôtel Kursaal Bern


Swissôtel Kursaal Bern offers breathtaking views of the Alps and is just a mere five-minute stroll away from the UNESCO World Heritage Old Town. This hotel is a gateway to Bern's medieval alleys bursting with cultural splendor, quaint galleries, unique shops, and culinary delights. Beyond its prime location, the hotel's convention center and Grand Casino make it a sought-after destination for both business and leisure travelers.

Each of the hotel's 171 rooms and suites exude tranquility. Freshly renovated in 2020, the rooms blend sustainable materials with contemporary amenities, ensuring guests enjoy a blend of modern luxury and eco-conscious design. Their comprehensive in-room features, from SuitePads and Nespresso machines to ergonomic workspaces and a diverse pillow menu, attest to the hotel's meticulous attention to detail.

Fitness aficionados will appreciate the expansive, sunlight-drenched gym equipped with state-of-the-art machinery and personal trainers upon request.


But best of all, a plethora of dining options will enchant gastronomy enthusiasts. At Restaurant Yù, indulge in over 30 exquisite Asian gourmet dishes featured in the restaurant's renowned Asian Dream Buffet. Giardino Restaurant & Bar serves up mouthwatering Mediterranean delights crafted using local ingredients. For a laid-back dining experience paired with a refreshing cocktail, choose from two unique rooftop settings: the summer Rooftop Grill in the warmer months, offering panoramic views of the city and the Alps, or the winter Rooftop Igloo in the colder months, featuring cozy, heated igloos that can accommodate parties of up to 8.

Where to Eat & Drink: Restaurant ZOE


Restaurant ZOE is a culinary gem on the popular Münstergasse street. This delightful vegetarian haven – with multiple vegan options – effortlessly merges history with modern gastronomy, making it the perfect spot whether you're looking for a quick lunch or a leisurely dinner. The restaurant comes alive at lunchtime with professionals seeking a wholesome business lunch and health aficionados indulging in nutrient-rich bowls. But as the sun sets and the streets of Bern start to shimmer, Restaurant ZOE transforms into an epicurean dreamscape. The evening menu offers unpretentious fine dining and à la carte choices, catering to a diverse palate while still staying true to its vegetarian roots.

Restaurant ZOE isn’t just vegetarian cooking; it’s an ode to the abundant environment and a tapestry of regional culinary experiences. While their dishes are an absolute feast for the taste buds, the presentation steals the show. The serving dishes are so exquisitely selected that it takes considerable self-restraint not to tuck them into your bag – Winona, I feel you! Restaurant ZOE's outdoor seating is a delightful experience for those who enjoy al fresco dining. As you take a bite of the delicious offerings, you can lose yourself in the ambient hum of Bern's Old Town, watching pedestrians passing by and absorbing the good vibes of this historic city. Oh, and a word to the wise for Cava lovers – their house organic Cava is nothing short of divine. One sip, and it’s evident why it comes highly recommended.

Where to Eat & Drink: toi et moi

Situated conveniently next to the central train station of Bern, the restaurant toi et moi stands as a harmonious blend of traditional and Mediterranean culinary influences. Every dish speaks of freshness, reflecting their commitment to regional and seasonal produce. Complementing the gastronomic journey is a meticulously curated wine list, ensuring a holistic dining experience. Stepping inside, one is immediately captivated by the architectural prowess; the varied levels of seating create intimate pockets, making it a haven for every diner's preference. Their pasta dishes are particularly commendable, cooked to al dente perfection, and infused with authentic flavors. If you choose to dine al fresco, you're in for a treat. The outdoor seating presents breathtaking views of the iconic Church of the Holy Ghost, which happens to be one of the largest Swiss Reformed churches in Switzerland.

Where to Eat & Drink: COLORZ Kitchen


At COLORZ Kitchen, authenticity thrives in every corner. From an abundant brunch that lights up your mornings to the vibrant hues of midday meals and elegant evening dining, it's evident that the team here honors their plant-based commitment. As the name suggests, this establishment is a veritable palette of culinary colors, tantalizing both the eyes and the taste buds. One step inside, and you're enveloped in a world where even rose-colored glasses might seem redundant. The food is not just a feast for the eyes with its radiant colors but a melody of flavors that makes one's mouth yearn for more. As you step outside, especially at midday during the summer months, the sun's comforting embrace only amplifies the delight of the experience. Located strategically on a serene corner, this spacious new vegan restaurant boasts both indoor and outdoor seating. While their celestial food is the star, their cocktail offerings, especially the whiskey sours, are not to be overlooked. Whether you opt for the à la carte or indulge in their multi-course tasting menu, the experience remains grounded, devoid of the haughtiness often associated with high-end dining. Make sure you wear something forgiving; with food this irresistible, there's no holding back!

