Zibelemärit is a traditional folkloric festival held on the fourth Monday of November every year. Farmers from the surrounding area head to the Swiss capital with more than 50 metric tons of onions and garlic in artistically woven braids.
When the air on the Bern slopes is filled with the scent of onion pies and Glühwein, the traditional Zibelemärit has returned to the Swiss capital. Even in the early hours of the morning, the Old Town fills up with thousands of visitors as they enjoy this market and farmers’ folk festival in one.
Ten things you should know about Zibelemärit
1 The early bird catches the worm
Once a year, many inhabitants of Bern get up from their beds much earlier than usual: Although Zibelemärit does not officially open until 6:00 a.m. and does not close again until 6:00 p.m., the locals stock their onion braids from 4:00 a.m. onwards. From 7:00 a.m. on, the Old Town bands start to fill up.
2 It’s all about the onions
Local farmers bring about 50 tons of onions and garlic to the Swiss capital! Artistically braided onion braids, garlands and figures in every conceivable design can be admired and bought in more than 200 stalls: from giant braids with white and red onions to arrangements with dried flowers and mini decorated braids.
3 Culinary delights
It’s also all about onions in the kitchens. Whether it’s onion pie, onion soup, onion pizza, or sausage with onions – the restaurants in the Old City of Bern offer a variety of onion-based dishes. A hot Glühwein mug is the perfect accompaniment. If you follow the scent of caramel, you will also find typical market treats such as baked almonds, “Magenbrot” cookies, and cotton candy.
4 Don’t forget your souvenirs
Most of what you will find at Zibelemärit includes onions in all shapes and colors. And you should not miss the opportunity to buy a traditional, artistically braided onion braid as a souvenir. However, colored onion braids are also popular souvenirs. If you are looking for Christmas presents, you will also find typical market items such as textiles, jewelry, ceramics and toys.
5 Zibelemärit is a tradition that lives from
Zibelemärit is on the list of Swiss traditions that are still followed today, making it officially one of Switzerland’s most important customs. There are many legends surrounding the origins of the event. According to one, the first Zibelemärit was held in the 15th century as part of the “Martini Market”, where everything was sold – except onions. And so a separate market for onions was created. Another popular story, however, says that the Zibelemärit dates back to the great Bern fire of 1405. When 650 wooden houses were burned down and 100 people were killed, the people of Freiburg rushed to help. As a sign of their gratitude, the Bernese allowed the people of Freiburg to sell their onions in Bern every autumn from then on.
6 See the procession of the Zibelemärit
A masked group known as “Zibelegringe” which means “Onion Heads” appears in several pubs around the Zibelemärit and tells the events of last year in Bern in the form of a song. As a highlight, one of the members is named “Oberzibelegring” (Onion Head) and honored during a procession through the city, led by the brass band “Bereitermusik Bern”. The procession begins at 11:30 a.m. at Rathausplatz (City Hall Square).
7 Onion swimming
Every year since 1986, on the Sunday before Zibelemärit, the Swiss Life Rescue Organization (SLRG) has organized the traditional “Zibeleschwümme” (onion bath) on the River Aare. Hundreds of stalwart Aare swimmers meet on the Schönausteg Bridge, often amused by Santa hats or crocodile suits, ready to swim the 350 meters to the famous Marzili pool. As the water temperature can be as low as 6 degrees, the onion bath is only suitable for very experienced swimmers. However, the spectation is also very fun – and much warmer!
8 Confetti rain and plastic hammers
From 4:00 pm, the Old City of Bern becomes a sea of color. For the young and the young at heart, the traditional battle of confetti is a great way to end the market. Whether it’s a handful of confetti or a creaking plastic hammer that suddenly hits you in the head: the longer the day, the more convivial the atmosphere awaits visitors to Zibelemärit.
9 Public transportation trips
Zibelemärit is unlike any other event in Switzerland. To enjoy the still idyllic market atmosphere at dawn away from the crowds, the ideal would be to travel here by public transport. Even in the early hours of the morning, the extra trains placed by SBB and BLS comfortably transport visitors to the Zibelemärit from every corner of Switzerland – without any traffic jams. If you stay in the city itself, the streetcars run from 5:00 in the morning.
10 Orient yourself
Zibelemärit fills the main and side streets of the Upper Old Town as well as the Waisenhausplatz (Orphanage Square) and the Bundesplatz (Parliament Square). The streetcar lines 6, 7, 8, and 9 plus bus line 12 between the Zytglogge (Clock Tower) and Bern main station are therefore interrupted during the day. If you travel to the main station, you can take bus lines 10 and 19 from Zytglogge. Line 10 stops in the direction of Köniz Schlieren and can be found at the Bundesgasse just before the Christoffelgasse intersection.