15 Tips for Summer in Bern
#1 Jump in the Aare!
Anybody want to cool off? Bern locals know there’s only one way to do it: Jump in the Aare! The perfect summer day just has to include a plunge in the refreshing cool depths of the river. Fancy a quick dip with your work colleagues during your lunch break? Tuck a towel under your arm and head off to enjoy an after-work swim? Summertime in Bern is simply incomplete without a float down the Aare. The classic route leads from Camping Eichholz to the Marzili pool. After a 15-minute walk upriver, you can easily launch your raft from the gravel beach. Then, all you have to do is “let yourself drift”. The tranquil alternative takes you from the Altenbergsteg pier (just below the Kornhaus bridge) to the Lorraine river pool. And those who want to enjoy the pristine water of the Aare as long as possible should choose the Bremgarten Loop (start and finish in Bremgarten). We recommend simply trying all the routes and then choosing your personal favorite!
All about the Aare river
#2 Enjoy Balmy Summer Evenings
Sit on a sofa made of pallets under a colorful sun umbrella, sip homemade iced tea with fresh mint, listen to mellow guitar music and the murmur of the Aare... Balmy summer evenings in Bern are all that and more! Pop-up bars sprout from the ground in the most diverse of places – hidden in the old bear pit, on the banks of the Aare river or on currently vacant land. They provide a great atmosphere, refreshing drinks and delicious food for a few months. How about watching swimmers plunge into the river from the Altenberg pier (just below the Kornhaus bridge) while munching on a halloumi burger from Trybhouz? Or sipping on a ginger spritz at Raum und Zeit in the Liebefeld district? One thing is for sure: Summer evenings in Bern are best enjoyed in good company and outdoors!
#3 Discover Bern’s Brew Scene
Things are fizzing and frothing in the beer capital Bern. Fermenting and brewing happens everywhere, including in basements, garages and even in laundry rooms. 176 breweries and microbreweries – more than anywhere else in Switzerland – are registered here. It’s no wonder that locally brewed craft beer and Bern go together just like hops and malt do! Whether it’s a shared toast in the legendary vaulted cellar of the Au Trappiste beer bar in the lower Old Town, a visit to the Altes Tramdepot (where tasty dishes and the unfiltered “Tram beers” are conjured up) or a beer tour of Bern’s brewing culture led by a beer sommelier – beer connoisseurs and those aspiring to become one will find everything their hearts desire in Bern.
HERE’S WHERE THINGS ARE TAPPING
#4 Dancing on Bern’s Local Mountain
It’s the musical summer highlight in Bern. Once a year, artists from around the world perform on the stage of the Gurtenfestival. The four-day festival attracts around 80,000 music fans to Bern’s local mountain, the Gurten. The festival has been held for over 40 years and is the favorite must-attend event marked on Bernese calendars. This year, people will converge on the Gurten from 17 until 20 July 2019 to enjoy first-class live music, the fantastic mountain panorama and a unique festival atmosphere. Before you’ve even reached the top of the Gurten you will already sense how different this is from all other festivals. A funicular waits to take you up Bern’s 864-meter-high local mountain. If you prefer the more athletic route, you can hike to the top, greeting the grazing cattle along the trail, and will reach the entrance around 40 minutes later – with the added bonus of already being warmed up for the best dance moves in front of the festival’s stage. Off You Go!
#5 Eat Ice Cream
Salted caramel, chocolate sorbet or strawberry-balsamico? In summer, Bern locals focus on the really important questions in life! The decadent pleasures of an established ice-cream culture are celebrated to the fullest in the capital. Locals are just as proud of the Gelateria di Berna – which has the “best ice cream in Switzerland” according to the renowned SonntagsZeitung newspaper – as they are of “their” Aare river. The proprietors learned their trade in Italy – and you can really taste it! The creative flavors of their gelati are so popular that you can now find them in several neighborhood branches throughout Bern: Next to the Marzili pool, in the Breitenrain and Mattenhof districts and in Länggasse. The Gelateria di Berna has even made it all the way to Zurich... and that’s saying something! The Eiswerkstatt ice-cream shop, which invites you to sample its 20 delectable, handmade flavors right next to the BearPark, has also become a household name. And those who prefer handmade ice cream on a stick or want to try a few scoops in a brioche for a change should make their way to La Golosa on Gerechtigkeitsgasse in Bern’s Old Town or in the Monbijou district.
