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Swimming in the Aare River in Bern- summer, of course

Hopefully, covid-wise, we will be in Bern in September. I've always wanted to do the Aare River float around the city. I was a life guard in my much younger life , but now I'm a senior, and spend many summer days in the ocean boogie boarding. So I'm a good swimmer but not a young swimmer.
Has anyone done this? On the RS video, he talks about the locals jumping in at lunchtime, putting their clothes in a plastic bag, tied around their waists, and floating around the city. The Aare River flows around the peninsula-like city of Bern. I expect the current could be fairly strong- and cold, as it's glacier run-off.

Has anyone ever done this? Perhaps there are groups that go together that I could stay close to, in case the current is really strong??
Should I try this?
Con: I'm 69 years old
Pro: I'm 69 years old

Posted by
221 posts

I jumped in the Aare with the local masses when I was in my thirties. August. The current was stronger than expected. Harder to get out of the river than expected, even at a designated exit point with stairs and a hand rail.

But, there are usually plenty of others around willing to help you out of the water.

Posted by
5778 posts

Our guide recommended against doing the swimming in 2019 as it was more dangerous than Rick's video made it appear.

Posted by
28478 posts

I haven't done it but I have previously posted here about the unfortunate deaths. It was the summer before Covid. My memory is that there had been a few recently, the last was a young woman who was an excellent swimmer.

There are in good weather a fair number of swimmers, if you get into trouble I'm sure they would help...

Posted by
2244 posts

So if I want to see 70 years old, perhaps not my best option...???

Posted by
238 posts

While I always enjoy watching the swimmers, I chickened out about actually doing it myself once I got in the water and felt how strong the current was. It can be hard to get out of the river, especially if you aren't familiar with the layout of the different sections. It's important to plan ahead and know your route. There are "last exit" warning signs to help, but it is definitely not a 'lazy river' kind of experience and I think most tourists should avoid this activity unless they go with a local or are strong, experienced swimmers.

The big Marzili swimming area (with pools, lockers etc) is free to access and open until 26 Sept. If you are still interested, I'd recommend that you go by there and get an idea of just how fast (and cold!) the water is from up close and even talk to the locals about going in. If you have any doubts, you can stick to dipping your feet in (there's a nice spot directly at the bear park) or paddling around one of the sheltered areas along the sides at Marzili.

I should also mention that September is not always "summer" in Switzerland and there may be fewer swimmers, which could make it less appealing for you. It might still be warm and summery, especially early in the month, but it can also be more like fall (rainy and cool).