The pint-sized Swiss capital packs a big punch, and groups can pack a lot into a 48-hour event

Words Stuart Derrick 

SquareMeal How to plan an incentive trip to Bern aare river

Bern excels in letting the good times roll, with fantastic incentive options. Planners can mix and match city experiences – sampling Bern’s history, culture and fantastic shopping – with the incredible countryside around it, starting with the Alps.

SquareMeal How to plan an incentive trip to Bern hotel bellevue palace

Day 1


Check into central Bern institution the Bellevue Palace. It’s been a regular haunt of visiting heads of state, such as Churchill, Mikhail Gorbachev and Queen Elizabeth II, for decades, and John le Carré’s Smiley’s People is partially set here. It is also the official hotel for visiting Swiss politicians.


Enjoy a cocktail in one of the Bellevue’s bars before an afternoon city tour. The hotel’s terrace offers views of the old town and Alps, helping you get your bearings before heading out to explore. You can pop into the house where Einstein lived with his wife and developed his theory of relativity, before taking a tour of the 13th-century Zytglogge tower to see how the town’s main clock works.

SquareMeal How to plan an incentive trip to Bern sky terrace hotel schweizerhof


With the group already ensconced in period luxury, a more contemporary venue could be the place to host the awards night. The Hotel Schweizerhof’s Sky Terrace has another splendid city view, and can be hired exclusively for gatherings of up to 45 people. A more historical option for dining is Klötzlikeller, a rustic, vaulted cellar restaurant in the old town that can seat up to 70 for home-style food. 


Why not catch some jazz at the intimate Marians Jazzroom club at Hotel Innere Enge Bern, where up-and-coming names perform nightly.

SquareMeal How to plan an incentive trip to Bern schilthorn

Day 2


Why not blow the cobwebs away by unleashing your inner James Bond with a trip up the 2,970m Schilthorn. This summit appeared in the 1969 Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and can be reached via an eye-popping 35-minute cable-car journey. Those with strong stomachs can stop at the Birg Terrace’s Skyline Walk.

SquareMeal How to plan an incentive trip to Bern schilthorn skyline walk

Atop the mountain, there is an interactive Bond visitor attraction before you enjoy lunch or dinner in the revolving Piz Gloria restaurant. Take in the beautiful view of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains and more than 200 other Alpine peaks from the 360-degree panorama. 

More statement venues for your private party

SquareMeal How to plan an incentive trip to Bern schwellenmaetteli restaurants

+ Situated in parklands with around 3,500 rose bushes, and just 20 minutes from Bern, you’ll find the 400-year-old Hünigen Castle, which comes complete with contemporary service for up to 150 guests.

+ Münchenwiler Castle dates back to the 11th century, when its priory offered rest to passing pilgrims. These days, there are 35 bedrooms available and various event spaces for up to 120 guests.

+ Schwellenmätteli Restaurants (pictured above) lies on the bank of the Aare river and provides a culinary oasis in the centre of Bern, not to mention something a little bit different. A bespoke event lounge can host up to 180, with fish being the speciality. 

+ Bringing things up to date, industrial Stufenbau is a former 1920s factory that’s notable for its stepped architecture. These days, the fifth and sixth floors are used for events for up to 600 party people.

Find out how to plan a scientific gathering in the city here, or a conference here.

This article was first published in SquareMeal Beyond 2017