#6 Shop like the Locals
As the first rays of morning sunshine start to brighten the still-sleepy streets of the Old Town, it’s the ideal time for a truly authentic Bern experience. On Tuesday and Saturday mornings, the traditional weekly market is held on Bundesplatz (Parliament Square) and in Münstergasse. Local producers offer fresh fruits and vegetables, fragrant flowers, homemade bread, tasty meats and premium cheese in the multicolored labyrinth of market stands. One thing is for sure: A visit to the market is the perfect opportunity to discover Bern’s delicacies and chat with vendors. Fans of local design should continue exploring the Old Town after leaving the market. With its six kilometers of sidewalk arcades, the capital city boasts the longest covered shopping promenade in Europe. The lower Old Town, consisting of the narrow streets below the famous Zytglogge (Clock Tower), is teeming with local boutiques and studios waiting to be discovered, making a shopping trip in Bern an unforgettable experience.
Discover the old town
#7 Party in the Street
Dance, laugh, share the excitement! During the Buskers Street Music Festival from 8 to 10 August 2019, around 150 musicians, artists and performers from around the world will liven up Bern’s narrow streets. Colorful, creative, funny, zany and poetic, it’s definitely worth a visit! The diverse mix of music, dance, theater, comedy, and acrobatics attracts around 70,000 people to Bern’s lower Old Town each year. The performances take place at various locations from the Münsterplattform (Minster Platform) to Rathausplatz (Town Hall Square). With the purchase of a festival wristband you’ll also receive a program with all of the festival details and schedules. By the way, if you’re already in a festival mood, you can drop by Kocherpark (approx. 4 minutes on tram 6, 7 or 8 from Bern’s main train station) and experience its transformation into a thriving cultural oasis from 28 June until 13 July 2019. The free Parkonia Festival stages daily concerts, workshops, children’s face-painting, theater, dance lessons, readings, exhibitions and all kinds of surprises.
#8 Sunset Spectacular
Many love stories had their beginning in the Rose Garden. Known by day as the city’s most popular photo spot for visitors to Bern, the garden transforms into a meeting place for Bern residents after work. Our tip: Sit on the wall like a local, let your legs dangle and enjoy the sunset with a “Bärner Müntschi” (the flagship beer of Bern’s Felsenau Brewery) you brought along or an ice cream from the Eiswerkstatt at the BearPark. If you’re in the mood for a romantic dinner, reserve a table at Restaurant Rosengarten – panoramic view included. And even if you haven’t got your sweetheart in tow, you still don’t have to gaze at the sunset alone. Right below Restaurant Rosengarten you will find the world-famous physicist Albert Einstein waiting for you on a bench. This was his favorite spot when he lived in Bern and developed his revolutionary formula, E=mc2.
#9 Drink from a Fountain
Thirsty? No problem! In Bern, there is fresh, cool drinking water waiting on (almost) every corner – and it’s even free! Pardon me? It’s simple. Bern has over 100 fountains, each one flowing with absolutely pure water. Whether sightseeing or shopping, you can always quench your thirst. And when you find one of the eleven sculptural fountains, you’re in for a double treat. Take a moment to inspect the detailed figures adorning the fountain. They date back to the 16th century and add the perfect touch to Bern’s medieval streets. If you would like to learn more about the fountains and their history, join one of the UNESCO Old Town strolls. This exciting city tour begins daily at 11:00 a.m. at the Tourist Information at Bern’s main station.
BOOK A CITY TOUR
#10 Boats and Barbecues
“Let yourself drift along” is more than just a metaphor in this city known for its love of leisure. Drifting down the Aare river on an inflatable boat is a favorite pastime of Bern residents. As soon as temperatures begin to rise, the locals haul their colorful boats out of the basement and, along with friends, they let themselves drift down the river from Thun to Bern. However, heart-stopping river rafting it is not. Drifting down the gently flowing Aare, past lovely green meadows and small islands, is as pleasant and relaxing as the city itself. And even more so if you choose to launch your boat in Uttigen, as many do, and thus bypass the only somewhat challenging section. One of the most popular exit spots is the gravel beach near Camping Eichholz, where rubber boat captains will encounter other sun seekers, nature lovers and BBQ masters. Sausages sizzle on the fire while people strum guitars, balance on slacklines and play beach volleyball. It doesn’t get more Bernese than that! Our ultimate Aare Rafting Guide tells you where you can rent inflatable boats, which are the most beautiful sections and what you need to keep in mind to be safe.
