If you’re planning to move to the wonderful city of Bern, you can’t lose the opportunity to visit one of the biggest Swiss traditional folk festivals: the Onion Market – or Zibelemärit.
This market houses hundreds of Bern’s regional artisans’ creations and its farmers’ products in a colorful and welcoming atmosphere – on the banks of the River Aare.
Let’s discover more about this stunning tradition!
What’s the Bern's Onion Market?
The Onion Market is a traditional folk festival that takes place on the fourth Monday of November, where farmers and artisans sell their souvenirs and food from the railway station across to the Federal Square.
Such a special event brings thousands of visitors from all over the world, who populate the Old Town from 5 a.m. to admire original onion creations – like wreaths, plaited strings, and funny onion-shaped characters!
The origins of this Swiss folk festival
There are many legends around the origins of this famous Swiss tradition.
According to some, the first Zibelemärit dates back to Bern’s great fire in 1405, when Freiburg’s people came to help the city and – as a sign of their gratitude – the citizens allowed them to sell their onions every autumn.
Yet, the truth is that, since the late Middle Ages, the citizens of Bern used to celebrate the season changeover on St. Martins’ Day through festive meals, processions, parades, and a busy weekly market!
The best things to do at the Onion Market
1. Tasting the specialties
During the festival, the restaurants in Bern’s Old Town serve a wide range of onion-based dishes, going from the onion tart to the onion soup, the sausage with onions, or the onion pizza.
But, if you want to follow the scent of caramel, you can taste some typical market food, such as roasted almonds, ‘Magenbrot’ cookies, and cotton candy.
2. Buying souvenirs
In addition, we suggest you buy some colored onion souvenirs, such as a traditional plaited onion braid or a sweet onion chain.
And there is more: if you’re looking for the Christmas presents, you can also find some textiles, jewelry, ceramics, or toys!
3. Joining the Zibelemärit procession
Then, if you really want to plunge yourself into the festival atmosphere, we recommend you to join the procession, which starts at 11:30 a.m. in the Rathausplatz.
For this occasion, a masked group called the ‘Zibelegringe’ – ‘Onion Heads’ – appears in several pubs, while the ‘Oberzibelegring’ – or ‘Chief Onion Head’ – and the ‘Bereitermusik Bern’ brass band lead the procession.
4. Enjoying the Onion Swim
Finally, you can’t miss the traditional ‘Zibeleschwümme’ – the Onion Swim – in the Aare river, which takes place every year on the Sunday before the Zibelemärit.
Hundreds of masked swimmers meet at the Schönausteg bridge to swim at a very low water temperature. Although the event is only suitable for the experienced swimmers, you’ll surely enjoy this colorful spectacle!