Dom is our local guide for a running tour of Bern, Switzerland!
Tell us a little about yourself and your relationship with running?
My name is Dom Thomas. I'm originally from the UK and have lived in Istanbul, Suzhou and Baku. I've been resident in Bern since 2017 and living in Switzerland has really deepened my relationship with running. Bern is a safe place to run and the natural beauty is inspiring.
As a child, I enjoyed running cross country and one of my earliest memories is of running along a beach somewhere in the UK and only being stopped by a wave that knocked me over.
I ran when I lived in Istanbul, but this wasn’t always the easiest experience due to the traffic and street dogs. I was based in China for a decade but only ran occasionally as I was cycling to and from work every day and playing a lot of football. When I lived in Baku for a couple of years, I began to transition to being more of a runner than a footballer.
Since moving to Bern, I have really committed to running. I run every day and am currently on a 'run streak' of over one year, with a plan to run every street in the central area of Bern.
My day has to start with a run otherwise it just doesn’t feel right. I love running as a way to wake up and get my mind sorted for the day ahead and it’s essential for both my physical and mental wellbeing. Running is also a great way to explore a city and discover different streets and areas. My running kit is always packed on any trips we take.
Describe the running culture in Bern?
It seems like everyone in Switzerland is a runner! At any time of the day or night you will see people of all ages out running. There are a lot of organised runs throughout the country ranging from 5km runs to mountain ultra marathons. So much of Switzerland is accessible by public transport and you see people enjoying the outdoors all year round.
Where are the best places to run in Bern?
The Gurten is known as Bern’s mountain and is a big hill on the south side of the city. Personally, I like to run up and then take the funicular train back down. There are a couple of routes starting in Wabern - one is about 5km and the other is around 3.5km - choose depending on how steep you want your run to be!
Another option is to combine this route with a run along the river Aare and then head up from Eicholz. This means a flat start and adds a bit more elevation. The views from the top are simply stunning.
View of Bern from the Gurten
The River Aare winds through Bern and provides great opportunities for running close to the city centre and exploring a little further out of Bern. A run along the river towards Belp airport brings you to the Auguetbrücke, an old wooden bridge you can cross to head back towards Bern. This also gives you the option of cutting up through the Tierpark, a big area of woodland containing Bern Zoo.
8 bridges of Bern
A run I enjoy is a 10km run from home that goes over 8 bridges in the centre of Bern and provides a good oversight of some of Bern’s most famous spots. You run by the river in parts, get sweeping views of the Parliament building and cathedral, go near the Bear park and along some of Bern’s historic streets.
Bern Grand Prix
You can find the route of the Bern Grand Prix online and follow it, both as practice for the actual event and as a perfect way to see the city.
Outside of Bern, I love running by Lake Thun, which is about 20 minutes away by train. There are countless trails all over the country that are easily accessible and enjoyable running in both winter and summer.
Are you a member of a running club in Bern?
I’m not a member of a club as I currently prefer to run solo. parkrun doesn’t exist here and I wonder if that is because so many people run anyway. There are running clubs but it’s not something I have looked into yet.
Where is the best place to buy running gear in Bern?
I tend to buy running gear from Decathlon as Switzerland is expensive and their prices are the most reasonable. Either that, or I shop at running stores outside of Switzerland!
Tell us about the best local races in Bern?
Bern Grand Prix
The best race in Bern is the Bern Grand Prix. Hailed as the most beautiful 10 miles in the world, it’s a 16km run that goes all around Bern. In non COVID times, it has up to 30,000 people taking part and the atmosphere in the city is amazing.
The iconic Jungfrau Marathon is a sensational run. Starting in Interlaken, you eventually end up at the foot of the Eiger - nearly 2000 metres of elevation gain later! The bagpiper at 40.5km lets you know you’ve nearly made it. I’m lucky enough to have run this event three times.
Dom (centre) with 'Team Railway Children' at the 2019 Jungfrau Marathon
Glacier 3000 run
The Glacier 3000 is a monster run that goes from Gstaad and rises 2000m over 26km, ending on a glacier at 3000m. For the first 15km or so it’s a pleasant run through rolling fields and then it gets vertical. I’ve done this event twice and both hate it and love it! I find it harder than the Jungfrau Marathon and so is great training for that event.
Can you recommend a local dish/venue to eat after a long run in Bern?
Fondue is classically Swiss but is really more of a winter dish. Other notable dishes are rösti and spätzli, and I do like the steak tartare served here. As far as venues go, great beers can be found at the Altes Tramdepot, which also does good food and Vapiano's (near the train station) is a decent spot for a casual bite to eat and a drink.
A big thank you to Dom for taking us for a virtual run around Bern!
One last thing...
If you've enjoyed the content on this site and would like to support me by buying me a coffee, I would really appreciate it.