Anybody want to cool off? Bern locals know there’s only one way to do it: Jump in the Aare! After all, a summer day in the capital wouldn’t be perfect without a plunge in their favorite river. We’ll tell you what you need to plan for and where floating down the Aare is a particularly rewarding experience.
Bern locals and their Aare – it’s a very special love story. Want to trade your business suit for a bikini or swim trunks on your lunch break? How about a jump into the refreshing water right after work? Nobody would bat an eye in Bern. It’s even rumored that swimsuits used to be hung out to dry on the balcony of the Swiss Parliament Building on a regular basis. Jumping in the Aare is a must-do Bern experience for visitors who know how to swim. If you really want to get to know the city, you should head to – or rather into – the Aare.
How It’s Done
You can start your float down the Aare from one of Bern’s riverside swimming pools or any spot you choose along the Aare. Put your swimsuit on, pack your clothes and valuables in a waterproof dry bag and then jump in the Aare at the spot you choose (entry and exit points are marked with a red pole or with steps for helpful for climbing in and out). Be careful, though. River swimmers should definitely allow their body to adjust to the water’s somewhat cool temperature before starting their float by wetting themselves first.
Then, Aare fans can let themselves drift along, literally, since floating down the river is when you can truly leave all of your worries behind. Surrounded by nature yet in the middle of the capital city, urban swimmers are carried effortlessly down the river – with the impressive UNESCO-recognized Old Town as a backdrop.
It’s important to have a healthy amount of respect for the Aare and inform yourself about the possible risks beforehand. Swimming in the Aare is recommended for experienced swimmers only. The Swiss Lifesaving Society SLRG and the city of Bern provide (vitally) important tips for everyone who spends time in and on the Aare.
Bern locals are happy to assist with uncertainties and questions about entry and exit points as well as tips for an unforgettable float down the Aare.
The floodplains along the Aare river are particularly sensitive ecosystems. As a result, almost the entire river landscape between Thun and Bern is protected. We ask all those who stay around or on the Aare river to respect nature, not to leave any rubbish or disturb the animals unnecessarily.
Our Favorite Routes
The classic, the leisurely and the long route: The Aare offers something to suit every swimmer’s mood. These are our three favorite routes.
#1 The Classic Route: From Eichholz to Marzili
This is where “everybody” in Bern meets up on hot summer days. In what looks like a mass exodus from the city, hundreds of locals walk approximately two kilometers upriver from the Marzili riverside pool to Camping Eichholz. They pass by the “Dampfere” (Dampfzentrale cultural center and restaurant), watch the sporty types playing beach volleyball under the Monbijou Bridge, and wave to the distant pelicans at the Dählhölzli Zoo. The crowd begins to thin somewhat, since a number of swimmers prefer to jump into the Aare at the Schönausteg (pedestrian bridge). However, if you march a good kilometer further you’ll reach the gravel beach at Camping Eichholz. It’s time to enter the refreshingly cool Aare hesitant step by hesitant step and then leap in all at once with a shriek. Now is when the extra walking distance pays off, since you can enjoy the Aare for a few extra, sublime minutes. The view of the Parliament Building is always breathtaking as it sits enthroned above the Aare. It doesn’t get much lovelier!
#2 The Leisurely Route: From the Altenbergsteg to the Lorraine Pool
Somewhat further downriver, directly under the Kornhaus Bridge lies the Altenbergsteg pedestrian bridge. Since the current is not as strong here, this section of the river is especially suited to newcomers and those who like to take it easy. You can enjoy the trip while floating on your back and watching the clouds drift by. The natural calm around you makes this section particularly relaxing – and gives you the feel that you are far removed from the city’s hustle and bustle. On the right slope of the Aare, the Botanical Garden extends all the way down the riverbank, while the Blutturm (Blood Tower) on the left evokes grisly associations. This guard tower from the 15th century is actually referred to in literature as the Witches’ Tower as well, although both names may be based more in myth than reality. However, none of that really matters today, since you’re now floating beneath the Lorraine Bridge and waving to the train passengers crossing the Aare high above on the railway bridge and casting longing eyes down at the cool heads below. When graffiti-covered concrete walls appear on the right side, it’s your last chance to get out of the water. You’ve arrived at the Lorraine pool, Bern’s second riverside swimming pool, and a meeting place for families and lovers of leisure.
#3 The Long Route: Bremgarten Loop
The Bremgarten Loop is an insider’s tip. This fantastic, approximately 20-minute float down the Aare requires endurance and warm water temperatures, but the seemingly endless time on the river as you drift by lush, green forests and listen to the chorus of birdsong is absolutely priceless. To experience this, you can either bike to the entry point via Felsenau or take bus no. 21 in the direction of Bremgarten (“Bremgarten, Schloss” bus stop). From there, you walk through the woods down the slope to the riverbank and through the 200-meter-long, cool and damp Zehendermätteli tunnel. And now you can finally slip into the Aare and enjoy the surrounding natural paradise for 20 glorious minutes! Thanks to the tunnel, the float along the Bremgarten Loop can be repeated as many times as you like. Our tip: Ride over to the Enge Peninsula with the ferry and recover your strength with delicious food at the cozy Restaurant Zehendermätteli.
|Freibad Lorraine||18 64.4 °|
|Freibad Marzili||19 66.2 °|
|Freibad Weyermannshaus||18 64.4 °|
|Freibad Wyler||19 66.2 °|