Summer’s high season brings the warmest temperatures and puts many a Bernese “in the drink.” That is, floating, swimming, or tubing in the cool flowing waters of the River Aare that hugs the city. The most famous of all free-admittance bathing facilities in Bern is the Marzili, situated on Aare directly below the Parliament Building.
Shoulder season begins around Ash Wednesday (in February or March), when the awakening of mythical slumbering bears incites revelers to celebrate the “freeing of the bear” at Bear’s Square (Bärenplatz). For three days, festival-goers enjoy the antics and processions of jesters, musicians, concerts, and theatre performances. If the spring showers dampen your trip, head inside to the Swiss Alpine museum or the Albert Einstein house.
September, the start of fall shoulder season, brings the tolling of bells from parades of cows returning from the Alps to lower ground for the winter. Sichlete Festival celebrates the traditions of the farmer. Enormous bells as big as basketballs hang from the best-prized cows, some adorned with a crown of flowers. The end of the harvest is celebrated with the Onion Market, a traditional folk festival held in November. Farmers from the surrounding area bring more than 50 tons of onions and garlic to the capital, where you can sample tasty foods like onion soup and a variety of cheeses sold at market stalls.
Even the low-season months of December through March present a flush of festivals and events. Near-freezing temps don’t keep the Swiss shuttered at home. Bern’s covered arcades dating back to medieval times provide more than three and a half miles of some of the longest shopping promenades in Europe.