Last time I was in Switzerland was in 2012, and I missed all I love about this country! The landscape, nature, the punctuality, reliability, efficiency, the cute Swiss German dialect and food. I studied tourism in Switzerland and got to travel around so know its geography pretty well. What I knew little about was the MICE offer.
From 21-23 December 2016 I traveled to Bern, the Swiss Capital, and Interlaken, small resort between Lakes Thun and Brienz, for a media trip, organised by Switzerland Convention & Incentive Bureau and Made In Bern. I was with my family on this occasion and during the stay met the local representatives from Bern Incoming, Bern Tourism, Kursaal Bern, Hotel Metropole, Congress Centre Kursaal Interlaken and Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa Interlaken.
With three busy days of site inspections, you can imagine that I have lots to share with you! Therefore, I split both destinations into two articles. I start with destination Bern for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions.
Arrival in Bern
I travelled by train from Heidelberg to Bern, a mere 3h 30min trip. I had a first class ticket for Germany, and for Switzerland Swiss Travel Pass – the all in one ticket for Switzerland. This ticket gave me the opportunity to use any mean of transport throughout the whole Switzerland.
Arriving punctually in Bern we were eager to see the city so decided to walk to the Hotel Allegro Kursaal Bern, where we were to stay for one night. It’s only 20 minutes walking distance from Bern main train station and was so worth it!
Hotel Allegro Kursaal Bern
We had very warm welcome and quick check-in into the room. We stayed in the famous Einstein Room. Albert Einstein developed the Relativity Theory while living in Bern and is iconic figure to the city. The room was stunning! So spacious, with separate sleeping and living areas and a small office, whirlpool and a shower, Nespresso coffee machine and views of Bern old Town and the Alps.
All guests staying in Bern Hotels will receive a free Bern Ticket for the local transport and can use it unlimited during their stay in Bern.
Soon after checking-in I had a site inspection of the Kursaal Bern. The Kursaal Bern is “All Under One Roof” Concept for corporate guests. It has the 4 star superior Hotel Allego Kursaal Bern – where we stayed, 27 meeting and congress rooms, four restaurants and one bar and a Grand Casino. This venue is the largest in Bern for events.
The venue can accommodate up to 1500 people and the spaces are so varied they can suit both very corporate events and celebrations. Most of the rooms have the beautiful views of Bern Old Town and the Alps.
From 2010-2012 the venue underwent extensive renovation project “Kursaal Bern 2012”. Some spaces were renovated and the Forum was added.
The biggest and very impressive room is the Kursaal Arena. Able to accommodate up to 1500 people in Theatre style. The room benefits from natural daylight, has a multifunctional stage and installed technology equipment. This space was renovated as past of Kursaal Bern 2012 project.
The second biggest, and not least impressive is the Forum for up to 1500 people for a cocktail reception. This space opened in 2012 to meet the increasing demand for event space. The view is spectacular and another highlight is the 900 LED lamps in the ceiling and you can choose your colour combination.
Further rooms, such as the Szenario and Bellavista also offer big capacity, for up to 400 and 200 respectively and suitable for workshop, presentations or dinners.
The venue was very busy during this time of year and I got to photograph the rooms in the different settings.
I was particularly impressed by Luna. One of the smallest, it can accommodate up to 40 people for a standing reception and mostly suitable for private dining.
For smaller boardmeetings, the Primo, Opus and Alpha are most suitable for 12 – 14 people.
Kursaal Bern Restaurants
There are four restaurants on-site. The Asian restaurant Yù which is famous for its Asian Buffet. Atrium Restaurant, where the breakfast takes place, and offers a business lunch. Both Yù and Atrium have 130 seats and can be booked for groups up to 50 people.
Next, the Mediterranean restaurant Giardino with 80 places inside and 50 places outside. Lastly, fine dining restaurant Meridiano has 17 Gaul Millau and 1 Michelin Start. Not only the food but also the terrace are the absolute highlight can accommodate up to 45 people outdoors and 35 indoors. They also serve business lunches.
Bern City Tour
On the second day I had an early start with a guided Bern City Tour. The Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site – The little fountains, shopping passages, government buildings and the architecture all have a beautiful story to tell going back to 13th century. We started the tour at the Zytglogge, the Clock Tower.
We finished the tour at the House of Parliament and took Tram number 9 to Gurten funicular. In five munites we were at the top of the mountain, about 850m above see level. The mountain is car free and ideal location if you want to get away from the city and be surrounded by nature.
What a big difference it was from the cloudy Bern to be on the sunny Gurten mountain! Gurten is the local city mountain, about 20 minutes from the train station. Seeing a bit of snow since long time I was like a happy kid. You wouldn’t believe that you are still in the city but Gurten will give a completely different dimension to your event!
As we arrived it was lunch time and we went to restaurant Bel Etage. We ordered from the daily menu and the food was excellent. Do you remember my previous blog post about gastronomic experience in Bern and their event I attended back in November in Frankfurt? Bern didn’t stop to surprise with their culinary specialties, which I’ll also share with you in the post about Interlaken.
For groups they offer a fondue experience and it’s very popular, even by locals who can just come up for two hour lunch and get back to the office/ event. I got a glimpse at how it works from the group who had it on the day.
It takes place outdoor and everyone gets a little apron for bread. The restaurant prepares the big fondue cattle and long forks. The group can enjoy drinks and the spectacular views while the fondue is getting ready. The fire from the kettle will keep delegates warm. This group later had their dessert in the Vaulted Caller, one of the the event spaces on Gurten.
Event spaces on Gurten
There are multiple event spaces for groups up to 1500 people. Two banquet rooms, which can be used separetly, each can accommodate up to 60 Theatre style, or jointly, eight seminar rooms from 8 – 38 people Theatre style, Vaulted Caller for up to 50 Theatre style and the Pavillon. In addition, you can use the outdoor area and both restaurants, Bel Etage and Tapis Rouge.
The Pavillon is the biggest and probably the most spectacular for up to 250 people.
They also offer group incentive and team-building activities, such as wine tasting, coffee workshop, grilling workshop, Gurten Tours and astronomy evenings.
They have only two hotel rooms, often used by couples who get married there.
From there we took the tram back to the hotel to pick up the luggage and continue to Interlaken.
My impression from Bern? I had very positive experience. The city is very cozy and it’s easy to get around, most venues are accessible by foot or public transport. The venues are very modern and multifunctional with panoramic views. There are multiple incentive and team-building activities to incorporate into the corporate event and lastly, if you are looking to add a WOW element to your event then it will be definitely Gurten.