15 Tips for Summer in Bern
#1 Float down the Aare
Who needs the sea? The clean, crystal-clear turquoise water of the Aare river, which winds its way into the capital city from the Bernese Alps, offers the ideal refreshment on hot summer days. How about a quick dip in the cool water with your colleagues on your lunch break? Or a walk through the Old Town in your bikini with your surfboard under your arm? These are part of everyday life for Bern’s residents. It is rumored that you even used to be able to spot swimsuits hung out to dry on the Federal Counci-lors’ balconies. A dip in the Aare is truly an authentic Bernese experience for visitors to the city. The best starting point is the popular Marzili pool, with an impressive view up to the Swiss Parliament Building.
#2 Enjoy a freshly brewed beer
Cheers! Bern is not only the city of bears, but also the city of beers! The Bernese are passionate about raising a toast with a freshly brewed beer, sampling regional specialties and chatting about various beer varieties. Not only do they love savoring the malty beverage in bars; they are also in-creasingly experimenting with hops and malt themselves, studying the secrets behind the art of beer brewing. As a result, Bern has around 150 breweries and microbreweries – more than any other city in Switzerland. No wonder there are so many beer-related things to discover in the capital city and the surrounding region – including beer seminars at the Altes Tramdepot (a combined restaurant and brewery), a visit to the Biercafé Au Trappiste, and beer-themed hikes throughout the region. Anyone interested in sampling the wide variety of local beers should be sure to attend the Zapf! Craft Beer Festival on the Brache Warmbächli festival grounds, starting June 9, 2018.
#3 Party at the Gurtenfestival
It’s rumored that Bern’s babies are born with a guitar in their hand. The popular Bernese dialect, with its broad and jovial sound, has given rise to some very successful Bernese folk singers. Every child in Switzerland knows classics such as “d’w nuss vo bümpliz” by Patent Ochsner, “Schwan” by Gölä and “Dr Eskimo” by troubadour Mani Matter. And the Bernese rap duo Lo & Leduc is currently one of Switzerland’s most popular live bands, with sold-out concerts throughout the country. No wonder some 80,000 music fans make the pilgrimage to this Swiss music mecca each July. From July 17 to 20, 2019, the legendary Gurtenfestival on Bern’s local mountain will once again deliver musical gems, a fantastic panoramic view and a sensational atmosphere high above the rooftops of the capital city. The journey alone distinguishes the venue from all other festivals. At 864 meters above sea level, Bern’s local mountain is reached via the Gurtenbahn funicular. If you are feeling athletic and prefer not to wait in line, you can also walk up the mountain in about 45 minutes, greeting the Gurten farm’s graz-ing cattle along the way. So, which is better: standing in line or sweating your way up? You’ll have to decide for yourself!
#4 Visit the markets
When the first sleepy rays of the morning sun start to glimmer on the streets of the Old Town, it’s the perfect time to take a step back into the past. On the Bundesplatz (Parliament Square) and along Münstergasse, traditional weekly markets are held every Tuesday and Saturday. And they’re a feast for the senses! Amid the colorful tangle of market stalls, all manner of gourmands, shopaholics and nostalgics will find fresh produce, the scent of flowers and herbs, and an assortment of savory meats and cheeses. Many of the goods have been produced in and around the city of Bern since the Middle Ages, always reaching the market fresh thanks to short transport routes. The markets provide the perfect opportunity to discover local delicacies and chat with farmers. Those who enjoy local design and handicrafts can continue through the streets of Bern after their morning visit to the market. With six kilometers of charming arcades, the capital city offers one of the longest covered shopping streets in Europe. Especially in the lower Old Town – that is, the streets below the famous Zytglogge (Clock Tower) – there are countless local boutiques and studios that you won’t find in other cities.
#5 Eat ice cream
Salted caramel, Amarena cherry or chili chocolate? Such are the critical decisions faced by the Berne-se in the summer! In Bern, known as the capital of leisure, ice cream culture is celebrated in grand style. According to the SonntagsZeitung newspaper, Gelateria di Berna serves “Switzerland’s best ice cream” – and the locals take just as much pride in their ice cream as in their beautiful Parliament Build-ing. The owners learned their trade in Italy – and you can taste it! The ice cream parlors are located at the Marzili pool, in the Breitenrain district (Scheibenstrasse), in the Mattenhof district (Pestalozzistras-se) and on Länggasse (Mittelstrasse). The Eiswerkstatt, which has been serving 20 delicious home-made ice cream varieties right next to the BearPark since last summer, is a rising star on Bern’s gourmet horizon. And those interested in savoring the world-famous Toblerone as an ice cream flavor will find it at gutgelaunt on Schauplatzgasse.
