On our first weekend back in Switzerland after three months away, we made our way to Bern for its robust Saturday farmers market. When we told our Swiss friends, several shook their heads. Why were we taking a 30-minute train ride when there was a Saturday market right down the street? Why not check out our local market in Thun instead?
And so the next weekend, that’s just what we did. Rode our bikes through the cool forest, along the Aare River, and into the center of Thun where a busy market spread along both sides of the pedestrian-only shopping street.
At the end of the day, we had a backpack full of hand-made pasta and brightly-colored heirloom tomatoes, fragrant black tea and locally pressed olive oil. And I was glad we went.
Ultimately, Bern’s much more robust market is still the better choice, even if it’s a bit farther away.
There are a couple reasons for this, the first of which is that the food portion of the Thun market is extremely small. The market itself is huge and bustling, but 80% or more is non-food items. We saw skillets, sheepskin slippers, clothes, knitted goods, trinkets…and very occasionally we found a food stand tucked in between all the rest. If you’re in Thun for a day and want some fresh bread or pasta, you’ll find them here, but the selection is actually rather limited and if you took away all the non-food, the market would be very small indeed.
The second reason that the Thun market isn’t at the top of my list is price. It’s one of the most expensive farmers markets I’ve visited anywhere in the world.
Don’t get me wrong: Bern isn’t wildly cheap. (If you want wildly cheap, Mostar is the place to be.) But Thun shocked us a little with just how much the basics cost. Our very modest haul (pictured below) cost 74.15 CHF (the dollar is currently about 1:1, so that’s $74.15).
How to get to the Thun market
The market is spread along both sides of the pedestrian-only shopping street Bälliz on the little island in the Aare. It also spills into the main square (pictured above), located here. It’s right in the heart of Old Town and it’s hard to miss. If you have trouble finding it, just ask a local.
When to go
The market is held on Saturdays (and Wednesdays, though we went on Saturday). As with all markets, go early if you want the best selection and less crowds.
What to expect
Olive oils and a variety of vinegars, fresh produce, handmade pasta, fruit, caramel, meats, cheeses.
German is the official language in this canton (region), but you’ll find plenty of French and English here as well.
What (else) to do in Thun, Switzerland
The Thun castle hosts a fascinating local history museum and has incredible views from the turrets. The center is adorable. And if you walk (or cycle) along the river, you’ll pass wooden bridges over water-control dams with local boys surfing the wakes underneath them (in summer). Keep going to the lake and you’ll find a lovely lakeshore walk.