Where to Eat & Drink: Gourmanderie Moléson

Gourmanderie Moléson transports you to a Parisian brasserie setting, with an ambiance enriched by its original Gruyère parlor, adorned with old-paneled walls, and creaking wooden floors, perfect for festive group gatherings. The menu delights with Swiss culinary gems, Alsatian tarts flambées, not to mention a thoughtful selection of vegan options. A visit promises both tradition and variety!

Where to Eat & Drink: Swing Kitchen


Swing Kitchen is a charming "fast food" joint dedicated to exclusively serving vegan delights that tantalize the taste buds of vegans and meat-eaters alike. Known predominantly for their robust and flavorful burgers, Swing Kitchen ensures that every bite is a delightful experience. The 'Swing' and 'Cheese' burgers, which have rightfully earned their place as fan favorites, are a testament to how vegan food can be both scrumptious and satisfying. For those in the mood for something lighter, they offer wraps, salads, and an array of sides, including crispy onion rings and golden nuggets that are hard to resist. However, the true showstopper is their dessert menu. If you can make room after your meal, do not miss out on their tiramisu - it's a slice of creamy, ethereal bliss!

Beyond the tasty food, Swing Kitchen is emblematic of conscious dining. Their commitment to sustainability is evident in every detail, from recycled napkins to bamboo cutlery and straws. Swing Kitchen is not just a casual spot to grab a cruelty-free burger; it's a testament to how delicious and responsible dining can go hand in hand. Whether vegan or simply food-curious, this place promises a feast that's both kind to the palate and the planet.

Where to Eat & Drink: Dean & David


Dean & David is your go-to spot for uncompromising freshness, be it a sunlit breakfast on the boulevard, a swift lunch break, or a takeaway in the evening. Their hand-prepared offerings exemplify simplicity and speed, with a strong emphasis on utilizing regional ingredients.

Where to Eat & Drink: Bierhübeli Bern

Bierhübeli Bern is one of the city's most iconic concert venues, hosting global stars that never fail to electrify the audience. Its blend of a traditional lounge and concert hall offers the best of both worlds: live acts that captivate the crowd and a relaxing lounge space to enjoy a drink.

Where to Eat & Drink: Turbo Lama


Turbo Lama masterfully curates an innovative ambiance, drawing locals in with sparkling after-work drinks expertly served by their adept bar team, all complemented by laid-back tunes for a perfectly relaxed atmosphere.

Where to Eat & Drink: Kapitel

Kapitel is a cozy corner pub known for its top-notch cocktail creations and curated bar food, all set to the tunes of city-renowned musicians. It transforms into a vibrant dance hall by night, welcoming all kinds of music enthusiasts and dancers.

Bern Gay Bars

In the welcoming ambiance of Bern, exclusively gay-owned bars might be few, but the experience is unparalleled. Drop by Comeback Bar, nestled in a historic cellar, for a chilled beer or an energetic weekend party featuring electro beats. For relaxation, Aqualis, Bern's premier gay sauna, provides an array of amenities from private cabins and expansive steam baths to a Finnish sauna, movie rooms, cruising zones, a sunlit solarium, and a bar.

Sweet Treats


Bakery Bakery stands as Switzerland's first all-vegan bakery. The creative team serves a diverse range of sweet and savory vegan treats, making it a must-visit for both vegans and non-vegans alike.

The queue for the beloved La Golosa Gelato is a summer staple. True to its name, which translates to "sweet tooth," it offers fresh gelato made from local ingredients. Prioritizing sustainability, the shop also serves vegan cornets free of palm oil.

At Wonder Waffle, you can craft your own delectable experience with their blend of flavorsome fruits, tempting toppings, and sumptuous sauces on warm waffles, ensuring an unforgettable flavor sensation.

And at Cuckoo Ice Cream, the founders believe the finest ice cream is served straight from the production bucket. Daily, they dish out the freshest scoops into cups and wafers, using only top-tier natural ingredients – and the impeccable flavors speak for themselves!

Caffeine Fix


Nestled in Eigerplatz, Drip Roasters Café beckons you to relax, read, or engage in conversation over a cup of coffee. The team has created a welcoming space with Wi-Fi, a window bar equipped with sockets for work or leisurely views, and outdoor seating perfect for evening sun aperitifs. And best of all, their coffee, freshly roasted in-house, complements their light bites like avocado toast and other small snacks and pastries. Whether taking your brew on the go or purchasing beans (whole or ground) to enjoy later, they've got you covered. Café MARTA is also renowned by locals for its first-class coffee, ensuring an impeccable cappuccino experience in its cozy cellar bar. Alongside their coffee, they boast a delightful range of teas and delicacies.

