The captivating city of Bern - Switzerland's capital, was founded in 1191. The Old Town, an Unesco World Heritage site, features cobbled streets housing a wealth of attractions, while Bern's nightlife is both lively and atmospheric. However, the city is also a gateway to the Alps, with the charming mountain village of Gstaad just two hours by train. Here are five reasons why groups should consider visiting adding a trip to Gstaad to their itinerary...
1. Spa and wine indulgence
With stunning views of the Swiss Alps, the 96-room Ermitage Wellness & Spa offers a traditional chalet-style hotel combined with a modern resort. Groups can indulge in the 3,500sqm wellness area – one of the largest in Switzerland, which includes an outdoor saltwater pool and indoor swimming pool, 10 different saunas and steam baths and 19 treatment rooms. The hotel can also host wine tastings for up to 45 in its cosy and stylish vinothek (wine shop), featuring a range of Swiss and European wines. The hotel can host up to 100 for banquets.
2. Let it snow… all year
It’s just 20 minutes by car from downtown Gstaad to the Glacier 3000 gondola valley station of Col du Pillon. Snow is guaranteed year-round at Glacier 3000 – a highlight is the Peak Walk by Tissot, the first and only suspension bridge to connect two mountains peaks, where groups can catch spectacular views from Mount Eiger to the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc. For more adrenaline action, try the Alpine Coaster, the world’s highest roller coaster, which features 10 curves and three jumps.
3. For the nature and food lovers
River rafting, hiking or biking – Gstaad has all this and more, providing the ideal backdrop for those seeking outdoor adventure. Alpine cheese dairy tours followed by a cheese tasting are also available for those who want a more gentle Alpine experience. Alpinezentrum Gstaad is a specialist in outdoor activities while Experience can also help organise a variety of nature-themed teambuilding events.
4. The Swiss tradition
Get a true taste of an Alpine village in the chalet village of Gstaad. With its compact size, groups can easily navigate around the town, a favourite among celebrities, which showcases Swiss tradition alongside a chic atmosphere. Its traffic-free town centre makes it the perfect setting for a treasure hunt – groups can compete in a variety of Swiss-themed tasks including milking a cow and blowing an Alpine horn or browse among the town’s elegant boutiques.
5. Pure style
At the 58-room Golfhotel Les Hauts de Gstaad & Spa, guests can unwind amid the stunning mountain scenery of Saanenland, staying in rooms with an alpine chic-style in the main building or opting for the more traditional-style rooms in Chalet Golfino, connected to the main building through an underground passage. Enjoy drinks on the hotel’s stunning panorama terrace, which can also be used for events.
A client’s story… The C&IT A-List
Last year, Switzerland Convention and Incentive Bureau, together with Bern Tourism and Gstaad Saanenland Tourism hosted C&IT’s A-List on an exclusive three-day fam exploring both destinations. The A-List celebrates the best agency talent aged 35 or under.
Bern: two-day itinerary
Host a morning meeting at the Kursaal Bern – its conference centre features 30 meeting spaces, catering for up to 1,500 – with three new spaces having opened in December. The complex also includes the 171-room four-star Hotel Allegro. Groups can also base themselves at the luxurious 130-room five-star Hotel Bellevue Palace, which opened in 1913, with rooms featuring stunning views of the Bernese Alps.
Its meeting spaces are regularly graced by politicians and diplomats, with the largest space hosting 220 for banquets. Head to the historic Granary (Kornhauskeller), built between 1711 and 1718 for a casual lunch at its 75-seat café (Kornhauscafé), which serves popular bistro dishes. The venue’s cellar houses a fine dining restaurant showcasing high baroque architecture, with guests dining on Mediterranean-inspired food under vaulted frescoes. The restaurant can host up to 500 standing or 225 seated.
In the afternoon, take a walking tour along Bern’s medieval streets, visiting key sights such as the 16th century, ornate, astronomical Clock Tower and the city’s many fountains, learning about their colourful past. Enjoy a tasting stop at Vom Fass (from the cask), which houses a range of whiskies, cognacs, oils and vinegars. Dine at Lorenzini – the restaurant hosts groups of up to 120 and features tasty Tuscan-influenced fare.
The restaurant’s neighbouring Lounge/Club Du Théâtre is considered one of the most beautiful clubs in Switzerland. For entertainment into the early hours, head to the Grand Casino Bern, part of the Kursaal and one of the largest in Switzerland.
After breakfast, enjoy a culture-filled morning at the Zentrum Paul Klee. Designed by Renzo Piano, the museum opened in 2005 and houses the world’s largest collection of works by the celebrated German painter and graphic artist.
Take part in a hands-on art experience where groups create their own canvas using different styles of painting. The activity is suited to groups of up to 150, while for events, the venue can host between 30 to 300 in its conference spaces. Follow with a tour of the galleries and lunch at the museum’s restaurant Schöngrün.
One of Bern’s premier dining establishments, it has various private dining rooms. Groups can spend the afternoon choosing from a range of activities. Take a stroll and shop along Bern’s six kilometres of ancient arcades, have a go at creating fragrances in a perfume studio, visit an Emmental bakery or take in more art at The Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland’s oldest fine art museum. In the evening, dine alfresco at the Italian-inspired terrace of Giardino at Kursaal Bern.