#6 Raft and grill along the Aare
In Bern, the capital of leisure, you can quite literally “float” through the city. Rafting along the Aare river is a favorite Bernese pastime. As soon as the temperatures begin to rise, the locals grab their rafts from the basement and head out with their friends or family to float down the river from Thun to Bern. But it’s nothing like white water rafting. Rafting along the crystal clear, peacefully flowing Aare, through a wonderful meadow landscape and past several small islands, is as relaxing and enchanting as Bern itself – especially if you enter the water in Uttigen, as many people do, bypassing the only portion of the river that is somewhat livelier. One of the most popular stops is the Eichholz River Beach, where Aare rafters will encounter other sun-seekers, nature-lovers and grill masters. Here you can grill sausages, play guitar around the fire, balance on a slackline and play beach volleyball. Pure Bernese leisure! Our Ultimate Aare Rafting Guide tells you where you can rent rafts, what the best routes are, and where to download the Spotify playlist for the journey.
Check it out
#7 Enjoy the sunset
Many love stories have had their start in Bern’s popular Rose Garden. The most popular spot for tour-ists to take photos of the city by day is transformed into a meeting point for the Bernese in the eve-nings. The location provides a breathtaking panoramic view of the Old Town of Bern, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and frequently offers a spectacle of purple and orange hues at sunset. Our tip: Do it like the locals. Take a seat on the garden wall, with your feet dangling over the side, and enjoy the sunset over Bern with the cool beer you brought along or an ice cream from the Eiswerkstatt. Those looking for a romantic dinner can reserve a table at Rosengarten Restaurant and take in the panoramic view of the city. And even if you’re not visiting Bern with that special someone, you still don’t have to watch the sunset alone. Just under the Rosengarten Restaurant, you can sit on a bench next to a bronze statue of world-famous physicist Albert Einstein. This was one of his favorite spots when he lived in Bern and discovered the E=mc2 formula in 1905.
#8 Drink from a fountain
A welcome refreshment on hot summer days: Bern has over 100 fountains that offer fresh, ice-cold drinking water. While wandering through the medieval streets of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, you can stop and quench your thirst on almost every corner. Tip: Take a bottle with you and refill it throughout the day. Eleven of the fountains are also worth a second look – and a photo! They date back to the sixteenth century, and their colorfully painted, allegorical figures and columns really brighten up the gray of the building facades lining the streets. You’ll find some of these fountains on Kramgasse or Theaterplatz. Those interested in learning more about Bern’s fountains can book the “UNESCO Old Town Stroll” city tour, conducted every day at 11:00 a.m. (CHF 20 for adults / CHF 10 for children).
BOOK CITY TOUR
#9 Discover Bern on two wheels!
A cool breeze ruffling your hair, the hilly countryside speeding past, and nothing but quiet around you – except the occasional cowbell. What better way for stressed-out big-city folk to unwind? If you like being out in nature, you can explore the most beautiful corners of the Bern Region best by bike. Our tip: an e-bike excursion to the Emmental. The valley’s gentle hills, lush meadows, beautiful forests and wonderful view of the Alps are a little piece of paradise. The Herzroute is perfect for pleasure cyclists seeking a peaceful setting with beautiful scenery, far from traffic noise and the hustle and bustle. Cheese lovers should consider a ride along the Emmental Cheese Route. The Cheese Route app helps you find your way, and also provides fascinating stories and insights into the centuries-old tradition of the world-famous Emmental cheese. A highlight of the route is a visit to the Emmentaler Show Dairy in Affoltern.
THE 10 MOST BEAUTIFUL CYCLING ROUTES
#10 Enjoy the festival atmosphere
Colorful, creative, whimsical and poetic. From August 9 to 11, around 150 international artists will transform the streets of Bern’s lower Old Town into a lively open-air summer festival. The rich variety of music, dance, drama, comedy, puppetry and acrobatics draws around 80,000 people to the capital city each year. The range of music is highly diverse, including genres such as electronic afro-soul, psychedelic Celtic folk, soul flamenco in the local dialect, and indie rock. The festival is free of charge. Of course, street musicians welcome donations from the audience. Anyone who’s already in the festival mood in July can head to Kocherpark (approx. 4 minutes from Bern main station with tram 6, 7 or 8). For three weeks in July, Kocherpark hosts the Parkonia festival – free of charge – featuring daily concerts, workshops, a children’s circus, theatrical performances, dance lessons, readings, exhibitions and all sorts of surprises.
