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Away Days: 24hours in Berne

Craft beer, bears and BSC Young Boys make Berne an essential stop on our Champions League tour

WORDS Michael Harrold

t’s not often the journey to the ground is among the highlights of a game, but going to watch Swiss champions Young Boys it really is. And this is no slight on the football or atmosphere in the stands. We’re in Berne for a Champions League qualifier and fans are spilling out onto the pavement outside the Café des Pyrénées (Kornhausplatz 17, 3011 Berne), enjoying the late-summer warmth. It’s 15 minutes to the ground on the No9 tram, but the pub is so inviting we stay for a last beer in town. With the working day over, the YB faithful are turning their focus to the game and the buzz of anticipation is growing.

We squeeze into a tram and moments later are enjoying the breathtaking view as we pass over the Kornhausbrücke bridge. We’re high above the river Aare which snakes through the Swiss federal capital and marks the boundaries of the medieval Altstadt (old town) – a UNESCO World Heritage site. Buildings cling to the steep bank that climbs vertiginously up from the river.

The current is fast and the water below an emerald green. It is so clean that the Bernese still swim in the river, some even commuting to and from work, wrapping their clothes in a watertight bundle. But we are going with a different flow and on good advice we stop off at Barbière (Breitenrainplatz 40, 3014 Berne), one of many micro-breweries contributing to the city’s reputation as the craft beer capital of Switzerland. There’s a great, laid-back vibe and with such a wide selection on tap, we regret not leaving ourselves more time. With kick-off approaching, however, we empty our glasses and hotfoot the last 500 metres to the ground.  

Benfica’s José Águas lifts the European Cup, won in Berne in 1961 (above); a classic rösti from the Restaurant Anker (top right), The Wankdorf Stadium readies itself for the arrival of Manchester United (right)

The square outside the stadium is heaving when we arrive. We do like the locals and queue for a YB Wurst – a giant sausage with a bread roll and a splodge of mustard on a paper plate. No frills, but a Young Boys institution.

So where does that name come from? YB were formed in 1898 by four students at the University of Berne who, after arranging a game between local side FC Bern and Old Boys Basel, decided to form a club themselves. To differentiate their team from the Basel side – you’d have thought the city name itself might have sufficed – the Young Boys moniker was chosen and stuck.

The club are currently on the crest of a wave having won the league for four straight seasons, taking them to 15 titles in total. Only their big-city rivals have plundered more: Geneva outfit Servette (17), Basel (20) and Zürich-based Grasshoppers, who boast a record 27 league crowns.

The current 32,000-capacity ground was built in time for EURO 2008, but the old Stadion Wankdorf was steeped in football history. YB are one of only two Swiss sides to reach the semi-finals of the European Cup, losing out to Stade de Reims in 1959 despite winning the first leg 1-0 in front of a 60,000 crowd. Two years later, the Wankdorf, named after the neighbourhood where it is located, hosted the final itself on a traumatic evening for Barcelona’s Hungarian pair Zoltán Czibor and Sándor Kocsis.

The scoreboard and clock from the 1954 World Cup final stand in the square outside the ground, showing on one side the final score of what became known as the Miracle of Berne

Both scored for Barcelona against Benfica, but the Catalan side lost 3-2 at the same venue where, seven years earlier, the great Hungary team of that era had surprisingly lost by the same scoreline to West Germany in the 1954 World Cup final. Czibor and Kocsis were so shaken by the experience that they refused to go back into the dressing room before the 1961 European Cup final, choosing instead to get changed in the corridor. It didn’t make any difference.

The scoreboard and clock from the 1954 World Cup final stand in the square outside the ground, showing on one side the final score of what became known as the Miracle of Berne, and on the other the 2-1 scoreline from YB’s victory against Luzern on 28 April 2018 when they clinched their first Swiss title for 32 years.

After our game finishes, we head back to the old town and the Altes Tramdepot Brauerei (Grosser Muristalden 6, 3006 Berne) – a restaurant and brewery perched on the hill above the Bärengraben (Bear Pit) on the eastern bank of the river. Legend has it that the city’s name derives from the animal and three still live in the Bärengraben, though thankfully now in a large, wooded riverside run, rather than the concrete pit Berne’s bears used to call home. We bid them goodnight as we make our way back over the bridge. It’s an unlikely end to a great day and, for a taste of Swiss football, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Travel
Berne, baby, Berne

Get your bearings

Head straight to the old town, which is a short walk from the station. It’s built on a bend in the river Aare, with the 13th-century Zytglogge clock tower the centre point on Kramgasse, the main thoroughfare. Don’t miss the show on the hour every hour when the clock – complete with dancing bears – comes to life.

