History of Café Bern

Café Bern first opened its doors on the 26th of August 1978. The previous day was the opening party with about a hundred guests.

It was Helmut Winzeler’s idea to start a café. He had been thinking about it for quite a while. Helmut was a Swiss nuclear physicist. His current research project –elementary particles, at the Zeeman lab of the University of Amsterdam– was finished. Helmut, at the age of 49, decided it was time for a carreer switch.

The first step was to get his restaurant diploma. Even in his student days he felt attracted to the restaurant business and he had always been an accomplished cook.  For a while he had even run a locally well known jazz cellar in the city of Bern with his friend Pips Vögeli. The decision to start a café, where people could come to enjoy a drink and a well prepared meal, was born.

Café du Commerce and Café des Pyrenées in Bern served as an inspiration. To Helmut a well prepared meal was the perfect setting to meet other people.

It was an exciting challenge to start the café. The Nieuwmarkt back then was not the cheerful Nieuwmarkt as we know it today: situated between the end of the Zeedijk, in those days undisputedly a no-go-area and the ravaged city quarter directly behind the café, still bearing the scars of the new Metro line that had been constructed just a few years before.

It took an independent, original mind to choose that spot to start a café like Café Bern. It took a man like Helmut Winzeler.

Helmut knew to attract a certain kind of people. They started to come and gradually Cafe Bern has evolved into the place it is today. Helmut is no longer with us, he died in September 2001. But his café is still very much alive, unmistakingly bearing his signature.

Helmut never worked out a “format” for his café. His only format was the genuine, timeless format of real life: a meal, a drink and a good conversation. Two people know infinitely more than one.

Tom Bachmann
Koen Vollaers
Alexandra Nieuwenhuijsen

©2024 by Café Bern