Why the Swiss city of Bern is receiving hundreds of noise complaints

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Why the Swiss city of Bern is receiving hundreds of noise complaints
A busy street in Bern in 2020. Photo by Prateek Mahesh on Unsplash

The Swiss capital of Bern is not known for being wild. But the city has been getting hundreds of noise complaints this summer. What's going on?


In Switzerland many see Bern as being more relaxed and slow compared to other places around the country.

However, this summer it appears the capital is getting a reputation as a party animal. 

Since spring, Bern has been hosting large events and celebrations almost every week. 

READ ALSO: The Swiss regional stereotypes you need to know 

Long-established gatherings such as the Buskers Street Music Festival and Gurtenfestival have been taking place, as well as several large concerts in the Bernese football stadium and at the Allmend in the Wankdorf district. Various sporting events have also been held in neighbourhoods.

And the result of this? Residents are not happy. In fact, a flood of noise complaints have been received by the city. 

Reto Nause, the security director in charge at the city, told Swiss broadcaster SRF that Bern had received "300 noise complaints".

"That's a lot," he added. The city administration is now trying to process them all. 

According to Nause, the spike in noise complaints has to do with general tolerance towards events decreasing. 

"During the pandemic, Bern was absolutely quiet," said Nause. "Since public life has reawakened, complaints have skyrocketed."

People enjoy the fountains in Bern at Bundesplatz.

People enjoy the fountains in Bern at Bundesplatz. Photo: Switzerland Tourism/Bern Welcome

So has noise tolerance really gone down?  It could be the case, but a look at other Swiss cities casts doubt on this theory. 

This being Switzerland, a lot is going on in other cities this summer.

READ ALSO: How you can make the most of the hectic Swiss summer


But in Basel and Zurich, for instance, the authorities are not noticing any more complaints - on the contrary: "In Basel, noise complaints have actually decreased compared to other years," said the Department of Economic, Social and Environmental Affairs at the Canton of Basel-City.

"Before corona, we had 250 to 300 noise complaints per year because of events," they said. "In 2021 it was 100 and in 2022 around 150. In 2023 up until now, we've only had 40."

However, the authorities also note that compared to other years, event density has not increased. It's a different story in Bern.

The Buskers Street Music Festival, which is due to attract tens of thousands of people to Bern's old town, is set to take place this weekend. It's the 20th year of the event. 


Christine Wyss, director and founder of the festival, thinks that too many events have been organised in Bern in recent weeks. She worries that the pressure on her as an organiser is increasing and that noise tolerance is dwindling: "It's a shame that we and others who have been doing this for a long time are suffering," said Wyss. 

When it was founded two decades ago, there was hardly anything going on in Bern in the summer.

"It was dead in Bern," said Wyss, who added that this was one of the reasons for setting the event up in the first place. 

Nause steers clear of saying that too many events were approved in Bern, but said that there had been lots of requests to hold gatherings this summer. 

"Probably, it's partly because a number of events could not be held during the corona pandemic," he said. 

However, the city has taken note and says it wants to increase the dialogue with neighbourhoods. 

The council also wants better coordination with organisers so future events can be better spread out over the year. 

It's unclear whether this will bring peace back to Bern. One thing that is clear is that, despite the noise complaints, the streets of Bern's old town are likely to be full again this weekend - and Bern can continue to be the unofficial Swiss party capital. 


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