The best venues to catch a gig in Bern
The Swiss capital may not be the biggest city in the country, but it has a vibrant music scene and draws high-quality, innovative acts from across Switzerland and around the world.
Since Bern is slightly off the beaten track for big name international bands (they tend to stop in Zurich before Bern if there's only time for one Swiss show) at first glance, Bern's music scene may appear lacking. But actually, Bern has a thriving live music scene. It is also sneakily a fantastic place to discover new musicians and to enjoy their sound in intimate environments, as several venues encourage up and coming acts to play in Bern.
This is a list of some of the best places in Bern to catch live shows. Their offerings are incredibly diverse, so no matter if you're looking for something large or small, hardcore or classical, there is something for you here.
I'm continually discovering new, smaller venues around Bern that have so much character and atmosphere. If you know of a venue that's missing from this list, let me know in the comments!
Dachstock is the large upstairs venue at the Reitschule, Bern’s alternative music and culture venue. The non-profit hosts a great variety of shows from many genres, including hip hop, rock, electro, experimental, gypsy, drum’n’bass, and jazz. Their calendar is split about 50/50 between parties and concerts. The space offers unique acoustics and a cool, eclectic vibe - it’s probably the best venue in Bern.
The little sister to Dachstock, right downstairs, and connected to the Sous le Pont restaurant - all part of the Reitschule. For the great bands that come through town that can’t quite fill Dachstock, this is the venue. A cozy bar and stage with great atmosphere and always a willing crowd to discover some new sounds.
Bierhübeli is a big venue, holding up to 800 people, in the Länggasse neighborhood. Their calendar includes a good mix of Swiss acts, DJ and party nights, and international bands who can draw a fair-sized Swiss audience. It has a young, broad appeal.
Another great venue that also includes a lovely restaurant with a terrace directly next to the Aare river. The building is an old industrial complex, repurposed for music and culture. The program is diverse but tends towards synthetic, electro-pop sounds. They host post DJ/party nights and concerts.
A youth and culture center that first opened in 1971, located near to the Aare river. They offer a broad spectrum of events, music and otherwise, aimed at openness and promoting a politically and culturally active youth culture.
Mahogany Hall supports musical events throughout Bern. At their location next to the Bärenpark and Aare river they host frequent dance music nights, including salsa and swing. Their program might also include piano concerts, alternative rock, rumba, Caribbean sound, blues, and open mics.
While most mega-acts tend to hit Zurich over Bern, Wankdorf is the big stadium venue where you’ll find the biggest international names when they do visit the Swiss capital. It’s the sports stadium, home of the BSC Young Boys football team, that’s converted to a concert space when big ticket names come to town. This isn’t the place for cozy atmosphere. Recent shows include Justin Bieber and Céline Dion.
Tucked down and around the corner from the Reitschule, ISC Club is your place for the heavier sounds in rock, hip hop, and metal. They serve up international and Swiss acts Thursday through Saturday.
Another favorite gathering point in Bern, Turnhalle is the main attraction in the PROGR cultural center, housed in Bern's old high school. The space is shared with artist studios and workspaces for startups. In addition to the frequent events held in the courtyard in front of Turnhalle, Bee-Flat organizes concerts there every Wednesday and Sunday. The inspiration for their line-up is jazz, but in the broadest sense, and features both local and international artists.
You would probably never find the Playground Lounge if you didn’t know it was there. It’s a windowless bar tucked away behind the Marzili bowling alley. But it has a great casual atmosphere, perfectly suited for catching mostly local rock and electronic music.
Technically Dead End is members only, although members can bring friends and it’s not usually too hard to get in. This is a grungy, alternative space in an old house as you’re heading to Längasse. Genre: rock, punk, hard rock.
The backroom club-bar behind Dachstock. Mostly DJs. If you’re after a night of dancing in a smoky room with a seedy crowd this is your spot.
The downstairs room of the restaurant is a great venue for gigs and open mics Thursday through Saturday. The program is mostly Swiss but also includes international bands from the alternative, indie-rock, and blues genres.
Marta is a charming bar and small venue downstairs in one of the “caves” on the lower end of Kramgasse in Old Town. The underground feel looks and sounds great. They have regular singer-songwriter, folk, pop, and funk acts, often from abroad.
Near to Marta, also on Kramgasse, is another cool Bern “cave” whose stone walls encapsulate a multifunctional cultural space. Ono’s program includes music, theater, dance, readings, and improv. Music genres tend toward jazz, latin, world, classical, and folk.
Just a few stops from the main station on the number 9 tram, at the foot of the Gurten, Bern’s local mountain, is Heitere Fahne. This is another multi-use space that often hosts shows on its spacious front patio or interior stage room. A very cool all-are-welcome vibe.