#11 Get to know Peter Flamingo
If you’d like to try an iconic Bernese drink, we recommend the Bern Mule; it’s like a Moscow Mule, but with the local ginger spirit rather than vodka. A Bern Mule is particularly great to enjoy on one of the comfy pallet sofas at the popular Peter Flamingo pop-up bar. On the Grosse Schanze, which is prob-ably Switzerland’s largest roof terrace, this summer bar invites you to come and chill out in July and August, enjoying the tasty drinks, urban vibe and creative atmosphere. Those interested in scientific topics are sure to find someone ready for deeper conversation. After all, Peter Flamingo is situated right outside the gates of the University of Bern, which is a world leader in space research, among other fields. Here’s an interesting piece of trivia to chat about while sipping on your Bern Mule: Did you know that during the lunar landing in 1969, the solar sail developed by the University of Bern was rolled out on the moon even before the US flag? But for those more interested in Ronaldo than Arm-strong, the City Beach (just a stone’s throw from Peter Flamingo) will be broadcasting the FIFA World Cup on a huge screen.
#12 Visit a museum for free
Almost a reason to secretly hope for a rainy day: 19 museums, castles, parks and gardens in Bern and the surrounding area are offering free admission every Saturday in August. Bern is considered a center for culture and is home to some of Switzerland’s leading museums and galleries, where there’s plenty to see, discover and experience. The Bern Natural History Museum is especially popular among families. So is the Museum of Communication, which, according to the newspaper Blick, fea-tures “Switzerland’s most innovative museum concept” covering 2,000 square meters. Ever dreamed of stepping into the shoes of your favorite movie hero in a game of film karaoke? Or breaching your opponent’s firewall in a hacking game? Or seeing the original getaway car that was used in the rob-bery of the century? All of this and more is possible at Bern’s Museum of Communication.
#13 Relax and unwind
The clocks tick slower in Bern than elsewhere. Rushing around in a hectic frenzy is a foreign concept here. But the Bernese are not slow, as other Swiss people may tell you with a wink (and global statis-tics will prove this point). They simply know how to embrace the art of living. In the capital of leisure, you can float along at your own pace and take time to enjoy yourself. Bern is the perfect place for those wanting to slow down. If you’re looking for some peace and tranquility, we recommend sun salutations over the rooftops of Bern. In July and August, you can begin every Wednesday with an early morning yoga lesson from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. on the sky terrace of the five-star-superior Hotel Schweizerhof Bern & Spa, right across from Bern main station, with a 360-degree panoramic view of the UNESCO World Heritage city.
BOOK YOGA LESSON
#14 Explore the neighborhoods
Wonderfully casual and relaxed – that’s how visitors describe Bern. When happy hour comes around, you’ll find old hippies in Hendrix shirts sitting alongside businessmen in their suits. The people of Bern mostly enjoy partying in sandals or sneakers in the open air. This is particularly evident in Bern’s various neighborhoods. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting Bern on August 25, 2018, you won’t want to miss the annual festival in the popular Lorraine district (see photo). But really any day is perfect for exploring Bern’s various quarters, where you can get to know the “real” Bern in all its colorful facets, and even learn a few words of the much-loved Bernese dialect while chatting with the locals If you’d like to go where the locals go, try a visit to the Wartsaal and Café Kairo in the Lorraine district, Lö-scher and Barbière in the Breitenrain district, or Café Sattler and the Parterre in the Länggasse district.
#15 Celebrate the August 1 national holiday
Fireworks, lanterns, bonfires, and Swiss flags as far as the eye can see: Switzerland really knows how to celebrate its national holiday on August 1. And what better place to celebrate the national holiday than in the capital city? A huge festival program welcomes visitors to discover and experience the city throughout the entire day. Have brunch in the middle of Münsterplatz (Minster Square), ride through the World Heritage streets in an iconic vintage bus, climb the 312 steps up into Switzerland’s highest steeple, take a glimpse behind the scenes at the Erlacherhof town mansion, marvel at the sea of lights on the Bundesplatz (Parliament Square), take time to listen to the folksy sounds of yodelers, and sample the world-famous Emmental cheese on the Bundesplatz. Our tip: Arrive a day before the holiday and book of one of the free tours through the Swiss Parliament Building.
SWISS NATIONAL DAY PROGRAM