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Drama over, we spot see the first of Bern’s 18 bridges, signalling our approach to the capital. On a hot summer’s weekend the water is covered with locals – some even commute to work using the river, with clothes in a dry bag. “You can imagine how much fun it is,” Jaisli says. “Instead of being squeezed into the subway you swim down a river to your office.”

We pull out of the river at Eichholz, a grassy area on the outskirts of the city for picnicking and lounging – the Bernese certainly know how to make the most of the Aare. And as we soon find out, even their famous bears don’t miss out. The symbol of the city (they feature on its coat of arms), bears have been kept in the Swiss capital for 500 years, and since 2009 have living in a grassy enclosure on the banks of the Aare, complete with their own pretty dipping pool. 

As we pack up our rafting gear, I only hope this beautiful river gives the Bern bears even a little of the pleasure that the city’s residents clearly get from it. 

Getting there Fly from London Luton to Zurich from £88.98 return with easyJet  

Raft hire from Aare Bootsvermietung costs £7pp.

 

Eat, drink, sleep


Eat

Budget:  Nowhere is budget in Switzerland, but the cavernous Altes Tramdepot near the old bear park tries hard to be. Enjoy a bratwurst and a pint of beer (they brew their own) on the terrace with views of the Aare. Mains from £11.  

Midrange: Right on the river (it sits on top of a weir), the terrace of the Schwellenmäetteli (above) makes for a scenic Sunday brunch while you watch the water rush by. Mains from £22.50. 

Luxury: Bern’s medieval covered arcades hide numerous cellar bars and restaurants. Wein & Sein (below) is one of the most fashionable, with a menu to match. Mains from £25.  

Drink

Budget: After watching the hourly display by Bern’s famous 16th-century mechanical clock, the Zytglogge, stop in at nearbyAdriano’s Bar & Cafe for the best coffee in town, plus draught beer from £3.50 for a half-pint (as we said, not cheap).  

Midrange: The popular Turnhalle is where Bern’s students and creative types go to think, drink and listen to live music. It’s a great spot to mingle with Bern’s younger crowd over cocktails, from £10. 

Luxury: A former wine cellar and granary, the 18th century Kornhauskeller is a must-see – even if you can only afford one cocktail. With vaulted ceilings, wall frescos and an atmospheric vibe, it’s where the beautiful people go. Get Swiss wine from £31. 

Sleep

Budget: Pitch a tent at Camping Eichholz, near the finishing point of the float trip. Next to the Aare, with plenty of space to camp, barbecue and throw a Frisbee, it’s an idyllic spot. From £5.50pp a night.  

Midrange: The three-star Hotel Kreuz Bern is just a hop from the train station and the old town, making it the perfect crash pad after a night on the schnapps. Doubles from £100pn. 

Luxury: A boutique hotel in the old town, Belle Epoque (above) offers plenty of character for your francs: all the rooms are decked out with Art Nouveau furniture and wall decorations. Doubles from £120.

 

Photos: Facebook; Caroline Bishop; Getty; Thinkstock 


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Floating on Aare: TNT takes a rafting holiday along Switzerland's scenic River Aare
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