What to Do: Stroll through the Old Town of Bern


Step back in time as you traverse the historic Old Town of Bern, a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983. Saunter through its charming alleyways and behold the magnificent baroque structures that whisper ancient tales. Among these architectural marvels is the Bern Cathedral, soaring at 100.6 meters and claiming the title of Switzerland's tallest church tower.

To delve even further into the city's history, opt for the fascinating Tour of the Zytglogge. This Clock Tower, a proud Bernese monument since the early 13th century, encapsulates the city's medieval grandeur. As part of the tour, be entranced by the rhythmic ballet of clockwork figures and the astronomical clock's meticulous craftsmanship, immersing yourself in Bern's enduring allure.

What to Do: Museums for Every Taste


Known as the "City of Museums" with over 20 spellbinding institutions, Bern offers unique glimpses into diverse realms of knowledge and history.

Nestled within a picturesque castle-like structure, the Bern Historical Museum unfolds history, archaeology, and ethnography in ten permanent exhibitions. A highlight includes the integrated Einstein Museum, which celebrates the groundbreaking contributions of the Nobel Prize-winning physicist to our understanding of space and time. Spanning multiple levels, visitors can journey through the Bern Historical Museum from the Stone Age to the 20th century. With a vast collection of art and artifacts, this museum is a treasure trove of knowledge and beauty.

Nearby, enter a world where past, present, and future communication technologies converge. Across three interactive floors, the Museum of Communication invites visitors to touch, play, and engage. Embodying the ethos of "communication made accessible," this institution champions a hands-on approach that distinguished it with the 2019 Council of Europe Museum Prize. Multilingual displays in German, French, and English ensure an inclusive experience for all.

What to Do: Take in the Views from Rosengarten


Bern's Rosengarten offers a breathtaking panoramic view over the UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Aare River's photogenic curves. Originally a cemetery for the lower town until 1913, the park now blooms with an impressive 220 different types of roses. Complementing these are 200 varieties of irises and moor beds showcasing 28 types of rhododendrons. Families, couples, and solo visitors can be found soaking in the serene beauty, enhanced by various water features that amplify the garden's tranquility. Above all, it's one of the most picturesque vantage points to admire the Old Town and the Aare River.

What to Do: Bern’s Botanical Oasis – A Global Flora Expedition

The Botanical Garden is another haven for plant enthusiasts and those seeking a tranquil escape. With an extensive collection ranging from medicinal herbs and native species to exotic flora, visitors are transported on a global botanical journey. Its emphasis on Alpine plants and steppes makes it a unique experience.

What to Do: Visit Gurten Park


Hiking enthusiasts will relish a journey to Gurten's peak, Bern's beloved nearby mountain, perched at 858 meters above sea level. If hiking isn't your thing, electric cable cars offer a quick ascent. At the summit, immerse yourself in a lush landscape punctuated by grazing cows and tranquil nature sounds. The crowning jewel is the 22-meter Gurten Tower. Ascend it and gaze beyond the mountain's stated height to take in vistas of the Bernese Oberland's crystalline peaks, the gleaming Aare River, and Bern's vast cityscape.

What to Do: Dive into Bern's Aquatic Paradises


Located below the majestic Parliament Building and gracefully lining the banks of the Aare River, the Marzili open-air pool stands as perhaps Bern's most renowned outdoor bathing spot. At Marzilli, immerse yourself in a delightful fusion of pristine pools, sun-drenched lawns, and direct river access, epitomizing the perfect summer oasis. On those sweltering summer days, a refreshing dive into the Aare River from Marzilli promises sheer rejuvenation.

For a more intimate ambiance, venture to the Lorrainebad, the coziest among Bern's four municipal open-air pools. Located on the northern fringes of the city's Old Town, this idyllic river pool exudes a familial charm. Year after year, it's hailed by many as a beloved summer rendezvous—a place of relaxation and togetherness, rivaling even seaside getaways.

Remember to exercise caution when considering a swim in the Aare River, given its strong current. Avoid swimming alone and consider using a flotation device for added safety.

What to Do: Journey to Tranquility

Nestled in the Oktogon, a historic octagonal building that once housed Switzerland's first gas boiler in the 19th century, the Hammam & Spa Oktogon Bern is a four-story sanctuary specializing in the ancient Middle Eastern cleansing ritual that rejuvenates both body and soul. At its heart is a warm relaxation bath beneath a magnificent 13-meter-high dome. Beyond the hammam bathing ritual, guests can indulge in therapeutic massages and treatments, culminating in restful moments in the cozy relaxation rooms or a delightful pause in their restaurant for a refreshing drink or snack.

