The pint-sized Swiss capital packs a big punch, and groups can pack a lot into a 48-hour event. Here are a few itinerary options that’ll cover all bases…
Words Stuart Derrick
With a population of around 140,000, Bern may only be Switzerland’s fourth-biggest city, but as the political capital of one of the world’s wealthiest nations, it’s a magnet for event organisers from all around the world.
Bern is at the heart of Europe, and only a 90-minute flight away from London. Its Old City, a Unesco Cultural World Heritage Site, is resoundingly popular, and the surrounding Bern-Mittelland area offers a variety of outdoor options.
For event planners, the Swiss capital’s compact size means that visitors can quickly get to know it, even during a relatively short visit. Whether you are planning a convention, seminar or incentive trip, Bern is flexible enough to provide a solution.
Bern has around 40 hotels with 2,000 or so guest rooms available across the city, along with 300 restaurants, bars and cafés. Shopping is another serious attraction, with around 6km of boutique-filled arcades to wander along.
Headline-grabbing venues include the likes of BERNEXPO, which is the largest open-air convention grounds in the country, with capacity for events for up to 5,000 people. The national Stade de Suisse football stadium is close by, as are the ice hockey PostFinance-Arena and National Equestrian Center, which are all event-ready.
With a 48-hour event trip in mind, we looked at how groups could make the most of a flying visit to the city. Read on to check out how to plan an itinerary in Bern for common events: a business convention, an incentive and a scientific gathering.
Best for conferences
Switzerland, the capital is a key economic contributor to the nation: there are burgeoning tech and start-up sectors, and the university is turning the city into a globally recognised hub for health and medicine. All of which make it an excellent place to get down to business.
Head to the 1,500-capacity Kursaal Bern
, an enticing all-in-one conferencing option. One of Switzerland’s top congress centres, it has views of the Alps and the Old Town. Its main Arena space features a memorable curved gallery to bring added drama to an event.
Its newest conference rooms are all on one level: Sopra Grande has a spacious foyer and choice of attractive rooms with lots of daylight and state-of-the-art technology. Movable partition walls allow full flexibility for larger events such as car presentations.
Checking in to the Kursaal’s Hotel Allegro
keeps everything under one roof, improving the productivity of the event by minimising transfer times. The four-star hotel has 171 rooms and suites, three restaurants and a bar, fitness facilities and the Grand Casino Bern, all in a scenic city-centre location served well by public transport.
Delegates can enjoy a drink and sumptuous views at the Kursaal’s rooftop fine-dining Restaurant Meridiano
, one of three places to eat in the hotel. Since joining in December 2016, chef de cuisine Fabian Raffeiner has been producing authentic dishes in the captivating culinary style of Italy’s South Tyrol, influenced by both the Mediterranean and the Alps.
Downtown Bern has a wide variety of culinary delights, from simple open-air cheese fondue stalls to gourmet menus. One of the most impressive venues for a gala dinner is the Kornhauskeller
. Originally a granary, this frescoed cellar restaurant accommodates 500 people in high baroque style. The venue is home to Bern’s longest bar, and there’s even a walk-in humidor where you can enjoy a cigar and a large scotch with the movers and shakers. Alternatively, culture vultures might want to grab an earlier bite in order to visit Bern Theatre
, known locally as the Stadttheater Bern, for opera, operetta and musical theatre.
To avoid the cigar smoke, after-hours options are plentiful. You could head to the Grand Casino Bern
, which claims to have the highest pay-out rate of any house in Switzerland, at 94%.
After a day of working and playing hard, why not try recharging the batteries? Activity options include walking and e-bike city tours, mountain-top excursions to the nearby Bernese Highlands and the typically Swiss valley of Emmental, where you can explore its rolling hills and see Swiss cheese being made.
Learn how to plan the perfect incentive trip in the city here or a scientific gathering here.
This article was first published in SquareMeal Beyond 2017