Bern, the capital city of Switzerland, is nestled around a crook in the beautiful Aare River. Every summer, people take to these clean and refreshing waters to enjoy the ultimate city bathing experience. We spoke to four of Bern’s urban swimmers to find out more about their experiences swimming in the Aare River each year, and why a dip in its clear blue waters makes you ‘a real Bernese’.
There’s no better way to soak up the sights than by drifting gently downstream, passing by the Botanical Gardens, the Dählhölzli Zoo, the old Matte district, and even the Houses of Parliament as you go.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
The city itself boasts a rich history that stretches back to the 12th century. In the Altstadt (Old Town), which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the medieval architecture has been impressively preserved.
The place is picture-postcard pretty with 16th-century fountains and sandstone facades at every turn, known as lauben to the locals. These triumph as one of the longest weather-sheltered shopping promenades in Europe.
Alain Bühlman, who works for the SECO (State Secretariat for Economic Affairs), has been living in Bern for the last three years. ‘What I like most about Bern is the Marzili Bath,’ Bühlman tells Culture Trip. He likes to take a swim after work and sometimes even during his lunch break. ‘It’s just a very refreshing experience.’
‘This year I went in May for the first time when the water was just 11 degrees cold. Usually I prefer to go when it’s warmer at the end of June,’ Alain Bühlmann tells us.
He insists that tourists should try out Aareböötle (Aare boating), and recommends taking a waterproof swimming bag for your belongings – these can be bought anytime at the tourist information centre at the train station. ‘Running up in the opposite direction and then swimming down in the Aare to cool down is also a very nice experience’, Bühlmann says.
While some people choose to enter the river gently by using the steps, others prefer a more adrenaline-fuelled start by taking a plunge from above. The most popular spot to jump in is from a bridge called Schonausteg, and it’s always good fun. You must be an experienced swimmer, though, as the river disappears into numerous side streams.
Ursula Walker, who used to work in a hospital laboratory before she retired, has always loved being in nature. ‘I have always lived in Bern and love everything about it’, she says. ‘Swimming in the Aare river is a very nice feeling as you can just float along with the water. Also it’s always refreshing because the water never gets really warm.’
Last year, she participated in the ‘Zibeleschwümme’ which takes place at the end of November. In order to get used to the 10-degree temperatures, she kept going for short dips right through September.
She says that people who are interested in taking to these waters should be good swimmers and be reasonably prepared. ‘They should go by foot first, and have a look where they want to exit the river as that can be tricky sometimes’, she insists. ‘Also being accompanied by someone who has experience is very important when you go for the first time.’
Bern’s famous Marzili outdoor pool is hugely popular for swimming, sunbathing and socializing. What’s great is that there’s no charge for enjoying its 8 x 50-metre open-air lanes.
There’s a paddling pool for toddlers, a sports pool and also a diving area with one-metre and three-metre diving boards. If you fancy it, you’re allowed to sunbathe in the nude too.
Pierre Peiry, who works in the gastronomy industry, has been living in Bern for the last five years. ‘A colleague once said to me, you’re not a real Bernese until you swim in the Aare river’, he says.
Peiry loves urban swimming, but prefers to wait until early June when the water is at least 16 degrees. ‘I know a few people who even swim in winter, but that’s not for me.
‘People who go Aare swimming for the first time should be aware of the signs and maybe start with a swim in the Aare next to the Lorraine Bath as it’s a bit slower.’
The Lorraine Bad is a fantastic starting point to go swimming in the Aare from the northern side of Bern’s Old Town. The bathing water is somewhat colder than in the other pools since it comes directly from a groundwater source, but these temperatures give you the chance to swim alongside fish for an authentic outdoor bathing experience. After a refreshing dip, you can head to the Lorraine pool restaurant for a well-deserved treat.
Tabea Kallen, a sports teacher, has been living in Bern for seven years. ‘It has a beautiful old town and I also love the Aare river’, she says. Kallen often goes for a quick swim in the evening. ‘I also like that you can see the mountains in the distance from the city.’
Kallen says that swimming in the Aare is an activity that often gets underestimated, especially when tourists are visiting for the first time. It can be difficult to judge when to get out of the river. ‘It’s better to try to get out one exit earlier than you planned, as you never know if you’ll make it’, she says.
Planning a trip to Bern? Make sure you check out Bern for helpful hints and tips.
This branded content article was published as part of a commercial campaign that has now ended.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.