Charming Christmas markets with beautiful gift ideas and inspiration, cosy cafés that serve delicious coffee creations to keep you warm in the cold winter weather, and restaurants that offer yummy treats and fondue with a view.
“Christmas. Nothing beats Bern.”
Sipping mulled wine, strolling through the charming alleys of the medieval Old City and visiting Bern’s sparkling Christmas markets: at Christmastime, Bern is immersed in a magical golden glow. Creative winter pop-up stalls, designer handicrafts, and plenty of fondue spots – “Christmas. Nothing beats Bern.” has everything you could wish for. Our recommendation: take a trip to the hopefully wonderfully snowy Emmental valley, visit the Berchtoldshof farm in Bätterkinden where, from 1 December 2020 to 6 January 2021, there’s a 16-metre nativity scene with life-sized figurines, and stop by Kambly in Trubschachen on your way back, where you can try over 100 different sweet treats, bake your own cookies, decorate gingerbread, and go on a tour to see the wild animals in the forest.
Everything there is to know about “Christmas. Nothing beats Bern.”
When it’s cold and damp outside, there’s nothing better than getting comfy in a cosy café for some “Käfele” (which is what the Bernese call relaxing and enjoying a nice cup of coffee). In the federal city, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to coffee places: perhaps a nice café beneath Bern’s famous arcades? Or in one of the characteristic vaulted cellars? We also love taking the steps down into Café Alpin or enjoying some homemade scones with our coffee at Café Marta. Or maybe you’d rather go to Adrianos to drink locally roasted coffee and watch the hustle and bustle around Zytglogge (Clock Tower)? We think that “café crawls” are the new pub crawls, so we’re stopping by all of them!
The nicest cafés in the Old City
Chalet in the City
Yearning for the alpine feeling? If you know where to go, you can experience chalet cosiness without having to leave the city! Decorative cable cars from the Gstaad region are set up in the garden of the Marzilibrücke restaurant on the Aare river, on the Sky Terrace of the Schweizerhof hotel, and in front of the Lötschberg restaurant, prettily decorated with red-and-white checkered curtains, warm furs and authentic accessories such as old skiing poles. Guests are served cold platters with cheeses and dried meats and – of course – fondue. Now all we need is some fluffy white snow to make the Bernese chalet experience complete.
Cheesy, but in a good way
Fun Activities for Adventurers of All Ages
From ice skating on Parliament Square to visiting the ice palaces in Schwarzsee to sleeping in an igloo – Bern’s winters never get boring!
Baking Cookies at the Kambly Confiserie
Eating as many “Güezi” (cookies) as you possibly can – this (children’s) dream comes true in the Emmental. The store at the Kambly Experience in Trubschachen, about 35 minutes by train from Bern, has over 100 different cookies and biscuits on display for you to try. And baking with the Kambly Maîtres Confiseurs is the perfect experience for anyone with a sweet tooth. Children from the age of six can bake cookies and decorate their own biscuit tins or create a yummy seasonal treat using chocolate, biscuits and marzipan (reservations required). If you want to earn your visit to the land of milk and honey (and butter and chocolate), you can follow the 3.5-kilometer adventure trail through Trubschachen and solve little riddles and puzzles along the way. If you get them right, you will be rewarded at the end of the trail.
To the Kambly Experience
Make your own Cheese
How do the holes get in the cheese? The answer to that question awaits at the Emmental Show Dairy in Affoltern, where you can experience up close how the famous cheese is made. Visitors can watch the cheese makers at work and, in a one-hour demonstration, learn how to make cottage cheese at home. Children can play to their heart’s content at the jungle gym and visit the various animals at the petting zoo. The show dairy can be reached by public transport within one hour from Bern’s main station.
To the Emmental Show Dairy
Skiing in the City
Feel like skiing but don’t have time to travel to a ski resort? No problem! Once again, Weyermannshaus will turn into a small skiing paradise this winter, complete with a little lift next to the skating rink (where pirouettes and hockey shots are practised). Ice from the rink is turned into a little slope which is perfect for a first time on the wobbly skis and for fun afternoons with children.