Best view

Cross the Nydeggbrücke bridge at the bottom of Kramgasse and climb to the top of the Rosengarten park for views of the old town. The Restaurant Rosengarten (Alter Aargauerstalden 31b, 3006 Berne) has a great terrace – so get a drink, kick back and soak it all in.

Culture kick

Paul Klee grew up in Berne and the city boasts a museum, the Zentrum Paul Klee (Monument im Fruchtland 3, 3000 Berne), dedicated to the artist. The spectacular Renzo Piano building in which the museum is housed is worth a visit in its own right.  

Willkommen im land der Röschti

For old-school Swiss dishes, head for the Restaurant Anker (Kornhausplatz 16, 3011 Berne), even if locals tell you it’s just for the tourists. It’s got all the classics, not least rösti (fried potatoes) – preferably with cheese, ham and a fried egg on top.

GOAL – Die Berner Fussball Bar

Many of the cellars in the old town have been converted into bars and restaurants, and Die Berner Fussball Bar (Junkerngasse 1, 3011 Berne) is a classic example. A great place for a game of pool, to watch a game and talk football with the locals.

t’s not often the journey to the ground is among the highlights of a game, but going to watch Swiss champions Young Boys it really is. And this is no slight on the football or atmosphere in the stands. We’re in Berne for a Champions League qualifier and fans are spilling out onto the pavement outside the Café des Pyrénées (Kornhausplatz 17, 3011 Berne), enjoying the late-summer warmth. It’s 15 minutes to the ground on the No9 tram, but the pub is so inviting we stay for a last beer in town. With the working day over, the YB faithful are turning their focus to the game and the buzz of anticipation is growing.

We squeeze into a tram and moments later are enjoying the breathtaking view as we pass over the Kornhausbrücke bridge. We’re high above the river Aare which snakes through the Swiss federal capital and marks the boundaries of the medieval Altstadt (old town) – a UNESCO World Heritage site. Buildings cling to the steep bank that climbs vertiginously up from the river.

The current is fast and the water below an emerald green. It is so clean that the Bernese still swim in the river, some even commuting to and from work, wrapping their clothes in a watertight bundle. But we are going with a different flow and on good advice we stop off at Barbière (Breitenrainplatz 40, 3014 Berne), one of many micro-breweries contributing to the city’s reputation as the craft beer capital of Switzerland. There’s a great, laid-back vibe and with such a wide selection on tap, we regret not leaving ourselves more time. With kick-off approaching, however, we empty our glasses and hotfoot the last 500 metres to the ground.  

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Benfica’s José Águas lifts the European Cup, won in Berne in 1961 (above); a classic rösti from the Restaurant Anker (top right), The Wankdorf Stadium readies itself for the arrival of Manchester United (right)

The square outside the stadium is heaving when we arrive. We do like the locals and queue for a YB Wurst – a giant sausage with a bread roll and a splodge of mustard on a paper plate. No frills, but a Young Boys institution.

So where does that name come from? YB were formed in 1898 by four students at the University of Berne who, after arranging a game between local side FC Bern and Old Boys Basel, decided to form a club themselves. To differentiate their team from the Basel side – you’d have thought the city name itself might have sufficed – the Young Boys moniker was chosen and stuck.

The club are currently on the crest of a wave having won the league for four straight seasons, taking them to 15 titles in total. Only their big-city rivals have plundered more: Geneva outfit Servette (17), Basel (20) and Zürich-based Grasshoppers, who boast a record 27 league crowns.

The current 32,000-capacity ground was built in time for EURO 2008, but the old Stadion Wankdorf was steeped in football history. YB are one of only two Swiss sides to reach the semi-finals of the European Cup, losing out to Stade de Reims in 1959 despite winning the first leg 1-0 in front of a 60,000 crowd. Two years later, the Wankdorf, named after the neighbourhood where it is located, hosted the final itself on a traumatic evening for Barcelona’s Hungarian pair Zoltán Czibor and Sándor Kocsis.

