Top 13: Wonderful Christmas Experiences in and around Bern
#1 Christmas Markets
Strolling through Bern’s Christmas markets is a must for Christmas enthusiasts. The traditional markets on Münsterplatz (Minster Square, artisanry in a beautiful setting) and Waisenhausplatz (Orphanage Square, where you’ll find all kinds of gifts for everyone) as well as the Christmas edition of the crafts market on Minster terrace, are widely known and very popular. If you continue past the Parliament Building, you will discover the youngest addition to Bern’s Christmas market family: the Star Market on Kleine Schanze. Its 70 little huts offer hot drinks, winter specialties from all over the world (Tibetan momos, yum!) and new designers and their work every week, waiting to be discovered. For children (and the young at heart), there’s a nostalgic carrousel, a kids’ chalet with a Santa post office, fire shows, make-up, fairytales and an arts & crafts corner. ‘Tis the season to be jolly!
CHRISTMAS MARKETS IN AND AROUND BERN
#2 Colourful Winter Pop-Ups
Warm(ing) drinks, a cool look, a relaxed atmosphere and, last but not least: innovative minds with all kinds of fun ideas. Christmastime in Bern is more than just festive – it’s super creative, too. A few young Bernese rolled up their sleeves, got hammers and nails out and set up festive pop-ups in the city – like the “Rummelbummel” in the beautifully decorated PROGR courtyard and “Øscår Elch” at Ringgenpark (cute wooden huts, Glögg (made using the original Swedish recipe) and yummy raclette Currywurst sausage with different toppings). If you get tired of the office, head to one of the pop-ups after work: after a cup or two of (soul) warming mulled wine by the crackling fire, annoying arguments with your boss will be forgotten – we promise!
BERNESE CHRISTMAS HOTSPOTS
#3 No More Cold Hands
It’s no secret that the best recipe for cold hands is to hold onto something warm. Whether it’s the hand of your favourite person, a bag of freshly roasted chestnuts or a cup of hot mulled wine – your fingers will be nice and toasty in no time. If you feel like filling your cup with something other than the traditional mulled wine, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Our favourites among the seasonal hot beverages are the Hot Mules at Øscår Elch in the Ringgenpärkli park, the “Turbo Italian” (hot apple juice with Amaretto) at Sous le Pont and the homemade mulled apple cider at Portier (Freibank’s winter bar at WankdorfCity). And for everyone who loves a cup of the good old mulled wine: one of the best – white – mulled wines is said to be served at Märitbeizli on Münsterplatz (Minster Square). No one will have to go through Bern’s winter with cold hands anymore.
#4 See the Christmas Lights from Above
Swoon! No wonder the London Evening Standard named Bern the “Most Instagrammable Winter City”. The view of the UNESCO-listed Old City is especially beautiful from the Rosengarten. Sit on the wall, let your feet dangle and take in the breathtaking view of the decorated alleys, the lights and the medieval houses surrounding the Minster. Our tip for “Gfrörli” (people who get cold quickly): if you’ve forgotten your cosy winter sweater at home, head over to Restaurant Rosengarten for a hot chocolate (or a coffee with Baileys and whipped cream, yum!). There’s a huge panoramic window, so the winter view can also be enjoyed from inside the warm restaurant.
#5 Sunday Shopping
Christmas Eve is drawing closer and you’re still looking for the perfect present for you mother-in-law? You haven’t had time to put together your holiday outfit because you were so busy with “Güetzele” (baking cookies) and trimming the tree? Not a problem. In December, Bern’s shops are also open on Sundays. The best time for holiday shopping in the festively decorated city is the first Sunday of Advent: it’s a tradition for the 150 studios, boutiques, small shops and bistros of the lower Old City, so from Zytglogge (Clock Tower) downward, to open their doors from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and greet shopaholics with Christmas surprises.
Find inspiration here!
Opening Hours Sunday Shopping
1 December 2019 1st of Advent shopping, Lower Old City 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. 15 December 2019 Sunday Shopping 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. 22 December 2019 Sunday Shopping 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
#6 Pirouettes on Parliament Square
From 18 December 2019 to 16 February 2020, current and aspiring ice princesses and princes meet in front of the majestic Parliament Building for some “Schlöfle” (ice skating). If you get cold on the ice, you can go and warm your feet at the adjacent restaurant while enjoying a hot chocolate, a steaming mug of mulled wine or a creamy cheese fondue. Admission to the rink is free, and you can rent the skates on site. We think it’s the perfect choice for a fun family activity or a romantic date with your (future?) sweetheart. By the way: on Sundays, the restaurant hosts live concerts from 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., and there are free ice-skating classes for children every Thursday afternoon from 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. starting on 9 January 2020. There’s no need to register for a spot, but the children do have to bring their own skates or rent a pair at the rink.
Ice skating in the city
#7 Candle Dipping
Making candles is part of the holiday season, just like “Güetzele” (baking cookies), drinking mulled wine and secretly singing tacky Christmas songs in the shower. Dipping the wick into the warm wax and watching the candle form, layer by layer, has always been fascinating, and we still get excited when we see a sign that says “Kerzenziehen” (candle dipping) somewhere – the ritual is wonderfully relaxing and meditative, perfect for combatting the stress of the season. Our favourite places for candle making in Bern? The Christmas market on Minster Square (in a pretty wooden hut and with fragrant, sweet beeswax), the Christmas market on Waisenhausplatz (eight candle-dipping stations in a heated tent) and “Rummelbummel” in the PROGR courtyard (colourful candle dipping until late at night).