Hit the slopes!
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 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.
To the Ice Rink
Sledding on the Gurten
As soon as there’s enough snow, everyone meets up on Bern’s local mountain, the Gurten. In the summer, some 80,000 music fans gather at the top to party at the legendary Gurtenfestival in July – in the cold season, a winter wonderland awaits. In only 20 minutes, you can get from the city centre to the top of the hill, where you can go sledding on the meadow and have your first go at skiing. The sledding run is 1,200 metres long and makes its way over hilly passages and through the forest all the way down to the half-way station of the funicular. Visitors who don’t have their own sled can rent one of the sixty sturdy Davoser sleds awaiting at the top station of the Gurten funicular.
See the city from above
Ice Palaces Schwarzsee
A fairytale world made of light and ice: every winter, a colourful, sparkling wonderland with caves, igloos and ice sculptures of up to 15 metres appears in a small forest near Schwarzsee. Time and again, the beautiful ice palaces leave visitors amazed and enchanted. If you get a bit cold from all the snow and ice, you can head over to Eispalaststübli and enjoy a nice cup of hot chocolate or grill a Cervelat sausage over the open fire – your cold fingers will be nice and warm in no time.
Discover the Ice Palaces
Staying at an Igloo Hotel
If you’re looking for an unforgettable and romantic winter experience, head to Kemmeriboden-Bad to spend a night wrapped in soft, cosy blankets in one of their very own igloos. After snowshoeing through the idyllic Emmental hills (snowshoes are available for free for the hotel guests), sweethearts can warm up while enjoying a delicious fondue or relax at the hotel spa, complete with sauna, steam shower and wooden tub. Just the thought of all that winter romance makes our hearts go pitter-patter!
Sporty and Active Experiences
Whether you want to go skiing, sledding, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing – there are all kinds of winter activities just a stone’s throw from the city.
Within only 90 minutes by car from Bern, you can reach many known, large skiing regions such as Jungfrau Ski Region, Adelboden-Lenk, Meiringen-Hasliberg or Gstaad. Our insider’s tips are Bumbach/Schangnau in the Emmental region as well as SchneeSelital in the Gantrisch region. They may be small, but they’re pretty and inexpensive alternatives for families and beginners in particular. By the way: Bumbach/Schangnau is where world champion Beat Feuz learned to ski – we bet you’re convinced now!
More about the Schneeselital
Off to the Schwarzsee region: the Riggisalp at 1,490 metres above sea level is perfect for some nighttime snow fun! You can ride a sled down a four-kilometre, well-lit slope while the snowflakes all around you glisten in the moonlight. Our tip: prepare for the ride and boost your energy with a yummy fondue at Berggasthaus Riggisalp, and end the sledding adventure with a nightcap at Gypsi-Bar. If you’re lucky and it’s a clear night, look up into the sky and try naming the constellations!
More information (in German)
Do you want to unwind and enjoy nature? Then the “hot&cold” snow tour through the enchanted Napf region is the perfect activity. With snowshoes strapped to your feet and an experienced guide by your side, you’ll hike through silent, beautiful, snowy landscapes. The two-hour winter tour ends with a relaxing soak in the Hot Pot and a delicious cheese fondue. And the hustle and bustle of the city will seem far, far away.
Cross-Country Skiing at Bern’s Doorstep
Did you know that cross-country skiing is one of the healthiest sports there is? Luckily, the closest runs are just 30 minutes by car from the city of Bern! At Naturpark Gantrisch, a cross-country skiing paradise awaits, with 45 kilometres of perfectly primed runs and guaranteed snow (1,450–1,650 metres above sea level). It’s perfect for endurance athletes, amateurs and everyone looking to enjoy a calm sport surrounded by beautiful nature. You can rent the equipment on site, and there are regular classes and weekend courses for beginners.
Enjoy the fresh air