The scoreboard and clock from the 1954 World Cup final stand in the square outside the ground, showing on one side the final score of what became known as the Miracle of Berne

Both scored for Barcelona against Benfica, but the Catalan side lost 3-2 at the same venue where, seven years earlier, the great Hungary team of that era had surprisingly lost by the same scoreline to West Germany in the 1954 World Cup final. Czibor and Kocsis were so shaken by the experience that they refused to go back into the dressing room before the 1961 European Cup final, choosing instead to get changed in the corridor. It didn’t make any difference.

The scoreboard and clock from the 1954 World Cup final stand in the square outside the ground, showing on one side the final score of what became known as the Miracle of Berne, and on the other the 2-1 scoreline from YB’s victory against Luzern on 28 April 2018 when they clinched their first Swiss title for 32 years.

After our game finishes, we head back to the old town and the Altes Tramdepot Brauerei (Grosser Muristalden 6, 3006 Berne) – a restaurant and brewery perched on the hill above the Bärengraben (Bear Pit) on the eastern bank of the river. Legend has it that the city’s name derives from the animal and three still live in the Bärengraben, though thankfully now in a large, wooded riverside run, rather than the concrete pit Berne’s bears used to call home. We bid them goodnight as we make our way back over the bridge. It’s an unlikely end to a great day and, for a taste of Swiss football, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Travel
Berne, baby, Berne

Get your bearings

Head straight to the old town, which is a short walk from the station. It’s built on a bend in the river Aare, with the 13th-century Zytglogge clock tower the centre point on Kramgasse, the main thoroughfare. Don’t miss the show on the hour every hour when the clock – complete with dancing bears – comes to life.

Best view

Cross the Nydeggbrücke bridge at the bottom of Kramgasse and climb to the top of the Rosengarten park for views of the old town. The Restaurant Rosengarten (Alter Aargauerstalden 31b, 3006 Berne) has a great terrace – so get a drink, kick back and soak it all in.

Culture kick

Paul Klee grew up in Berne and the city boasts a museum, the Zentrum Paul Klee (Monument im Fruchtland 3, 3000 Berne), dedicated to the artist. The spectacular Renzo Piano building in which the museum is housed is worth a visit in its own right.  

Willkommen im land der Röschti

For old-school Swiss dishes, head for the Restaurant Anker (Kornhausplatz 16, 3011 Berne), even if locals tell you it’s just for the tourists. It’s got all the classics, not least rösti (fried potatoes) – preferably with cheese, ham and a fried egg on top.

GOAL – Die Berner Fussball Bar

Many of the cellars in the old town have been converted into bars and restaurants, and Die Berner Fussball Bar (Junkerngasse 1, 3011 Berne) is a classic example. A great place for a game of pool, to watch a game and talk football with the locals.

t’s not often the journey to the ground is among the highlights of a game, but going to watch Swiss champions Young Boys it really is. And this is no slight on the football or atmosphere in the stands. We’re in Berne for a Champions League qualifier and fans are spilling out onto the pavement outside the Café des Pyrénées (Kornhausplatz 17, 3011 Berne), enjoying the late-summer warmth. It’s 15 minutes to the ground on the No9 tram, but the pub is so inviting we stay for a last beer in town. With the working day over, the YB faithful are turning their focus to the game and the buzz of anticipation is growing.

We squeeze into a tram and moments later are enjoying the breathtaking view as we pass over the Kornhausbrücke bridge. We’re high above the river Aare which snakes through the Swiss federal capital and marks the boundaries of the medieval Altstadt (old town) – a UNESCO World Heritage site. Buildings cling to the steep bank that climbs vertiginously up from the river.

The current is fast and the water below an emerald green. It is so clean that the Bernese still swim in the river, some even commuting to and from work, wrapping their clothes in a watertight bundle. But we are going with a different flow and on good advice we stop off at Barbière (Breitenrainplatz 40, 3014 Berne), one of many micro-breweries contributing to the city’s reputation as the craft beer capital of Switzerland. There’s a great, laid-back vibe and with such a wide selection on tap, we regret not leaving ourselves more time. With kick-off approaching, however, we empty our glasses and hotfoot the last 500 metres to the ground.  

