Real rafters are always well prepared for their tour. They know how to pack lightly – so the raft doesn’t capsize – but they also ensure they have everything they need for the journey. We’ve prepared a list of the most essential items to take along, as well as a few cool gadgets that can prove useful.
- Raft (see chapter 2, Planning and preparation)
- Life jacket
- Sunscreen (waterproof, with a high SPF)
- Hat or cap
- Dry bag (also known as an Aare bag)
- Rafting gear (paddles and ideally your own pump)
- Drinks (and no, not just alcohol)
Nice to have
- Light jacket/hoodie (for when it gets cooler in the evening)
- Trash bag (Mother Nature and your fellow Aare-goers will thank you)
- Wetsuit (can be rented for an extra CHF 10 when tubing on the Aare, for those who are cold-natured and on cold days)
- Food and beverages (see the section on food)
- Lighter and kindling (e.g. old newspapers or firelighter cubes) for the perfect BBQ
- Emergency kit for yourself and your raft
- Pocket knife
- PVC tape
- Adhesive bandages
- After-sun lotion
Pimp your raft
- Splash-proof boom boxes
Perfect for the party raft. Available options include the UE Boom, one of the JBL models or the Libratone One Click.
- Waterproof camera or GoPro
For capturing the best moments. Available in shops such as Foto Video Zumstein on Casinoplatz (Casino Square).
- Waterproof smartphone case
We discovered a good one at Galaxus.
- Air mattress, inflatable avocado, or perhaps a flamingo?
Besides the more traditional rafts, you’ll see some rather unusual creations on the Aare. They’re available to purchase at shops like Fizzen.
- A cooler for keeping your drinks nice and cold
Intex’s “Mega Chill” rafting accessory is available at Sportxx.
No Aare bag yet?
If you watch experienced rafters or swimmers, you’ll notice that most of them have a colorful dry bag slung over their shoulder. The waterproof bag keeps clothes and valuables dry if they happen to land in the river. The “Marzilian” Aare bag – available in orange and lavender – is not only practical but also quite stylish. We especially like its extra compartment for valuables, as well as the printed map of the Aare Loop with all the points where you can access and exit the river. It’s available for 45 Francs in the Bern.com online shop or at the Tourist Information at Bern main station.
GRAB THE DEAL
Spending a whole day on the Aare makes you hungry. Depending on your mood (and on how loudly your stomach is growling), you can take a break along the tour, have a bite in the boat, or wait and take a little more time to eat at the end of the trip.
Where are the best grilling spots along the Aare? What might a typical local pack in their rafting lunch bag? Where can you buy last-minute provisions on the way to the river? And what ice cream parlor offers “Switzerland’s best ice cream” at the end of the tour? Our food tips will make sure that grill masters, gourmands and those with a sweet tooth know everything they need for the day.
The many “smoke signals” along the Aare leave no doubt: for many Bernese, grilling is the icing on the cake of the rafting tour. Whether along the riverbank, on one of the countless little islands, or at the end of the tour by the river pool at Eichholz – the aroma of sizzling sausages is part of the true Bernese rafting experience. We’ll let you in on the best grilling spots hiding around the bends of the river, and we’ll make sure your shopping list is complete for the perfect Bernese BBQ.
Please think of the environment: keep an eye out for nature conservation areas (marked by signs along the route), take your trash with you (a trash bag is on the Aare rafting tour packing list!) and leave picnic spots as you would wish to find them. Mother Nature and your fellow Aare-goers will thank you!
Catch some rays: The Zulg estuary
Near the beginning of the route from Thun Schwäbis to Bern, the Zulg flows into the Aare on the right. The area has concrete dams that are the perfect place for bathing beauties to catch some rays. It’s a great place for younger rafters to get out and play for a while, and it’s a nice little setting for grilling. But be careful: If there was a storm the previous day, huge amounts of water flow from the Zulg into the Aare and it can be a dangerous area.
During the peak season, there is a bar on the small islands right after Parkbad Münsingen.The ultimate vacation feeling!
Idyllic and adventurous: the islands before Rubingen
The pure charm of the Aare. About one kilometer after Parkbad Münsingen, a series of small islands and riverbank spots entices rafters to pull over and fire up the grill. In order to land your raft, you have to set your sights on the shore early enough and then paddle toward it vigorously. Once you’re properly grounded, the rest is up to you: find a grilling spot or set one up yourself, gather firewood, sharpen your roasting sticks, and get cooking! Our tip: Remember to pack a lighter and kindling. No kindling at home? The Blick am Abend newspaper (available for free at the newspaper stands at Bern main station) is said to be especially effective. Good to know: This location doesn’t have proper grills furnished with gridirons, just fire pits made with gathered stones. But with a bit of luck you’ll find one that has been well prepared by other rafters – or perhaps you’ll have a fellow rafter along who can show off his scouting skills. Tip for tourists: See a “smoke signal” somewhere? Then just ask the locals if you can share their fire pit. After all, the Bernese live by the motto “Sharing is caring!”
