Aare Swimming in Bern

Knowledge concerning nature
  • Social practices


Bern may not have a lake. However, the River Aare and the extremely popular and - where the river is turbulent - exciting tradition of Aare swimming has recently brought the city international fame. Bern serves as a model for river swimming and its clean water sets an example for Berlin, Boston and other cities. A decisive factor for the tradition of Aare swimming is the water purity, which is exceptional by global standards. While the Aare used to serve as a defensive barrier, water reservoir, food source and transport route, today it is Bern's natural landmark. The free bathing locations at Eichholz, Marzili and Lorraine provide an important recreation area for city's residents and contribute to the high quality of life in Bern.

Aare swimming in Bern is addictive. For 25 years, die-hard swimmers have been participating in in the 350-metre ‘Zibeleschwümme' swim held in late autumn. For all other Bernese, Aare swimming is part and parcel of summer. Two traditional river-water swimming pools serve as starting points: the Marzilibad (1782) and the Lorrainebad (1892); here people meet their friends, change into their swimsuits and walk upstream along a path by the river; from Lorrainebad towards Altenbergsteg, and from Marzili towards Schönausteg. Once you have walked far enough, you jump into the river and drift downstream. If you put your head under water, you will hear Aare music produced by pebbles pulled along on by the current on the riverbed.

Despite clearly visible entry and exit points, the Aare is dangerous and only suitable for confident river swimmers. Most Bernese children jump into the Aare for the first time with their parents. This is a long-awaited experience. Later, they will pass on the tradition to their children.

Image gallery

  • “This poster is an ode to Aare swimming in Bern – for chilly days in winter, when it snows and only die-hard swimmers get into the water.” © Kaspar Allenbach/aare.guru
  • Screenshot of the app aare.guru (2.7.2017) © aare.guru
  • Screenshot of the Aare app– swimming weather temperature (Bern, 2.7.2017) © illuBits Schaad
  • Map of the Aare for boaters and swimmers (Bern, 2017) © Schweizerische Lebensrettungs-Gesellschaft: SLRG
  • Map of the Aare for swimming in the city of Bern © aare.guru
  • Aare you safe – Sign for an exit point at the Marzili © Sportamt der Stadt Bern
  • Aare you safe – slogan on the pavement of Uferweg by the Blutturm © Sportamt der Stadt Bern
  • Aare you safe – poster 2017 © Sportamt der Stadt Bern
  • Marzili in 1898/99 (Müller Atlas) and today © Mülleratlas und GoogleMaps
  • Aare swimming © Marco Zanoni


Wie fühlt sich Aareschwimmen an (18.12.2011). © Aare.guru

Swimming in Bern (17.6.2017) © Diccon Bewes

References and documentation

  • Christian Aeberhard et al. (Ed.): Heimat Marzili. 80 Portraits aus dem Berner Aarebad. Baden, 2004

  • Peter Gygax: Marzili - Berner Welt am Aareufer. Münsigen-Bern, 1991

  • Franz auf der Maur, Laslo Irmes: Die Aare. Zürich, 1987.

  • Barbara Kerneck: Träume von Klarheit. In: Tageszeitung taz, 22.7.2005 (www.taz.de/!572702/)

  • Andreas Schwab: «Nackt beim Dählhölzli herumspazieren». In: Der kleine Bund, 22.8.1998, p. 7