So you can’t go to the North Pole to hang out with Santa Claus? And you have a big heart for cuddly animals? This blueprint for a perfect Bern winter weekend has you covered.
When I was invited to stay at a Christmas-themed room in Bern, I did not think twice: Sorell Hotel Ador would be the perfect base to explore Bern and visit the infamous onion market.
Saturday: Sorell Hotel Ador in Bern
Our Christmas-themed room at Sorell Hotel Ador puts a twinkle in our eyes. There is a scent of homemade mulled wine, and nibbles include dried fruits and Christmas biscuits. A reindeer induces childhood memories, and an owl ensures our stay is a hoot...
The next day, a hearty breakfast will get you going for the rest of the day. The late check-out policy at Sorell Hotel Ador will be our savior since the onion market is set to begin at 4 AM. Being able to return to the room with our loot to freshen up will be ideal.
Rendez-vous Bundesplatz Light Show
After Manuela and I get acquainted, we are luckily in time to catch the last showing of the Rendez-vous Bundesplatz light show. This light show is what makes adults feel like children and children feel like they can land on the moon. I have not felt this kind of wonder since the first time watching Avatar.
This year's show, entitled "Planet Hope", is about climate change. Somewhere Over The Rainbow by Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwoʻole opens the show, and I'm already in tears. It is not the cold but the music and ambiance that sends shivers down my spine.
Vibrant images shoot against the Swiss Parliament building in a crescendo of booming music and animal sounds. What can I say but Wow, f-ing wow! Whatever the Oscar, Emmy, or Grammy award is for light shows, give the creators of this show all the awards! I think to myself: “This weekend is off to an amazing start.”
👉 My advice for Rendez-vous Bundesplatz:
- Dress in warm clothes.
- Show up 10 to 15 minutes early to get a good spot. On the weekends, show up even earlier.
- Stand towards the back. This is not a concert, it's like a film in the theater.
- Bring a friend so you can turn every couple of seconds and whisper "Did you see that?!?"
Sunday: Bird's-eye views of Bern at the Gurten Park
We patiently wait for the fog to move out of Bern while we enjoy our breakfast at the Sorell Hotel Ador. One coffee, two coffees, and we think, well if we can't see the beautiful city of Bern through the fog, let's go above the fog.
We modify our plans of seeing the old town and the rose garden. Instead, we decide to head to Gurten Park. Thanks to the Sorell Hotel Ador, we both have public transportation passes for the duration of our stay around the city of Bern, including going up to Gurten Park.
We ride the funicular up and slowly pierce through the fog. We go from darkness to wearing sunblock in a matter of minutes. I am happy. At this location, we see what the Swiss call the Nebelmeer, the Sea of Fog. It looks like a sea with islands popping out from the fog.
We're not the only ones with this master plan. I see families, couples, and the elderly enjoying the sun. Some sip coffee while laying in the grass, others build fires, and some are taking pictures of what looks like Chewbacca?
Manuela and I spend hours in Gurten Park, walking, talking, playing with Chewbacca (a buffalo?), and having lunch. As I enjoy my lunch, I spot the sun punching a hole through the fog. The sea of fog starts to part way and the Swiss Parliament building shows itself. This is an opportune time to make our way back to town.
👉 My advice for a visit to Gurten Park in Bern:
- Dress in layers.
- Go early to beat the crowds, especially when riding the funicular.
- Bring a picnic.
- Bring the kids, there is a lot to do at Gurten.
And here's a bucket list activity for those visiting Bern the weekend before the onion market in November. If you feel like braving the cold winter water, you could do the Onion Swim. I choose to sit this one out. But since I went swimming a couple of days later, that still counts? The SLRG organizes the swim, and believe it or not, but the slots fill up fast. Sign up early.
Monday: Hitting the Bern Onion Market
The official start time of the Bern Onion Market is 6 AM, but there are whispers around the town that it starts as early as 4 AM. I negotiate with myself and settle on 5 AM. First things first: dress warm, really warm.
There are many tales about the origins of the Bern Onion Market. The primary tale is about the great fire in Bern in 1405, and that the town of Fribourg helped put out the fire. In return, Bern apparently allowed Fribourg's farmers to sell produce in Bern. They showed up with onions. Whatever the history is, I am certain that it did not involve children launching confetti into your face.
On Monday morning, I go to the onion market alone, bright and early at 5 AM. I get it, waking up this early to see onions is not for everyone.
I take enjoyment of capturing slow-shutter photos of the customers and local farmers around the Bundesplatz. I have authored article after article about my love for the mornings, and this is no different. I love mornings and it seems this particular morning of the Onion Market, others are, too.
The onion braids are spectacular. To not call this art would be a travesty. Some of the braids are so complex and beautiful, they belong in a local museum.
Manuela eventually makes her way out to the onion market, just in time to be greeted by the sun. The crowds start to build, and activity around the streets becomes more alive.
I think my chakra color is not blue or green, but the colors of confetti. People love throwing it at me. Maybe it's because I'm short, or maybe it's because I have good energy. Or maybe they throw it at everyone. I don't know.
After a couple of rounds around the block, I settle on buying an onion lei. First IZ, now a lei braid. It's as if I was back home in Hawai'i. We end our Bern weekend with an onion pie, punch, and mulled wine. In 2021, no alcohol was sold due to COVID-19 rules.
After a one-hour train ride back home to Luzern, I place my jacket on the coat hanger and look down to see: more confetti!
👉 My advice for the Bern Onion Market:
- Show up early.
- Dress warm, then add another layer on top.