Social and cozy: the Eichholz campgrounds
One of the most popular grilling sites is at the Eichholz campgrounds and river pool – which is also where most Aare rafting tours end. Situated in the southern part of the city of Bern, it’s a place where rafters encounter other sun- and nature-lovers, Aare swimmers and grill masters. Here you can grill sausages, play guitar around the fire, balance on a slackline and play beach volleyball – making it the perfect atmosphere for a relaxed BBQ. The site offers several grill spots with gridirons, and the snack bar can help supply anything that might be missing for your BBQ. Tip: Firewood is available for free at the Eichholz entrance (by the parking lot). Those interested in sitting around the campfire late into the night and then jumping right back into the Aare at the first light of dawn can reserve a campsite at the Eichholz campgrounds (starting at CHF 12 per adult).
RESERVE A CAMPSITE NOW
Remember to leave the grill site as you would wish to find it.
BBQ shopping list
When you’re rafting down the Aare, you need something that’s easy to transport and eat. But if you’re planning to grill by the river pool at Eichholz at the end of the tour, you can plan for a more comprehensive BBQ. This shopping list will ensure you don’t forget anything. 👇
Shopping list ahoy!
Meat from a Bernese butcher
- Cervelat sausages
- Bacon skewers
Vegetables from the market on Bundesplatz (Parliament Square)
- Corn on the cob
- Bell peppers
- Stuffed mushrooms
- Cheese for grilling
- Other seasonings for grilling
- Potato salad
- Mixed greens or tossed salad
- Carrot salad
- Pasta salad
Don’t forget a pocket knife, lighter and kindling (e.g. newspapers or ideally firelighter cubes).
Bring your own food
Will you be feeding a mob of hungry rafters and prefer not to grill? An inexpensive and easy option is to take along lunch bags. You can take your time to prepare and carefully pack them the night before, and then surprise your crew the next day on the raft with whatever you pull out of your hat (well, ideally out of the cooler – after all, Aare rafters are fully equipped). Here are a few ideas that are sure to go over well:
- Dried fruit
- Nuts or trail mix
- Apples (Vitamin C, here we come!)
- Wraps or sandwiches
- Pasta salad
- Apple chips
Bernese-style lunch bag
Are you tired of the same old picnic standbys and ubiquitous trail mix? Here are some typical Bernese specialties that would be the perfect fit in an Aare rafting lunch bag:
- Bernese Mandelbärli (almond bears) from Beck Glatz
Besides the classic vanilla-flavored version, there are now a number of different flavors available, including chocolate, lemon, chestnut and Irish cream.
- Ovomaltine cookies
The iconic brand was founded in the Old Town of Bern in 1865. And the Swiss Ovomaltine slogan certainly also applies to Aare rafting: “With Ovomaltine you may not be able to do it better, but you’ll be able to do it longer.”
- A nice crusty loaf of “Houdäge”
Available at the Reinhard bakery at Bern main station. Enjoy it with some savory cheese from the Chäshütte or Chäsbueb, both in the Old Town near the Zytglogge (Clock Tower).
- A cool and refreshing Bernese Müntschi
In the beloved Bernese dialect, “Müntschi” means “kiss” and is one of the most popular local beers in the city. Cheers!
- Bernese hazelnut gingerbread
This quintessential local specialty is available at places such as Confiserie Eichenberger at Bern main station.
- Bern’s own water
Simply take your water bottle and fill it at one of the city’s 100 fountains – all of which dispense high-quality drinking water.
Don’t take anything along that will create too much waste or that can melt. Apart from enjoying their Ovomaltine cookies, chocoholics will simply have to wait until the end of the tour (at the Marzili pool), where they can then treat themselves to “Switzerland’s best ice cream” at Gelateria di Berna.
Concerned about maintaining your summer body? No need to worry about that in Bern! You’ll burn around 500 calories on the two- to three-hour Aare rafting tour. This can easily compensate for ten chicken nuggets from McDonald’s, a bag of chips or a helping of fries.
