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A Pungent Affair: The Bern Onion Festival

Looking to eat your weight in onions on a Monday morning (who isn't really)? Then the Zibelemärit in Bern is for you. With enough onion delicacies to make you alienate your loved ones, you will be sure to enjoy this traditional Swiss celebration.

The History

Zibelemärt, Bern 1932
Zibelemärt, Bern 1932

Said to have started in 1405, the Zibelemärit in Bern was rumoured to have been started after a great fire in Bern where 650 wooden houses were burned and 100 people were killed. The people of nearby Freiburg rushed to help and as a sign of gratitude, the Bernese people allowed the people of Freiburg to sell their onions in Bern every fall from then on. Seems like a fitting form of gratitude.

The Festival

Always the fourth Monday in November, the day begins as local farmers bring 50 tonnes of onions and garlic to the Swiss capital. At the crack of dawn (6am!) the market opens and locals start to mill about in hopes of picking the nicest onion braids. As the day progresses, the market fills up with revellers there to eat some of the many onion delicacies, including traditional onion tarts, crispy Chnoblibrot (garlic bread) as well as onion pizza, onion soup and anything else you can think to make with onions. To top it all off (and to make us all forget how much we smell like onions) the ubiquitous Glühwein is served as an accompaniment.

The market includes a number of stalls with onion-themed paraphernalia, like chains of onion-shaped sweets, but also locally-made textiles, ceramics and toys, perfect for you to get a jump on your Christmas shopping.

Late in the afternoon, when onion scent has perfumed all those who have attended, a confetti fight ensues, because as all us Baselers well know, no Swiss traditions properly celebrated without confetti.

The Details:

Monday, November 27, 2023


Public transport is highly recommended and the trip from SBB to Bern is about an hour. Extra trains and trams are added to accommodate the influx.

From the transit directions from within Bern are as follows:

The Zibelemärit fills the main and side streets of the Upper Old Town as well as the Waisenhausplatz (Orphanage Square) and Bundesplatz (Parliament Square). Tram lines 6, 7, 8, and 9 plus bus line 12 between the Zytglogge (Clock Tower) and Bern main station are therefore interrupted for the day. If you’re travelling to the main station, you can catch bus lines 10 and 19 from the Zytglogge. The line 10 stop in the direction of Köniz Schliern can be found on Bundesgasse just before the Christoffelgasse junction.

Hope to see you all there and I anticipate you will be able to identify all those who participated by their healthy scent on the train ride home!



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