City of 11
Ask a Solothurner about the "holy Solothurn number 11". You'll be told that in 1481 Solothurn became the eleventh canton to join the Swiss Confederation. Or that this splendid baroque city contains eleven churches and chapels, eleven historic fountains and eleven towers. St. Ursen Cathedral boasts eleven altars and eleven bells, and its imposing staircase leading down from the main portal is divided into flights of eleven steps. Stroll through the picturesque old town. Everywhere you'll encounter the "Eleven(s)".
Clock Tower (Zeitglockenturm)
The city oldest structure was built in the first half of the Twelfth Century. Construction of the clock storey in 1467 and installation of the astronomic clockworks with the famous astronomy clock dial in 1545. Below this group of figures: the knight, death and between them a "Mannli", the King of Fools. Since 1545, the Grim Reaper has turned over his sand dial at the top of every hour. "The glass is full" as he nods his bald pate toward the knight, the symbol of a life of power. The clockworks were built by Lorenz Liechti and Joachim Habrecht. Below it are the two city patrons from 1583, Urs and Viktor.
The Landhaus on the Aare River was the landing site for wine shipments in earlier times. In 1955, it burned down to the foundation walls and was subsequently reconstructed. The town council hall is home to a large, three-coloured sgraffito by Hans Jauslin along with episodes from the history of Solothurn. Apollo and the Muses by Maurice Barraud and Three Women, a bronze by Oscar Wiggli, are found in the hall.
Solothurn, on the River Aare at the south foot of the Jura mountain range, is also known as St. Ursen City, Wengi City, the City of Ambassadors, Switzerland's most beautiful baroque city, and the city of culture.
The name "St.Ursen City" recalls the legend of the two Roman legionnaires, Urs and Victor, who were beheaded in Solothurn due to their Christian beliefs. In honour of their martyrdom and the associated miracles, both were declared city saints. St. Ursen Cathedral dominates the city skyline and is its emblem.
Solothurn's history dates back to Roman times. As early as 350 BC the Romans built their "Castrum Salodurum", a bell-shaped walled fort. The remains can still be seen at Friedhofplatz and in Löwengasse.
Schultheiss Wengi prevented a religious civil war in 1533 by setting up canons aimed at the Protestants on the opposite bank of the Aare and declaring: "If the blood of citizens must flow, let mine be the first." Solothurn remained Catholic following the Protestant reformation.
City of Ambassadors. From 1530 to 1792 Solothurn was the seat of the French ambassadors to the Swiss Confederation. This epoch has endowed Solothurn with its splendid baroque architecture : Besenval Palace, Waldegg Castle and numerous patrician mansions and manors built in the French baroque style.
Places & Activities
Aare Trip Upriver by boat.
To Altreu or Bienne. Solothurn and Bienne enjoy a special relationship. Take a trip on the River Aare aboard the "Siesta" and admire the picturesque country landscape. Visit the popular stork colony with over 100 storks, or the bilingual city of Bienne on Lake Bienne.
Altreu Stork Colony (Selzach)
See the storks nesting in the high roofs of farmhouses just like bygone days. A chance for everyone to observe the storks soaring above, strutting in the meadow or searching for food.
On the summit of Solothurn's very own mountain, at 1291 meters above sea level, the Kurhaus Weissenstein grand hotel in Jugendstil style awaits you, with its acclaimed panorama over the Swiss Mittelland and the Alps. The ascent in an old-time chairlift is an unforgettable experience. Go in the winter for a fondue party, sledging and a unique alpine panorama above the low cloud cover, or in summer for a breath of mountain air amidst placid grazing cows. The hiking area offers something for everyone: planet walk, botanical garden, Nidleloch cave, hang-gliding, paragliding etc.
The chairlift station is in Oberdorf.
North of the city, in the tranquility of the Verena gorge, lies the hermitage. A hermit still lives and prays here. The gorge, with its chapels and hermit's cell, is a popular destination for excursions.
