Picture this: it is a warm summer day in Switzerland, you travel by train up to the feet of the alps with an inflatable boat and some beers in your backpack.
You take out your boat, pump it up, and let yourself go with the flow of a fresh turquoise river for a few hours until reaching the pittoresque capital of the country.
That’s exactly what you will experience going down with the stream of the Aar river and it’s definitely the best summer activity in Bern.
An easy trip on an intense turquoise stream
The Aar flows through the lake of Brienz and Thun before finding its way to Bern. These two beautiful lakes located at the feet of the Swiss alps are renowned for taking a distinctive turquoise color when the sun is shining. The river has the same characteristic and it is probably one of the reasons why the traditional “Aareswimming” is one of the most appreciated summer activity around Bern.
This beautiful trip will last for an average of 4 hours, depending where you decide to go in or out of the river and if you are taking a break or not. You can do this alone, as a couple but the “traditional” way is with a group of friends. However, as the stream is quite strong which means that you should be a good swimmer but this activity is otherwise very chilled.
The best summer activity in Bern? What do I need for Aareswimming?
If you want a challenge, you could simply swim the entire way. Some people will build huge floatable islands, other will take rubber rings but the most common and practical way to go down the Aar is with inflatable boats.
However, we would recommend to consider taking the following gears:
Let’s start with the most obvious: you will need a bathing suit and a towel. However, you need to consider that the water is not warm (between 17°C and 21°C in summer) and if you are sensitive to cold we would recommend to wear a lycra or any other protection layer. If you want to get in the water from time to time, it is very comfortable to take a slim life vest to help you float without effort.
If your final destination is not Bern, you should also take a set of dry clothes that you can wear on the way back to your place.
You can take about any floatable equipment. As you will be on the water for several hours and have a lot of equipment with, we would recommend a raft built to contain twice the amount of people that will board in.
If you are taking the trip with a group of friends, pack some rope to attach your rafts together.
Sunglasses, sunscreen, hat, t-shirt. The cold water will keep you from realizing how strong the sun is and it can be very dangerous if you are not well protected. Be safe and do not spare on protection!
Waterproof bag and pouches
Do you think that you will simply keep your stuff dry in the boat? Wrong. We tried. It does not work, ever! Invest in a water proof bag and good waterproof pouches if you want to take your phone and/or wallet.
Food and beverages
We like to leave Thun between 10 and 11am and stop for lunch on the side of the river after two hours. You also need to stay hydrated and should pack a big bottle of water or any other refreshment.
Pro-tip: the water will keep your beverage cool. Pack them all together in a closed bag that you will suspend to your boat. Obviously, you also need to prepare a bag to pack your trash.
Where should I go in and out of the Aar?
The earliest point to get into the Aar is from the bridge “Regiebrücke” in Thun. It is easily accessible from the train station in about 15 minutes of walk:
To go out of the river, it will be well indicated as soon as you arrive in Bern. You need to leave as soon as you arrive at the city’s public beach as the river is blocked after the next turn:
If you want more information about the entrance, exit and danger zones along the river, you can take a look at the official map of the Aar (in German).