What to Do: Stoll the Weekly Farmer’s Market


Bern's weekly farmer’s market comes alive every Tuesday and Saturday, offering a vibrant array of vegetables, fruits, cheeses, meats, baked goods, flowers and more. Discover the finest stalls on the Bundesplatz, right in front of the Bundeshaus and along the charming Münstergasse street.

Major Annual Events


Throughout the year, Bern is the backdrop for a myriad of illustrious events that draw attendees from all corners of the world. Below are some of the most prominent annual gatherings:

Carnival Bern (February)

In February, the city immerses itself in festive vibes with Carnival Bern, which has become Switzerland's third-largest carnival event. The city vibrates with masked Fasnächtler, who enliven the alleys and restaurants of the old town after the ceremonial Bear Liberation.

Bern Grand Prix (May)

An athletic spectacle, the Bern Grand Prix is the second-largest popular race in Switzerland, attracting approximately 30,000 runners. With Bern's old town providing a captivating backdrop, runners compete in various categories, creating a truly electric atmosphere.

Gurten Festival (July)

Come July, the Gurten mountain beckons festival fans for a musical fiesta. Multiple stages, panoramic Alpine views, and performances by national and international bands define the iconic GurtenFestival.

Bern Pride (July)

With a vibrant parade weaving through the old town, culminating in a grand Pride festival, and echoing with performances by national and international celebrities, BernPride stands as a powerful symbol of queer rights.

Buskers (August)

This street artist event celebrates the creativity and skills of performers from all over. With a rich 30-year history worldwide, the Buskers festival sees artists offering music, dance, puppetry, comedy, and so much more across diverse venues.

Rendez-vous Bundesplatz (October/November)

The Federal Palace dons a magical light and sound spectacle that takes place every October and November as it transforms into an open-air theater. Rendez-vous Bundesplatz is performed several times each evening - and best of all, it's free of charge!

Queersicht (November)

Highlighting the best of "queer cinema," Queersicht is the LGBTQ+ film festival of Bern. With a diverse lineup, from documentaries to feature films, this annual festival champions cinema that might otherwise be overlooked in mainstream theaters.

Zibelemärit (November)

A unique traditional Swiss festival, Zibelemärit, happens on the fourth Monday of November, where farmers bring over 50 tons of onions and garlic - in elaborately plaited braids - to the city, showcasing the country's rich agricultural heritage.

Christmas Markets (November/December)

As the festive season sets in, Bern comes alive, offering multiple Christmas Markets throughout the city. The highly Instagrammable Bern Star Market invites visitors with its wooden huts offering winter treats, a large fondue chalet, and splendid views of the Federal Palace. Waisenhausplatz offers many gift ideas, delicious treats, and an ambiance filled with the spirit of Christmas, and the Bern Cathedral Christmas Market, set against the Bern Cathedral, stands out with its unique offerings from local artisans and delicious mulled wine. The serene atmosphere provides a respite from the usual festive hustle and bustle.

Remember to check specific dates before your trip, as some events may change due to unforeseen circumstances.

Other Notable Information


Currency: The official currency of Bern, as with the rest of Switzerland, is the Swiss Franc (CHF). While many places accept Euro, using francs is advisable to avoid unfavorable exchange rates.

Alcohol Consumption: The legal drinking age in Bern is 16 for beer and wine and 18 for spirits. Most restaurants and bars serve alcohol and drinking in public places is permissible. However, it's always important to consume responsibly.

Water Consumption: Tap water in Bern is high quality and safe to drink. In fact, the city boasts numerous fountains with potable water, allowing you to refill and stay hydrated as you explore the city.

Cannabis Laws: While cannabis containing more than 1% THC is illegal in Switzerland, CBD products with less than 1% THC are legal and widely available. Any possession of cannabis containing higher levels of THC can result in fines.

Language: The primary language spoken in Bern is German, but many residents also speak French, English, and Italian. Tourist areas and establishments will typically have English-speaking staff.

Tipping Culture: The service charge is generally included in your bill in Bern. However, it's customary to round up the total or leave small change if you received good service. Unlike in some other countries, there isn't an expected percentage for tipping.

Public Transport: Bern boasts an efficient public transport system comprising trams, buses, and funiculars. Tickets are valid for multiple modes of transport within the specified time, allowing for seamless transitions. Purchasing a Swiss Travel Pass or Bern Travel ticket and using the BernWelcome app can offer unlimited travel within the city during your stay.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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