Opening Hours Candle Dipping
Münsterplatz (Minster Square) Christmas Market 30 November – 24 December 2019 Mon–Wed, Fri 11:00 a.m.–6:30 p.m.
Thu 11:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.
Sat–Sun 10:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.
24 December 2019 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m. Waisenhausplatz (Orphanage Sqaure) Christmas Market 1 December 2019 10:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m. 2 to 7 December 2019 10:00 a.m.–8:00 p.m. 8 December 2019 10:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m. Rummelbummel, located in the PROGR courtyard 22 November to 31 December 2019 Mon.–Sat. 4:00 p.m.–9:00 p.m.
Sun. 1:00 p.m.–9:00 p.m.
#8 Carrousel Rides
Hop on and hold on tight! A holiday carrousel ride is the perfect moment to dream – of Santa Claus, carrousel horses and rides when you were a child, gingerbread and dancing snowflakes. While the world around us is spinning, we start feeling light and happy. If you’re strolling through Bern’s streets during the holiday season, you’ll find two old-fashioned, nostalgic carrousels only three minutes from the main station: one is at “Rummelbummel” in the PROGR courtyard, the other one at the Sternenmarkt (Star Market) on Kleine Schanze. And if you need a charming excuse to get on the carrousel yourself: just bring your godchild along and hop on together! Afterwards, you can go for some hot chocolate and candle dipping – a wonderful idea for a Christmas adventure. After all, shared experiences are amongst the best gifts you can give!
#9 Alpine Feeling in the City
If you’re in the mood for an alpine experience, you needn’t go far: if you know where to go, you’ll find that cosy chalet ambiance in the middle of the city! In the garden of the restaurant Marzilibrücke, directly on the Aare river, stand four pretty “Gondeli” (cable cars) from the Gstaad-Saanenland region, prettily decorated with red-and-white checkered curtains, warm furs and authentic accessories such as old skiing poles. Perfect for a delicious fondue. And when you meet up with friends in one of Bern’s wooden pop-up chalets, you will almost feel like you’re at the top of a mountain. On the menu: delicacies from the Bernese Oberland, raclette and fondue. Now all we need is some fluffy white snow to make the chalet experience complete.
Bern’s Pop-Up Chalets
Venue Chalet Alpenland Gstaader Fondue-Chalet Chalet Schanze Where Kornhausplatz (Granary Square) Berner Sternenmarkt (Star Market Bern),
Grosse Schanze Dates 22 November -
22 December 2019
28 November - 29 December 2019
Closed: 24 December 2019 from 5:00 p.m., 25 December 2019
21 November 2019 - 1 February 2020
24/25/26/31 December 2019,
1/2 January 2020
Opening hours Mon–Sun 11:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m. Mon–Sun 11:00 a.m.–12:00 a.m. Tue–Fri 11:30 a.m.–2:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.–11:00 p.m.
Sat 5:30 p.m.–11:00 p.m.
#10 Christmas in the Emmental
If you love a fairytale Christmas season, we suggest a trip to the picturesque (and hopefully snowy) Emmental region. In the historical centre of Huttwil, a small town about 60 minutes by train from Bern, 100 pretty wooden huts make up one of the largest and prettiest Christmas markets in the country. It is set up on 27. November 2019. Our recommendation for an all-round festive experience: visit the Berchtoldshof in Bätterkinden, where, from 1 December 2019 to 6 January 2020, there’s an impressive nativity scene with life-sized figurines. And stop by Trubschachen on your way home: at the Kambly Christmas market, a puppet theatre, a fairy in an enchanted forest and over 100 different biscuits and cookies (taste-testing is encouraged!) await.
To the Kambly Christmas Market
#11 Sharing is Caring
Let there be light! For Caritas’ “One Million Stars” campaign, a sea of candles will illuminate Parliament Square on 15 December 2019 from 4:00-8:00 p.m. Beautiful to see – and for a good cause: every candle is a commitment to Switzerland’s support for people in need and those affected by poverty. We’re taking a “Füfliber” (five-franc coin) and lighting a candle. And by doing so, we’re not only committing a symbolic act of kindness, we’re also actually helping by donating. And, as the saying goes: “Glück ist das einzige, das sich verdoppelt, wenn man es teilt” (Happiness is the only thing that doubles when you share it). If you’re not in Bern on 15 December, you have the possibility to do good deeds every day thanks to the campaign “Café Surprise”. The idea is simple: when visiting one of the participating cafés (Lehrerzimmer, Café Marta and Löscher, among others), you pay for two cups of coffee – one is for yourself, the other one is put on a list. People in need will receive the coffees from the list and be able to enjoy a hot beverage for free. What a wonderful idea for the season of giving!
SEE THE PARTICIPATING CAFÉS
#12 Meet Santa Claus
“Santi Niggi-Näggi ...” – and then? If you don’t know any of the traditional Santa Clause rhymes, you should start practising! On the first Sunday of Advent, the traditional “Chlousauszug” takes place, a Santa parade from Zytglogge (Clock Tower) to Kramgasse, probably the world’s most beautiful alley. This event is a real insider’s tip, as even many locals don’t know about it! On 1 December 2019, 15 Bernese “Samichlöis” (Santa Clauses) and their “Schmutzlis” (helpers) make children (and the young at heart) happy with a Christmas story (at 4:45 p.m. from a window next to Zytglogge) and 2’000 pieces of gingerbread. More Santa Clauses can be found on the Sternenmarkt (Star Market) and the Münstermärit (market on Minster Square), and on 7 December 2019, Santa, his helper and his donkey will be paying a visit to Bern Animal Park, Dählhölzli from 3:30-4:30 p.m.
To the registration