Benfica’s José Águas lifts the European Cup, won in Berne in 1961 (above); a classic rösti from the Restaurant Anker (top right), The Wankdorf Stadium readies itself for the arrival of Manchester United (right)

The square outside the stadium is heaving when we arrive. We do like the locals and queue for a YB Wurst – a giant sausage with a bread roll and a splodge of mustard on a paper plate. No frills, but a Young Boys institution.

So where does that name come from? YB were formed in 1898 by four students at the University of Berne who, after arranging a game between local side FC Bern and Old Boys Basel, decided to form a club themselves. To differentiate their team from the Basel side – you’d have thought the city name itself might have sufficed – the Young Boys moniker was chosen and stuck.

The club are currently on the crest of a wave having won the league for four straight seasons, taking them to 15 titles in total. Only their big-city rivals have plundered more: Geneva outfit Servette (17), Basel (20) and Zürich-based Grasshoppers, who boast a record 27 league crowns.

The current 32,000-capacity ground was built in time for EURO 2008, but the old Stadion Wankdorf was steeped in football history. YB are one of only two Swiss sides to reach the semi-finals of the European Cup, losing out to Stade de Reims in 1959 despite winning the first leg 1-0 in front of a 60,000 crowd. Two years later, the Wankdorf, named after the neighbourhood where it is located, hosted the final itself on a traumatic evening for Barcelona’s Hungarian pair Zoltán Czibor and Sándor Kocsis.

The scoreboard and clock from the 1954 World Cup final stand in the square outside the ground, showing on one side the final score of what became known as the Miracle of Berne

Both scored for Barcelona against Benfica, but the Catalan side lost 3-2 at the same venue where, seven years earlier, the great Hungary team of that era had surprisingly lost by the same scoreline to West Germany in the 1954 World Cup final. Czibor and Kocsis were so shaken by the experience that they refused to go back into the dressing room before the 1961 European Cup final, choosing instead to get changed in the corridor. It didn’t make any difference.

The scoreboard and clock from the 1954 World Cup final stand in the square outside the ground, showing on one side the final score of what became known as the Miracle of Berne, and on the other the 2-1 scoreline from YB’s victory against Luzern on 28 April 2018 when they clinched their first Swiss title for 32 years.

After our game finishes, we head back to the old town and the Altes Tramdepot Brauerei (Grosser Muristalden 6, 3006 Berne) – a restaurant and brewery perched on the hill above the Bärengraben (Bear Pit) on the eastern bank of the river. Legend has it that the city’s name derives from the animal and three still live in the Bärengraben, though thankfully now in a large, wooded riverside run, rather than the concrete pit Berne’s bears used to call home. We bid them goodnight as we make our way back over the bridge. It’s an unlikely end to a great day and, for a taste of Swiss football, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Travel
Berne, baby, Berne

Get your bearings

Head straight to the old town, which is a short walk from the station. It’s built on a bend in the river Aare, with the 13th-century Zytglogge clock tower the centre point on Kramgasse, the main thoroughfare. Don’t miss the show on the hour every hour when the clock – complete with dancing bears – comes to life.

Best view

Cross the Nydeggbrücke bridge at the bottom of Kramgasse and climb to the top of the Rosengarten park for views of the old town. The Restaurant Rosengarten (Alter Aargauerstalden 31b, 3006 Berne) has a great terrace – so get a drink, kick back and soak it all in.

Culture kick

Paul Klee grew up in Berne and the city boasts a museum, the Zentrum Paul Klee (Monument im Fruchtland 3, 3000 Berne), dedicated to the artist. The spectacular Renzo Piano building in which the museum is housed is worth a visit in its own right.  

Willkommen im land der Röschti

For old-school Swiss dishes, head for the Restaurant Anker (Kornhausplatz 16, 3011 Berne), even if locals tell you it’s just for the tourists. It’s got all the classics, not least rösti (fried potatoes) – preferably with cheese, ham and a fried egg on top.

GOAL – Die Berner Fussball Bar

Many of the cellars in the old town have been converted into bars and restaurants, and Die Berner Fussball Bar (Junkerngasse 1, 3011 Berne) is a classic example. A great place for a game of pool, to watch a game and talk football with the locals.

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