Going on a spontaneous outing but no time to pack food? You can buy chips, salad and other snacks at Bern main station (Migros and Coop open daily from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.) or at Thun main station (Coop open daily from 5:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.). Be sure to stock up there, as it may be difficult to find a kiosk or grocery store afterwards.
But if you have forgotten something, you can take an emergency trip to the Volg, located five minutes’ walk away from Uttigen station (open Monday–Friday from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. / Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. / closed Sundays).
Did you know? Just like with driving, the blood alcohol limit for Aare rafting is 0.05%. If you start paddling with too much alcohol in your system, you risk losing your license. Safety first! And who needs alcohol anyway when enjoying the intoxicating beauty of the Aare?
Feast on the way home
Stomach growling after all that paddling? Burgers, gourmet meals and “Switzerland’s best ice cream” await hungry sailors at the end of their Aare rafting tour. We’ll tell you where.
For those with a sweet tooth
In the mood for ice cream with style? Our tip: Treat yourself to a scoop at Gelateria di Berna across from the Marzili open-air pool – “Switzerland’s best ice cream,” according to the Bernese SonntagsZeitung newspaper. The locals are at least as proud of “their” ice cream parlor as they are of the Parliament Building. Be patient, though: In order to choose from over 20 kinds of delicious creations such as Mare di Berna, Peanut Boost or Raspberry Ginger, you may need to stand in line for half an hour. You won’t regret it! Marzilistrasse 32, open Monday–Saturday from noon to 10:00 p.m., Sunday from noon to 8:00 p.m.
CHOOSE YOUR ICE CREAM
For the easy-to-please
Looking for something fast and simple but still of high quality? Go to Fürst Beck right at the entrance of the Marzili open-air pool, where you can choose from a large variety of fresh sandwiches and salads, fruity Bircher muesli and fine snacks. Perfect to get some food to enjoy in the popular Marzili meadow or on the terrace of the Parliament Building, which is just a five-minute walk away. And by the way, on Monday, they offer Aare bread! Marzilistrasse 27, open Monday to Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
FIND OUT MORE
For the hungry
Are you looking for something with more of a caloric punch? For those who were already dreaming of juicy burgers on their rafting trip, we recommend the leisurely garden terrace of a restaurant called Dampfzentrale, just a three-minute walk up the river from the Marzili pool. On hot days, you can engage in a bit of people watching here as seemingly all of Bern flocks from Marzili in their bathing suits, making a pilgrimage to the Eichholz pool up the river so that they can float back down again on the current of the Aare. If you prefer crispy Italian-style pizza, reserve a table under the big chestnut trees on the garden terrace of the Marzilibrücke Restaurant across from the Marzili pool (perfect for large groups!).
For gourmet lovers
Fancy something tasteful and relaxing? There are a number of restaurants where you can dine with a view of the turquoise waters of the Aare. Particularly deserving of a recommendation are the following restaurants: Casa Novo (Mediterranean specialties, just a few meters from the Aare and Nydeggbrücke (Nydegg bridge), where you can watch the river “surfers”), the Schwellenmätteli restaurants (directly over the Aare weir with a view of the UNESCO World Heritage city and baroque terrace gardens), the Altes Tramdepot (combined brewery and restaurant, directly next to the BearPark), and the Dampfzentrale (industrial chic meets river atmosphere). Reserving one week in advance is recommended.
For the morning after
Party a bit too hard after your Aare rafting tour? Nurse your hangover with a hearty breakfast the next morning. Numerous small cafés in the Old Town offer weekend brunch. Our tip: Take bus 10 to the Rose Garden and enjoy a fine brunch combined with a breathtaking panoramic view of the city at Restaurant Rosengarten. If you need more inspiration, here is an overview of the best brunch spots in Bern. Bon appétit!
BRUNCHING IN BERN
For those who aren’t ready to leave
Don’t feel like going home just quite yet? Housed in a shipping container, the pop-up Aarebar Bern is perfect for those who can’t get enough. Situated in Bern’s green oasis between Marzili and Eichholz, it’s the ideal place to wind down after an Aare rafting tour on a mild summer evening. From June to September, you can power up with a small but fine assortment of sustainable regional products: an appetizer plate accompanied by Lola Cola from the city’s Lorraine district, Bänz apple juice from the Breitenrain district or wine from the nearby Bienne lake region. The bar is run by a likable trio – Alex, David and Lukas – and is perfect for savoring Bern’s relaxed atmosphere on the Aare. There’s one thing we’re sure of: Aarebar Bern is our new favorite summertime spot!