Waldegg Castle (Feldbrunnen – Solothurn)
This fairy-tale castle in Feldbrunnen houses not only an interesting museum (with aristocratic 18th century interiors) and picturesque baroque garden, but is also ideal for romantic walks.
Dinosaur tracking (Lommiswil)
In nearby Lommiswil you can follow the traces of the gigantic plant-eating brontosauri that walked the sandy shores of the tropical Jura sea 145 million years ago. A secured platform with explanatory panel provides a good viewpoint over the petrified sandy beach with its steep slopes created by the Jura fault. The 1-meter-long footprints are best seen in the morning and towards evening.
On the top step of the St.Ursen Cathedral (built between 1762 and 1773) an uplifting feeling is kindled; you are standing on the famous Pisoni flight of stairs flanked by J.B. Babel's figure fountains of Moses and Gideon. Inside this most important Early Classical Swiss structure of pale Solothurn marble, you find the imposing high altar in the form of a sarcophagus by Carlo Luca Pozzi. The crypt contains the cathedral's treasures: Among other things, it houses the Hornbacher Sacraments (Reichenau, ca. 983) and Bendl and Manlich's splendid statue of the Virgin Mary from the same year.
Built between 1680 and 1689, with impressive and magnificent stucco applications, presumably from plans by Friar Heinrich Mayer drawn up according to the principles of the Vorarlberg master builders for a baroque single space. The high altar from 1704 has monumental pillars which act as a frame for Franz Carl Stauder's painting of the Virgin Mary's Ascension.
The Museum of Fine Art
The Museum contains works by old masters including the "Solothurn Madonna" (1522) by Hans Holbein the younger, the "Virgin with Strawberries" (1425) by the Frankfurt "Garden of Paradise" master, as well as works by Asper, Bock, Byss and Ribera.
19th C.: Landscapes and works by Buchser, Fröhlicher, Disteli, Anker.
20th C: Works by Amiet, Barraud, Berger, Gubler, Hodler, Giacometti and others up to and including contemporary Swiss art.
The collection on the ground floor consists of firearms and accessories. 1st Floor: Weapons (cutting/thrusting weapons and old firearms; 2nd Floor: The famous collection of more than 400 pieces/suits of armour. Including highly decorative armours, costly items of Burgundian booty (Grandson, 1476), the valuable necklace of Michelle of France (15th C.) and the St John and St. George banner (15th C). 3rd Floor: One of the most comprehensive collections of uniforms in Switzerland.
Natural History Museum
Here you'll find lots of interesting and easy-to-follow information, models, slide and film shows. And because you can not only look but also touch and take an active part, the museum is a valuable experience, particularly for children. Three storeys of exhibits on indigenous fauna, flora, minerals, fossils and stones.
The fossilised turtles from Solothurn and the starfish from Weissenstein are of international importance. Three aquariums reproduce the habitats of stream, river and pond.
Built in the 18th century, Blumenstein Castle has been the home of the Solothurn Historical Museum since 1952. The ground floor gives an insight into the life of an 18th century patrician family. The first floor contains the new historical exhibition, documenting the various epochs in the history of the city and region.
The attractive, cultural event program of national and international importance, such as the "Solothurn movie days", the literature days, the Classic-Openair or the Health days make the town to an interesting place to visit.
Bike mecca Solothurn
The bike mecca of Solothurn offers many kilometers of changing and idyllic bike paths. Discover the unique landscape around Solothurn on an active way.
In Zuchwil/Solothurn you will find a centre with indoor and outdoor pool, different saunas, fitness center, ice-skating, tennis, minigolf and in-line skating.
From the mountain Weissenstein to Oberdorf leads a route on 3.8 km lengths and with a difference of altitude of 600 m.
Two courses wait for all kind of golfers: golfclub Wylihof and golfclub Bucheggberg, in the near surroundings of Solothurn.
Hotels in Solothurn
From 353 reviews
The boutique Hotel an der Aare in the middle of Solothurn enjoys a wonderful view over the city centre. The hotel offers a restaurant and several meeting rooms.