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River float in Bern

We will be going through Bern on the train, but not staying there. We would like to float the Aare River, but it seems like the logistics would be quite challenging. I would appreciate advice from any of you who have tried this. Thanks. Cory

Posted by
234 posts

There have been other posts about this recently you can refer to for more information. 

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/switzerland/bern-river-float


https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/general-europe/swimming-in-the-aare-river-in-bern-summer-of-course

You can leave your things in a locker at the train station or get a locker at the public swimming area down by the river. Most locals bring dry bags into the water with them, because the exit points are not necessarily close to the entry points. An inflatable raft or other floating support is easier than swimming, but obviously not that practical for most tourists, especially if you aren't staying in Bern.

Not sure why this is becoming such a hot topic, but everyone should be advised that this is really only for strong, experienced (preferably in open water) swimmers. Just the other day, a young man drowned in the Aare and this happens every summer. As I wrote in a previous post, I get the feeling that people hear about it and think it's going to be like a "lazy river" at a resort - but it can be quite dangerous, especially if you aren't familiar with the area. The water can be really cold and is often moving much more quickly than you might think.
It can definitely be a unique and fun experience, but be honest with yourself about your swimming ability and I would suggest checking the conditions on the day before you commit to doing it. Water flow and temperature varies and you may be more or less comfortable with the idea once you see it up close.

Posted by
26 posts

Thanks Hopper18, I think we'll heed your warning. Six years ago we were lucky enough to survive our raft getting stuck on a rock in one of Grand Canyon's toughest rapids. I guess we shouldn't push our luck with strong currents. Thanks again. Cory

Posted by
61 posts

I have a vague recollection of the RS Switzerland episode showing him doing a river float in Bern and portraying it as a pleasantly casual day on the water---I suspect that's driving some of the interest! Still it's helpful to know that it's not as simple as it appears.

Posted by
234 posts

It really depends on the conditions (and which part of the river you are going into - there are some easier stretches, but they are not as central) and I don't want to completely deter people - but just want to make sure it's clear that it's for experienced swimmers only. You'll see teenage boys jumping off the bridges in the middle of town sometimes - definitely not something I would advise :)

The recommended swim on a slower part of the river for 'beginners' is from Kornhaus bridge to the Lorraine swimming area, but this is on the far side of the city down the hillside, so you don't really see too much of Bern. Still a cool experience (literally!), but not as dramatic scenery-wise and I probably wouldn't do a detour for it.

What I can definitely highly recommend is swimming in one of the many lakes or going to one of the "Badis" (public outdoor swimming areas) all over the country. Really refreshing in the summer!

Posted by
2761 posts

yes, everyone gets this idea from one of Rick's episodes where he does the float. he does make it seem like it's easy and no big deal, but obviously that is not the case.

Posted by
26 posts

Thanks for the advice. Samantha Brown also showed it as somewhat easy. She had a wetsuit, and I think that she also had a flotation noodle. Thanks again for those who responded. Cory

Posted by
1015 posts

What you could do is watch from one of the bridges as others try the float. When I was there, a group went down with their dog which was amusing to the onlookers. Not sure how the floaters, including dog, felt. They did seem to be toting "stuff" with them.

While in Bern, try to pick up some of their local Lebkuchen. I believe there is a bear imprinted on each. Very good. I even went looking for the recipe online when I got home.