Zibelemärit Onion Market Bern
Zibelemärit Onion Market is an annual market and folk festival that takes place on the fourth Monday in November. This is the day when over 50 tons of onions make their way to the historic city for a very special tradition.
The Zibelemärit Onion Market takes place in the old mediaeval centre of Bern, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to the fact that it has maintained its original character throughout the centuries. It’s a festival for all walks of life - for history buffs, foodies or anyone who wants to experience something a little bit different!
A festival of disputed origins
Zibelemärit is a tradition that some sources say dates back to the 1850s when farmers’ wives would come into the city of Bern from small villages in the Fribourg region with produce from their fruitful harvest of onions. Other sources say that the festival has much older origins. Local legend has it that in 1405, the people of Bern bestowed on citizens of Fribourg the right to sell onions in their city as a token of gratitude for helping the Bernese when the city went up in flames during the Great Fire of 1405.
An early start
The onion market opens unusually early in the morning! Between 3am and 4am! The official opening is at 6am, which is still too early for many. At a more reasonable hour, the streets of the Old City begin to fill with visitors who come to admire the stalls, buy produce, taste some of the onion-based creations, warm up with mulled wine and enjoy the unique atmosphere of this centuries-old country fair in an urban landscape. The festivities continue until 6pm.
Over 200 colourful stalls in Bern's Old City
Locals and tourists stroll through the bustling Old City centre to browse the 200 colourful market stalls and take in all the sights and smells. As well as decorative woven onion garlands and wreaths with alternate rows of white onions and red onions on display, there are seemingly endless stalls selling ready-to-eat onion dishes.
Visitors can feast on onion pie known as Zwiebelkuchen, onion soup, onion sausage, pizza heavily laden with onion and strings of sugar onions, especially for children. Visitors can also find more typical market products for those with a sweet tooth such as Magenbrot cookies, candy floss and candied almonds, or for those looking for long-lasting souvenirs, there are also textile, ceramics, jewellery and toy stalls.
The Zibelemärit Parade
Another fun part of the tradition includes a parade beginning at 11.30am at Town Hall Square carried out by a masked troupe of Onion Heads (Zibelegringe). The onion Heads sing a song that tells the story of Zibelemärit, accompanied by Bereitermusik Bern brass band. One of them is named the leader of the group, known as the Oberzibelegring, which carries with it a great honour.
The Zibelemärit confetti battle
From about 4pm at the Old City square, the air is teeming with colourful fluttering confetti to round off the festival. It’s no ordinary confetti-throwing session - it is such an important part of the event that it warrants the term “confetti battle”.
Visit the Zibelemärit Onion Market
Get your hands on some artistically-braided onions and taste some delicious local cuisine at Zibelemärit Onion Market! The market takes place in Bern Old City which is easily accessible on foot and by public transportation. Check out the main Bern tourist website for more information.