#11 Breathe Deeply and Relax
Another way to enjoy Bern for those who prefer relaxing on firm ground instead of on (or in) the water: open-air yoga classes! During the summer, Bern locals like to practice their sun salutations in the great outdoors. Whether it’s at the Botanic Gardens, on the Sky Terrace of the Hotel Schweizerhof Bern & THE SPA, at Kocherpark or at a last-minute surprise location – the selection of outdoor yoga classes in Bern during the summer is truly diverse. Yogis even roll out their colorful mats at the Marzili, probably the most beautiful riverside pool in Switzerland. And if it decides to rain? Just open an umbrella and walk over the Kornhaus Bridge to the museum district – once a week you can stroll through the Bern Historical Museum barefoot and in leggings. Every Tuesday at noon there is a themed yoga class, with a ten-minute introductory talk on a selected museum exhibit – calm, inspiring and also suitable for beginners.
#12 Explore Bern on Two Wheels
The wind blowing through your hair, green hills rolling by and now and again a cow on the side of the road... It’s verifiably idyllic! Anyone who likes getting out in nature can explore the most beautiful nooks and crannies of the Bern Region best on two wheels. Our personal favorite is pedaling on over to the nearby Emmental valley. It doesn’t get much more Swiss than this with its gently rolling hills, lush meadows, dense woods and gorgeous views of the Alps. (E-)bike fans looking for peace and quiet and stunning scenery are advised to take the “Herzroute” (Heart Route). Cheese lovers won’t be disappointed at all by the “Emmental Cheese Route”. The Cheese Route app helps you get oriented and provides fascinating stories and insights into the centuries-old tradition of the world-famous Emmental specialty. Those who prefer swinging into the saddle of a racing bike can follow in the pedals of skiing world champion Beat Feuz through his native region on the “Tour d’Emmental”.
THE PRETTIEST CYCLING ROUTES
#13 Free Museum Admission
It’s almost enough to make you wish for bad weather. Every Saturday in August, admission is free to 19 museums, castles, parks and gardens in Bern and its surroundings. There is so much to admire, discover and experience in Bern, home to some of the most important museums and galleries in Switzerland. Families in particular enjoy the Natural History Museum and the Museum of Communication, which was awarded the Council of Europe’s Museum Prize 2019 for its interactive and play-oriented exhibits. Want to slip into the role of your favorite hero during film karaoke? Hack your gaming partner in the Firewall Game? Or design your own postage stamp? The newest member of Bern’s museum family is definitely worth a visit even when it’s not raining!
Discover the museums
#14 Stroll Through Bern’s Neighborhoods
Sublimely uncomplicated and relaxed are words often used to describe Bern. In this city, aging hippies wearing Hendrix shirts sit beside businessmen in suits while sharing an after-work beer. Young people meet up for picnics on the banks of the Aare river, and parties are preferably outdoors with guests wearing sandals or sneakers. You can get a real feel of how down to earth and authentic Bern is once you visit its neighborhoods. If you're lucky, you’ll be in Bern on 24 August 2019 during the annual Lorraine district party (see picture) and can jump right into the vibrant whirl of colorful activities. However, any day of the year is perfect for visiting the city’s neighborhoods, where you can get to know the “real” Bern and learn a few words of the Bernese dialect while chatting with locals. If you want to really imitate Bern natives, follow their lead by visiting the Wartsaal coffee bar and Café Kairo in the Lorraine district, the Löscher and the Barbière in the Breitenrain neighborhood, or Café Sattler and the Parterre in the Länggasse.
JOIN IVO AND EXPLORE THE DISTRICTS
#15 Celebrate Switzerland’s Birthday
With Swiss flags and paper lanterns, fireworks and mountaintop bonfires, Switzerland goes all out to celebrate the first of August! And what better place to spend the national holiday than in the capital city? Extensive festivities are planned for the entire day, inviting you to discover and enjoy. You can meet for brunch at Bundesplatz (Parliament Square), ride through the UNESCO-designated streets in a classic Oldtimer post bus, climb the 312 steps of the highest church tower in Switzerland, take a peek behind the scenes at the Erlacherhof mansion and the Burgerspital hospital, gaze in awe at the colorful sea of lights at Bundesplatz, listen to the primeval sounds of yodeling, or sample tasty Swiss specialties at the Gartenfest in Bundesgasse. Our tip: If you want to spend a truly Swiss day, namely by participating in a traditional Swiss card game, you should sign up now for the “Jass” tournament.